Seattleites can be flaky. Don’t pretend like you’ve never gotten 37 “yes” responses to a Facebook event, bought eight sacks of ice, and ended up with 10 friends, six plastic bags of cold water, and way too many defrosted puff pastry hors d’oeuvres from Trader Joe’s.
Next time, avoid inviting people into your personal living space altogether, and arrange to meet at Tapas Lab in Green Lake instead. This order-at-the-counter Spanish/Japanese tapas spot is ideal for getting a handful of friends together without having to worry about anyone’s commitment or tardiness issues. It also happens to have impressive bar snacks that, when combined, make a very satisfying meal.
This is a counter-service place that doesn’t feel like one, and the mechanics of it allow for your not-as-reliable friends to come and go as they please without jeopardizing your table or bringing out your passive-aggressive side. Instead of compostable utensils and salt packets scattered around like geocaches in the wilderness, there are candlelit tables and almost everyone is drinking wine. When you head up to the counter, someone will put their jamón iberico slicing on hold to take your order and pour you a flute of cava. And once you find your seats, it’s easy to linger because the staff isn’t tending to your every need—perfect for when, like clockwork, the rest of your group texts “just got on the bus!” at the exact time you agreed to meet up.
photo credit: Nate Watters
In line with its name, Tapas Lab does have a science theme, but it’s subtle and doesn’t slap you across the face. The beer is served in graduated cylinders (with measurement lines and all), and the chicken yakitori skewer comes in a glass vial filled with smoke. But that’s as far as they take it, and we appreciate the restraint. It’s fun without being cheesy.
Along with that beer in the beaker, start with any combination of the five pinchos, which come stacked on hot, crusty little toasts in combinations that you probably couldn’t come up with yourself. We like the bulgogi one, which for $3, comes loaded with beef, parmesan, garlicky aioli, and chives. They have lots of other little bites too, any of which are ideal for any of your pals who (for some reason) had a sandwich on the ride over, but "could still eat something.”
Between people’s hectic schedules and/or general apathy, not everyone you invite is guaranteed to show up. Especially if they have children or a dog. But if you pick Tapas Lab as your meeting point, you’re in for an easy hang with good food where your friends can order and pay for themselves on their own time. You won’t even return home to a surplus of melted ice—unless you left your freezer door open.
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Bulgogi is the Clooney of marinated meats. It can do anything. In this case, it’s stacked on a piece of grilled bread with garlic aioli, parmesan, and chives. This is the best thing here, and we’d even watch it star as an astronaut in a space movie.
The salmon here is layered on a little thick, but as long as you have some sturdy teeth, you’ll be fine. The honey horseradish yogurt sauce is really tangy and makes it all work.
The homemade tomato sauce here is good. So is the iberico ham. Which means a crostini topped with both is also going to be good. You may call this the Jamon Pincho Theorem.
Chorizo Meatballs With Crostini
The recipe to these tasty chorizo-stuffed winners are written on a sheet of brown paper posted to the wall. Write it down.
It comes to the table in a vial shrouded with smoke, and you might start wondering if an evil goblin might hop out and suck your soul when you lift the cover. Instead, it’s a delicious little sous-vide chicken yakitori with crispy garlic and housemade teriyaki sauce. Order these sticks in multiples.
Sous Vide Steak
For $14, this isn’t the best deal ever for a pretty small hunk of steak that we’re not weeping tears of joy for. It comes with a cauliflower puree, mango salsa, and just enough truffle oil without annoying anybody who isn’t a truffle fan. It’s decent, but kind of boring compared to everything else (read: the pinchos).