Bay Street Bistro emphasizing quality over quantity

John Stratsinger said guests at Bay Street Bistro can expect a seasonal menu with an emphasis on foods from local farms.  - Chris Chancellor/Staff Photo
John Stratsinger said guests at Bay Street Bistro can expect a seasonal menu with an emphasis on foods from local farms.
— image credit: Chris Chancellor/Staff Photo

The owner of Bay Street Bistro hopes his menu is small — and the flavors plentiful.

“Everything that’s here is going to be super fresh,” said John Stratsinger, 44, of his restaurant that opened in early August at 834 Bay St. “I’ve got a freezer back there and there’s maybe butter in it right now."

But he doesn’t have to go find foods to fill his patrons’ plates.

“We’re focusing a lot on Northwest produce and I’m working very closely with a few farmers,” Stratsinger said. “They’re actually letting me pick up produce at the farms on the way here. It’s super fresh and a lot of seasonal seafoods and Northwest cheeses are in the pipeline.”

Seasonal being the operative word — it’s a main emphasis for Stratsinger.

“We’re not going to ship into Mexico for corn in January,” he said. “If the corn’s not good, it’s not going to be on the menu.”

Stratsinger acknowledges that his menu isn’t the largest, but feels strongly that quality outweighs quantity. He plans to change it every six weeks to two months, and hopes to keep most items under $20.

Current offerings include a Long Island clam chowder that is “a much lighter soup with a lot of fresh vegetables,” a classic Caesar salad, and his own personal recommendation, Alaska weathervane scallops pan seared with grilled corn and sweet bell peppers in a cream sauce.

“All of these flavors basically have a sweet thing to play off each other,” he said.

All vegetables and potatoes are served family-style in the center of the table.

“People are liking doing the old-fashioned thing and passing a plate of vegetables around,” Stratsinger said. “Plus, it allows me to give more of a variety of vegetables.”

And after dinner, he added, save room for something sweet.

A partnership with Matt Carter of Carter’s Chocolates promises “the best desserts in town” — chocolate truffle cake, white-chocolate cheesecake, a chocolate orange almond torte.

Stratsinger said they are offering a Sunday night dinner with a four-course prix-fixe menu of soup or salad, entree and dessert.

“A lot of the stuff is going to be focusing on one farm or cheesemaker per course to showcase a lot of the local stuff going on,” he said.

Also key is the demographic — with a fireplace, stairs and a full bar, the bistro is open to those aged 21 and up.

He said a lot of their spirits are local, and that since the distilleries laws were changed, it has been easier to obtain gins and vodkas from Washington and Oregon, as well as local microbrews and wines. Stratsinger estimates the offerings to be about 80 percent Washington.

Bay Street Bistro is open from 4:30-10 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, and 5-9 p.m. on Sunday.

“We’re trying to stay open about an hour later than the other guys,” Stratsinger said in reference to diners who work late.

Stratsinger, who has lived in Washington since the early 1990s, started out cooking in restaurants in Seattle, and then shifted gears to wait tables for 10 years.

“It really helps you become a people person,” he said, adding that he makes a point of stopping by every table to make sure their meal is going well.

“We’re trying to keep everything local and a friendly neighborhood atmosphere,” he said. ”We have tablecloths and it looks nice, but we want to be the kind of place where people can go once every week or two weeks for a nice meal.”

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