Simpatica Dining Hall
Big family dinners can invoke strong feelings in a person. Some people see these occasions as joyous, eagerly anticipated times to share good food and catch up with family news and gush over the chubby pink new grandchild. Other people see them as confining and threatening social occasions where your mother makes rude public comments about your weight and your crotchety grandfather-in-law forgets your name during the Thanksgiving prayer and just calls you “that short girl Harry married.”
Since eating an unforgettable meal with amiable and interesting strangers is communal dining at its best and makes for fast friends, before too long, you’ll know the names of all your neighbors’ grandchildren, and they’ll know exactly how much you weigh, and thanks to Simpatica’s policy of thoroughly explaining each course before you consume it, you’ll both know what a Pocha bean is.
You’re far more likely to have the former experience at Simpatica, where communal dinners that brilliantly showcase Pacific Northwest cuisine are hosted every Friday and Saturday evening, much to the delight of those who are able to secure a reservation. Once upon a time, reservations could only be obtained if you were part of Simpatica’s exclusive mailing list, and replied to their dinner inquiries in time to make the cut. Nowadays, it’s a little easier to get in, but the long dining tables are still reliably occupied.
The fixed, multi-course menu reads like exactly the sort of gourmet lineup you’d rustle up with all beautiful food you bought at Farmer’s Market–if only you’d gone to culinary school instead of journalism school. Chilled Cucumber and Tomato Gazpacho with Fried Croutons to start, followed by perfectly cooked Seared Sea Scallops with Roasted Green Beans, Oil-Cured Black Olives and Cherry Tomatoes, a main course of Wood-Grilled Oregon Albacore Tuna with Viridian Farms Pocha Beans, Basil and Smoked Pepper Jus. And for dessert, sweet Springcrest Peaches and Cream in Puff Pastry.
The restaurant is hidden away in the mustard-colored Pine Street Studios building in the semi-industrial wilds of SE Ash Street, sharing the ‘hood with notable eateries like Biwa and J & M Cafe, and just blocks from Doug Fir and Le Pigeon. The sunken, concrete-walled dining room has a warehousey feel that’s been warmed with long flowing curtains and interesting artworks, and you’re afforded the scantest peek at the kitchen in the far right corner.
The wine list is excellent, and you’ll probably want to share your bottle of Albariño with your tablemates. And since eating an unforgettable meal with amiable and interesting strangers is communal dining at its best and makes for fast friends, before too long, you’ll know the names of all your neighbors’ grandchildren, and they’ll know exactly how much you weigh, and thanks to Simpatica’s policy of thoroughly explaining each course before you consume it, you’ll both know what a Pocha bean is.
Cuisine: New American
Executive Chef: Jesse Jones, Benjamin Shaw
Owner: Ben Dyer, Jason Owens, Dave Kreifels
Atmosphere: A simple, elegant space with concrete walls covered in large art pieces, long narrow communal tables, a classy upscale country-chic feel, and a relaxing vibe.
Outdoor seating: No
Best Seat: I prefer to sit at the end of the table, but that’s mostly because I have a tiny bladder and it’s just easier that way
Noise Level: Enthusiastic-Boisterous, like being at a huge dinner party, which is essentially what you're at
Dress Code: Anything goes. Some people dress up, some people wear jeans.
Bring the Kids: Not to dinner, but I would bring them to brunch.
Bathrooms: Yes, don’t forget to get the key, then turn left and down the hall
Parking: Free and easy to find on SE Ash and surrounding streets
Wine: Excellent wines by the glass ($7-$14) and bottle (varies)
Ideal Meal: Menu is never the same twice, so you’ll have to be surprised
Vegetarian Friendly: Brunch, yes
Vegan Friendly: No
Good for the following occasions: Out With Friends, Family Meal, Communal Dining, Best Brunch Ever
Group/Private Party Details: Simpatica Dining Hall is available for private dining seven days a week. Business events, rehearsal dinners and informal parties of all sizes are welcome.
Reservations: Reservations are accepted for Friday and Saturday evening dinners, call 503.235.1600 or go online to www.simpaticacatering.com, click on Reservations and fill out the form. Reservations for Brunch are accepted for parties of 8 or more.