Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Rating the neighborhood eateries: Part III

Cafes, delis, take-out and the like 

In this, the final installment of our survey of neighborhood eating places, we discover that a couple of compact, lesser-known establishments receive the highest ratings: Bella Dolce and Arosa Café, both located in or near Madison Valley.

As with our past overviews of the dining scene in the general area, we’ve relied on the reviews of patrons, as documented on websites Yelp and Urban Spoon (prioritized in that order), to help us create a ranking. We acknowledge the limitations of this method, but our goal is simply to make our readers aware of the range of eating opportunities available in the neighborhood and provide some guidance based on the experience of others.

With that said, here’s our final list of the eateries:

1) Bella Dolce
2711 E. Madison Street
Yelp: 4.5 Stars (30 reviews)/ 91% Like (23 votes)

This tiny bakery/café—located in the shadow of the Essential Baking Company further down the block—gets much better marks from patrons than its bigger and better known rival.

Bella Dolce’s reviewers give the place kudos for its sandwiches, salmon cakes, muffins, cupcakes (especially those of the red velvet and coconut varieties), scones, and other baked goods.  Soups, salads and potpies are among the other menu items, served in a very cozy (three or four tables at most) setting.

Says ChefSeattle in its review: “Bella Dolce will appeal to any culture enthusiasts who enjoy a European styled deli, with its quaint seating and intimate atmosphere.”

2) Arosa Café
3121 E. Madison Street
Yelp: 4.5 Stars (15 reviews)/Urban Spoon: 89% Like (49 votes)

Arosa gets points from patrons for great coffee, fabulous waffles, excellent grilled paninis, and friendly service.  That about covers every aspect of this “cheap eats” café in the Arboretum Court.  There are hardly any reviewers who give the place fewer than four stars, which is definitely unusual.  There’s almost always someone who claims to have had a bad experience, but apparently never at Arosa.

Quote from a review by The Stranger: “Arosa’s snack waffles are what Eggos hope to be in the afterlife.”   The Seattle Times raved as well.

3) Park Place Deli
4122 E. Madison Street
Yelp: 4 Stars (19 reviews)/Urban Spoon: 90% Like (32 votes)

This place gets consistently high marks for its sandwiches and soups, though there seems to be a huge difference of opinion on whether the staff is neighborhood friendly or aloof and unwelcoming.  Perhaps it depends on who’s behind the counter on any given day.

4) Teriyaki Seven
2739 E. Madison Street
Yelp: 4 Stars (13 reviews)/Urban Spoon: 88% Like (45 votes)

As noted by one reviewer, this place is not much to look at or a likely place to bring a date, but the food gets mostly good reviews, and several regulars claim it’s one the best teriyaki places in town.   Accolades, also, for friendly service.

5) Famous Northwest Catering Company
3131 E. Madison Street
Yelp: 3.5 Stars/Urban Spoon: 91% Like (12 votes)

This popular neighborhood caterer makes soups, sandwiches, and quiche, among other lunch items, and they bake a wide variety of cookies, pastries and other delectable items each day.  For some reason, given the volume of business that the place appears to have, there are very few reviews on either major rating site, though Urban Spoon’s rating, for those who bothered to vote, is among the highest we’ve seen for any Madison Park eating establishment (equal to Bella Dolce’s).

The café portion of this establishment is not big, so for most patrons it’s more of a to-go opportunity than an eat-in situation.  And the service is definitely friendly.

Try the bread pudding.

6) Scoop du Jour
4029 E. Madison Street
Yelp: 3.5 Stars (23 reviews)/Urban Spoon: 86% Like (60 votes)

Primarily an ice cream parlor, Scoop du Jour also gets high marks from many reviewers for its large, carefully prepared burgers. Sandwiches are also on the menu board, but everyone who talks about something other than the ice cream definitely mentions the burgers.

7) Teriyaki Bowl
3121 E. Madison Street
Yelp: 3.5 Stars (6 reviews)/Urban Spoon: 93% Like (105 reviews)

Although Yelp reviewers rated it lower than Teriyaki Seven, Urban Spoon’s reviewers preferred this Arboretum Court teriyaki entry to its down-the-street, Madison Valley competitor. 93% said they liked it, which is the highest such rating for any neighborhood eatery except Independent Pizzeria.  “Not bad,” to quote one Yelp reviewer.

8) Essential Baking Company Café
2719 E. Madison Street
Yelp: 3.5 Stars (66 reviews)/Urban Spoon: 88% Like (110 votes)

Historically, Essential Baking has gotten pretty good marks from reviewers, but this year the average rating by customers on Yelp has been only 2.7 stars, which explains our ranking the cafe lower than the neighborhood’s other 3.5-star eateries.  It’s worth noting, however, that while 81% of Zagat’s reviewers liked the place, Zagat has yet to record any reviews in 2011.

Although Essential serves soups, salads, crepes, quiches, and sandwiches, it’s the baked goods that are most often mentioned in patron reviews. Some service issues have been noted, at least in the past.


So that completes our three-part survey of the neighborhood eateries. Our goal has been to shine some light on both the well known and the more obscure choices that we Madison Parkers enjoy for getting good food without venturing very far to do so.

We’re gratified to know that as a result of our series some readers have tried places they’d never tried before or perhaps even learned about places they didn’t know existed.  We learned a few things as well, one of which is that not everyone believes in the value of consumer reviews posted on the Internet. As noted above, we admit to the limitations, which is why we encourage everyone to check these eateries out and form your own opinions.

[Note:  Our survey included only eating establishments where one could logically get breakfast, lunch, or dinner.]  Upper photo courtesy of Bella Dolce; middle photo courtesy of Cafe Arosa; lower photo of  Pugliese bread courtesy of Essential Baking.

1 comment:

  1. What about the bakeries?? I recall a posting/comments lamenting the fact that we had so many of them and then nothing to try to distinguish them from one another?


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