Last summer, subterranean bar Botanist moved into a large, open-air rooftop space, formerly the home of On Deck Sports Grill. Botanist's owners—Robbie Wilson and Matt Davidson— envisioned it could be an open air food hall where they would provide their perfect, gin-focused cocktails and guests could choose from a variety of cuisines.
The first person they brought into the endeavor was chef Pablo Portilla, who had been working at Mi Mero Mole, but—a decade before that—ran a Cuban food cart called Havana Cafe. The partnership took off almost immediately and Botanist / Havana Cafe became known as an oasis of distanced tables, twinkling overhead lights, and delicious dishes that ran a gamut from garlicky Cubano pork sandwiches to crisp beet ceviche, and, of course, the much discussed Poke Nachos.
Havana Cafe's Poke Nachos are nachos in appearance mostly. The chips are fried wontons. The cheese is a spinach and goat cheese dip. There's avocado crema, spicy mayo, jalapeños, scallions, and wakame seaweed on top. And yet even your grumpiest friend (who won't stop looking at his phone) declares them delicious and well worth the $12 price tag.
In general, I have included outdoor dining in the concept of "takeout" because some restaurateurs are really rocking it in terms of tasty cuisine, experience, and social distance. Botanist / Havana Cafe is an excellent example of this in all categories. On a mercilessly rainy day, their rooftop deck was covered in white tenting—making the spacious interior feel like a brightly lit cavern. Clear, balloon-like tubes carried warm air throughout, offsetting the chill of the necessary ventilation. I even took my coat off. It was lovely.
Botanist and Havana Cafe continue to innovate with what they can do with their prized rooftop. On most weekend evenings you can expect jazz ensemble live music. Glimmering, pop-up drag nights hosted by Flawless Shade have given way to full-on draaaag brunnnnch! Grab up those tickets like they'll get you into an eccentric candy maker's mysterious factory, kids. Nature is healing.
For their new foray into brunch, Botanist / Havana Cafe recently unveiled a new menu with items like savory chickpea pancakes and NW salmon eggs Benedict. So while brunches with Flawless Shade start at $70 for two people (including tokens that audience members can use to tip the queens), not every brunch will have performers. On the other weekend mornings you can probably get on that deck for under $20. $35 for a drag brunch sounds like a complete steal, but maybe you just want to enjoy some Eggs Bene, the atmospheric beauty of rooftop dining, and, like, really get into what Jessica did.
Botanist, 910 NW 14th, (971) 533-8064, botanisthouse.com