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.

benny

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.

Ellenos Real Greek Yogurt

tl;dr: they only sell yogurt, so you really can’t go wrong. I highly recommend the lemon curd, muesli, or rhubarb. If you’re saving your yogurt for later, flavors that have crumble (lemon cheesecake, marionberry pie) get less texturally enticing overnight, but are still great.

Greek yogurt was a fad I never got excited about. Too thick, oddly grainy yogurt, simply eaten for the protein content? The full-fat versions were slightly better, but a 400 calorie snack ain’t doin’ me any favors. Actually, I never was a fan of yogurt in general. If I’m gonna eat a cup of sugar goo, it’s gonna be pudding or a milkshake, not some cornstarch/stabilizer dairy mess.

Then, Ellenos came along. Ellenos makes you realize that every single stupid cup, Tillamook, Yoplait, Greek Gods, Fage, they’re all doing it wrong. Calling Ellenos yogurt feels like a disservice because your only experiences with yogurt thus far have been sad diet food or boring breakfast. But it is not Ellenos fault that you’ve only eaten shit yogurt. It’s up to you to remedy your definition. It is up to you to experience actual, delicious yogurt.

When you step up to Ellenos, you might be overwhelmed. You might look at the case and think, damn, there is no way I’m going to choose a flavor without sampling every single one. You’re wrong. Choose any flavor. They’re all good. Even the natural unsweetened is fantastic if you’re into that whole sugar avoidance thing like me. The only recommendation I have is to eat any flavor with crumbles in it immediately. After a few hours, the crumble distracts from the texture of the yogurt, rather than complimenting it.

The yogurt is silky in a way that feels engineered. Like, a real food product probably shouldn’t be this creamy. A small spoonful coats your entire mouth in a way that is deeply satisfying. The flavors are intense swirls of rich color, and they all stand up to the yogurt’s richness without detracting from it. This yogurt stops you in your tracks and makes you wonder what the hell you were eating up until this point.

Does the word yogurt look weird to anyone else now?

http://ellenos.com/

 

 

Mecca Cafe

tl;dr: Get anything that comes with your choice of side, and go for mashed potatoes. Three types of gravy, and all of them are great. Breakfast is good, but why would you get anything that doesn’t come with mashed potatoes?

I’ve always thought that mashed potatoes were one of my least favorite sides. I’ve never really understood people who say that mashed potatoes are their favorite part of Thanksgiving, because HELLO stuffing. To me, mashed potatoes are simply a side dish. My parents made them relatively often, and though my dad makes fantastic gravy and they sometimes spiced them up with feta stirred in (so good, try it!), they always seemed to be the most boring of the starches.

I have no idea where I got this idea, but it was smashed to pieces when I realized how happy I was that Mecca Cafe offers mashed potatoes as a side dish. Mashed potatoes! With a reuben! What luxury! Not only are there mashed potatoes available along with potato salad, coleslaw, or fries, but the soda comes in tiny pitchers, the kitchen is open 24 hours a day, and the place feels like you’ve been transported back to old grungey, pre-Amazon Seattle for a little while.

And in case you thought I was only going to talk about side dishes again, fear not. The reuben is one of the best specimens in Seattle, messy, with the perfect ratio of ingredients on crunchy grilled rye. It’s exactly what you hope for every time the word “reuben” comes out of your mouth onto the server’s writing pad.

Though you could get breakfast any hour of the day, I don’t know why you would pass up the chance to experience mashed potatoes alongside the diner sandwich of your choice. It’s something you never knew you really needed until it was possible.

mecca-cafe.com