Saturday, March 19, 2011

Over The Hill

Buffalo wings:  beer's best buddy
A month or so ago I got a craving for chicken wings and beer.  I'd heard that the Attic Alehouse over in Madison Park had some of the best in Seattle, so I decided to make a beer hike out of it and recruited a couple of other idiots to walk in the rain with me.  (Link stayed at home.  None of these places are dog-friendly and the weather sucked, so leaving him hitched up outside was not an option.)

Over the Hill UBH (about 4.5 mi.)
Pike Brewing / Elysian Brewing / Madrona Ale House / Attic Alehouse

View Over the Hill in a larger map

Before meeting up with my minions, I needed some soul food and took the opportunity to visit the hottest food truck in town, Where Ya At Matt?   They are on a rotating location schedule and today they happened to be in Interbay, which was on my way downtown.  I laid down a nice foundation for the day's drinking and hiking with a big bowl of shrimp and grits.  I was now ready to get on the bus and proceed to beer.

1. Pike Brewing
We began at one of my favorite beer hike launch points, Pike Brewing.  They had Pike Pale on cask so I ordered up one of those along with my first plate of buffalo wings of the day.  I enjoyed the beer as much as ever, but I wasn't expecting much from the wings.  I like the food that Pike puts out in general, but most places in Seattle seem to struggle with wings for some reason.  It's not easy to find good ones.  Many places have lots of tasty sauce choices, but tiny wings barely bigger than my thumb.  Other places have good sized wings, but their wing sauces suck.  I've barely been able to find a handful of places that have both, and even then consistency is an issue.  (Don't even talk to me about Wingdome.  Their sauce is mostly margarine, black pepper, and orange dye).  I didn't expect that Pike's wings would be an exception, but I was wrong.  They had a good crisp skin on the outside -- they could have been crisper, but they were fine -- and the meat inside was tender and juicy -- a sure sign of blanching or braising.  Often places will throw raw or frozen wings right into the fryer and cook the hell out of them until they're crispy on the outside, but too dry on the inside.  Finding the balance is not that hard, but it can be time-consuming.  That's probably why so many places fuck it up.

Anyway, as I was saying, I was very pleased with the size of the wings and the sauce they were smothered in.  It was a hint on the vinegary side, but damn close to the Buffalo wing sauce I practically grew up on in Rochester, NY at places like The Distillery and Richmond's.  Bravo, Pike.  I'm looking forward to having them again soon.

Spotted this sweet ride on Pike St.
2. Elysian Brewing
After another schooner at Pike, my fellow hiker (the guy, by the way.  Nice fella.) and I bundled up and began our march up Pike Street to our second stop.  It was already starting to get dark and even though it was not even 4pm yet, Elysian was already pretty busy.  We elbowed our way to a couple of spots near the bar and I ordered a pint of Dragonstooth Stout.  I didn't even think to order wings here because I was sure that they weren't the menu, but once again my feeble memory failed me.  Just as I was down to about 1/3 of my beer, I saw a server deliver a pile of bright orange goodness to a nearby table.  I considered going over to them and asking if I could try one of their wings, but who does that?  I could smell the vinegar across the room anyway and I suspected that I wouldn't like the sauce.  But I don't want to bash them until I actually eat one or two, so I'll leave it there.

About the time we were finishing, we picked up another hiker, the man in black himself.   We did a little people watching (Elysian is really good for that) while he downed a beer and we were off.

3.  Madrona Ale House
From Elysian, we continued up and over the hill and down to a spot that I'd never been to:  Madrona Alehouse.  Not being happy hour yet, it wasn't as busy as it was soon going to get (Friday night, family friendly place...  I have no doubt it gets crazy.)  We ordered pints (Green Flash IPA for me) and another plate of wings.  Once again, I was pleasantly surprised.  Here I am, always pontificating about how wings in Seattle generally suck, and I was about to find my second exception of the day.  Madrona Alehouse's wings were terrific.  Good size, meaty wings, crispy on the outside, and juicy on the inside.  The wing sauce was a great combination of buttery and spicy without unnecessary additions like black pepper, garlic, or vinegar.  (I do like a little minced garlic thrown in once in a while, though, but very little goes a long way.)  My expectations were again exceeded.  Nice job, Madrona.  I can hardly wait to visit again and test for consistency.

Alcohol and Twitter:  a dangerous combination.
Navigating Madrona to Madison Park.  In the dark.
4.  Attic Alehouse
It's a very quiet (and pretty dark) walk through the beautiful Harrison/Denny Blaine neighborhood to get from Madrona Alehouse to the Attic.  By this point, I was feeling glad there was to be only one more stop.  I could definitely do another pint or two, but the roughly two dozen wings in my gut were starting to weigh me down.

The Attic's Friday evening crowd was expectedly lively.  We grabbed a booth not far from the bar and ordered up a few pints.  I had Trade Route Brewing's Midnight Ale and eyed the wings on the menu.  I'd had them here once before, several years ago, and remembered feeling so-so about them.  I was excited to give them another shot though because the Attic always seems to come up in conversations with other chicken wing douches about Seattle's best offerings.  When they arrived, the aroma was almost overpoweringly tangy, which I don't generally like.  Luckily, they didn't taste as harsh as they smelled and the wings were the biggest I'd seen all day.  I'm still not crazy about the wing sauce, but they're definitely getting the right wings for the job and frying them up just right.  One weird thing, however, was that my basket contained all drumettes and no flats -- a phenomenon I've seen at other places, too.  What are they doing with the other half of the chicken parts?  I'm sure that I'll order wings at the Attic again next time I'm in Madison Park and looking for trouble, because, well, apparently I just can't resist.

All in all, we did almost 5 miles, which is decent for a shitty, cold, wet mid-winter beer hike.  It gets dark and cold so early that you think you've been hiking all day, but it's only been four hours or so.  It's hard motivate yourself to get off your comfy stoop at the bar and hit the pavement to the next stop when it's so uninviting outside, but it has to be done. 

Coming up next:  White Center to West Seattle.  In the cold and rain, of course.

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