Places to dine when you need to keep it brief, or you just want to
It is February, the month of roses, chocolates and ... uncomfortable blind dates. That got us at SWW thinking. Where do you meet up for a meal when you want to keep it brief?
As lawyers, our time is often not our own. Whether we are up against a deadline or a lunch with the in-laws, it is useful to have a restaurant or two in the "I'd love to have lunch but may need to leave in a hurry" category. Here are a few of our local favorites.
The conveyor-belt format and attentive wait staff at the downtown Blue C Sushi (1510 Seventh Ave., Seattle; 467-4022; bluecsushi.com) makes a quick and graceful exit from your meal easy to manage. On a Friday, Blue C was packed to the gills, but there was no wait if you were willing to sit at the counter.
We started with the sesame noodles, which were nicely chewy and not too salty. The spider roll startled, with a deep-fried antenna of some sort sticking out, but turned out to be crunchy and very nice. The star of the show was a fusion item: a sublime spicy-tuna taco, crispy on the outside and fiery on the inside. We were pleasantly full after 20 minutes.
The real test for a rapid exit at a sit-down joint, however, is how quickly you can get the attention of the waitress. Our waitress, Kaela, seemed to have telepathic powers. As soon as one of us spied her, she made eye contact and came over immediately. When all was said and done we enjoyed a delicious and economical meal and had settled up within 25 minutes. Hard to beat!
If you are looking to give an out-of-towner a taste of iconic Seattle without playing tour guide for an entire afternoon, we suggest Lowell's in Pike Place Market (1519 Pike Place; 622-2036; eatatlowells.com). Patrons order at a counter near the entrance, take a number and wait for the meal to be delivered. It seemed like a strategic location for a meeting place where one might want a quick exit.
We did not find lunch at Lowell's to be as quick as expected. But when we found an open spot on the third floor, which was buzzing with patrons, the view reminded us why Lowell's has been around for almost 100 years (literally).
We tried the pulled-pork sandwich, seafood salad and Alaskan cod/seafood tacos. The seafood was fresh and the tacos were the standout. If the speed of the service did not allow us a quick exit, at least it would certainly have been easy to lose someone quickly after lunch in the crowds at the market.
Another obvious choice to try for this month's column was the "express lunch" at 820 Pike Street. Not surprisingly located at 820 Pike Street (219-5555; 820pike.com), this SWW favorite is the successor to what was Bambuza Bistro. Ownership has changed and there has been a slight remodel, but the menu remains very similar.
We split the green papaya salad, the coconut chicken curry and bul-gogi beef. The food was fresh and flavorful, although not as spicy as we remembered. (We suspect that a request for additional spice would have been quickly accommodated.) We found the service for lunch quick, although not quite as express as the name would imply. We were seated and served, paid, and out the door in under an hour. This is a good choice when you want to get in and out in a snap.
What better way to control the length of your dining experience than to serve yourself? For an expedient and inexpensive meal, we think Indian restaurants serving lunchtime buffets are spot-on. This is a perfect spot for the lunch date with an old friend you haven't seen in awhile and don't have much in common with anymore.
Try Bengal Tiger (6510 Roosevelt Way NE; 985-0041; bengaltigerwa.com) or India Bistro (6417 Roosevelt Way NE; 517-4444; seattleindiabistro.com). Bengal Tiger has a vast selection of vegetarian items, including curries and paneer. On the weekends, Bengal Tiger has an even larger buffet with various soup selections. The buffet at India Bistro is smaller than its neighbor's, but offers great butter chicken and naan made fresh for each customer. At either venue, you will enjoy the food and be in and out in a flash.
That brings us to our favorite spot for that potentially awkward blind date that took us down this path. We had heard about Potbelly Sandwich Shop (1429 Fourth Ave.; 623-0099; potbelly.com) and wanted to see what the buzz was all about during a quick lunch break from a recent deposition. With T-40 minutes until we needed to be back before the court reporter, we jumped into line.
We must warn you, your first foray into Potbelly can leave you feeling like a newbie. Before we could even peruse the sandwich offerings on the signboard in front of us, a young man with an electronic device approached demanding, albeit politely, a decision. "Ham and cheese," we ordered.
Who were we to slow down the overly efficient process? See the opportunity this provides on a first date? The perfect excuse to avoid any small talk while deciding what to order (there is no time for such nonsense at Potbelly!), plus an impromptu test of wits to see what your date is made of.
We were at a counter watching our sandwiches spit out of the toaster within a minute. Industrial cans of Hershey's chocolate syrup, jam and Potbelly peppers sat on shelves behind the counter, and a line of chipper staff rapidly assembled toppings onto melted cheese. From the register, only four minutes later, we watched a classic coffeehouse acoustic guitar player strum feverishly from his perch upon a stool. Loud conversations and the wails of the coffeehouse singer-songwriter dominated, creating a cacophony quite unusual in Seattle.
We shared a table with some other attorneys we met in line. Our sandwiches were tasty. We were jealous of the milkshakes our neighbors had the sense to order. And we did not find ourselves bored for one minute with new friends to chat with and a bustling, boisterous lunch crowd to survey.
The thing that secured Potbelly's first-place finish as the best place to meet a stranger for a date is its location. Right downtown, in the Metro ride-free area, it's easy to evacuate a disastrous date by walking out the door and right onto the next bus that pulls up in front of you. Hopefully you grabbed a milkshake to go.
Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt is a multiservice, Northwest regional law firm with offices in Seattle, Vancouver, Portland and Bend. For comments on this article or to share your favorite places to eat or drink with the Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt attorneys, contact Farron Lennon at 206-407-1571 or firstname.lastname@example.org; see also www.schwabe.com/dining_out.aspx.