Nestled in a historic brick building in Belltown, Tilikum Place Cafe is charming and cozy - the type of place that makes you want to sit down and stay a while.
"I think of our food as being very comforting," said chef/owner Ba Culbert. "We're not necessarily re-inventing everything here, but I do think we're bringing a unique take a or a unique perspective."
Culburt opened Tilikum Place Cafe more than a decade ago. While the neighborhood has certainly grown and changed, this restaurant remains a constant, a place folks keep coming back to.
"It's nice to know people enjoy what you're making and that it's important to them and they cherish it," she said. "That they feel welcome, like this is their living room or dining room."
With its steady stream of regulars and quaint dining room, scoring a table here usually requires reservations. Why you might ask? Three words: Dutch Baby Pancakes.
"A dutch baby pancake is a baked pancake," explained Culbert. "There are lots of stories about its origin. In this region there's lots of Scandinavians, so some people say it's actually of Swedish origin, but it's a universal kind of thing. People from other regions of the country make the same thing and call it something else. Growing up, a family friend gave us the recipe and we've been making it the same way ever since."
That recipe is deceptively simple: four eggs, a cup of whole milk, a cup of flour and about a teaspoon of salt. It's also proof positive that sometimes the simplest things are the most delicious, especially when they come from the kitchen of an ultra-talented chef.
For the classic dutch baby, Culbert heats a cast iron skillet and adds a ladle of clarified butter. Then the batter goes in and the skillet goes into the oven for about 15 minutes, until the pancake has puffed up and the edges have gotten nice and crispy. The classic is topped with powdered sugar and served with lemon and maple syrup.
Of course, at Tilikum Place, there are other options as well. The savory dutch baby features caramelized onions, tomatoes and pancetta, topped with a generous layer of cheese. The seasonal sweet dutch baby features rotating flavor combinations. During my visit, roasted apples with cinnamon syrup went into the skillet with the batter, while streusel and cream cheese frosting were layered on top just before it finished cooking.
It's the type of dish you've just got to try. It might just be brunch perfection.