Believe it or not, Madison Park (specifically, the flatlands) was considered the poor side of town back in the day. It was the best place to find a reasonably priced rental in an unbelievable location.
The business district, taverns and social gatherings thrived from the ’50s through the ’70s. Groups of us usually met in the park for dining, but many a time we set out to look for more adventurous feasting.
A place now long gone but well remembered was in Edmonds — a French restaurant called Henri de Navarre. I first visited it in the mid ’50s. Two big drawing cards: the French Beaujolais served in a wire mesh bottle and the escargot hors d’oeuvre — snails served in their own shells.
We lusted for the creature swimming in garlic butter and secret spices, carefully extracting the succulent morsels using forceps — escargot forks — and placing them into our awaiting gourmand mouths. The snail portion was really only a texture, but combined with garlic butter and a few gin martinis, it was awesome. The wine and laughter that followed with the rest of the meal became a happening we were eager to share. Seldom was anyone disappointed.
Henri de Navarre was quickly bought out by a conglomerate, and soon, in restaurants nationwide, escargot was served either in a special dish with an indentation for each one or on toasted bread as there were health concerns.
In fact, Roman snails were kind of like the Kobe beef of their day, pampered with a diet of meat and wine. From Rome, the snail-eating habit spread throughout the empire, but it was in France where it really caught on and was adopted as a favorite national dish, according to Travel Food Atlas. Britannica lists them as mollusks, making them closely related to clams, oysters and squid.
When visiting a Madison Park tavern, many a patron unscrewed the lid from a gallon jar and offered his date first choice of a fresh, gourmet spiced pickled pig’s foot. For some reason, it was not as much of a favorite as escargot even though it didn’t require a utensil. One simply had to grasp the foot with both hands, preferably by the large knuckle, and then, with one or both little fingers (females added a dainty touch to the grasp), have at it.
The very popular raw oyster certainly gained a reputation. Heaven forbid that it be submerged in batter and fried or cooked on a barbeque, masking the true sea life imbued flavor. Many a first date took this on and was considered to be adventurous, perhaps a bit on the wild side. Live dangerously, I say!
I know what is on everyone’s mind, “What about beef jerky?” This was a good bar bite — just grab and chaw a chunk off — yum!
Cannot forget the egg for 10 cents! Wear and tear, lodging rooster input all adds up. Pepperoni sticks were about as popular.
A good friend home from duty in Korea in 1954 came into the Attic where I was bartending. I rolled the dice for hard-boiled eggs for him. He kept winning (lucky, I guess), and during his six to eight beers, he just about wiped out all of the eggs to which he had applied salt, pepper and Tabasco. After a great day of eggs and beer, he and his date went to the Sunset Drive-in. The next day he came in and ordered a beer and announced, “No eggs!” We laughed at the thought of it not being an epicurean best for confined conditions.
Another culinary find was anything barbeque. Home of Good Barbeque, Hills Brothers and lastly Chas BBQ on Olive were all our favorites. Hills Brothers cooked on the back porch of a house. We waited on the front porch where fumes of delightful smoke, garlic and tomato wafted toward us, making our mouths water. It was the choice in all the central area — regular, hot, extra hot if you dare. Links, sweet potato pie, beans, white bread to dip into the sauce — it was the best.
One night, friends sat at a booth at Home of Good Barbeque and one said, “I’ll have extra hot! Can’t make it too hot for me!” We warned our some 265-pound friend, but he laughed it off. After a bit of consumption, we noticed someone just about bottomed out our pitcher of brew. Aha! Fingers all pointing to his plate of know-it-all consumption, we laughed at his purplish perspiring face.
A place that needs mentioning is Gasperetti’s on Fourth Avenue South (circa late ’60s). This place had all things Italian: not only the food, but the behaviors of the staff attributed to the culture with its compliments, insults, slaps on the cheek and hearty laughter. A large group of us Madison Park-ites frequented it for a guaranteed fun night.
Some comments: “Why are these beautiful ladies here with these renegade, clueless dudes from Madison Park?” This was from the owner, as he threw olives half the length of the restaurant at us from afar. Once, an olive did bounce and land in a martini. We laughed and so did the patrons at the other tables nearby.
The antipasto plate was huge, to which we always asked for a shovel. After a full night’s entertainment, we got free desserts.
Soon the word was out, restaurants had to be a cut above to draw a crowd. Charlie Puzzo owned several entertainment venues like The Playboy, The Penthouse (his renowned jazz nightclub) and finally Good Time Charley’s.
When making a reservation at Good Time Charley’s, your date’s name was required. When my date and I arrived, Charlie opened the door and welcomed my date by name and took her to the table. I followed at a quick pace to keep up.
Once at the table, Charlie opened a fine wine (for the early ’60s). Our server dressed in Playboy Bunny fashion and offered a menu with prime rib and large steaks, which we ordered on the rare side.
As others were seated, we exchanged greetings, which felt quite normal as Seattle was still a small city and very friendly.
After a great meal, music and now cognac and coffee, we watched as the plushily appointed lounge filled with downtown people and good friends. Charlie’s was a great experience and was always sure to please.
The rest is up to you! Grab life and hang on!