It felt a bit like a dress rehearsal the other day, a warm and sunny afternoon at the Leschi marina that suggested a fine summer ahead. At the far end of the lake, Mt. Rainier rose from the clouds like a gorgonzola ice cream cone; in the foreground, the masts of pleasure boats bobbed like matchsticks dancing with toothpicks.
Four restaurants have outside seating, although none of them overlook the water.
We started at Alicia Fusion Bistro, 200 Lake Washington Blvd., which is celebrating its third season at the south end of the Leschi marina's business cluster. It's a less traditional Vietnamese venture by Green Leaf proprietor Peter Kuang, whose other restaurants are in the International District, Belltown, and Bellevue. You could easily make a meal of the Happy Hour offerings, some of which (like shrimp & guac, don't sound particularly Asian), but we stuck to a traditional Negroni and an “Asian Pancake” served with a spicy curry dip.
In the same building is Daniel's Broiler, part of the Schwartz Brothers chain, which offers its $18 steakhouse burger at half price during Happy Hour. If you're going to order it, you should probably split it with a friend. This is a classy joint, where the bar pours shots of superpremium booze, but for Happy Hour they take a couple of bucks off the top. If you emjoy a good Manhattan, you should order one here, with that terrific view of the water.
Next in line is Meet the Moon, 122 Lakeside Avenue. Alas, no hour is deemed happy here, so we moved on, which made us sad. We've had enjoyable brunches here, enlivened by a blood orange mimosas. The good folks from Kirkland's Heavy Restaurant Group, Larry Kurofsky and his wife, Tabitha, already have Barrio at 1412 12th Ave. on Capitol Hill, and three wine bars, all named Purple, in Woodinville, Kirkland, and downtown Seattle; they also have an event space, Cast Iron Studios, and a modern eatery, Lot No. 3, both in Bellevue. At Meet the Moon, they wanted a neighborhood breakfast-lunch-dinner neighborhood cafe, something that's been missing from Leschi for some years now. But nothing “happy.”
The original spot at what's now Bluwater Bistro, 102 Lakeside Ave., was called the Good-Better-Best Leschi Lake Cafe, with a cast bronze sculpture of the last mosquito fleet sea captain out front. It was one of the McHugh-Firnstahl chain of neighborhood eateries, since disbanded, And the captain, also gone, stolen. But the street-side patio remains, along with a unique indoor-outdoor bar. In the old McHugh-Firnstahl days, it was a walk-up fish & chips window, but times have changed. This year, at happy hour, you can order a trio of “Blu Sliders” (made with Wagyu beef from Snake River Farms) on mini-brioche buns for eight bucks. They reminded me of the much-regretted mini-burgers at the old Cascadia in Belltown.
Finally, you may have heard that John Platt and Paul (Pablo) Butler, the business partners who've owned St. Clouds at 1131 34th Ave. since the beginning of time (17 years, but who's counting?), have decided to sell. Platt explains it's time for him to move on, to the mountains of Utah, as it happens. Fortunately, there's a buyer: Michael McGloin, the Central District restaurateur whose previous venture, Judkins St. Cafe, found great favor with his clientele before the landlord decided to redevelop the property for housing. McGoin is taking over St. Clouds on June 1st.
Ronald Holden writes about restaurants for Pacific Publishing. His latest book, “Forking Seattle, A Critical Guide to Local Food & Drink,” is available on Amazon.com.