“The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way.” - William Blake
by Corinne Whiting
- The Capitol Hill Times -
For those of us who’ve been missing the charm and downhome, country cooking of the South, there’s excellent news coming out of Capitol Hill. The Wandering Goose, a delightfully airy cafe on 15th Avenue, recently began serving up scrumptious fare (think all things biscuit-related and decadent baked goods). The tasty eats, mellow vibe and light-filled space have already attracted scores of curious folks anxious to experience Heather Earnhardt’s homage to her Southern roots.
When she talks excitedly about her new restaurant, Earnhardt reveals the remnants of a North Carolinian twang, despite having lived in Seattle since 1997. In the late 1990s, she headed to Tucson, Ariz. alongside a group of about 12 friends. Among them: artists, photographers and chefs, including Goose’s chef Michael Law, with whom Earnhardt also worked in North Carolina. When the heat became too unbearable in Arizona, however, Earnhardt decided to venture farther west, and her car veered up California State Route 1, and eventually landing her here.
Although she intended her time in Seattle to be short-lived, things panned out otherwise. Earnhardt met her husband at Comet Tavern (they now have three kids), and for the past five years, she’s attended the Volunteer Park cafe she co-founded. Sensing it was time for a change, she was happy to open the Goose and bring Seattleites the friendly Southern outpost she’s long envisioned. Earnhardt’s recipe is basic: “simple food that tastes really good,” she said.
The menu (“regular Southern country food”) reflects the character of other towns Chef Law has called home. The Grits and Grillades, for example, incorporate the flavors of New Orleans in the pan-seared pork, spicy gravy and Anson Mill grits, one of the few ingredients imported from afar. Earnhardt calls Law’s biscuits and gravy “the best she’s ever had,” a bold statement coming from someone who claims to have sampled countless versions over the years. Buttery biscuit sandwiches range from the oyster BLT and the Big Trouble (peanut butter, banana and Heather’s honey) to the Aunt Annie’s (fried chicken, bread and butter pickles, house mustard and honey). Side dishes from the Odds and Sods section include pimento mac and cheese, braised greens, crockpot grits and Sea Island peas. But the menu incorporates lighter options too, like veggie hash, house granola with fruit and fresh kale salads.
Having developed her vision for so many years, Earnhardt admits relief at finally seeing “every little detail come together.” The bright and welcoming décor features many repurposed goods; other items Earnhardt found on eBay and Craigslist, like the hutch and pastry case. A leaded glass window separates The Wandering Goose from Ethan Stowell’s Rione XIII, further amplifying the venue’s open feel. A friend in Austin designed the restaurant’s funky lampshades using cut up, vintage feed and flour sacks Earnhardt bought off eBay. Chairs came from the UW Surplus Store, salvaged pews (later sandblasted and whitewashed) from a church in the Central District. On each wooden tabletop, a line has been etched from Earnhardt’s upcoming children’s book “Bug and Goose.” Shelves behind the counter reveal for-sale pieces of Earnhardt’s pottery, making us wonder: is there any craft this multitalented woman hasn’t mastered?
The venue hosts weekly Friday night dinners for the first 32 diners (first-come, first-served). The menu features family-style servings of dishes like sweet potato soup, smoked brisket, sides of wild arugula and a grand finale of Bourbon pecan that uses Steen’s cane syrup shipped in from southwest Louisiana. For the time being, it closes Wednesdays; stay tuned for sidewalk seating and other community happenings also in the works.
What are y’all waiting for? Head up the Hill to get transported down South. You’ll thank us later; we promise. Visit www.thewanderinggoose.com.
403 15th Ave. E