photo credit: Suzi Pratt
Communion is a celebration of Seattle, community, and frankly, of stewed pork neck. Sure, it’s an extremely difficult restaurant to get into. But from your first step inside to your final mouthful of sticky nutmeg-dusted peach cobbler, it’s an experience and meal that you need to make happen.
Housed in the Liberty Bank Building, this restaurant stands as a pillar to the Black community in a neighborhood that has historically struggled (and still struggles) with displacement and gentrification. It’s a lipstick-stamped love letter to the American south while also taking inspiration from dishes and flavors you can find in the Central District and beyond. Earthy berbere grilled chicken with lemon-twisted lentils nods to the neighborhood’s Ethiopian population, while a po’boy/bánh mì hybrid honors the pâté-slathered baguettes of Little Saigon. A surplus of cornmeal-dredged catfish, though, shows that this is a soul food spot through and through.
These culinary snapshots, combined with the location’s history, make Communion one of Seattle’s most important neighborhood restaurants. And as an added bonus, the food’s really damn good.
Their menu walks the tightrope between homestyle comfort dishes and courses you’d see at an upscale dinner party, like classic hoe cakes served with crisp pickled vegetables, spicy black-eyed pea hummus, herby Yemeni zhug, and a creamy dip loaded with roasted collards. There’s also a phenomenally rich neck-bone stew featuring ruby-hued pork and soupy-starchy lima beans brightened up with zaps of cold olive oil and fresh marjoram.
But what really makes Communion a game-changing establishment is their fried catfish. Brittle on the outside and plump on the inside, it headlines our three favorite dishes here. It’s rolled inside nori as “hood sushi,” smashed between bread with Vietnamese and NOLA-style fixings (the aforementioned po’mi), and laid on top of velvety parmesan grits with a Creole shrimp sauce that tastes like a trip to Savannah—only without the chartreuse pollen that cakes every parked car.
Communion’s celebratory nature stretches way past the soul food. The dining room, with plush cerulean booths, intricate copper ceiling tiles, and a back bar shaking apple-sweetened mint juleps and bourbon drinks with toasted pecan liqueur, has a lively hum that makes you feel good just to be a blip on their timeline. You can even sense the palpable energy when scouring their online reservation platform only to discover nary a table in sight. Our advice? Check their website often, show up the millisecond they open in hopes of walk-in availability, or try Sunday brunch when they don’t take reservations at all. This party is worth all the work.
Soul food meets sushi in this maki roll, and clearly, the two immediately hit it off. The contrast here is pretty stupendous—there’s a brittle crispness of cornmeal-breaded catfish and cold pickled vegetables paired with soft and sweet sushi rice, furikake for seaweed saltiness, and a watermelon hot sauce to tie it all together.
TBGC! Relish Tray
There are a lot of tasty things going on in this appetizer platter that you should be passing around the table: a spicy black eyed pea hummus, a bright green Yemeni zhug loaded with herbs, and a roasted collard green spread that has a yogurt-like tang and all the creaminess of a holiday casserole. They’re served with pickled vegetables and a tomato salad alongside cornmeal hoe cakes. Each dip is excellent on its own or swirled together across the cakes.
Fried Catfish Po’Mi
Our favorite dish on the menu, the po’mi is an obviously-named cross between a po’boy and a bánh mì. From the New Orleans side, there’s that amazing fried catfish again, along with tangy remoulade and shredded romaine. And inspired by Vietnam, you’ll find pickled daikon and carrots, grilled jalapeño, and a homemade pâté that really tastes more like a salty pork rillettes spread. Combining two already great genres worked for electro swing music, and it works for this sandwich, too.
Jessica Rycheal/Malina Lopez
Creole Catfish & Grits
If you’d like to eat fried catfish but you’re not in the mood for a sandwich, we endorse ordering it atop creamy parmesan grits complete with a castle moat of deep red, gravy-like shrimpy Creole sauce.
The base of this stunning stew is perfectly cooked lima beans—silky, starchy, and buttery with pops of olive oil and snips of marjoram to freshen it up. There’s not a tremendous amount of pork neck meat involved, but what’s there is smoky-pink with exceptional tenderness. It’s the kind of stick-to-your-ribs dish that laughs in the face of cold weather, but at the same time isn’t too heavy.
“Bacon, have you ever wanted to be a part of something bigger than yourself?” Cabbage says as they sit in an open field surrounded by wildflowers. A breeze rolls in, and Bacon turns to them. “I’m afraid that there’s nothing out there for me beyond breakfast sandwiches and cobb salads.” Cabbage wilts. “That’s not true, come with me.” And thus, an alliance was formed on Communion’s watch—a trusty partnership that can only happen when three types of cabbage are simply fried with bacon. Each leaf is charred throughout with a gentle crunch on the thicker pieces, and beyond being the greatest side dish at Communion, it’s our new favorite application of pork fat.
This massive cube of cornbread has a nice grainy shell throughout the top and an ideal touch of sweetness that works well. But it is on the dry side, so make sure you swipe your piece through some saucy grits or stew.
Better Than Yo Grandma’s Mac & Cheese
Depending on how skilled your grandma is, yes, this crock of spiced bubbly macaroni is most likely better than hers. But we find the shredded cheese-to-sauce ratio to be a bit skewed toward the cheese, and results in quick-pooling puddles of oil. Fill up on more catfish and neck bone stew instead.