Amazon, not always known for its charitable giving, donated space for a Seattle nonprofit to open a cafe, a full-service restaurant and, for lunchtime, Community Table. It’s great for the community, but how's lunch?
FareStart is an enormously wonderful, James Beard Award-winning nonprofit that’s been providing restaurant-industry job training for Seattle’s homeless and underprivileged for decades. Amazon is an extremely profitable company you may have heard of that’s not always been known for helping its community — five years ago, a Seattle Times investigation called it “a virtual no-show in hometown philanthropic giving.” But something has enlarged Jeff Bezos’ heart. Among other local contributions, Amazon recently donated 25,000 square feet on its South Lake Union campus for five new restaurants for FareStart’s new Foodservice Apprenticeship Program. Well done, Jeff!
Now that the restaurants are open (and they’re open to the general public), the even greater news is that Community Table, the tripartite, lunch-only spot, is full of incredibly nice people making some really good food.
Don’t sleep: Amazon’s also matching the money you spend at all FareStart’s restaurants (or just straight-up donate) through Aug. 11, up to a million dollars (chump change for Jeff, but still great). Feel free to stop reading this and go eat at Community Table right now! It’s open Monday through Friday, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Find it by going through the lobby of Amazon’s Houdini North building at Fairview and Harrison (where FareStart’s tranquil new Rise cafe happens to be), or going up the steps on the other side of the block (just north of Maslow’s, FareStart’s gorgeous, airy new full-service restaurant and bar).
Salads, barbecue and bowls
399 Fairview Ave. N. (in Amazon’s Houdini North building), Seattle; 206-588-4028; lunch only, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Friday;
The menu(s) and the largesse: The “Salad” counter at Community Table has seven well-thought-out options or your own creation, $7.50 for 32 ounces or $9 for 48. Forty-eight ounces is a lot of salad. The super-fresh Mediterranean couscous one was loaded with romaine, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, kalamata olives, feta and more, and just the right side of overdressed with an herby-tart dressing. It was really, really good, and it was enough for lunch plus two side salads for dinner later.
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“BBQ” at Community Table offers platters, chili, sandwiches and more, with six kinds of barbecue sauce that they’re eager for you to try (the classic one bodes well — actually spicy, dark, smoky, rich). The Kinda Cubano sandwich comes on a big, fresh, pillow of a potato roll, with tender smoked chicken and smoked pork, provolone, pickles and a pleasantly spicy mustard sauce. It is not small, and for $10, it also comes with two sides, including extravagantly creamy mac and cheese, crunchy-bright Thai slaw, beans, greens, an entire baked potato and more. An. Entire. Baked. Potato.
From the “Bowls” counter, the Big Sur was also way above average, with quinoa, firm but tender cauliflower and carrots, sautéed mushrooms, spicy (if slightly oversalted) greens, crunchy fried chickpeas, thankfully lighter-than-usual peanut sauce and, yes, more. It was also more than any average human could eat in one sitting, for $9.50.
Hungry construction workers of South Lake Union, Community Table is the lunch for you. Those of us who just sit at a desk all day will be very happy with our leftovers.
Where to sit: Seek out the two corners with the cushy banquettes in the gleaming, futuristic cafeteria-style space, or head outside to the breezy deck.
Say hello! I cannot overemphasize how nice everyone working at Community Table I talked to was. Say hi, ask about their weekend or the salad dressings (all made in house, someone told me with total pride, taking out a cheat sheet to tell me what was in one — “I haven’t had time to learn them all yet!”). Say thank you.
And thanks, sincerely, to Jeff Bezos, too. You’ve done a truly beautiful thing.