Most Seattleites have little idea Warren G. Magnuson Park in the Sand Point neighborhood sprawls 350 acres, and is still only the second largest park in the city second to Magnolia’s Discovery Park. Beyond the towering deciduous trees, sandy beaches on Lake Washington shores and the 20-some brick and metal structures that make up the park’s “historic district,” the former military base is also now home to the new Magnuson Cafe and Brewery.
The self-proclaimed “brewhouse restaurant” is as billed: the kitchen, helmed by Chef Jon Langley, sources local meat, produce, seafood, dairy, coffee and so on, mirroring that of the local hops and grains used in the Mollusk Brewing beers served. Joint ownership allows the concepts to not only play off each other but build off of each other, a foundation Mollusk head brewer Cody Morris says was inspired by Oregon’s McMenamins beer-based hospitality empire.
Family-and dog-friendly, Magnuson’s main claim to fame is an expansive, two-tiered deck that seats 100, looking toward Lake Washington and aiming to be covered and heated as temperatures decrease into the fall. The adjacent cafe is inside one of the historic Naval Station buildings, maintaining much of the original build with brick and even an old crane system for torpedoes. An open kitchen and 16-tap draft system showcases what the brewpub is all about: food for drinking and beer for eating.
The restaurant offers three different menus – lunch, dinner and brunch (a substitute for lunch on the weekends) – each sporting something a little different with overlap for those who need their fried cheese curds at all times. And don’t miss those, made with real Wisconsin white cheddar cheese curds and served with a smoked tomato aioli, while the German-style Proven Bakery pretzel is a safe bet, too, portioned into soft bites and topped with pretzel-specific salt next to a smoked honey mustard dipping sauce. Glazed in a soy-garlic honey and topped with scallions and sesame seeds, the smoky-sweet and just-crisp chicken wings are, well, finger-licking good, placed next to a lime crema (spicy or not-spicy) for dipping ease.
A surprising delight from a menu of pub grub is the light yet luscious strawberry-kale salad, a bed of baby kale tossed in balsamic vinaigrette and topped with fresh strawberries, toasted almonds, goat cheese. Sandwiches and mains are served the choice of house-cut fries or mixed greens (do the fries), ranging from the plump Magnuson Park Burger with Double R Ranch beef on a toasted brioche bun to the crispy, vodka-battered, Alaskan cod fish n’chips and the impossibly light and crunchy chicken sandwich, also held between two brioche buns.
On tap, the adventurous and experimental side of brewmaster Morris is on display. Though the beer list is subject to change as the kegs blow, the Sand Point pilsner is a house staple, clean, crisp and classically crushable at 5.5 percent ABV. Order whatever fruited sour is available — a specialty of Morris’ from his Epic Ales days — and if a stout, like the roasty and smooth Rain Shadow, is on nitro, be sure to snag a taster, at least. The tap list also features a few guest beers and ciders for good measure.
Escape to the wilds of the sweeping greens of Magnuson Park and it’s newest (and only) eatery and watering hole, if not just for the cheese curds and chilled pints.