The Wandering Goose

Overall: 4/5

Finding parking in the Capitol Hill neighborhood can be daunting. That is why I prefer to visit the area on weekend mornings – when you are more likely to find a sanity-preserving parking spot within shouting distance from your destination.

On a strip of shops and restaurants on 15th Street is The Wandering Goose, a “Southern influenced cafe” manned by chef Heather Earnhardt. And it is truly a “cafe” as opposed to a restaurant because the dining space is very limited. The interior pays homage to a country general store without falling victim to cliché.

We made our visit early on a Sunday morning to check out the eats, unencumbered by crowds and the need to engage in vehicular combat for a parking spot.

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Hangtown Fry 

Just look at this thing! If health and diet permits, I highly recommend this dish. Fried oysters, pork belly, and poached eggs top a good portion of roasted potatoes. The massive oysters, fried in a buttermilk cornmeal coating, were sweet and briny. The pork belly was cured and tasted like a cross between bacon and beef jerky. The poached eggs were well executed. The roasted potatoes underneath were a touch underdone, but otherwise served as a suitable starch with the other ingredients.

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Veggie Hash

With seasonal vegetables replacing fried oysters and pork belly, this was the healthy alternative, but not by much. The vegetables included beets, bitter greens, and bell peppers. The beets stood out for me; they were tender and sweet. The eggs and the potatoes were the same as the Hangtown Fry. Another very good dish.

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Fried Chicken Thigh

When I first walked in, I saw a serving of this come out of the kitchen and knew I had to try it. Crispy, juicy, and peppery, the taste and texture felt very close to the Taiwanese fried pork/chicken chops.

Finally, note that the prices are reasonable, but not cheap either. Although Seattle does not lack its share of good places to grab brunch, places with a Southern flair are far fewer in between. With its niche fare and cozy atmosphere, Wandering Goose left me with a favorable impression.

The Wandering Goose

The Hardware Société (Melbourne, Australia)

Overall: 4/5

One of the charming aspects of Melbourne are the little alleyways that run through downtown. Restaurants, coffee shops, and bars dominate these streets, attracting significant foot traffic during peak times.I have nothing but the utmost sympathy for the poor drivers trying to navigate both the narrow streets and the flood of pedestrians – though masochism is the only reason I can fathom for turning on those streets in the first place. We watched with morbid fascination a garbage truck trying to make a three-point turn on one of these alleys that felt like a scene straight out of Austin Powers.

But, uh, I digress. Hardware Société (what a pain in the butt to type) is a French cafe tucked away in one of the aforementioned alleys (on Hardware Lane, original). Popular with locals and tourists, and well-regarded for its brunch, we arrived early on a Saturday morning to take see for ourselves.

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Note that long lines form quickly after opening, and the compact interior and porch makes the place unwieldy to very large parties.

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Poached Eggs with Mushrooms

Looks good, right? It tastes like how it looks. The braised shiitake mushrooms were tender and paired well with the goat cheese spread on the bread. These guys had the egg poaching down pat – the yolk oozed out at the slightest touch. The accompanying greens and walnuts did not add much, but were not a distraction.

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Tuna with Roasted Vegetables and Poached Eggs

This was the special of the day. And, like the dish above, it hit many high marks. Roasted vegetables (potatoes, red bell peppers, asparagus) rested on a bed of microgreens topped with seared tuna, poached eggs, and homemade tartar sauce. Baguette slices were provided to mop up the yolk. Again, tastes like how it looks, though I did not care for the tartar sauce.

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Nutella Cronut

At the checkout counter, I found these in the display case. Against better judgment, I took one of these back to the hotel, where it didn’t last long before it was consumed. A croissant with a touch more doughiness with Nutella, this is not meant for the faint of heart. Also, the sugar coating was overkill.

Overall, Hardware Société lives up to its sterling reputation. Paired with a young and friendly staff, it is a fine place to fuel up in the mornings.

The Hardware Société (Melbourne, Australia)