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Seattle Times food writer Nancy Leson serves up the best info and tips on Northwest food, cooking, dining and restaurants.

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May 1, 2008 7:00 AM

There's no place like a home-y restaurant. So, where do you go?

Posted by Nancy Leson

Yesterday, on my radio gig, KPLU's "Food for Thought," I talked to my chat-buddy Dick Stein about restaurants that make you feel at home. You know: those "Cheers"-like places where everybody knows your name. I told him -- and our listeners -- about a joint called Marvin's, a place my dad frequented for years and talked about often before he died:


I'd never been there, but when I was in California a couple weeks ago, I felt compelled to stop in and see what it was that my dad loved about this place. It was pretty slammed when I got there around noon, and I sat at the counter chatting with these people, below, who, it turns out, knew my dad well. "He really liked to eat!" they told me. "Yeah, that runs in the family," I replied:



They introduced me to the owner. It's funny, I always envisioned a guy named "Marvin" running the place, and I was convinced he'd look just like this fellow at the counter. Nope: there was no Marvin at Marvin's (turns out he was a previous owner). The cafe is owned and operated by this studly young dude, Chuck, who told me he's owned this poplular breakfast and lunch joint for about a decade:



And here's Chuck's gorgeous wife and business-partner, Nicole (No wonder my dad liked the place!):



I'm sure Dad also like the food, which is your basic diner fare, only better. And had he been with me -- instead of eating bagels and lox at that big all-you-can-eat buffet in the sky -- I'd have shared this huge hot pastrami sandwich with him. Instead, I ate the whole thing myself:



So, I was wondering: Where's the restaurant you go to where "Everybody knows your name"? And what's so great about it?


COMMENTS













Posted by Jenny





9:07 AM, May 01, 2008



Geraldine's Counter in Columbia City. Great food anytime of day (especially breakfast!). Its the kind of place where you could talk to anyone, staff or patron--no problem.









Posted by CindyW





10:57 AM, May 01, 2008



I don't have a restaurant like that, but Village Wines wine bar in Woodinville (a block away from Purple) is that for me. A glass of wine, small plates of goodies, and super friendly staff and owners make this a charming and friendly spot. I love hanging out to taste a few wines and chat with them and other customers.









Posted by Kyle





12:39 PM, May 01, 2008



Rudy's Place on 34th West in Magnolia. Great food, great people and reasonable prices.









Posted by KAG





12:39 PM, May 01, 2008



Ing's Chinese Express in Peoria. Billy knows how we like our dumplings (I like mine steamed, my husband and 9 year old like 'em fried) and he knows we like to get a lunch size portion at dinner... it's inexpensive, good food with very friendly wait staff and it's two blocks from home. Now, when I want Falafel, I go to Youseff's Deli because Bachas know's how me and all I have to say is, "Hi there, Falafel and salad please." and he says, "Extra sauce, light on the onion! See you!" If only Peoria had a great Kosher Deli! I'd be all set!









Posted by Condolawyer





12:57 PM, May 01, 2008



I have two neighborhood favorites where everybody knows my name, and when a new staff member starts working there the existing staff makes sure to introduce them to me. One is the Bluwater on Greenlake, and I love their roasted chicken, their willingness to make substitutions, and their friendly service. The other is the Berkshire Grill, and I love their half priced wine by the bottle on Sundays through Thursdays.









Posted by Nolan





1:22 PM, May 01, 2008



Hidmo, at 20th and Jackson. It's all family at the heemo. I'm as likely to spend a whole saturday afternoon drinking coffee and chatting on the couch as i am to get dinner. The okra will level you with the deliciousness, and the music/community/friendliness will keep you coming back.









Posted by Amy





1:23 PM, May 01, 2008



It's sitting at the bar at The Jones on Roosevelt. Great rotating menu with something for everyone (and a price for everyone).









Posted by Helen





1:27 PM, May 01, 2008



The Sand Point Grill is my favorite place to go. It's a great place to go have dinner. And the locals stop by regularly to have a drink and talk sports or just chat with Kyle the bartender or joke around with Scott the co-owner. My favorites are the Caesar salad, the burger, and the fried chicken. I just wish it was in Ballard.









Posted by Kevin





2:42 PM, May 01, 2008



I second Rudy's Place. Best pancakes I have ever had.

Good Prime Rib Dinner on Friday, very resonable

Posted by drkate08

2:42 PM, May 01, 2008

Perche No!- David & Lily Kong make it a point to make everyone feel at home. The food is the best Italian food I've had outside of ITaly and the staff are all amazingly friendly. Every special occasion, every new date, and about once/month for lunch or dinner, you'll find me there! I can spend an afternoon eating a lazy lunch on the terrace or come inside for a long dinner. The company is great and the food is incomparable.

Posted by Sue

2:55 PM, May 01, 2008

I'm compelled to rave about Columbia City Alehouse. They may not know our names, but they know our faces, how many of us usually show up, what we usually drink, and what food we usually order. The beer selection is pretty awesome but when our guest ordered a Bud Light (horrors!) they didn't bat an eye. Add the comforting daily soup and reliable pub food and I have to say that I've never felt more comfortable anywhere else in my 40+ years.

Posted by Wulfie

3:32 PM, May 01, 2008

Billy McHales in Renton. They have a great $8.95 Early Bird menu that even includes ribs and steaks! You also get a small dessert. Great food, Wonderful people. It is one of our favorite places to go. Not many places you can get dinner for 3 for less than $40 including drinks!

Posted by Lan

3:35 PM, May 01, 2008

Sun Ya, in the International District, where I eat breakfast at the table next to the guys who spent the morning delivering vegetables. Mr. Chen and his staff know their customers and talk to most of them in their own languages, whether it's English, Mandarin, Cantonese or Tai Shan. Lovely dim sum by talented cooks, who prepare the food the way they did back home. So good, and so homey!

Posted by Jim

3:54 PM, May 01, 2008

Hopvine on Capitol Hill. Great beer, great food, friendly atmosphere. Get the half turkey and chutney sandwich with a tasty soup and a cold one - the perfect lunch.

As for Perche No, which was recommended above, that place is unbelievably terrible. The food is poorly cooked and of low quality, the place is cramped and overcrowded, and the menu overpriced by about 30%. But, where else in Seattle can you enjoy prosciutto as thick as uncooked bacon (and about as tasty)?

The Kongs may be nice people, but they should trade in some of their hospitality for cooking lessons. Worst meal ever.

Posted by Robert Hess

7:56 AM, May 02, 2008

My favorite "home-y" restaurant in this area is "Chopsticks" on the way to Edmonds (23025 100th Ave West). On the face of it a run-of-the-mill Chinese American restaurant, which had been located across the street for several decades until Bartell moved in.

When I first started going here, I noticed that the managers (Terry and Ling, now owners), greated nearly half of the guests by name, which immediately created a comfortable atmosphere.

Next, I noticed that the food, the standard fare you'd expect at such a place, tasted significanly better then I'd had elsewhere (China First, Louies, etc.).

Then I was introduced to their Mai Tai's... made from scratch, and the way Trader Vic's originally intended. They've become such a staple for me there that no sooner am I sitting down, then my drink is already on it's way.

I now eat here at least once a week, if not more, and am well known by all the staff, and many of the customers. I will often stop in on the weekends for lunch, and hang out at the bar while Terry makes the Mai Tais, and catch up with the other "regulars" who call Chopsticks home.

-Robert

Posted by bookcook

1:26 PM, May 02, 2008

The Continental, the Greek restaurant on the Ave, is a place like that. Back in the 1980s when I worked and lived in the area I ate many an omelette or souvlaki sandwich and Dmitri and his mom and dad got to know me and my husband. Now nearly thirty years later, after living on the east coast for a while, they still give us a hearty hello. They even remember that our daughter always orders a cup of faki and a cup of avgolemono soup because when she was six she could not decide between the two. (She's 20 now.) We only visit occasionally but it's like coming home when we do.

Posted by Mireldis

10:44 AM, May 03, 2008

We love Stumbling Goat Bistro in Phinney Ridge, where Erin, Seth, and the crew have memorized my husband's extensive list of allergies and will often make special dishes just to suit his needs. They even recognize our voices on the phone now!

Another favorite for hospitality is Han's Garden on Mercer Island. We've been fans of Roger and Lily's Chinese food for many years, since we and they were in Renton. We live far enough away that we don't get in as often as we used to, but they always remember us and what we like. Their recommendations for new things to try are always spot on!

Posted by SarahInSeattle

11:32 AM, May 05, 2008

I know this thread is about restaurants, but I feel compelled to add a cafe into this list.

Bus Stop Espresso on 65th NE and 8th NE (just off the 1-5 offramp) is a tiny, trangular cafe with a truly friendly staff who function like a family. The regulars from the neighborhood (and others who regularly drive through it on I-5) and all known by name (Laura makes sure of that) and their "regular" drinks are practically served up the moment they walk in.

I think what is even more outstanding about Bus Stop is that the staff genuinely care for the community. At 5:30 PM each day, a man who is both blind and deaf comes in for his cup of coffee and a bit of a break before walking home. The staff talk with him by spelling words on his hand with their fingers.

There's more and more "regulars" at Bus Stop an each of them know each other. It's really nice, in this modern world, to have a real community.

Posted by Ballard Boy

2:51 PM, May 05, 2008

The place I feel at home at is Kauai Family Restaurant. Even the name tells you what you are going to get. We love to go to breakfast on Saturdays for some Loco Moco, fried rice and of course the malasadas! Ono! Auntie aways greets you with a smile, a hug and a good word. Want a Sun drink? Just help yourself. It's like home.

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Food for Thought | Nancy Leson on KPLU

Listen to Nancy at 5:30 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. during Morning Edition, at 4:40 p.m. during All Things Considered and again the following Saturday at 8:30 a.m. during Weekend Edition on KPLU 88.5.

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