Gracia Cocina [Washington, Seattle/Ballard]

Went here last night with my wife.

Crowded on a Friday, and we needed reservations. The dining area is long and narrow and loud. They have some nice blue and white decorative tile at the back, but otherwise it is sparsely decorated.

The menu emphasizes their freshly ground masa from heirloom corn, and local meats. There is not much selection for vegetarians.

We started with “Salsa Macha & Totopos” - I was intrigued by the idea of roasted chile and nut salsa. I was reminded of Lao Gan Ma chili crisp more than anything. Very nice flavor, with heat that keeps increasing. The totopos - described as “masa chips”, were just a platform for the salsa.

We got two antojitos, and a taco each. Queso fundito was amazing. The peppers were luscious and flavorful, though with no heat. Quite a mess to eat. (On the way out the door, I saw someone with the same dish stand up at their table and hold his arm up high, still pulling a string of cheese from the dish.) It came with four tortillas, which I looked at askance at first. Visually, they are remniscent of the dry, grainy tortillas you see at a health-food store. They have a different aroma than any other tortilla I am familiar with - slightly less intense. But the texture! Probably close to a quarter inch thick, and so tender.

A chicken empanada was enormous. I found it a bit dull.

The tacos were large - six inch tortillas, stuffed full enough to be difficult to handle. My wife got al pastor, which she like a lot. She is generally opposed to pickles, but said that the pickled radish slices were the perfect counterpoint to the pork and pineapple.

My taco was lamb barbacoa. Good, but not great. I enjoyed the radish pickle, and the guacamole had some texture.

My wife had a cocktail involving gin, tequila, bitters and prickly pear. It was a beautiful pink color, slightly opaque. She was impressed. I took a sip and it was too “planty” for my taste, but it was certainly interesting.

Service was good - very quick, and they spaced out the dishes nicely even though it was Friday night rush.

This was all far too much food for two people. I’d like to explore more of their menu (and eat those tortillas again!). Red mole, pozole with landrace corn, and huaraches made with that masa all sound worth trying. I’ll come back for lunch or brunch some time, and order a lot less food.