from the downtown corner, i watched the taillights of the number 14 bus disappear from sight, cursing those last few minutes i’d spent at home, probably doing nothing. i compromised and got on a 49 bus. though it didn’t take me all the way down summit avenue to artemis cafe, it did leave me on pine, within walking distance.
once i got the blood pumping, i was glad to be walking. though i’d lived in the neighborhood for years, my current downtown residence makes visits to capitol somewhat rare.the parallel avenues of bellevue and summit form a community within capitol hill. the apartments are (relatively) affordable, if unremarkable. this, combined with a proximity to both broadway and downtown, means that most of the residents are pbr drinkers between the ages of 20 and 35, with unimpressive incomes and the desire to become artists. you generally know your neighbors here – maybe not because they’re your neighbors but because you saw them at a show last weekend or at bauhaus this afternoon.
yet, perhaps exactly because of this nearness to broadway and it’s high concentration of cheap eats, restaurants are practically non existent on bellevue and summit and their neighboring streets. you can get pizza and donuts and beer, the staples, certainly, but not a sit down meal. it was this unplanned walk that made me understand why artemis was placed in this rather obscure spot on a residential street. it is, after all, surrounded by people, if not businesses, and there are times when those people don’t feel like maneuvering the treacheries of broadway – panhandlers, flyer-hander-outers, the permanent sale at panache – to get a decent meal.
the dim lights in the restaurant enhance the twinkling of the city seen through the far window. elegant features – the view, the fireplace – are balanced by neighborhood-y touches, mismatched silverware and plates, paper menus, and low prices. the trend continues into the food. there are graceful seared scallops with brown butter and chives ($15), and there is a rustic semolina cake with taleggio cheese ($10, see previous post). boquerones are made approachable with their straightforward presentation – simply set on a plate next to salted marcona almonds and caperberries ($10).
there is never a question about what you’re eating at artemis. the flavors are familiar and clear, but never dull. the treviso (of the grilled treviso with shaved parmigiano reggiano dish, $6) is perfectly bitter. the pequillo peppers on the braised pork ribs are refreshingly pickly and hot, and the fried sage on the semolina cakes is just the right bright herbaciousness.
city searchers hate the service, of course. nah, it wasn’t perfect, but this had no influence on how much i enjoyed my meal. the wine was mostly there when we needed it and everyone was warmed and appeared to be happy to be there.
when i think back on those couple of hours i spent at artemis, they come to my mind blurred together. i don’t remember one mind-blowing or horrible dish. i remember enjoying and being satisfied by everything. i don’t remember whether our server put knives and forks on the correct side of the plate; i remember her making us laugh. it doesn’t still bug me that the wine list wasn’t full of unexplored treasures; i just feel grateful that it was so affordable.and i feel content knowing artemis is where it is, lighting up this dark corner of bellevue ave, adding another dimension to the area. like sitka and spruce, from whence artemis chef nick castleberry came, perhaps location is ultimately unimportant if what you offer is worth the trip.