Quick, before the weather turns and it gets too chilly to enjoy dinner outdoors: Head to Café Parco, overlooking the tennis courts in Madison Park.
Celinda Norton, the chef and entrepreneur who used to run 94 Stewart in the Pike Place Market and is just winding up her first summer in the neighborhood, wants you to enjoy her shaded terrace garden and the way the trees light up at night.
For the last 32 years, this was Karen Binder’s Madison Park Café.
“The property said, ‘European,’” Norton said, but she didn’t want to do another French restaurant. So Café Parco is “New World Italian,” what Norton describes as “integrity and balance.”
Norton’s son, Nic, is her general manager and sommelier. They’re both pleased that there’s another fine-dining restaurant a couple of blocks away (Cormac Mahoney’s award-winning Madison Park Conservatory), so they’re not the only game in town.
Belltown has turned into a hotbed of restaurant turmoil.
Rocco’s, a pizza-by-the-slice emporium owned by Jesus Escobar of Noc Noc, has opened on Second Avenue, in the space once occupied by Noodle Ranch and Dope Burger.
Whisky Bar has moved a couple of blocks north from the corner of Second and Virginia Street, where it’s being replaced by Corner Bar, an outpost of Buenos Aires, down the block on Virginia.
Also on Second, replacing Forte, a new Mexican venture called Space Taco.
At First and Denny Way, Fogo is on its way, a venture by two former employees of Ipanema, the shuttered parrillada spot in the University Steps.
Fish Cake Factory is coming to Fourth Avenue, where Zeitoon once stood. The chef is a diminutive Thai woman named Vimonsri Wongjaraen, who is a cousin of co-owner Arnon Kaseter. She originally came to the United States to look after the Kaseters’ two young children before becoming the chef at Bai Tong.
Jo and Arnon Kaseter, the owners, went on to launch a mail-order line of adorable headgear for infants called Me & Mom’s (www.seattlehats.com), which has a storefront in the Pike Place Market (behind the fish-throwing guys).
Chef Wongjaraen plans a number of fish cakes made from salmon, halibut, trout, catfish, crab and whatever else happens to be in season, spiced with a variety of curries.
“More fusion than pure Thai,” she acknowledged, although there will also be a short menu of traditional dishes like Phad Thai.
Farther east, Geogy Chacko’s new Far Eats takes over the corner of Fifth Avenue and Bell Street with an ambitious menu of Indian dishes.
Over on the “Specialty Dishes” side of the menu, the malabar lamb is astonishingly good. It’s a dish from Chacko’s home state of Kerala, in the less prosperous south of India, and it has an authenticity you don’t often find in Seattle, where the Indian restaurants are generally owned by immigrants from the north.
Chacko’s lamb tasted of roasted coconut and freshly roasted coriander seed. The mango prawns were also knockout-good, roasted with garlic and glazed with mango chutney.
More new restaurants on the way: In Ballard, there’s Kickin Boot Whiskey Kitchen in the Henry Whyte lumber mill, from the folks who brought you Matador (seven locations by now). It will be Ballard’s first restaurant to offer valet parking.
The owners are Nathan Opper and Zak Melang. Opper was a homebuilder in Michigan before landing in Seattle; Melang, a bass player, moved here from North Carolina to play music.
Essex has opened in north Ballard; it’s a cocktail lounge from the same folks who brought you Delancey Pizza.
On Capitol Hill, welcome newcomer Fogon, a Mexican spot, and the new Q Lounge. The hoopla surrounding EVO Tapas Bar didn’t last; it has been absorbed into The Social, which occupied the back of the same space.
Rione XIII has opened on 15th Avenue, another Ethan Stowell spot.
In South Lake Union news: Ting Momo, the lunch spot behind Bravehorse Tavern, has closed and will become a food truck. Bravehorse will take over the space for private dining.
Vessel, the downtown cocktail bar that used to be in the same block as the Fifth Avenue Theatre, has reopened at 624 Olive Way.
Let’s not forget Wallingford, where TNT Tacos has opened.
On Queen Anne, La Luna has been sold (it was on the market pretty much from the day it opened). And Grub, across the street, has opened.
Awards and honors for Belltown’s Bisato (one of the 10 best, new Italian restaurants, period); Tulio (one of America’s top-10 Italian restaurants), Canlis (one of the nation’s top historic restaurants, says CNN) and Canon (one of America’s top-10 cocktail bars).
RONALD HOLDEN is a restaurant writer and consultant who blogs at Cornichon.org and Crosscut.com.