Cherry Street

tl;dr: get the tomato, basil, egg, and cheese on an Asiago bagel. I’ve also heard from reputable sources that the bacon, egg, and cheese on a pita is divine but have not tried it myself. I can’t get away from that tomato basil.

For a few months about a year ago, I worked tons of overtime. My coworker and I started early, we stayed late, and we held it together while new people were trained for the positions we were covering. We worked long, hard days, but every once in a while, we’d stop, turn to each other and say the magic word: bagel.

Our only solace during those months was Cherry Street and their bagel sandwiches. Most coffeehouses serve food as an afterthought, something to merely accompany their drinks. Cherry Street makes an effort to serve actual, delicious food. Food worth paying for. In the mornings, they have an employee whose only job is to make people breakfast. This isn’t just some bagel sawed in half with a cold cup of cream cheese and a plastic knife. This bagel is a masterclass in coffee shop edibles.img_3058

The bagels are proudly sourced from Seattle Bagel Bakery, who make fantastic bagels in a ridiculous amount of flavors. I’m pretty sure the Cherry Street near my work has eight or nine types, but the only one you need to worry about is the Asiago. Pleasantly cheesy but not overly so, with enough crust to feel substantial, unlike those stupid bread circles the grocery store bread aisle tries to call bagels. The crust isn’t so tough that it’s hard to bite through, just enough to crackle. The inner bits of the bagel are soft, dense, and good at soaking up whatever filling you’ve chosen.

When I first started visiting Cherry Street, I always got the bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich, which I thought was the gold standard. That is, until I tried the tomato, basil, egg, and cheese. With the bacon, the Asiago feels unnecessary and over the top. Getting a plain bagel when an Asiago bagel is available feels silly, so on my coworker’s advice, I eventually tried the tomato basil.

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At first, the idea of tomato and basil with eggs seemed odd to me, like a caprese gone wrong. After one bite, I realized how wrong I was. The tomato and basil justify the Asiago in a way breakfast meat can’t. They act the same way tomato and lettuce do on a burger, adding a needed counter to the hot, savory saltiness of the rest of the sandwich. They round out the flavors, adding a sweet freshness to the egg. Impressively, Cherry Street has mastered the microwave scrambled egg. I’ve never had an overcooked egg here, and the cheese is always melty.

I always love when a restaurant puts effort into what they’re doing. Walking in and knowing that a place is going to take care of you, especially when you’re working crazy overtime, is comforting. Making a consistently delicious breakfast first thing in the morning for downtown cogs isn’t an honorable job, but when you do it that well, it should be.

Lil Jon

tl;dr: Lil Jon does the standard diner classics very well. Eggs Benedict, the best indicator of a restaurant’s abilities, is consistently solid here.

Sometimes you want to sit down, order something you’ve eaten a million times before, and sit back in the booth knowing you’re going to get exactly what you expect. Sometimes you don’t mind that the hollandaise came from a packet. Sometimes, you just want a full coffee cup and an efficient waitress.

The eggs Benedict is the perfect example of why Lil Jon is the pinnacle of the standard diner experience. Most people think that a Benedict should be judged by their hollandaise. However, scratch hollandaise only shows up every once in a great while.* Though it is always a welcome and appreciated gesture, powdered hollandaise is the standard for every hangover crushing diner in the city, so this is not where the front runners separate from the pack.. The greats stand out by consistently plating up runny-yolked poached eggs.

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Lil Jon is the only place I’ve ever been that can consistently poach an egg during busy weekend brunch hours. I don’t know how they do it. Do they have one guy that just poaches eggs? Do they employ the one person in the greater Seattle area that can focus on poaching eggs while doing other things? Do they use the “poach them before service, then merely heat them up right before plating” trick (a solid trick if you ever decide to torture yourself and cook eggs Benedict at home)? Do they toss out the overcooked poached eggs instead of plating them because they aren’t fucking monsters? I don’t know. All I know, is the six times I’ve been at a table where a benny was ordered, the yolks were runny. The rest of the plate is something to be admired as well, but in a “this is exactly what I expected” sort of way. The hashbrowns are hashbrowns, the English muffin is toasted, the ham is thick and griddled, and the hollandaise is good.

Other than the solid, unassuming food at Lil Jon, the service is something to be appreciated. There’s a teamwork at play that isn’t entirely obvious unless you’re paying attention. It’s seamless and admirable, and makes for a calm environment in a super busy restaurant. No one seems rushed, but everyone seems to move with purpose. When a job needs to be done, someone picks it up and does it expeditiously, without visible attitude. It is just being done because it’s the right thing to do.

Lil Jon understands that there has to be a place where you can drag yourself to the table when the light of day is still too harsh. You have to be able to grunt your regular order and slump over your mug. You have to be able to rely on the humble work ethic of those who went to bed at a reasonable hour, and you have to be able to cut into an egg yolk, see the golden trickle down the side of your English muffin, and know you’re gonna come out the other side just fine.

http://www.liljonrestaurant.com/

*For those on the hunt for hollandaise nirvana, Glo’s is the tops. A full writeup will come eventually. Lola also makes their hollandaise from scratch, but there’s dill in it, which felt like a little bit of a hipster overreach to me. For the record, both Lola and Glo’s have served overcooked yolks when a Benedict was ordered at my table.