Tucked in the heart of the uptown neighborhood of Queen Anne in Seattle, WA – How to Cook a Wolf can be easily missed if you don’t pay close attention to its small and inconspicuous curb appeal. The M.F.K. Fisher novel inspired restaurant is more than meets the eye. Don’t judge a book by its cover.
The space is a little tight and intimate. But don’t let that deter you because it’s well worth the wait. If the hostess is busy seating other patrons, you might be greeted by Chef Matt Fortner as he casually but precisely prepares his dishes right in front you as you walk in. Chef Fortner has a durable exterior look (tall and sturdy build with a sleeve tattoo of skulls) and there is something that makes you inquisitive about his calm, cool and collected aura.
You can’t help but notice that there is one of everybody: a Chef, a Sous Chef, a Bartender/Server, a Hostess/Runner, a Waiter/Waitress and a Bus/Dish Specialist (a self titled position that I coined in my first high school restaurant gig).
The 30 something seater restaurant has a quaint character but an understated interior that makes you subtly feel like you are comfortably sitting in a wine barrel. The torque curved wood, the wrapped brass belt, and the corked table tops is a novelty concept that feels intimate and sophisticated but has a “come as you are” environment. I didn’t feel out place wearing my normal Saturday entire, jeans, flannel and baseball cap. And when I curiously asked our waitress about their clever interior design, she was able to gracefully explain the design theme. Call it a test – I wanted to see how well the wait staff knew the little nuances.
Dishes are made to be shared as a communal experience. While you can order your own meal, I would suggest sharing to taste of a variety of dishes. Most of their ingredients are locally sourced from the NW and are usually dictated by their ever changing seasonal menu. Chef Fortner takes a pragmatic approach of simple and minimal ingredients and turns them into primitive and rustic Italian dishes with a taste of the NW. During the fall season, you will see a lot of chanterelle and porcini mushrooms, beets and squash on the menu. Your protein choices are half boiled eggs, sea scallops, pork-belly and branzino (Mediterranean Seabass). The pastas are hand crafted by Lagana Foods who makes all of their pastas from rigatoni, potato gnocchi to cavatelli.
I started with a couple small plates (beet salad and soft boiled eggs) to ease our pallets into our main dishes. The waitress then introduced me to a rich cut of pork-belly that just melted in my mouth. It was also married with marrow bean, kale and shallot agrodolce (traditional Italian sweet & sour sauce). I don’t care what anyone says about how unhealthy pork-belly can be, it was just ungawdly succulent and I wanted it to last. Because it was restaurant week in Seattle, we were notified early that their gnocchi dishes were sold out. Disappointed but unwavering about my second choice – We went with the Gramigne (a bastard child of the spaghetti and macaroni pastas) – Italian sausage and Marjoram.
I decided pass on the dessert and went straight for a Doppio Macchiato to help escape from a food coma I was about to fall into. Chef Matt Fortner won’t disappoint his patrons and if you find yourself in Seattle’s Queen Anne neighborhood, you have to look past the cover and experience what’s inside.
How to Cook a Wolf is one of the four Ethan Stowell Restaurants.