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Monday, June 4, 2007

Good Clams, Bad Gumbo

posted by on June 4 at 8:40 AM


Sometimes a restaurant surprises you—in a good way. Take this plate of steamed clams at the Red Door in Fremont. I’ve had plenty of burgers at the Red Door… and a few dozen beers… but I never ordered anything off the menu at the Red Door ‘cept their burgers. I love steamers—a big bowl of clams, steamed in butter and wine—but there’s nothing worse than a bad bowl of steamed clams (well, maybe leukemia), and since Red Door didn’t seem like a good bet for clams, I stuck with the burgers.

But a coupled of Friday’s ago I was at the Red Door and I wasn’t in the mood for a burger so I decided to take a chance on the steamers. And, goddamnit, they were the best damned steamed clams I’d ever had. Here’s hoping it wasn’t a fluke because I’m going back for more.

Sometimes, though, a place surprises you in a bad way. I’m a big fan of the Virginia Inn on 1st Avenue. The place was non-smoking before non-smoking was cool (sorry, I mean “legally mandated”), and it’s a great place to have a beer and some good, cheap, fast bar chow. I’m a fan of the quiche—yeah, yeah—but I particularly love the gumbo at the Virginia Inn. Over the last decade I’ve probably eaten enough gumbo at the Virginia Inn to fill a couple of fifty gallon drums.

The Virginia Inn’s menu promises a bowl “chock-full of sausage and chicken,” and it lists the gumbo, which is just $9, as an entree. So, like, it’s supposed to be dinner, you know? And it’s usually pretty filling—dump some Tabasco sauce in, scoop it on to the delicious bread they serve with it, and you’re set. But, man, last Friday I stopped by the Virginia Inn and my not-quite-full bowl of gumbo came with just two lonely, paper-thin slices of sausage and not one recognizable bit of chicken. By the time I rode my bike home I was starving again. But here’s this weekend’s gumbo was a fluke, because I’ll be back for more.

Anyway… I just wanted to share. Because when you’ve had a surprising experience in a restaurant—good surprise or bad—you wanna let people know, you know?

Have we mentioned that the Stranger’s restaurant listing now have reader reviews? We have, and they do. Did you have a good experience? A bad one? Let people know.

RSS icon Comments


My pet peeve about gumbo is when places leave the bones in the chicken. I had a very tasty gumbo at Casuelitas Island Soul in the Ranier Valley, but they chopped up the chicken still on the bone. This made it impossible to eat the chicken (it was hard enough getting the crab meat out of the legs without making a mess). Also my gumbo was supposed to have shrimp in it but, alas, there were none.

Posted by elswinger | June 4, 2007 8:57 AM

Must not be getting the hits you're expecting on the restaurant reviews, eh, Dan? You capitalist, you ...

Posted by Clickster | June 4, 2007 8:59 AM

Actually, we're getting tons, Clickster. More than 600 reader reviews so far--and we've only just launched the thing.

Give my regards to everyone else down on Western.

Posted by Dan Savage | June 4, 2007 9:10 AM

A little chicken bone is good, actually. Meat in any stew is always best on the bone (lamb dishes with no bone are throwing the best part of the dish in the garbage). You might have to pick it out with your fingers, or just do like me -- grind that chicken bone up. Mmm, marrow.

Posted by Fnarf | June 4, 2007 9:13 AM

Fnarf, normally I agree with you but basically I got the worst part of the chicken back, where there is very little meat. I understand that Casuelitas cooks up a big pot of Gumbo because it's one of their most popular dishes, so it literally is "pot luck." Despite the lack of big pieces of chicken and lack of shrimp, they make an excellent Gumbo.

Dan, how do restaurants get in the guide? I wanted to praise the pizza at Pazzo's on Eastlake but it isn't listed.

Posted by elswinger | June 4, 2007 9:22 AM

did this disappear and reappear?

Posted by ruby | June 4, 2007 9:34 AM

On my way home yesterday, the Safeway and QFC parking lots were jammed pack, so I decided to make the delightful trip once again to Grocery Outlet! Man, I keep forgetting about the Bargains!! (i'm trying to focus more on home cooking after sampling just about every restaraunt in a 2 mile Rainier stretch).

Anyway, Grocery Outlet greets me with ideal Muzak- Help Me by Joni Mitchell, then Wouldn't it Be Nice by the Beach Boys. I got a little greedy and bought two avacados despite the exorbidant price of a buck a piece.

It was such a nice day, I sat on the hood of my tercel-o-matic, and had a tortilla and sardine sandwhich. To top it off, the view of the halfway built transit station is looming massively above. I had to then endure the trip home with bass blown speakers- "All by Myself!" Not the Celine Dion version, the Erik Carmen one from '77. My sister use to love that 45- blechh

"Stand there and watch my car vegetate"
- Jonathan Richman

Posted by Garrett | June 4, 2007 9:40 AM

I like chicken backs. Oh well.

I agree, though -- there are lots of places that aren't in the guide that need to be. Will you ever add places you haven't reviewed?

Posted by Fnarf | June 4, 2007 9:56 AM

Yes, let us know what needs to be added, and we'll get 'em in. Send suggestions to...

Posted by Dan Savage | June 4, 2007 10:04 AM

Actually, elswinger, you can submit a restaurant to be added by clicking the submission button at the bottom of any restaurant listing, or going directly to this link: I've got Pazzo's on my list already, so you can look for it later today!

Posted by Ari Spool | June 4, 2007 11:07 AM


Posted by elswinger | June 4, 2007 11:47 AM

Dan, Mr. Editor, the phrase "a couple of Fridays ago" does not require an apostrophe. "A couple of Friday's" is for a couple of things Friday possesses (or is). Are you drinking already today? It's like you're writing for the Sinner over here.

Posted by plural not possessive | June 4, 2007 1:31 PM


Posted by Bill | June 12, 2007 12:38 PM


Posted by Bill | June 12, 2007 12:38 PM


Posted by Bill | June 12, 2007 12:39 PM

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