While You’re Waiting: If things time out right, watch a Seahawks game on TV.
Meet the Owners: Brian Tatman and Jason Simodejka both grew up on the East Coast before moving to Seattle in 1996. When they arrived in the city, they noticed a great selection of local food vendors, yet a lack of East Coast–style delis. So they opened their own.
Inside Tip: Check if there’s a wait: an online webcam lets customers see the current line, which is especially helpful during busy lunch hours.
While You’re in the Neighborhood
Before: Step into the historic jail cell at the Seattle Metropolitan Police Museum (317 3rd Avenue South).
After: Strap on some climbing shoes and scale a faux rockface at the Seattle Bouldering Project (900 Poplar Place South).
If You Can’t Make It, Try This: Get your fix of traditional philly cheesesteaks at Calozzi’s (1306 4th Avenue).
Marcela's Creole Cookery uproots the definitive flavors of authentic New Orleans cuisine and Cajun fare and packs them into a menu brimming with robust seasonings and exotic meats, as mentioned by Seattle Weekly contributor A.J. Tigner. With 30 combined years in the restaurant world, Marcela's owners have created an inviting eatery that pays homage to the Big Easy with vibrant, playful colors showcased in contemporary artwork. Red-clothed tables coddle piping-hot platters of creole delicacies, including muffaletta po boys, hearty gumbos, and fried ocean critters such as shrimp, alligator, and crawfish from Poseidon's personal crustacean collection.
The luminous block letters advertising “Merchants Cafe” nearly overshadow the intriguing tidbit beneath: a sign reading "Established 1890, Seattle’s Oldest Restaurant." Once guests pass through the double-door entrance, though, its historic charms become undeniably clear. Rustic wood floors covered with ornate rugs complement wooden and exposed brick walls, and the stained-glass chandeliers hanging overhead cast a warm glow. Despite the homey 1800s feel, a few modern touches accent the restaurant, including flat-screen TVs around the cherry-wood bar and a menu of contemporary eats. Hearty American entrees, such as hot turkey sandwiches and Angus burgers, are crafted from local, organic ingredients sourced from the likes of Pike Place Market and Bob’s Fruit Stand.
Over the past 120-some years, Merchant’s has accrued quite a colorful history, but most notably operated as a hotel, saloon, and card room in the late 19th century. Today, barkeeps continue the tradition, sans the fist-fights over whose horse is more attractive, by pouring libations including Georgetown and Mac and Jack’s craft beers and wines and spirits from local wineries and distilleries.
As the owner of Bakeman's Restaurant, Jason Wang can pretty much say anything he wants to his customers. And he does. Dubbed as Seattle's version of the sharp-tongued "soup nazi" from Seinfeld, Jason gives anyone who dares step into Bakeman's a run for their money. Then, he takes their money, since it's a cash-only establishment. His brashness keeps the line moving smoothly, but don't let it rattle you: the verbal barrages dished out by Jason are really just a prickly shell for his and the restaurant's fuzzy charm.
If Jason is an expert at trash talking, he's an absolute virtuoso at making lunch. His sandwiches are all stacked between housemade bread, including the popular turkey sandwich. He roasts the turkey daily, and accompanies it with an optional slathering of cranberry sauce to recreate those day-after-Thanksgiving sandwiches. Jason also prepares three or four housemade soups every day, as well as chili, salads, and hot apple pie. Perhaps the most appetizing detail, though, is the modest pricing, with most lunches checking in at well under the $10 mark.
Think back to high school, or even grade school, when eating in a cafeteria off a tray was just a regular part of the day. Though such routines usually fall by the wayside during adulthood, they certainly haven't at Bakeman's. Here, customers enter from the busy downtown street, descend down a flight of stairs, and find themselves quite literally at a cafeteria counter. The day's options are scrawled across a whiteboard, and trays are stacked neatly nearby for those who don't take their food to go. Another parallel between then and now: you can ride the bus to Bakeman's, since it sits just steps from the 2nd Avenue and Cherry Street bus stop.
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.
A sidewalk patio with shaded seating flanks Cafe Bengodi's corner façade, appealing to passersby with promises of authentic Italian cuisine and al fresco dining. Chefs deliver on this promise by doling out antipasti rich with cheeses and salamis, then cooking mounds of homemade pastas and fresh Neapolitan pizzas. Espresso, beer, and wine accent the meal and allow patrons to propose toasts as a subtle way to drop a hint that they need a new toaster.