Sunday, May 15, 2011

Rating the neighborhood eateries: Part II

Burger joints, pizza parlors, pubs, and the like

Last month we surveyed the more upscale restaurants in the neighborhood (Madison Park and Madison Valley combined), ranking them based on the reviews of patrons.  Now we take on the remaining sit-down restaurants, not quite ignoring the opinions of the professional reviewers, but giving them less credence than the views of regular folks who took the time to record their comments.

As with our rankings of the “white-tablecloth” establishments, this list is based first and foremost on the reviews of Yelp users, since that site has by far the greatest number of reviews of each restaurant and a five-star ranking system. Urban Spoon’s reviews were given secondary consideration because of its smaller number of reviews and the fact that it has only a Like/Don’t Like differentiator.  For this list, we made a couple of adjustments to the ranking system, as noted below.  Most of these establishments do not have reviews in Zagat, but when such reviews exist they are noted.

So without further ado, here are the rankings:

1) The Independent Pizzeria
4235 E. Madison Street
Yelp: 4.5 Stars (18 reviews)/Urban Spoon: 94% Like (86 votes)

This recent addition to the neighborhood gets excellent marks for the high quality of the Neapolitan-style, handcrafted pizzas. But it also garners criticism from a few reviewers who don’t like to wait or feel the prices are high.  However, here is a typical response from a fan:  “If you don’t like the pizza here there’s something wrong with you.”

By the way,, has an excellent review here.

2) Bing's Bodacious Burgers
4200 E. Madison St.
Yelp: 3.5 Stars (44 reviews)/Urban Spoon: 81% Like  (148 votes)

Only 50% of Zagat’s 37 reviewers said they liked Bing’s, but it’s quite possible that Zagat’s reviewers are a pretentious bunch. Bing’s is definitely not pretentious--and for most reviewers on Yelp and Urban Spoon, Bing’s works just fine as a family-friendly, neighborhood joint whose courteous staff serves up good eats.  Reviewers most often cite the burgers, the Huevos Rancheros, and the Key Lime pie as excellent fare.

The Stranger’s assessment: “Slightly classier than your regular burger joint, Bing’s serves fancy burgers…with a healthy side of joie-de-vivre.”

3) Attic Alehouse and Eatery
4226 E. Madison Street
Yelp: 3.5 Stars (55 reviews)/Urban Spoon: 80% Like (103 votes)

The Attic, a Madison Park institution, gets solid marks as a sports bar and is credited by most reviewers with good pub fare (especially the burgers, meatloaf sandwich, and chicken wings), and for the wide range of on-tap beers.  The place gets occasional dings for service issues, however.

The Weekly’s review points to another attribute:  “Known mainly for its incredible burgers and rough-hewn longevity in the face of Range Rover yuppiedom, the Attic, to the knowledge of a select few, serves a mean breakfast on weekends.”  Recommended:  the corn beef hash.

4) Thai Ginger
1841 42nd Avenue E.
Yelp: 3 Stars (24 reviews)/Urban Spoon: 93% Like (130 votes)

Fully 85% of Zagat’s reviewers (all seven of them) liked Thai Ginger, giving the restaurant a 16th-out-of-32 rank for Thai restaurants in the Seattle area.  Yelp reviewers, however, varied significantly in their assessments of the place, some knocking the service and others the food.  Still, the majority of reviewers found the food to be acceptable-to-good.

5) McGilvra’s Bar & Restaurant 
4234 E. Madison Street
Yelp: 3 Stars (36 reviews)/Urban Spoon: 68% Like (104 votes)

McGilvra’s is most often cited for its great outdoor seating.  For many, the venue clearly makes up for any deficiencies--but that’s not true for everyone. This is an establishment that has ratings all over the map, with a few five star reviews, but also a lot of other evaluations at the very low end of the ratings scale.  The bar and the bartender get good marks from many, but only a minority of reviewers cites the food as being the thing.

6) Philadelphia Fevre Steak & Hoagie Shop
2332 E. Madison St.
Yelp: 3.5 Stars (60 reviews)/Urban Spoon: 86% Like (90 votes)

Many reviewers over the years have sworn that this place serves the best cheese steak in town, and a fair number also mentioned great service.  However, in 2011 most the reviewers complained about the food or the service, or both.  In fact, the average of the eight reviews on Yelp so far this year is 2 Stars, which by itself would not be enough for this place to even make our list.  For this reason, we lowered the ranking.

Note, however, that the foodie website, Gayot, pronounces the food “authentic Philly,” praising not only the steaks, but the hoagies and crinkle-cut fries as well.

7) The Red Onion
4210 E. Madison Street
Yelp: 4 Stars (15 reviews)/Urban Spoon: 62% Like (8 votes)

Yes, The Red Onion gets a surprising 4 stars from Yelp reviewers, on average, but almost all of the reviews are based on karaoke or sentiment, rather than the food.  For this reason (and the fact that Urban Spoon reviewers, overall, gave the place tepid marks), we moved The Red Onion down the list.  Not that there aren’t some positive comments about both the food and the service from certain fans.

A review on Yelp: “I love how this place is a dive bar in one of the most upscale parts of the city.  It is cheap, good (food included) and cozy.  Very unpretentious and welcoming.  I love it!”

8) Mad Pizza
4021 E. Madison Street
Yelp: 2.5 Stars (16 reviews)/Urban Spoon: 73% Like (45 votes)

The neighborhood’s longtime pizza parlor gets low marks from Yelp reviewers for both food and service.  However, Gayot, the foodie website, recommends the place for quick bites, giving credit for “inventive, tasty pies.”

And with that, our survey of the neighborhood burger joints, pizza parlors, pubs and other dinner restaurants is complete. Next up: ranking the neighborhood cafes and delis.

[Upper photo of Independent Pizzeria pizza from Slice.  Lower photo of Bing's burger uploaded by Louis L. to Yelp.]


  1. Anyplace that serves potato chip nachos should be burned to the ground. Numbers 5-8 should be numbers 1-4 on the "Worst Food Establishments in Seattle" list which would also include the ultra crappy freezer-burned ice cream place, the deli with the crusty food in the refrigerated case, and the bakery that loads everything with shortening and food coloring. Madison Parkers have a tendency to confuse something being an institution with something actually being good. It goes to show money can't buy taste.

  2. Everyone likes to take a shot at the Red Onion even though it has maintained a long history of high marks from Yelpers long before there was karaoke there.

    The weak argument from the writer that Urban Spoon is the justification for lowering their rating is nonsense seeing that there is only one Urban Spoon review and that one is clearly from the wrong restaurant since the Red Onion does not even sell hamburgers or anything fried for that matter.

    At least use facts to dis someone if you must! Nothing like another blogger that is willing to harm someones business but unwilling to do real research.

  3. For good 'fast' food, we usually go out of Madison Park, the pubs in Madrona and Montlake are so much kid friendly and have a nice selection of beers. Thai Ginger is low on our Thai restaurant list too. Bing's would be better named 'Bomb's'. Glad to read the Red Onion is up there in the ratings and the Attic is great for a beer with nachos.

  4. All hail the R.O.!!!!!!!

  5. good to know abt breakfast at the attic (and that they serve meatloaf sammies). I'll have to check that out.

    I like Bing's Turkey burger okay. Great to pick up for a quick dinner at home.


  6. If you have never had Thai food before, eating at Thai Ginger would make you wonder what all the fuss is about.

    I give it a 1 or 2 star rating for undercooked, greasy and not well spiced Thai food. For comparison go to Thai Tom, a hole in the wall on University Ave. Thai Ginger makes the trip to the U district worth the hassle.


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