Exploring Seattle with Anu and Chris Elford
When we heard that our friend Kate (who you may recognize as Betty Clicker) was planning a trip to the Pacific Northwest, we knew that we had to coordinate a day trip exploring Seattle with Anu and Chris Elford. In addition to being fantastic hosts, Anu and Chris are also incredibly involved and well-respected within the hospitality industry. We first met Chris when he was living in Richmond and a member of the opening staff at one of our favorite cocktail bars, Saison. One thing led to the next, and Chris was living in Seattle with Anu, owner of Belltown’s Rob Roy. Chris is currently a brand ambassador for the Bon Vivants, and the couple plan to open two bars in the upcoming year. Naturally, Kate’s visit to Seattle seemed like the perfect opportunity to catch up with Anu and Chris for a day of great conversation, food, drinks and a tour of Seattle from the local perspective.
Tell us a bit about yourselves and your work.
Chris: We both wear a lot of hats, but at the heart of what we do, we are in hospitality. Both of us have a background as bartenders, which is where we gained notoriety and how we met each other. I came up in NYC, and Anu came up in the cocktail scene here (Seattle). I work as a part-time brand ambassador for a company called the Bon Vivants, a group of 11 bartenders in 11 cities around the country — we represent spirits that we find to be compelling to our local markets, and engage in a variety of peripheral things like charity, events, staff trainings, and large-scale event execution. We travel all over the world together.
Chris, do you see any parallels between Richmond and Seattle?
Not a lot, honestly. They both support their local restaurants and bars and that is definitely important to me personally, but the attitude and vibe in Seattle and Richmond are pretty seriously different. I don't think either is better or worse, but Seattle is a larger metro area with some huge companies based here, the economy is growing like crazy. But that puts a little veil in between you and the guest to some degree. In Richmond, when someone sat at my bar, I felt I had a chance at making a regular out of them, but Seattle is so transient that I feel like a single-serving bartender sometimes.
One comparison I would make is that despite the size difference, you can make your voice heard in both cities if you are a creative person, which I think is essential to someone like me choosing a city to live in.
What are you most excited about for Seattle’s future?
Chris: Anu and I are opening two new bars, which have yet to be officially announced concept-wise, but we're doing them in a slightly overlooked neighborhood that we really believe in and we believe we can make a difference in. The best thing going on in Seattle right now is that there are a lot of people who have ideas they're passionate about, who believe they can make a difference in their pocket of the city. It's really highlighting the different types of people and cultures here.
Give us a rundown of the places you visited, what you ate, what you drank, what you love about the atmosphere, etc.
We started out at Rainshadow Meats in Occidental Park. It's right in the shadow of the Seahawks/ Sounders stadium in a very old historic part of downtown. Their sandwiches are amazing, they source incredible ingredients and it is not only my favorite lunch spot but my favorite place to take friends when they come to visit. Their food is incredible, and you can get a bottle of rosé for around $25. Their passion for what they do is palpable, and they hire the sweetest people.
We walked from there down the waterfront of the Puget Sound to the Olympic Sculpture Park. This is the park I run through a few times a week, and it is beautiful and healing just to be there and experience it. We went there right at sunset and there was just a very seasonal energy to the experience. I think our favorite was walking through Richard Serra's 'Wake,' which could be accurately be described as walking through a rusty boneyard of wave-like battleship hulls. It's just beautiful.
Then we got on the ferry and headed across the sound to Hitchcock, a fantastic restaurant by Brendan McGill, a James Beard nominated chef who grew up in Alaska and cooked his way around Seattle until opening this (slightly) remote outpost of a restaurant. I feel like with eating, the journey is the destination. And for that reason we know that whenever we take someone to Hitchcock, they're probably going to remember it for the rest of their lives.
We went up onto the roof of our building once back in the city, which is right on the walkway from the ferry terminal, and took in the city skyline at night. After that, we headed to Rob Roy, Anu's bar, and had a nightcap. Rob Roy is a very special place, it's a nationally renowned cocktail bar that kind of feels like drinking in a dark den in the 1970s. The bar focuses on classic cocktails, which is incredible in an age when most people are frantically trying to come up with the next big cocktail bar concept.
Best of Seattle: The Short List
Best all-around cocktail in town? Runners up?
I'd say my favorite is a simple margarita variation from a restaurant called Single Shot, featuring Tequila, Mezcal, Riesling, and Lime, by Adam Fream. It's unbelievable. Runner up for me would be anything from the hands of Myles Burroughs or Amanda Reed. They come from wine backgrounds and have such tempered palates.
The holy trinity of Seattle bars: Rob Roy, Canon, Zig Zag Cafe. In one night if possible.
Best dive bar?
Bernard's. I talked all about it in this article.
I don't do brunch. The staff is hung over. The guests are hung over and if they aren’t, theyre doing life wrong. People over-imbibe mediocre drinks. No offense to the brunch-obsessed people, but it's not for me. I can cook delicious brunch food at home, read the paper, have some coffee. There are days I would kill for Black Sheep's biscuits and gravy, though.
The place that all the locals know, but tourists don’t know about?
Stoneburner. Incredible food and drink.