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Nov 3, 2008 02:41 PM

Cheap places with character in Seattle (and greater Western WA?)

Hey all,

I'm taking a roadtrip through the PNW soon, to visit family in Western Washington, but last time I was there it seemed like all the small, independent home-cookin places were out of business. Like the Georgetown Drive-In! What happened? Does anyone have any tips for little places that are off-the-beaten path but delicious? I want to take my boyfriend and have him taste some delicious old-school food without having to (a) pay an arm-and-a-leg, and (b) deal with a lot of New-Seattle hip-trocity. Not that there's anything wrong with hipsters... I just don't want to find any in my food is all....

Thanks very kindly, everyone.

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  1. are you saying you're looking for a place where, say, none of the customers are under 25yr old? or nobody there has piercings or tattoos, or wears black? please explain, this is an interesting request

    6 Replies
    1. re: barleywino


      I'm not saying that NONE of the customers are under 25, and tattoos are just fine, but I guess I'm looking for places where working class guys go to get a good homecooked meal after work... where the watiresses would still smoke if they could, and where -- if there are younger folks about -- they are there to eat, not to "be seen."

      Thanks for your interest!

      1. re: Seashanty

        you could try St Cloud's restaurant in Madrona, good family atmosphere, or Coastal Kitchen in Capitol hill, or Palace Kitchen in downtown...a great bet for cheap good food if you can get there early enough (before the hipsters start arriving) is the happy hour at Barolo, which starts at 3pm (1/2 off the bar menu, which is already cheap to begin with)-- go as early as possible to avoid any unpleasant encounters with scene-sters and fashionistas (ps. yes i have seen working class guys in there)

        1. re: Seashanty

          Then I strongly go with my Georgetown recs.
          This post actually sent me back down to Marco Polo last night to watch MNF.
          I stuck out like a sorethumb, as the only one under 25, besides the bartender, and probably the only one coming from a white collar office job.
          It was a very good time.

          1. re: Seashanty

            Leny's in Tangletown, Cindy's Pancake House on Aurora, is Salmon Bay Cafe still there? That would be good.

            1. re: Seashanty

              Still being newish in town, my ability to respond is limited to places where working class guys would go for a hearty and tasty breakfast.
              The Silver Fork-- just north of Genesse on Rainer---is the sort of place where the same group of guys having been meeting for regular Friday breakfast for years.
              There is nothing fancy on the menu but there are excellent bisquits and gravy, grits, poached eggs like mom might make with zippo hollandaise, pancakes, sausage [links and patties], crispy hash browns etc.
              Everything is made to order and no one seems to be in a rush. Oh and the musical selection is lovely---lots of motown.

              1. re: jenn

                That sounds like my kind of place. I'll have to check it out.

          2. I would recommend Georgetown. Calamity Jane's is a nice unpretentious place with down home meals and friendly staff and a good bar. Other place in Georgetown are worth hanging out in, too: Loretta's Tavern, Smarty Pants for sandwiches, Via Tribunali Pizza. Ballard is completely overrun with hipsters these days, especially on the weekends, but we do have a branch of Paseo the Carribbean sandwich shop down on Seaview not far from Golden Gardens (where Gordie's the burger place used to be). It's got no indoor seating, though. Hattie's Hat still serves a good burger and fries on Ballard Avenue and the crowds are usually elsewhere. Also, Caffe Presse on Capitol Hill on 12th, by the owners of Le PIchet, is casual and not too crowded. For greater Western Washington, there was just an article about the fine food of Edison, up on Chuckanut Drive near Bellingham. Have fun!

            3 Replies
            1. re: flexi

              I would have to second the recommendation for Smarty Pants in Georgetown. It was a very diverse crowd the night we were there, with people of all ages (no children, though) and various degrees of "hipness." We are quite unhip, not piercings, tatoos, etc, but did not feel out of place at all. And the sandwiches were terrific. Anything with pork is a good bet!

              1. re: zataar

                Stellar Pizza has an old-time vibe to the excellently mixed clientele. Of course, you may have to overlook the Obama cutout in the lobby, but the potato pizza will make it worth your effort. Cheap, abundant, and character(s) = Beth's Cafe. Have the dozen-egg omelet.

              2. re: flexi

                I don't know... Smarty Pants seems way too hipster-ish...

                If you're going Georgetown and your idea of character is the same as mine, I think Marco Polo and Last Chance Chili Shack are more up your alley. Real people, good food. Just some blue collar folks in to get some good grub and a couple of drinks after work. (I felt a little out of place in my collar shirt and khakis, but not in an awkward way, just in a "my co-workers probably wouldn't come here" kind of way)

                Burgers are good at both places. Marco Polo does a nice fried chicken, too.

              3. I just checked out an Ethiopian place called AWASH in Columbia City (on Rainier Ave. S). I recommend the lentils with saffron and hand-made crepes. There aren't any utensils, so you also get the added fun of using your hands!

                I also second Hattie's Hat in Ballard as a good dive with a killer bacon blue-cheese burger.

                1. Ballard has a lot of good options- Salmon Bay Cafe, Vera's, The Sloop, Mike's Chili Parlor, Hattie's Hat, People Pub, Totem, etc. Fremont- Paseo & The Roxie Downtown- Mama's Mexican Kitchen & The Hurricane Capital Hill and Central District- Glo's, R&L BBQ, & Ezell's Chicken Other options- Voula's, The Rusty Pelican, & Burgermaster

                  All of the places I have mentioned offer good food, their own vibe, and are probably what you are looking for.

                  I would suggest using Yelp- most of what you are looking for would be under "dive" or "diner".

                  10 Replies
                  1. re: natalie.warner

                    Could add Bad Albert's on the Ballard side. Lunchbox Laboratory. Tin Hat.

                    1. re: jaydeflix

                      I wouldn't bother with Tin Hat. It has good atmostphere but the food is average.

                      Bad Albert's and Lunchbox Laboratory have my favorite burgers in Ballard. Bad Albert's gets bonus points for amazing hand cut fries.

                    2. re: natalie.warner

                      Most of the places suggested in this thread that are actually the kind of working class/home cooking/smoking waitress kind of places you asked for, I wouldn't waste my time on. You probably have places just like Salmon Bay Cafe (standard diner fare) and Bad Albert's where you live. There are some good places recommended but they don't fit your description (Coastal Kitchen? Paseo? Via Tribunali? Great food but c'mon, foks, not exactly blue collar hangouts). I like Hattie's and you may also but I would describe it as more hipster and less actual working class. I do think Mike's Chili fits your bill to a T. According to Jane and Michael Stern it's one of the last real chili parlors anywhere. I do have a soft spot for Vera's and it's definitely old school Seattle, but it's just stuff like club sandwiches or omelettes...good when you are in the mood for it but not something I'd try if I only had limited time here.

                      One other place that comes to mind is Market Grill in the Pike Place Market. Very Seattle (grilled salmon sandwiches are the specialty), divey, diverse clientel except in summer when tourists drive us away.

                      You ask what happened, well, with tech and other new industries Seattle turned into a very white collar professional town. It just doesn't have a big blue collar population.

                      Honestly if I were looking for delicious inexpensive food I'd focus on ethnic--especially Asian of all kinds. Delicious inexpensive traditional American food is just not Seattle's forte.

                      1. re: christy319

                        Salmon Bay changed hands and is not as good as it once was, sadly.

                        1. re: christy319

                          I like your insights, Allison. Thanks!

                          1. re: christy319

                            Oops: I menat to say i like your insights, too, Christy. thanks for taking the time to write all this. It think you get what I'm after.

                            thanks to everyone!

                            1. re: Seashanty

                              i would suggest Steelhead diner for American food but not sure whether their prices (>$10) are above the range you're looking for. YOu can get by for under $10 at Barolo's happy hour but you'll have to finish by 5pm if you want to avoid hipsters coming in and ruining your meal experience.

                            2. re: christy319

                              Disagree. Well, not about Salmon Bay or Coastal or Paseo or Trib or Hattie's. Or actually even Mike's or Market Grill, but the fact that the "working class/home cooking/smoking waitree kind of places" aren't worth the time.

                              You should come on down to the south end, where real working class people still exist (i actually don't live there and I'm not one of those people, but still...) There are a lot of great places serving good, interesting food with a pride that deserves our acknowledgment.

                              I mean clearly these aren't going to be meals on the level of the Harvest Vines and Unions, but to me, they represent the true spirit of Chowhound (as opposed to GourmetHound).

                              I don't think you should sell these places short.

                              1. re: GreenYoshi

                                Sorry, I shouldn't have lumped them all in together--I was talking about the most recent suggestions, in Ballard and the North end. I've never been to the south end places you mentioned. It makes sense that there could be good working class hangouts there.

                          2. For Breakfast/Brunch: Portage Bay Cafe (South Lake Union location is better as it doesn't seem to get as busy), Madison Park Cafe in Madison Park, Hi Spot Cafe in Madrona, Crave on Capitol Hill. All of these can be busy on weekend mornings, but they are worth the wait.

                            For Lunch/Dinner: Stellar Pizza in Georgetown, Aqua Verde (Burritos) in U District, Ototo Sushi on Queen Anne, Mamma Melina's (Italian) in U District , Cafe Presse on Capitol Hill.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: Lisa329

                              Unfortunately, I believe Crave closed last week. Sad story, because I too enjoyed their brunches!

                              1. re: Lisa329

                                Christy319, I see your point now...

                                1. re: GreenYoshi

                                  I was just thinking the same thing!