Hill Tastes is a new CHS essay series from a variety of Capitol Hill voices exploring the flavors of Capitol Hill restaurants, bars and more. Have a taste you’d like us to *explore*? Let us know.
The SunBreak’s World HQ happens to be across the street from Greek restaurant Vios on Capitol Hill (903 19th Avenue East), not too far from CHS World HQ, for that matter. I was in Vios for lunch earlier in spring, when I noticed they were planning on launching a new brunch service, and, not entirely coincidentally, planted myself at a table the second day it was offered, back in April.
After about five minutes of review, I decided to save time and just order everything on the menu. You know, over time — not that day. Take a look yourself–this is a very strong brunch menu, and I brunch a fair amount. (My brunch CV includes Glo’s, Coastal Kitchen, 22 Doors, Grim’s, Skillet, Toulouse Petit, St. John’s, that place sorta around the corner from the Saint, the Hi-Spot, the 5 Spot, Volunteer Park Cafe, Kingfish, Café Presse, the Unicorn, Linda’s, Smith, Oddfellows…am I missing anyone?)
For the tl;dr crowd, I’ll just sum up. On the Hill, I don’t know if there’s a better all-around chef’s interpretation of classic brunch choices than Vios. Skillet is certainly up there. Kingfish can be solid but sparse. (On LQA, Toulouse Petit’s southern translation is extensive and impressive, with just a few weak spots.) There are diner-quality options (with non-diner prices), just-average stand-bys with huge lines, and places with good character, but Vios, like Avis, seems to be trying harder on the food front.
Before the brisket, a few words about Vios, for those of you who know the place and those who don’t. It’s known far and wide as the kid-friendliest restaurant on Capitol Hill, thanks to their playpen at the rear of the restaurant and also because they are friendly to kids. This has its upside and downside, depending on whether you, too, are friendly to kids. Thanks to a recent rearrangement, there’s a bit more separation between the family-dining-plus-playpen area and the front of the restaurant: big wooden booths now bisect the space.
I started out right at the top, with the spiced and braised beef brisket, topped with a basted egg, with fried potatoes and grilled bread on the side. The brisket is soft enough to self-shred under gentle fork pressure, so you want to go ahead and mix that egg in, then save some of the bread to mop up the evidence. I can’t tell you which is better, the brisket or the Vios Benedict. It’s possibly just an eternal, Greek dilemma. The Benedict’s twist is potato latkes, with braised greens or smoked ham, and a creamy Béarnaise. (Braised greens and ham? Why not ask.)
Too traditional? How about the egg and avocado sandwich, with smoked trout mousse, arugula, and crispy, golden breakfast potatoes. Kinda slippery, with the trout mousse and avocado. You probably will not care, because of the trout mousse and avocado.
Extra traditional? The Big Fat Greet Breakfast has scrambled eggs, housemade sausage, scallions, kasseri cheese, and those bite-sized breakfast potatoes. The omelet is for funghi lovers: the chewy oyster mushrooms are flavorful and dripping with oil, and backed with spinach, manouri semi-soft cheese, and fresh herbs.
Back from a trip, with my stomach in a different time zone, I went with the Pasta Mani, a Greek-style pasta carbonara dish with spaghetti, bacon, mytzithra cheese, and a fried egg. Again, you want to mix that egg right in there. I’ve actually had a little trouble locating a really good “people’s carbonara” in Seattle, and this isn’t that, but it is stick-to-your-ribs goodness in its own Greek right.
The Anaheim and Serrano chilies have so far frightened me away from the Shakshuka, while the mezze breakfast, two eggs, granola, and oatmeal offerings are basic enough they can wait a bit. Brisket can be a harsh mistress. Most of the more interesting breakfasts are in the $10 to $12 range, though the two eggs, breakfast potatoes, and grilled bread rings up for $8.50. A Proseco mimosa is $5.50, the Raki Bloody Mary, $6.50. A kids menu, not including mimosas or Bloody Marys, is cheaper.
Hours are 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and as people are still discovering there’s brunch to be had, you can still walk right in at 10 and grab a table, no line. In fact, the other weekend I got mixed up and walked right in at 9:40 a.m. The staff didn’t miss a beat. “We don’t really open ’til 10,” they reminded me. “Have a seat. You want coffee while you wait?”