Eric and Diana Denson love to eat out around Seattle, but the couple realized they were stuck in a rut of going to the same tried and true places over and over again on their regularly planned date night. Then, inspiration struck.
“We thought we needed to shake it up a little bit and decided that we would create a new tradition and make a commitment to trying some different places and doing that typically on Friday nights,” Eric told Let’s Eat’s Terry Jaymes and Seattle Times restaurant critic Providence Cicero.
A new tradition was born, as the pair wined and dined each week throughout the year at some place different. And now that 2012 has come to an end, they’ve come up with their official 2012 Date Night Dining Awards.
Meal of the year: Altura
Both agreed their favorite meal of the year came courtesy of Capitol Hill’s Altura. The trendy eatery came with a lot of hype and high expectations. And Eric and Diana say all were met. “It’s the one meal and evening and experience that just seemed to be perfect in every way,” he said.
Restaurant of the year: Staple & Fancy Mercantile
Diana raves about the food and the service at this Ballard Italian bistro from the growing stable of noted local chef Ethan Stowell, especially the wait staff that remembers her unique dietary needs (shellfish allergies.)
“It’s certainly a place we’ve enjoyed going back to many times and dragging a lot of friends and family to it,” she says. “They’re just very attentive. They’ve just always come through plus they’ve got their homemade ricotta and grilled bread we just die for every time and when they don’t have it on the menu it’s really disappointing but we always find something else.”
Best New to Us Restaurant, Best Breakfast Brunch: The Book Bindery
The elegant French inspired restaurant on the banks of the Fremont Cut took a number of awards in the couple’s honors, including the first annual Providence Cicero Award for Best Recommendation by a Restaurant Critic for a place they would have never gone without the recommendation.
“It is just elegant no matter what time of the day we’ve gone there for brunch or for dinner. They’ve always been perfectly attentive to us, the food is absolutely fantastic, Luciano the waiter we usually get when we go there is just outstanding. He kisses my hand when he walks me to the table,” Diana laughs.
Favorite Date Night Neighborhood: Queen Anne
“We like that for what we call the ‘grown up version of date night’,” Eric says. But he says Ballard increased offerings make it an attractive destination, especially for more casual offerings.
Best Low Key Date Night: Cactus, South Lake Union
“Just go, no planning needed,” Eric says.
Date Night’s Favorite Chef/Owner: Sam Crannell (LloydMartin)
Date Night’s Favorite Diner: Hudson
Date Night’s Favorite Cocktail: Maple Bourbon Old-Fashioned (Hunger)
The couple will be first to tell you not all of their date nights are a delight. That’s why they came up with their “Pet Peeve of the Year”, which yielded a three-way tie for most annoying things about dining around town.
Topping the list is places that don’t take reservations (The “we’d eat there if you did take reservations” award.)
“We both have extremely long work days and that’s the last thing we want to do is to take that kind of a chance on a Friday night,” Eric says.
The couple also gave two big thumbs down to parking on Capitol Hill (the We’d Eat There If We Could Park in the Restaurant Award), and diners who confuse screaming with convivial conversation (The Please Shut Up Award.)
“It’s the guy right next to you that has to let the whole world know about how smart and important he is but at a volume that would shatter your eardrums,” Eric says.
Other restaurants of note that earned accolades from the couple include Restaurant Marche, Boat Street Cafe, Terra Plate, How to Cook a Wolf and Restaurant Bea.
“We wanted to make sure that we mixed it up a bit because it’s such a great city to eat in being in Seattle that it just seemed like a shame for us to not hit some different places,” he says.
Luckily for Providence, they aren’t a threat to her livelihood. Unlike professional critics, they like to be known and go back to a favorite place without having to conceal their true identities. And they’re already planning for plenty of new discoveries in the New Year.