Three words: Lilikoi. Mimosas. Brunch.
It sounds simple enough, right? Definitely. But there are some places that just renew a passion in you, and Little Tin Goods & Apothecary Cabinet is one of those places.
As I was waking up on a Sunday morning, Z asked what I wanted to do for the day. I told him that I wanted to go the farmers market, because the only vegetables we had in the kitchen were half a red onion and less than half a head of green cabbage. If you count the bag of french fries in the freezer, there was a total of three vegetables in our apartment. So off to Ballard we went (again.)
But of course we had to go to brunch first. My friend, D, had told me about Little Tin a few weeks ago, when she randomly stumbled upon it. She told me it was a cute, indoor garden restaurant with a plate lunch menu on the weekends. She also met one of the owners that night, who just so happened to be from Kauai. I was sold.
Z and I arrived a few minutes before the place opened, so we roamed around the market to waste time and to scope out what we wanted to buy. No complaints, especially because we saw the biggest dog I’ve ever seen in real life while walking around! I’m pretty sure it was bigger than me. Any way…
We waited a few minutes after they opened to go in. Why? Because we didn’t want to seem like too eager of beavers. But we were still the second party to have arrived.
Oh my goodness you guys. When we walked in, we were so struck by how beautifully unique this place was. Z and I stood at the entrance for at least 30 seconds just gaping at the decor. A brick wall on one side, and a wooden wall on the other. Indoor garden is an accurate description, but not in a tacky way. The booth dividers were actually plant boxes with hanging plant rails? Fence? Screen? I don’t really know what they’re called. Plants hung from those dividers making each booth its own secret hideaway.
Wooden tables. Cushioned stools and benches. The seating/waiting area sported a victorian couch and armchairs. What a great place that would be to talk stories while sipping on a couple cocktails! The vibe at Little Tin is laid back and sophisticated. There is a bar at the back of the room, though we didn’t venture that far back. We opted for a table near the entrance because, though we loved the secret garden vibe going on, we still wanted a view of the Ballard Farmers Market (to people watch, of course.)
Our waitress greeted us by telling us that their seasonal mimosa was a lilikoi mimosa with lilikoi foam. Z immediately said, “I’ll have that!” I was shocked by how quickly he answered, then followed his lead by ordering one too. These lilikoi mimosas are life, seriously.
What was even more of a treat was the menu. The short selection of Hawaiian brunch dishes made it easy for us to choose: classic loco moco and sweet bread french toast. I was a bit weary about how simple the menu was for a couple of reasons: 1) I know how to make loco moco and have done so many times, 2) we grew up eating local island/Hawaiian food, and 3) there are a couple of other restaurants that serve Hawaiian brunches near us – all serving the same old comfort food. If that little voice in your head tells you these same things, tell it shut up.
If you go to Little Tin’s website you won’t find a whole. Just a page with some words, their hours, and a request for no phone calls (say whaaat?!) Those words, however, go straight to the point and perfectly describes this place. This sentence, in particular, wholeheartedly came through during our brunch experience at Little Tin’s:
We need to remember and enjoy the delicious simplicities that come from home cooking, our grandmother’s herbs from the garden, and sacred family traditions. – Little Tin Goods and Apothecary Cabinet
It’s like they took the words out of my own brain. They are my new besties, they just don’t know it yet.
Though I’ve had loco moco a hundred times, and tried so many variations of this comforting dish, the classic loco moco here is in my top three. I don’t need to vividly describe this dish. I will tell you, however, that Little Tin’s version is so light and flavorful. Most loco mocos make me feel extremely heavy afterwards. This was not the case here. We even enjoyed the mac salad. Both Z and I usually don’t care for mac salad, so you know it’s good when we eat it all!
When the sweet bread french toast came out, I’m sure my eyes doubled in size. Three HUGE slices of french toast, laying on a wooden board, with butter and lilikoi syrup. I love french toast, though I rarely order it to avoid the disappointment if/when limp pieces of eggy bread are presented to me. This was certainly the complete opposite. Thick, pillowy slices of Hawaiian sweet bread; a generous dusting of cinnamon; and the homemade lilikoi syrup. Not super sweet (just how I like it) but every bite was so delicious.
OH! And the kiawe smoked chili pepper sauce…soooooo delicious. Straight from Kauai. Clean ingredients. Our server even suggested we use it on the french toast to get a spicy-sweet thing going. We took her advice. Mind. Blown. I even asked if I could buy a bottle and they let me. (I used it on the steak we made for dinner that same night.)
This is a warm and elegant establishment with a certain something that I can’t quite put my finger on. Maybe it’s the unique decor, the hospitable staff, or the fact that they serve Hawaiian brunch in Ballard. Whatever it is, Little Tin Goods & Apothecary Cabinet is the truth.