My Friday nights are saved for a friend of mine. We tend to meet up most Fridays and grab dinner together. Sometimes, it's just whatever neighborhood or cuisine sounds good to us; other times, we follow a theme. Last year's overall theme was "Seattle Icons". This year's theme is "Best of".
The stars aligned this past Friday, when the "Best of" on Capitol Hill in Seattle happened to coincide with "Best of" macaroni and cheese spots in the city. Enter Skillet Diner on East Union Street.
Chef Josh Henderson started Skillet Street Food, a food truck, in a vintage Airstream trailer in 2007. Business has grown to two physical locations, but the truck is still in action. I'd heard of Skillet through the grapevine but hadn't yet been able to try the food. Boy, was I missing out.
Knowing that Skillet was quite the hot spot and that parking on Cap Hill can be impossible Friday nights, I made a reservation for 4:30pm. You heard that right, early-bird-special-4:30-in-the-afternoon. The only thing to be done about the early hour was to make sure I chose wisely from the drink menu when I arrived.
I found parking in the condo building in which Skillet is located - score! I love my Seattle Parking app. Walking into Skillet at 4:30pm, I found my friend sitting at the counter. We love sitting at a counter because you get more of an insider's view of the kitchen and the goings-on - more fun and interesting!
I sat, and Steven, our server, immediately appeared with a menu. My friend had arrived early and ordered an appetizer: poutine (hand-cut fries, gravy, Cheddar, herbs). The plate/bowl was the size of a dinner-plate and filled with a huge mound of gravy-topped fries. Wow! I sat down and immediately the delicate sage essence of the gravy hit my nose. Yum!
But first, the libations menu. I settled on a hey girl...heeeyyyyy (gin, St. Germain, Aperol, Starvation Alley Farms pure cranberry juice, lime juice). You can get it with vodka or gin, but on our server's recommendation I went with gin. First taste: I had chosen wisely. One of the better drinks I've had in a while.
The poutine was delicious. It was one of those dishes that starts as a finger food but quickly progresses, as you munch, to the point where you need a fork. We noshed while deciding on our entrees and while I knew I had to try the mac and cheese, there were so many other items that looked delicious, it made it hard to decide. I did end up ordering the macaroni and cheese: smoked Gouda, orecchiette pasta, herb cheese crisp, bruleed Cheddar cheese. And while I planned on ordering it with bacon jam. I forgot. I. FORGOT. I'm still peeved at myself that I forgot to order the bacon jam! I am a bonehead.
My friend ordered Friday's special, the walnut-braised pork shank. It features slow-braised pork shank, spiced walnut crostini, sweet potato and red apple hash, and fried walnuts. I has a small taste of the pork and the crostini washed with sauce, and it was STELLAR. I want to come back just to try it.
The main event: the macaroni and cheese. Just enjoy that beautimous image for a moment. Imagine how good it smelled, how tantalizing the sound of the subtle sizzle was. Ahhhhhhhh.
The Cheddar bruleed crust was, in a word, sublime. And crunchy. And perfect.
After anticipating my first bite for an eternity (okay, maybe only about three minutes - the thing was HOT!), I plunged in.
Creamy to the max. Subtle smoky flavor from the Gouda. Nice hint of herbaceousness. Honestly, 5 elbows up and one of my new go-to's for mac and cheese in Seattle. Seriously, it is that good. You need to go to here now. And plan on either splitting the dish with a few friends, or having the best breakfast and lunch ever the next day - there's a lot of mac to love in that skillet.
For me, I was eyeing the fried chicken sandwiches and the burgers that went by me while I was seated at the counter. You can bet I'll be back there to try both soon! And by the way, Steven was fantastic - I want him to be my server every time.
And NEXT time, I WILL remember to order the mac and cheese with bacon jam.
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