On a chilly autumn evening, A’Town Bistro is warm and cozy.
The space, which used to be the Anacortes branch of La Vie en Rose bakery, is long and narrow but somehow works really well for the Northwest-style bistro. A fireplace divides the entryway from the dining area, and a long rustic bar curves across the room with an open kitchen at the back. In warmer weather, a small patio is set up on the sidewalk. Open for almost a year, the restaurant is a welcome addition to the downtown Anacortes dining scene.
This is the kind of food we’ve been missing around here. On a recent visit some friends and I ordered a bowl of warm olives with chunks of feta ($8), a wild boar burger ($16), which was bright with mustard and arugula, steak frites ($17—the fries here are dangerously good), angel hair pasta with shiitake mushrooms ($15), and a small but rich plate of butternut squash ravioli with apples and hazelnuts ($19). Everything was wonderful, which is what I’ve been led to expect after many visits here.
Previous meals at A’Town have included a nicely done fish and chips plate ($15), tender ribeye steak with smashed potatoes and seasonal vegetables ($29), an extremely good bowl of French onion soup ($9), several prettily composed salads, and perfectly cooked mussels in chorizo broth ($13) (the staff once made a version of the mussels for us with a milder broth, for a friend with severe allergies—it was good, too).
We’ve also come for brunch, which allowed us to experience the best biscuits and gravy ($13) we’ve ever tasted in our lives. I’m sorry to see that pho is no longer on the brunch menu, but the one time I had it at brunch I was in heaven—a huge bowl of spiced broth, noodles, paper-thin beef and loads of fresh herbs was the perfect thing for a slightly blurry Sunday morning. Hopefully they’ll bring it back.
The only thing I haven’t liked here was the smoked salmon cakes ($15), and I admit that it’s more of an “it’s-not-you-it’s-me” kind of thing, since I burn out quickly on the flavor of smoked salmon. Everything else has been fabulous, and since they keep changing out the menu there’s always something new to try.
I appreciate the wide range of prices here. Depending on your wallet and appetite, you can get a simple plate like pasta or pot pie for $15 or a perfectly cooked salmon fillet with vegetables for $26. Either will make you happy. You can also make a good meal out of soup and salad, or just order an appetizer and steal other people’s extra fries (my mother does this). This is the true bistro experience, where you can get good food and drink without breaking the bank.
Speaking of drink, they always have a fine draft beer selection here, but I’ve also been happy with their wine list, which has a nice selection of both European and Northwest bottles. There are always a few wine specials, which can be a really good deal, and they also have their house wines “on tap.”
My husband and I are huge mixology fans and we were thrilled recently to see A’Town start their own craft cocktail program. They’re offering a nice mix of classics and new drinks: on a recent visit we tried a drink called the “Avenue A” with whiskey, Aperol, Carpano Antica vermouth, and old-fashioned bitters, which was splendid. We’ve also had a great version of a classic New Orleans drink called the Vieux Carré, a whiskey and cognac concoction with Benedictine that you don’t see just anywhere.
Desserts are basic, but impeccably executed. I’ve helped demolish two of the gâteau au chocolat, which are sort of like a big bar of chocolate frosting, and gotten an occasional taste of the crème brulee (when my husband orders one of these he expects to get to eat most of it himself). The third dessert varies, sometimes it’s a cheese plate, but last time we were there it was an apple crisp.
A’Town is open for lunch, happy hour, dinner and Sunday brunch, all of which I can recommend. This isn’t just a good place to come when you’re in Anacortes, it’s a reason to come to Anacortes in the first place.
To read more of Jessamyn Tuttle’s food musings, go to her blog at http://www.foodonthebrain.net
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