The name is nothing less than legendary, as the restaurant — Julia's 14-Carrot Café — that invented breakfast in this town. Vaguely crunchy, nonspecifically ethnic, Julia's brought a new aesthetic to Seattle's table and sprouted an ever-reseeding field of wannabes.
Over time the original changed hands, and Julia Miller and subsequent owners followed the Boomer breakfasters as they bought their houses (Wallingford), had their children (Ballard, now defunct), and moved to the 'burbs (Issaquah.)
Apparently now the demographic bulges cityward again — empty-nesters, perhaps? — so April saw the opening of the newest link in the chain, Julia's on Broadway. Already it's the beautiful, box-beamed anchor of that eccentric neighborhood: Large and lofty, glossy with dark wood, stylish with raw brick and amply windowed for optimum ogling. It actually looks a little like a fern bar, right down to the faux Tiffany lamps and burgeoning singles action and, well, hanging ferns. Oh yes, and images of Liza Minnelli everywhere you look — the first in what they promise will be changing tableaux of Broadway stars. (You find yourself longing for Joel Grey.)
You find yourself longing, in fact, for a lot of things. (An editor for the badly misspelled menu, for starters.) Food that hits the mark frequently enough to qualify as more than a happy accident. A lower-priced selection of noshes to choose from. (Note to management: Broadway is not a $20 braised-duck kind of place.)
And though I'm not sure why I expected service to be attentive — it famously never has been at any of the Julia's — it would have been nice to have been greeted at the door, courteously responded to in queries about the specials, and treated with more interest than the busperson on whom our busperson clearly had a crush.
A word of praise is in order, however, for the waiter who tried unsuccessfully to talk me out of a $14 chicken breast. "It's boring," he confided. Smart guy.
Chilean crab cakes: They sure looked good: Two crab-heavy patties served alongside tomatoes, basil and a puddle of lemony aioli. Like most of the food at Julia's, however, flavors weren't modulated. We could see the crab in the cakes, but where its flavor should have been was the taste of frying oil, instead. Too heavy a hand with the lemon in the aioli made it virtually inedible, adding up to a very unsatisfying whole.
Caesar salad with shrimp: The one unequivocal good deal we enjoyed, a large starter-size Caesar loaded with shrimp, was still only marginally eventful, with runny dressing and no garlic edge.
Grilled double-cut lamb chops: An ample plate full of challenging meat drenched in sweet, sweet sauce. Intriguing sweet-potato cakes merged sweet and savory flavors provocatively, if drily, and accompanying beans were gathered into a fistful and tied into a knot: a cute flourish, impractical to eat.
Shrimp and ginger ravioli: A splendidly conceived fusion of Italian pasta and Asian flavor worked on almost every level. Visually, it was a party, with roasted peppers, leeks and sugary snowpeas lolling like spent confetti over creamy ravioli. The gingery-shrimp filling was sumptuous and piquant; the cream sauce, alas, richly creamy but bland. If they can liven that up, this plate will be a winner.
Itemized bill, meal for two
Chilean crab cakes $6.95
Caesar salad with shrimp $5.95
Grilled double-cut lamb chops $18.95
Shrimp and ginger ravioli $13.95
Kathryn Robinson: KathAnRob@aol.com.