Maize and Barley is now open in downtown Edmonds, and I predict it will draw crowds of craft beer and authentic Caribbean cuisine enthusiasts for miles around.
Located directly across from Epulo Bistro and next to Revelations Yogurt on Main Street, the 800-square-foot, 30-seat tap house may be small, but it’s excellent. Owner Venus Fortesa quips, “we’re a brick-and-mortar food truck.”
Fortesa and Anthony Kjeldsen took possession of the space last June. Over the last nine months, they’ve transformed it into a highly functional, beautifully appointed ale house. Drop by now while you can still find a seat.
“In a way, I’m glad it took so long because it’s given us time to really think about everything,” said Fortesa.
I think they have. You’d be hard-pressed to find a place that exceeds Maize and Barley in attention to detail. I’m not just talking about the intentionality of virtually every ingredient in the food they serve, or of the beer and wine they select. The design, layout and fixtures have all been carefully considered and sourced. A lot of the lumber and building materials have been salvaged for reuse from places like Habitat For Humanity’s ReStore.
A galley kitchen packed into the back is the picture of efficiency. The high ceiling and bar tables create an airy, comfortable vibe that provides patrons the ability to easily mingle. Vintage Kerr Jar light fixtures, ample wall space to exhibit rotating art, a sparkling adobe wall behind the bar, beautiful handcrafted juniper bar stools, giant slabs of fir for the bar tables and reclaimed Eames chairs are just a few examples. Who thinks to put something colorful on the ceiling above the changing table to entertain the babies? Fortesa does.
Fortesa and Kjeldsen moved to Edmonds a little over 10 years ago — she won’t have much of a commute. Over the last 18 years, Kjeldsen has built University Prep’s food service program in Seattle into an exemplar of what’s possible — 300 students have daily access to fresh craft breads, scratch pizza and an enormous array of food options, including a well-stocked salad bar. Kjeldsen started out working in computer science, but a life-changing experience in Saudi Arabia, that included a very memorable meal at the royal palace, induced him to enroll in the Culinary Arts program at the Seattle Art Institute. He has a highly-developed palate and a strong desire to do it right. I think that’s reflected in everything they serve.
Fortesa was on the prof track, graduating from the University of Washington in history and women’s studies. She was working at Seattle University and was volunteering at Fare Start when she met fellow beer enthusiast and force of nature Gordy Legg. She attributes a great deal of her career course change to that friendship. Fifteen years of home brewing and what amounts to an apprenticeship working at Naked City and 74th Street Alehouse have taught her a thing or two about brewing. She’s very involved with the Pink Boots Society, whose stated mission is to assist, inspire and encourage women beer industry professionals to advance their career‘s through education. It should be no surprise that five of the 13 rotating taps at Maize and Barley are currently Pink Boots Seattle Releases.
A notable brewery that Fortesa admires — also currently on tap with four beers — is Seattle’s (White Center) Future Primitive Brewing. Second Thursdays every other month will be brewer’s night — here they invite featured local brew experts in to discuss their craft. They’re also planning on featuring their rotating artists on third Thursdays for Art Walk. Photographer Amanda Thornton-DeWitt’s work will be on display until April 24.
Fortesa and Kjeldsen have been plotting Maize and Barley for years, which accounts for the surprisingly high quality of this fledgling restaurant.
Take, for example, their commitment to sustainable local suppliers. “It’s no joke for us, Fortesa said. It’s a struggle to source legit sustainable, organic, local purveyors that can provide a consistent supply, but you can expect that they’ll make every effort to do just that.
Let’s get to the good part — food!
The menu, like the restaurant, is small but excellent. Let’s start with the rich, full-bodied Pacific Northwest Gumbo with an Espagnole base, chalked full of oysters, chicken, onions, bell peppers and chorizo. It’s served with arepa con queso – a white cornmeal cake infused with a Ferndale Creamery Caciotta cheese. A vegan arepa (minus the cheese) is also available.
Trust me. The gumbo alone makes a visit to Maize and Barley worthwhile. I can imagine pairing it with a porter or a scotch ale.
The sandwiches are terrific too. They are available on a sliced arepa cake or a four-inch fresh roll. The roll is amazing. Confidentially, I think it’s the secret ingredient (beer) that makes it exceptional, but it also has just the right texture, just the right bite. We sampled the pork, the chicken and the rockfish sandwiches. We found them all to be delicious. The pork won our hearts though. if I had to pick a favorite, that would be it. I still need to try the seared tofu, which I’m told is also quite good.
The portions are not huge. A pint of stout and a sandwich will satisfy most folks, but if you’re famished, you can order two gourmet sandwiches for under $15. It’s a fantastic value.
Don’t forget to try the Tembleque — a coconut pineapple custard served cold. I loved it, and I’m not that much for desserts.
Carefully selected wines are sold by the glass or bottle and a couple of delicious non- alcoholic options are also available.
Interestingly, Maize and Barley is cashless. Bring your debit or credit card when you come. If I’m not mistaken, they’re the first restaurant in town to go cashless.
Don’t go on Monday or Tuesday – they’re open Wednesday through Sunday.
Wednesday-Thursday 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
Friday-Saturday 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Sunday 11 a.m.-8 p.m.
~ ~ ~ ~
Portofino Restaurant & Bar
Salt & Iron
There’s no better time to explore a restaurant you haven’t tried or to just take advantage of the special menu items and great value this event provides.
Remember, the deal’s only available Sunday through Thursday, but over 165 restaurants in Puget Sound are participating. Three courses are only $35. Some restaurants also have a $20 lunch menu.
To see menus, addresses of each restaurant and more, visit the Seattle Restaurant Week website.
The furthest thing from a finicky eater, James Spangler insisted on trying everything on the table from the earliest age. At 13, he prepared Baked Alaska for an entire classroom and has had an insatiable appetite for good food ever since. On his days off, he’s rather be in the kitchen cooking for the people he loves than doing just about anything. If you catch him reading a book at his bookstore on 4th Avenue in Edmonds, there’s a good chance it’ll have something to do with food.