photo credit: Brent Martin
Whenever we’re hosting out-of-town guests or catching up with a friend and it isn’t raining, you can find us walking or jogging around Green Lake. But we’ve always wished that there was a place near the perimeter of the pedestrian loop to have a nice, sit-down dinner after exercising. That’s why we had high hopes for Eight Row - an upscale, farm-to-table restaurant that instantly became the fanciest spot in the neighborhood when it opened.
However, Eight Row fails at being that reliable Green Lake go-to. The gorgeous dining room feels weirdly uncomfortable, and besides one standout dish, the food is pretty underwhelming across the board.
The menu is made up of a bunch of random, overpriced dishes with ingredients that sound good on paper, like $14 grilled broccoli with currants and tarragon aioli, $14 rockfish ceviche with carrot aguachile and crushed corn nuts, and $24 carrot cavatelli with duck confit. But when you eat these plates together, there are too many conflicting flavors to have an enjoyable meal. Plus, a lot of the bites here are either under-seasoned (like all of the pastas) or there’s too much of a good thing (like the aggressive pile of herbs on top of the already-herby broccoli). The portions are small too, which forces you to fill your table with what feels like a hodgepodge of light appetizers - you can practically blink and end up with a $200 check for three people. Having a post-jog dinner here isn’t worth it, unless you order the barbacoa.
This terrific pork shoulder is Eight Row’s only saving grace. It’s a $55 DIY taco operation that feeds two hungry people, and the whole thing is excellent despite the price tag. The dish comes with a bunch of individual elements, including tender smoked pork, tortillas grilled in beef fat, and toppings like cumin cream, roasted-red-pepper puree, kale-serrano salsa, and tangy pickled vegetables. A couple of these tacos with a glass of wine makes for a perfectly tasty meal. The frustrating part is that we’d have to come to Eight Row to eat it.
The disappointing food isn’t the only reason we’re not a fan of this place. Despite looking like a project featured on Fixer Upper with a lot of plants and dramatic wall moldings, the dining room at Eight Row feels just about as lively as an 8am philosophy seminar. It’s so massive that it often feels like there’s nobody else here - which leads to smothering service and people swooping in with a water pitcher for a sixth refill you didn’t need.
Ultimately, your decision on whether or not to eat at Eight Row comes down to how badly you want a slab of pork that will cost you more than a train ticket to Vancouver. Not to mention that while the barbacoa is still great, there are still plenty of tacos in Seattle that are much better. Eight Row could have been a great addition to the neighborhood, but it looks like we’ll keep jogging around the lake (and hitting up one of these spots) until something better comes along.
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We like this ceviche. Almost every element you want is there - soft fish, tart pickled onion, a nice crunch from corn nuts and sweet potato chips, and fresh radish. We just wish the carrot-habañero aguachile had a little less spice and little more lime.
The flavor on the fried eggplant is great, especially swiped in the cumin cream that comes with it. But the chile de arbol honey just tastes like regular honey, and makes the eggplant soggy.
A true hit or miss dish. The first time we tried the broccoli, it had a great char, and tasted wonderful with currants, fried capers, and tarragon aioli. We were stoked to order it again, only to find the stalks unpleasantly undercooked, with a burnt aftertaste and a literal pile of fresh tarragon leaves that overpowered the whole thing. Order if you’re feeling lucky, and want to spend $14 on broccoli.
Spaghetti Alla Chitarra
This pasta is a saltless pile of spaghetti with very little Dungeness crab - skip it.
The duck confit in the carrot cavatelli is delicious, moist, and we could eat it all day. The problem is that the cavatelli itself is pretty flavorless. As long as you have a nice, big bite with plenty of tasty duck, this isn’t a bad entree to choose. But if you have to follow such specific instructions to enjoy bland pasta, it’s not worth $24.
Smoked Pork Shoulder Barbacoa
If you come to Eight Row and don’t get the pork to share with a friend, you messed up. You get a big plate full of everything you need to make around six DIY tacos: a big hunk of smoked pork shoulder, bibb lettuce, radish, pickled vegetables, roasted-pepper puree, cumin cream, kale and serrano salsa, and refried beans. A fully-assembled taco with every element involved is delicious.
Olive Oil Fudge Brownie
Olive oil makes baked goods moist, but this brownie must have missed that memo. It’s on the dryer side, though the dulce de leche and sweet cream ice cream help a little bit. However, the corn nut crumble unfortunately makes the whole thing taste like it was topped with crushed tortilla chips.