Sunday, May 18, 2008

Steelhead Diner

Steelhead Diner
95 Pine St
(206) 625-0129
Normally I hate all things that are “meta.” When someone describes something as being “meta” they’re talking about something that describes itself or which references itself. Like a dude videotaping himself jacking off. A better example is the time I was in a bar and a chick came up to me, inexplicably wanting me to READ AN ESSAY SHE WROTE. I thought it was a pretty original pickup line until I actually read the essay, which was about how much she likes to write. No doubt she expected me to skim her work and instantly say “Hey, you’re a great writer! Let’s fuck!” Unfortunately for her, she picked the wrong dude. I started drunkenly comparing her to Michel de Montaigne, deriding her unoriginal verb choices, and reminding her that now even Stephen King is writing about writing, which means YOU SUCK!

Anyway, self referential bullshit is pretty common these days, but how can you tell the difference between masturbatory congratulation and mere description? Answer: no one knows. Not even me, because I constantly engage in both masturbation AND self congratulation. But I had to figure it out so we went to the Steelhead Diner. Refreshingly, they take reservations, so I didn’t have to hang out with the geriatric set.

After 2 Sazeracs I was pleasantly buzzed in time for the caviar pie ($12.95). It was too gimmicky for my taste: a huge wedge of cream cheese dotted meagerly on top with a scant spectrum of differently kinds of caviar. Scattered about the plate were diced onion, capers, and chopped boiled eggs. You were expected to scoop up a huge glop of cream cheese with some of the caviar, mix it with eggs and capers and other shit, and spread it on the provided toast points. I won’t say the flavors were bad (it tasted like oniony cream creese), but giving top billing to the word “caviar” in a recipe that featured so little actual caviar is kind of disingenuous, just like how that girl I met called herself a writer.

The bresaola ($11.95) was, unlike the caviar pie, worth every penny. For that price you got 3 large slices of rich beef, topped by creamy rounds of mozzarella, frisee, and a long thin rosemary bread stick which looked like the magic wand a culinary wizard would use to cast delicious spells. Note: the preceding sentence was the literary equivalent of a Pontiac Firebird with a unicorn airbrushed on the hood. Or maybe this restaurant review was actually written by Ronnie James Dio.

Next up was the beet tartare ($8.95). Diced golden beets glazed in a gorgonzola sauce were crammed into a cylindrical mold with a side bowl of fried yucca chips. Even though I’m really tired of cylinders, it was superb. The beets were crunchy and sweet, and the flavor was nicely offset by the tangy gorgonzola sauce. The yucca chips were crisp and dusted with cinnamon and paprika. Tasty, but not as tasty as the smelt ($9.95). I’d call it a good deal for a huge pile of about 30 of these tiny fried fish. The batter was flaky, and the smelt were fresh and accented nicely by the accompanying mustard sauce.

For $18.95 you get HALF a fried chicken, which means a breast, a drumstick, a thigh, and a wing. Shit, for that price you can get four times as many pieces of chicken from Popeye’s. But the juicy, flavorful fried chicken from the Steelhead Diner, with the same crispy crust as the fried smelt, was easily four times tastier than Popeye’s, so I guess it evened out.

The black cod ($19.95) was creamy as fuck but luckily not as fishy as your mom. A small square of fish swam in a salty sea of kasu broth with shiitakes, carrots, bok choy, and ginger. The cod was meltingly tender and was a refreshing change of pace after a huge plate of fried chicken.

What came next more than made up for all the relatively pricey stuff we’d eaten so far, and was possibly the best thing that’s happened to me in a long time: the Rich Boy Sandwich ($11.95). It seems the dude who owns the Steelhead Diner is from Louisiana. So am I. Ever since I moved here I’ve had trouble finding a decent poboy. If you don’t know what a poboy is, allow me to explain: it’s a delicious sandwich. This may seem like a simple concept, but believe me, it’s very difficult, like explaining “yellow” to a blind guy or “women’s suffrage” to the Mars Hill Church. Here in Seattle they either cheap out (by putting TWO shrimp on a poboy), or try to use wacky condiments like red leaf lettuce or sunflower seeds or a copy of Microsoft Vista. But the Steelhead Diner fucking NAILED it. The Rich Boy Sandwich is what we in the bayou would call a sausage poboy: slices of grilled sausage were piled onto French bread (NOT the mouth shredding classic Parisian baguette with its stern Gallic crust, but the fluffy, flaky Vietnamese variety) with shredded iceberg lettuce, sliced tomatoes, and dill pickles.

What more do you need, besides air, water, blowjobs, and poboys? The answer, my friend, is NOTHING. The poboy is the answer to life’s mysteries, balm of all wounds, the Platonic Ideal of the perfect sandwich. It’s the Ozzymandias of all sandwiches: “Look upon my condiments, ye mighty, and despair!” And unlike me, a poboy never ever gets drunk and turns in poorly written restaurants reviews at 3:00 am on the day it’s due. How’s that for “meta?”

Rating: 7 things that are “meta” (except Metallica) out of 10 (NOTE: the Rich Boy Sandwich gets its own separate rating of 9.5, that’s how badass it is)

Steelhead Diner on Urbanspoon


Anonymous said...

love your writing style, BUT, the cream cheese in the caviar pie at Steelhead Diner, ahem, isn't cream cheese. It's creme fraiche. Get it right, masturbator.

Surly Gourmand said...

That actually sounds plausible enough, since sour cream, and not cream cheese, is a traditional accompaniment to caviar and creme fraiche is, after all, just sour cream that's been sitting out all day. My mistake.

Katie said...

you are a brave soul to search for poboys out here. i'm a new orleans native and was never courageous enough to make the attempt in seattle as i feared the worst. might have to try this steelhead diner now!

Surly Gourmand said...


someday I'll write a review of ALL the extremely shitty poboys I've had in Seattle. The Steelhead Diner is the ONLY ONE that's even come close to what you can get anywhere in New Orleans. As previously mentioned in the review, the sausage poboy is absolutely perfect. If they offered a fried shrimp poboy I'd be all over that until i weighed 650 pounds and couldn't leave the room unless Maury Povich or someone intervened by removing the wall.

In the wake of all the huriicanes, how's your family doing? Gustav made landfall directly over my parents' house. The only damage they suffered was a broken tree, luckily.

Anonymous said...

Just found this review and now I think I love you. But before I can lust after you, you must go back to Steelhead and have an Oyster Po Boy. It's what dreams are made of.

Surly Gourmand said...


Glad you enjoy my writing! But if you;re starting with my Steelhead Diner review, then you've got a lot of ground to cover before you;ve read them all. So won't you spend an hour or two in my garden of prose? Be careful though: there are thorns.

And when you're finished reading everything I've ever written then you'll be my hero.


Your Friend the Surly Motherfucking Gourmand

PS Have you had an oyster poboy from Where Ya At Matt? If it's lust you;re after, THAT poboy will moisten one's panties.