I love good old classic comfort food. Most of my favorite restaurants are more down and dirty (no not as in actual filth, just good simple food). While I do enjoy a good haute cuisine meal once in a while, it's the authentic regional food with no pretensions that I usually crave. The only problem is that I also love good atmosphere and strong drinks and there always seems to be a shortage of one or the other. Steelhead Diner doesn't have that problem. Stainless steel diner counters face both the semi-open kitchen and the shiny modern bar or if you prefer more intimate seating, the tables are comfy but elegant. They also have a outdoor patio which is really nice for the summer. Large windows with a lovely view of the Puget Sound and a swell not over-trendy indie rock soundtrack (Apparently I'm not the only one left in Seattle that still likes Modest Mouse) round out the relaxed feel of the place. The waitstaff was very friendly and knowledgeable. We all know how bad service can make or break a place. No one even seemed to be annoyed when an old man dropped a bottle of wine that shattered all over the floor. I would have been at least giving the evil eye. Oh, and the cocktails were inventive and delicious. I had a drink called The Seattelite which consisted of gin, sparkling wine, and grapefruit juice (give or take) and was served in an ice coated martini glass. It was great and I like little details like the frozen glass.
What about the food you ask? How does local, mostly organic, upscale diner fare that changes daily based on what's fresh and in season sound? It sounds great to me and I wasn't disappointed. This is not your ordinary burgers and fries joint. Appetizers such as Caviar Pie, Heirloom Beet Tartare, Salumi's Air Cured Bresaola will not be found on your typical diner menu. Neither will entrees such as Grilled Gulf Shrimp a'la Genovese or Grilled Dry Aged Washington Beef N.Y. Strip. They do a good job on taking diner classics and making them interesting and I love the fact that you can get Kasu Marinated Cod with a side order of poutine. That's probably not a choice I would make but it's nice that they have such a wide variety of dishes yet manage to keep the menu cohesive.
The sandwiches and sides are the items that scream diner to me. I had the "Rich Boy", Steelhead's twist on the poorboy sandwich with local Uli's hot sausage and Crystal hot sauce aioli. It came on baguette and was served with a giant mound of fries. The sandwich was moist, messy, and spicy and I loved it. It's such a simple sandwich but Uli's sausage needs no help. K had the S.R.F. American Wagyu Beef Burger. It was extremely juicy and cooked perfectly medium rare. Although I wasn't a fan of the fact that it was served on baguette it was a damn fine burger. Served with a mound of fries as well and topped with mushrooms, onions, and delicious Beechers Flagship cheese. The frites by the way were awesome. Perfectly cooked Belgium style fries with a good amount of saltiness.
To finish out lunch we had to get an order of Poutine (no we didn't eat ten pounds of potatoes, we saved the fries from our sandwiches for a later snack). Yes I have a weakness for this beautiful and rugged Canadian dish. Gravy and cheese curds on frites. Steelhead's poutine is one of the best that I've had in the States. Perhaps it could have used a little more gravy but other than that the flavors were perfect and using Beecher's curds makes it all the more special. We left pleasantly full and sleepy. Steelhead Diner delivers on all it's promises and smartly lifts diner food miles above typical American slop stop status. I will definitely return.