On May 5th, Viv and I finally pulled into the parking lot of the train-car diner south of the sports stadiums here in Seattle, Andy’s Diner. We, along with the rest of Seattle, have driven by this landmark for years without ever venturing in.

The restaurant closed for a period but reopened, I think, in 2001. Diners as a restaurant species in Seattle as a whole are completely endangered, and have been closing up all over the city since the mid-nineties. This is a drag since I subscribe to the “formica equals good cheap eats and bad coffee” belief system. I’m still not over the closure in the early nineties of the other Andy’s Diner on Broadway in my neighborhood, Capitol Hill.

Sadly, in fact, the last of the Hill’s greasy spoons, the kick-ass diner-slash-bar Ernie Steele’s (under the pseudonym Ilene’s Sports Bar) closed a few months ago, and just reopened as a Julia’s (an extension of the Wallingford eatery).

We walked the front doors of the train-car Andy’s at about 5 pm on a Saturday. The joint was totally empty. We were seated in a turn-of-the-century train car that had its’ original booths removed and replaced with two and four-top tables. The car was narrower than the cars currently used by the also-endangered Amtrak. It retained not only a great deal of the original fixtures but additionally a great deal of the preceding century’s nicotine buildup. For all that the car was currently non-smoking.

I tried ordering a microbrew (stupid! what was I thinking?) and was informed that actually, ALL the taps were offline, and I could choose between Corona or MGD. I shoulda just ordered a Manhattan. I went with the MGD.

I ended up ordering the 10 oz New York Strip with hashbrowns and breaded oysters. The oysters, much to my surprise, were a total triumph. This dish was once a staple of Northwestern cuisine, and I have many a happy memory of noshing on ’em with my grandparents. They don’t appear on many menus any more, and when they do, they often SUCK. Not these, not at all.

The steak was OK, nothing speacial. Viv got a porkchop dish which, I cannot stress enough, was spectacular. Our vegetables were also perfectly prepared. In short, to my astonishment, the cook kicked ass.

Our total bill? Forty-one clams. A complete bargain, less than half what we would have paid for the same meal and service on the Hill.

After eating, we wandered around the interior of the diner, which was apparently constructed entirely of old railcars (perhaps as many as ten). It was pretty empty, although a steady migration of middle-age folks were streaming into the “lounge car”.

Among other wonders, I found a case full of bowling trophies from the sixties, and a television lounge featuring not a soul, a seventies Zenith color teevee and several orange naugahyde lounge chairs.

These last wonders were located in a rail car which was used by FDR in the late 30s and was installed as a part of Andy’s at its’ opening in 1946. Let me clarify that: YOU CAN HAVE A PRIVATE PARTY IN A RAILCAR USED BY FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT AT ANDY’S DINER IN NEAR SOUTH SEATTLE!

Hm, I just realized that since the Museum of Flight (located just a smidge further south) currently hosts the Lyndon Baynes Johnson Air Force One 707, one could eat at FDR’s traveling table just prior to observing LBJ’s hydraulically mounted monument to the psychology of power. LBJ had a specially constructed seating area on the plane, with a raised seat for him. Everyone else got radically, unconventionally low bench seats at the table. The table itself is hydraulically mounted so that it can be moved up and down at the press of a button.

You’ll NEVER guess which person seated at the table could reach the buttons. By which I mean you already know who held that power.

So I think that’s a neat possiblility. Eat lunch with FDR and Eleanor, and thank them for the important things they did for our republic; tour LBJ’s plane, and realize he was practically a nutcase.

You should know I think that these two are also the best Presidents of the century, men who rival one another, and Lincoln, in the service they performed for our country.

Andy’s Diner,
2963 4th Ave. South,
Seattle, WA 98134-1914
(206) 624-4097

No URL that I could find.

But I did find this cool matchbook cover art for the jernt at the American Matchcover Collecting Club. Zounds! Someone tell Jimmy Lileks about this!