Beloved though they may be, the lineup of Capitol Hill date spots has begun to feel a little stale. Sure, you could go to Oddfellows, grab a drink at Caffe Vita, maybe dinner at Presse or any of the million-and-one kitschy conceptual pubs (and of course cupcakes, pie or artisan ice cream for dessert–the more faddish, the better).
I know that I can’t be the only one who’s beginning to feel a little uninspired by the same old places time after time.
Rejoice with me, fellow jaded diners. There’s a new kid on the block.
Chico Madrid falls into an increasingly popular and hard-to-define category: the café slash restaurant slash bar, open from early morning until late night and shifting to fit whatever the time of day asks of it.
Stop by in the morning and you’ll find pastries and coffee. Throughout the day, diners can enjoy Spanish sandwiches, tapas and charcuterie. And the late-night crowd can belly up to Chico Madrid’s sleek bar and sample Spanish wines and sangria.
So long as they get there before it fills up, that is—Chico Madrid fills a stylish yet diminutive space underneath the Belroy apartments on Bellevue and Roy. Tables are small and few, and large groups would be better served elsewhere.
From couples and small groups, however, the response has been overwhelmingly positive thus far.
“I think it’s done really well,” said server Jamie Colina of the restaurant’s first few days. “It’s busy… We’ve been pretty consistent. The customers seem to be happy.”
The online response has been glowing as well; Yelp reviewers praised the reasonable prices, ambiance, and, above all, the food.
“I love it,” said a diner on Wednesday night. “I’ve never actually had Spanish food before.”
Upon visiting Chico Madrid, I was first struck by the chic interior. Though owner Franz Gilbertson told Seattle magazine in January that Chico Madrid would incorporate “some vintage elements as well as a little kitsch borrowed from the shops [that co-owner Jacob Daley and I] visited in Spain,” the end result was undeniably modern—if you’re looking for a cozy and charming hole in the wall, steer clear.
But if you’re looking for a delicious meal and friendly service, look no further.
It seemed essential to try one of the bocadillos, which were a major inspiration behind the restaurant. Gilbertson and Daley missed the baguette sandwiches they had enjoyed in Spain, and wished to bring them to Seattle.
I opted for the Manchego bocadillo, which was topped with olive oil, tomato pulp and sharp, nutty sheep’s milk cheese. The sandwich, served on a Columbia City Bakery baguette, was the perfect size for a small meal, and the simplicity of the toppings allowed the flavors to shine through and complement one another.
Chico Madrid also offers an assortment of cold plates, as one would find at any typical tapas bar. The Tortilla Espanola—a classic tapa similar to a potato quiche—was served with a perfectly sharp garlic aioli and cut into delicate pieces perfect for sharing.
The highlight of the menu is arguably the $12 charcuterie plate, which features Iberico ham and cured chorizo alongside pickled peppers, olives and (not enough) crostini.
Desserts were minimal and somewhat austere. Don’t expect the in-your-face sweetness or visual pizzazz common to Capitol Hill sweets. The pan con chocolate was, however, delectable in its own way—toasted Columbia City Campagne bread topped with rich dark chocolate, olive oil and sea salt perfectly satisfied my (admittedly somewhat ambivalent) sweet tooth.
Despite the relatively small staff, service was prompt, friendly and helpful, even downright sweet. On at least one occasion, my companion and I were referred to as “my lovelies” by our impressively attentive waitress.
As it’s situated in the northwest corner of Capitol Hill, getting to Chico Madrid is a bit of a journey. It’s not the kind of place that Redhawks could impulsively pop over to when hunger strikes. However, the walk up Bellevue is refreshingly removed from the rush of Broadway, and, best of all, offers picture-perfect views of the Space Needle.
You don’t get scenery like that on the way to Caffe Vita.
Caroline may be reached at [email protected]