December 18, 2004


Ten o’clock on a Friday night at Alexandria’s. A line of Escalades and Hummers waiting to be valet-parked. A clutch of folks waiting to get in. Every table filled. Jazz sextet blowin’ up a storm. Two and three-deep at the bar, where Alberto Meza had to hire a back-up barman and two barmaids just to keep up.

Executive chef Michael Franklin has gone home for the day, but he’s left the kitchen in good hands. Ernie Buchanan, in a bright red cap, is quarterbacking. He’s part of the Buchanan clan: Alexandria’s owner is Jim Buchanan, with his younger brother Joseph serving as operations manager. “I’m Jo-Jo’s first cousin,” says Ernie.

Alexandria kitchen.jpg Burners at Alexandria 3.jpg Seafood pan roast 2.jpg

At the hottest station in town stand Chef Keith Hammond and veteran line cook Erin Brown. Both six-burner gas ranges are going full blast, pans lined up on the blazing front burners like the wheels on a cockeyed locomotive.

Here, in the hellish brimstone of a commercial kitchen, there’s no time to read restaurant reviews. This is combat. It’s Joe versus the Volcano, or Erin versus the Vulcan, as the case may be.

Catfish, shrimp, the signature Seafood Pan Roast, pasta dishes: Erin spins and flips, stirs and stabs, tosses a handful of noodles, pokes a fish filet, checks the oven, and shakes his flaming pans like a sexton ringing changes.

Erin Brown at Alexandria.jpg Catfish.jpg Eric Buchanan at Alexandria.jpg

Out slide chicken, prawns, collard greens. A corps-de-ballet of servers maneuvers in and out, picking up their plates and pivoting into the dining room.

Three young women recently arrived from the Sonics game find perches at the bar and order Grey Goose martinis. “The best in town, Alberto,” one of them says. Alberto beams. Soon enough, sure enough, a couple of really tall dudes sidle over and buy the second round.

And THAT, my friends, is Friday night in Seattle.

Posted by Ronald Holden at December 18, 2004 9:08 PM