Volunteer Park Cafe (Seattle, WA)

(Update: Volunteer Park Cafe closed at the end of 2020, but reopened under new owners in 2021 with a new menu. I hope to revisit at some point to try out the new menu)

One of the challenges of planning one of my “Death March” 20+ mile hikes through is city is figuring out a route of the right length. Some cities (like New York) this is pretty easy, but for the more compact cities (like Boston) this often means taking some interesting loops through the city. In the case of Seattle, I wanted to do a basic “S” curve, starting near the center of Seattle, looping up through University of Washington to Phinney Heights, down through Downtown to Georgetown, and over to Alki Beach (we didn’t quite make it that far…). The map had a nice, fairly intuitive route if I started from Volunteer Park, but looking over the map, Volunteer Park and the surrounding part of Capitol Hill is still strongly residential. But I did notice one place that had fairly consistently good reviews: Volunteer Park Cafe.

Located in what used to be a small neighborhood grocery store just down from Volunteer Park, the Cafe is in a quiet little neighborhood, quiet enough that a group of a dozen people waiting for them to open at 8am on a Saturday morning was not a common sight for the locals or the workers. But as we filed in right after they unlocked the doors, they rather efficiently took everyone’s order, and we soon found ourselves enjoying our morning beverages at the big, central common table while waiting for the food to arrive.

The menu at Volunteer Park Cafe is one of those things that really varies by the time of day. For breakfast and lunch, it’s a fairly relaxed order-at-the-counter place with a selection of sandwiches and light dishes. Dinner is a bit more substantial, but casual, unless you are there on Sunday when they do up a fairly old school Sunday Supper with a three-course dinner. Being breakfast, most everyone in our group gravitated towards one of two dishes: either the bacon and egg panini, or the banana brioche French toast.

I opted for the former, and I was quite pleased with it as a breakfast: Two very nicely poached eggs served up with fresh ripe tomatoes and gruyere on a nicely-toasted panini, this was basically just a near-perfect execution of a classic breakfast sandwich (I thought it could have used a bit more seasoning, but easily remedied with a shake of salt and pepper).

And I’ll have to admit, I had a bit of breakfast envy for those getting the French toast, since that was a rather generous serving of brioche, stuff with ricotta cheese (with a hint of both vanilla and orange), served with a drizzle of syrup, slices of banana, and a good handful of nuts. Most everyone that got this enjoyed it as well.

And, somewhat true to form for what we’ve observed with Seattle… by the time we left around 9am, the place was actually starting to get crowded. So even this quiet corner of Capitol Hill picks up once everybody is done sleeping in for the day. In any case, it’s definitely a neighborhood gem.

2 Responses

  1. dominique 10 Feb 2017 at 08:25 #

    we used to live almost directly across the street from this place–we used to call it the Pink Grocery since it used to be painted bright pink on the outside. It went through several hands while we lived in the neighborhood–each making more improvements– so it is nice to see that it has succeeded in its latest incarnation. We still talk about the cinnamon rolls they sold back in 1994 which were laced with equal amounts of cinnamon and cardamom.

    • kaszeta 10 Feb 2017 at 08:46 #

      Thanks. Good to hear about some of the older history of the place.

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