RadioBDC Logo
Love Love Love | Of Monsters and Men Listen Live
Food | Travel

Tiny Seattle bar has a Spanish accent

Bar Ferd’nand draws following with wine, food

Sitka & Spruce (above) is chef-owner Matt Dillon’s other restaurant at Melrose Market, opened before Bar Ferd’nand, where the fresh oysters (below) are local, as are some of the bar’s wines. Sitka & Spruce (above) is chef-owner Matt Dillon’s other restaurant at Melrose Market, opened before Bar Ferd’nand, where the fresh oysters (below) are local, as are some of the bar’s wines. (Photos By Karoline Boehm Goodnick)
By Karoline Boehm Goodnick
Globe Correspondent / September 21, 2011

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article

Your article has been sent.

Text size +

SEATTLE - Famed wine writer Andre Simon believed that, “united and well matched [food and wine] are as body and soul, living partners.’’ At Bar Ferd’nand in Seattle’s new Melrose Market, the two come together in harmony. The tiny bar named after the children’s story character Ferdinand the Bull offers Spanish-inspired nibbles and an extensive wine-by-the-glass list. And if you sip something you want to take home, step into the retail shop, and walk out with a bottle - maybe even a case.

The bar initially started as a great location to nibble and sip while waiting for a table at co-owner and chef Matt Dillon’s other gem, Sitka & Spruce (relocated from the Eastlake neighborhood to a bright spot on the other side of Melrose Market). Since opening in August 2010, the bar has developed its own following of artists and musicians who call the up-and-coming neighborhood of Capitol Hill home.

Dillon owns another restaurant, the well-established The Corson Building, where Bar Ferd’nand’s other owner, Marc Papineau, is the sommelier. Papineau is the man behind the bar’s eclectic bottle offerings; Dillon is responsible for the menu.

Their list includes wines from small producers, mostly family-owned operations that practice minimal intervention and many are biodynamic. “We want to help people see that there are other things out there,’’ says Papineau, whose collection of obscure labels has created a niche for Bar Ferd’nand. Only 2 percent of what’s for sale comes from Washington State, but those selections are a steal (most under $30 per bottle). Chinook, one of Papineau’s favorite local producers, makes a cabernet franc that is Old World in style and pairs well with a variety of foods. He also highlights Syncline Wine Cellars, producers of a delicate pinot noir ($28).

For a lighter option, try the well-matched combination of piparras (tangy, Spanish peppers) and cava (Spain’s famed sparkler). Papineau points out that “Basque-style pintxos [tapas] lend themselves to what [he and Dillon] want to be doing.’’ Starting at 3 p.m., Papineau’s son, Gabriel, serves open tins of Spanish sardines with a crusty baguette. Diners can also snack on Marcona almonds, local oysters, marinated olives, or Tim’s potato chips with a side of the cured white anchovies called boquerones.

The market, born from developer Liz Dunn’s affinity to London equivalents - is home to other foodie havens. Across the way is Rain Shadow Meats, a full-service butchery specializing in regional ranches and housemade charcuterie. The folks at Bar Ferd’nand feature Rain Shadow’s country-style pork pate. From The Calf and Kid (another Melrose neighbor), Bar Ferd’nand gets Vashon Island chef and author Kurt Timmermeister’s Camembert-style cheese named Dinah’s. For cheese enthusiasts, the bar offers such Spanish selections as Valdeon blue and even buffalo mozzarella with pimenton or herb sauce.

Visitors to the area can spend the day trolling consignment and vintage retail shops. The neighborhood is host to many artisan coffee roasters, Stumptown, Victrola, and Caffe Vita, to name a few. And Melrose Market offers plenty of lunch options. Grab a sandwich from Homegrown, and pair it with a glass of wine from Bar Ferd’nand; the winebar opens daily at 11 a.m., and stays open until midnight most days. Or, try a Columbia City baguette layered with Fra’ Mani salami and Matiz piquillos for only $4.50 at the bar.

Book a trip to Seattle in October, and you might not even need to pack an umbrella.

Bar Ferd’nand 1531 Melrose Ave., Seattle, 206-623-5882,

Karoline Boehm Goodnick can be reached at


  • 4 Stars Extraordinary
  • 3 Stars Excellent
  • 2 Stars Good
  • 1 Star Fair
  • No Stars Poor