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Seattle Times food writer Nancy Leson serves up the best info and tips on Northwest food, cooking, dining and restaurants.

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May 15, 2008 5:58 PM

An Urbanspoonful: lunch at Quinn's

Posted by Nancy Leson

I've got to give thanks to Julien Perry -- host of KOMO News Radio's "Go Eat!" -- for inviting me to lunch at Quinn's on Capitol Hill today. Because not only did I get to share half the menu with Julien (that's Ju-LEEN, by the way, not Julie-EN), I also got to lift a lovin' spoonful with Patrick O'Donnell and Ethan Lowry, of the restaurant website Urbanspoon:

Ethan, Patrick, and their business partner Adam Doppelt began working together in Seattle at a venture capital-backed software company, Avogadro, and later put their collective smarts to work at "Patrick and Adam are hard-core engineers," says Ethan (on the right). "I'm a product-design guy." So, what made them morph from software tech-heads to restaurant website gurus -- publishing reviews from critics, bloggers and anyone else willing to eat-and-tell?

"We turned to restaurants because we liked to eat," Ethan explains. "Urbanspoon was kind of an experiment -- and it took off." What started as a Seattle site a year and a half ago encompasses 35 cities today, garnering nearly a million unique site-visits each month. "We wanted to do something that would be fun as an avocation, not just an occupation," Ethan says.

Hey! I hear you, pal.

Which brings us to Quinn's -- recently opened for lunch. As a new restaurant, Quinn's sees more traffic than any other individual restaurant on Urbanspoon. And as we sat their sharing plate after plate of deliciousities, no one had to explain why. This intense asparagus puree with poached egg, tasted like spring, distilled:

And this colorful, cumin-scented sensation offers black lentils, roasted cauliflower and sweet hits of fresh mango:

We wrapped our hands around these substantial sandwiches -- one made with duck pate, the other a "BLT" with pork confit, and we downed a gargantuan side of crisp, hand-cut frites with fontina fonduta and demi-glace (that's poutine Italiano, ya'll!):

Because we needed (and wanted) our greens, we shared this grilled romaine bread salad:

Of course we had dessert. Three of them. Each one better than the last -- though I admit to hoarding this boozy-cherry shortcake, because the goat cheese schmear on top kept calling my name:

Here's Julien, seen working on her "Clean Plate Club" gold star:

And get this: amazingly enough, every glorious dish we ate cost less than $10. So we didn't mind at all that, as the menu states, we were expected to "please order food and beverages at the bar, then seat yourself, water & table-settings are self-serve." (The staff busses tables.)

Chef/owner Scott Staples deserves all the kudos he's getting -- on Urbanspoon and elsewhere -- for offering food this good, at prices this reasonable, both at lunch and at dinner. These days, he's keeping mighty busy running between here and his Belltown restaurant, Zoe, commuting from Bainbridge Island, no less. Too bad he was too busy working to sit down and enjoy lunch with us. Instead, he headed to his office with a plate of tabbouleh in hand to take a quick break. Which is why he's so slim and trim -- and I'm not:

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Listen to Nancy at 5:30 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. during Morning Edition, at 4:40 p.m. during All Things Considered and again the following Saturday at 8:30 a.m. during Weekend Edition on KPLU 88.5.

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