On my most recent trip to Seattle, I made a point of stopping by Tilth for a meal – not because The New York Times named it one of the top ten restaurants in the country a year ago – but because one of my best friends and a fellow foodie has been obsessed ever since it opened in 2006. Hence, it was only fitting that I invited her there as my guest to a Saturday brunch.
Located in Seattle’s residential Wallingford neighborhood, Tilth occupies what could easily be mistaken as just another house on the block, complete with a porch and front lawn. The restaurant serves only 40 guests in an intimate two room dining set up on the first floor. Naturally, I started comparing Tilth to another Seattle house-restaurant I visited a couple years ago, Crush. My experience at Crush had been disappointing, and I had left telling friends to go for the cocktails rather than the food, concluding that the restaurant preferred “scene over substance.” Tilth couldn’t be further from that. The dining room decor is modest and simple with menus printed on sheets of white paper. It is clear that quality ingredients, good food, and warm service are priorities over trend. The design concept of dining in a house only makes the experience more inviting and casual, rather than trying to impress with its novelty.
Tilth serves up a unique brunch menu complemented by standard sides such as sausage, biscuits and gravy, and eggs. The fare is entirely organic with the exception of wild foods such as certain mushrooms or wines, which cannot be certified as such. Non-organic items are notated on the menu for the discerning diner. I had a difficult time deciding between the truffle dungeness crab scramble and the mini-duck burgers, but eventually chose the latter as they are the restaurant’s specialty and one of the only items served at every meal. The sliders were, in fact, very good and cooked just rare enough that they were still pink and juicy in the middle. The burgers were dressed with a homemade ketchup and spicy mustard that added just the right amount of spicy and sweet to the savory goodness of the meat. And the buns were flaky, delicious and melted in my mouth. I usually eat my burgers open faced, but I couldn’t bear to pick off any of the bread because it just tasted so good.
Also of note was their drink selection. Having just (over) drunk at my New Year’s party, I opted for their selections of seasonal homemade sodas instead of my usual mimosa. Much to my delight, they were flavorful yet not too sweet. I enjoyed the ginger lemon soda and they also serve a cranberry mint soda, which I’m currently kicking myself for not having tried as well.
Executive Chef Maria Hines sources her food from local producers and created an organic restaurant as an extension of her own personal philosophy of eating healthy, sustainable agriculture, and staying green. Tilth is one of only two restaurants in the country to be certified organic by the Oregon Tilth. Food + Wine named Hines one of the Top Ten Chefs in America in 2005 and most recently, she was nominated for the James Beard Award for best chef in the Northwest. Maria is also a blogger to boot, and you can find everything from the current menu to her fitness and nutrition advice on the Tilth Blog.
Though I wasn’t able to meet Maria when I dined at Tilth, I felt like I had a good idea of what kind of person would’ve created this warm restaurant. More than anything else, Tilth is a very personal restaurant and creates intimacy without pretentiousness. Service is flawless and subtle without being over-the-top. I was able to enjoy my entire meal and conversation without constantly being asked how the food was. The server noticed when my cup of coffee had been sitting out for a while and replaced it with a fresh new cup in such a quiet manner that I barely even noticed. My friend, a frequent diner at Tilth, had always spoken fondly of the service she’s received there – even naming the waiter she had hoped we would get from previous memorable experiences.
Tilth serves up a wonderful brunch – the type that comfortably lasts for hours. Brunch is also a quieter alternative to dinner, which usually draws a full house. With that said though, I still can’t wait to return for an evening meal the next time I’m in the Emerald City – if for nothing else just because I love good food and good company.
Tilth is located at 1411 N. 45th Street. 206-633-0801
Photos courtesy of Tilth by Ron Wurzer.