When John Sundstrom announced his plans for Southpaw last summer, Seattle eaters eagerly awaited its opening. Thus is the case when one of Seattle’s finest chefs introduces diners to his take on pizza. After opening softly in December and hosting a grand opening party with free slices in early February, Capitol Hill’s Southpaw is off and running. Opened in the space that was Sundstrom’s original Lark, Southpaw still showcases that restaurant’s great bones, but opened the room with more tables and a convivial vibe. Sundstrom and team went with the name Southpaw to evoke something unorthodox or uncommon, much like a left-hander that Southpaw draws its name from. The space is decorated with a boxing motif and the menus are named after various boxing idioms. Added bonus of the Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Robots near the board games. Yup, Southpaw is family-friendly and with the TV in the corner, sports can be watched as well.
The style of service is counter service, but could be considered counter service plus. The New York Times had a feature recently on various ways that restaurants are addressing customer service from different angles and Southpaw was part of the mix. And Southpaw has what Sundstrom refers to as a ‘rover,' a team member who keeps an eye on the dining room to address customer needs in real time, combined with the casualness of a counter service joint.
The menu features about a dozen wood-fired pizzas available whole and Southpaw will have 2-3 ‘quarters’ available every day. The quarters are just that; quarters of their whole pizzas available, while the whole pizzas will be fired to order. The rest of the menu features a handful of salads, ‘pizza bones’ (breadsticks served with olives, burrata, and pesto), roasted vegetables, and a few other items. Be sure to order the Burrata salad; you’ll get a mountain of a scoop of the featured cheese served with arugula and Treviso to provide some bite to the creaminess of the burrata and dressed with honey and crunch provided by the croutons.
For the pizzas, I tried to eat the entire menu and here were some of my highlight pies; the Left Hook and the Uppercut are your standard cheese and pepperoni pizza, respectively. The Left Hook is a four cheese blend with a funky blend of cheeses to keep these interesting (I think I detect an aged pecorino in the mix...) A cool ingredient feature of Southpaw is the tomato sauce they use; it’s Bianco DiNapoli tomato sauce from Chris Bianco, the pizzaiolo of the famed Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix, which the sauce has a fresh and clean finish.
Another pizza highlight was the Featherweight. White Sauce is the base and Southpaw features béchamel (!) for this sauce. This pizza is delightfully balanced with the smoked garlic cloves and Grana Padano. Definitely try the Title Fight; a healthy sheath of arugula covers the pie and its array of lardo, roasted garlic, and wild mushrooms. The arugula adds a nice, fresh peppery bite to the pizza. If you’re looking for a pizza with a bit of a spicy kick, try the On the Ropes; chorizo and Shishito peppers add some heat and spice to the festivities.
Sometimes Southpaw will flex with specials for the day. A recent special featured potato, onion, pancetta, and white sauce. Check out the chalkboard for the quarters available for the day.
To finish off the meal, Southpaw’s desserts include Zeppole donuts and JM’s Salted Chocolate Chip Cookie (one of my favorite chocolate chip cookies, also available at Sundstrom’s nearby Slab Sandwich+Pie). Be sure to see what soft serve ice cream is available. On a recent visit, Milk Chocolate and Maple Bourbon Vanilla were available for sweet tooth cravings.
And if one wants to imbibe at Southpaw, red and white wines are available by the glass or carafe. Four different draughts are on the rotating taps of beer and Southpaw also has two batch cocktails on their drinks menu; the venerable Negroni and Manhattan.