Fancy pastries pop out of the oven all the day at Belle Epicurean, the French bakery café helmed by Carolyn Ferguson, who earned a Grand Diplome from Le Cordon Bleu Paris. In the Downtown Fairmont Olympic Hotel, it’s a posh paradise with shiny glass cases stuffed with fresh, buttery croissants, brioche, quiches, cookies, and the popular, sweet Belle’s Buns. A plus for early-risers, the café opens at 6 a.m. on weekday mornings, and brunch is served daily. Lunchers can take away baguette sandwiches and hearty soups, and in the afternoon there’s tea service with petit fours and macarons. The interior welcomes eaters with marble checkered floors and ornate mirrors, giving the space an upscale cozy feel reminiscent of a classic French patisserie.
Belgian Liège waffles, which are richer and sweeter than their more Americanized breakfast counterparts, are the draw at this Downtown 3rd Avenue nook. Step inside the sleek, modern Euro-cool room for both sweet and savory versions of the griddled treat, made with all-natural local ingredients stirred into brioche-like dough and studded with sugar pearls. Those balls of sweetness promptly caramelize in the sizzling waffle iron. Waffles can be served warm with Nutella, brûléed bananas, berries and whipped cream, or ice cream. Savory waffles, such as the proscuitto, crème fraîche & green onion, double as a breakfast bite or easy lunch. To drink, look for fresh-pressed juices, Stumptown coffee from Portland, or smooth Rishi organic tea.
Exuberant Thai dishes from Bangkok-born chef Panurat Poladitmontri, or Chef Rut, the author of the much-loved Thailand: The Beautiful Cookbook, entice eaters at the Harbor Café in Downtown Seattle. For nearby shoppers and business people alike, it’s an oasis of deliciousness, with pan-seared salmon spiked with garlic and chilies; a surfeit of spicy curry dishes; the fancifully named swimming angel, and lots of salads. Early birds swing by for decidedly non-Thai breakfast croissants, muffins and omelets, which can be eaten inside the spare, metal-chaired space, or take their bounty back to the office. The friendly café is tucked into the lobby of a beautiful 1928 Art Deco building, and is a best kept secret of nearby office workers. It’s open only for breakfast and lunch.
Cherry Street Coffee House displays local art, hosts live music, and holds events at each of its locations. Steam rises from blends of house coffees, forming the shape of perfume bottles that spritz the cafes with the aromas of Brazil nuts and dark cocoa. A medley of coffee beans from Papua New Guinea and Central and South America flavor the signature espresso, which guests can enjoy in between bites of house-made breakfast bagels, quiche, pastries, sandwiches, soups, and salads. Cherry Street's kitchen staff supplies a list of ingredients, highlighting which vibrant dishes are vegan, contain dairy and nuts, or plan to transform into dairy and nuts.
Fresh sandwiches, salads, soups, and pizzas star on Harried and Hungry’s lunch-only menu, and are a quick and tasty fix for office workers and shoppers with growling tummies. The family-run spot has tried-and-true choices for a fast lunch, like the popular chicken pesto sandwich or the pear and goat cheese house pizza. With its cheery green entrance, the simple café is perfect for grabbing a midday meal or a snack, and it seems there’s always enough space to sit down while you munch. Still, for some, Harried and Hungry’s lightning-quick service simply isn’t fast enough; some diners opt to skip the line and pre-order lunch online, for pick up at the front counter. Local office workers also like the café’s convenient catering business, which is perfect for staff meeting treats and lunches.
The Diller Room is a friendly booze hall located in an 1890 Gold Rush hotel, with inventive cocktails, house pizzas and a diverse clientele. The Diller Room’s original brick walls and stained glass give it a “way back when” feel, and the drinks include old standbys like gimlets and sidecars. There are modern touches, of course, including the much-loved Dillerlicious, made with house-infused blueberry vodka. Pizzas also fall along traditional lines, like the Margherita and the sausage models, although a few seasonal pies like the Autumn Apple Pizza may include such contemporary favorites as bleu cheese, caramelized onions and apple slices. Sports fans love that The Diller Room is a straight shot down First Avenue to Safeco Field for Mariners baseball games, and to CenturyLink Field for Sounders soccer games and Seahawks football, with plenty of bus and light rail transportation close by.