From late-night excursions to celebrity sightings to Joe's Special, readers share some of their fond memories of 13 Coins, which will close its longtime South Lake Union spot on New Year's Day.

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To mourn the end of a 13 Coins era in South Lake Union, we asked readers to share their favorite (or not-so-good) memories at the 24/7 dining establishment. We received nearly 100 responses. Here are some of them.


“My sister, Barbara Bard and her husband owned a business in the Boren Avenue area and would frequently eat at the restaurant. They especially enjoyed the ‘New York’ cheesecake that was made on the premises. One year, for her birthday, the chef gave her the recipe for the cheesecake and she served it for many years before she died. What a thoughtful gesture!”

— Patricia Keim

“My first job in Seattle was in 1967 at the Roosevelt Hotel. I worked nights in the Cocktail Lounge, whenever a customer asked where to eat after 2:00 a.m., closing time, I would send them to the 13 Coins. That was also where many bar people hung out, that they were open all night. Nothing better than seeing old friends and having a bowl of their French Onion Soup. We joked it was almost like Las Vegas going to the 13 Coins. Once in a while you might even see a TV star.”

— Rosemary Zahnow

“I worked in the Seattle Times classified division while I attended the University of Washington in the late 1970s. We were paid every Friday. After work, as soon as we deposited our checks, we would race to the Coins, sit in the back cocktail lounge, order cheeseburgers, and drink Harvey Wallbangers. The original Seattle Times building is gone, and so will be the 13 Coins. But I have my memories.”

— Patricia (Trish) Saunders

“I remember taking my wife there for one of our first jaunts to Seattle as a couple some 10 years ago. I had the Chicken Parmesan with the white cream sauce — this is the only restaurant that does it this way that I’ve found. And the high back booths gave this level of privacy that I’ve never encountered anywhere else. I’ve loved 13 Coins since I was a kid — little feet dangling down. Best of luck to the new location.”

— Steven Friederich

“Coming home from eastern Washington late one night, I drove directly to 13 Coins. A cardboard sign taped to the front door said, ‘Sorry, closed. Installing new furnace.’ Rats. On my next list, a year or so later, I arrived at dawn to the same front door and a new cardboard sign: ‘Closed for new carpeting.’ To complete the trifecta of semi-closures, I remember looking out the window from my booth on a chilly January morning to see a small forest of picket signs held by striking Seattle Times staffers … The next morning, I read the entire six-page newspaper within three sips of coffee.”

— Mark Cutshall

“13 Coins is an important and memorable place for me for one very important date in my life. This was a breakfast date with my (soon-to-be ex-) stepdad and my sister. My sister and I were 14 and 16 years old and we had just been shocked to be informed the week before that our mom and stepdad, Jon, would be getting divorced. Jon made a point to take us to a place we knew well and felt comfortable in, somewhere we had gone many times over the years, where we enjoyed watching our omelettes being made behind the counter and the high-backed chairs and cozy booths, all so fun for a child.

It is still so vivid. I remember very specifically that he said he still wanted to be a part of our lives even after we moved out. I was more than a little skeptical, and wondered if it was true, thinking likely that his caring for us would fade after he and our mom divorced.

Little did we know, he would call to make plans for us to come over for dinner every week on Wednesdays all through the remaining years of high school, he would come to high school volleyball and lacrosse games, he would send newspaper articles we might like, and he’d pay for not a small part of our college tuition. Over the past decades, he has come to graduations, weddings and holidays, not as an ex-stepfather, but as a parent.

We continue to have a large and non-traditional family unit that gets together regularly, who cares, listens, loves, laughs and cries together. He checks in regularly and he has been there for me as much as any parent. I think back to that breakfast date at 13 Coins 28 years ago, and I smile, knowing he was for real when he said he wanted to still be there for my sister and me, and he has shown up unconditionally for us since then, and we for him. Thank you, 13 Coins, for being such a special place in my memories of a tumultuous time of change during my parents’ divorce and being a turning point in truly believing that someone can love you like family, even if they aren’t your biological parent. Family is created through intentional and sustained love, day in and day out.”

— Elizabeth Dunn

“The Coins was one of our ‘go to’ restaurants in the early 70’s when I worked at the old Windjammer on Shilshole, to satisfy those 2 a.m. hunger pangs after closing up. There weren’t many options at that hour; Beth’s Cafe on Aurora was always good for potatoes and eggs (at $1.10), but the 13 Coins put out a decent eggs Benedict or Joe’s Special when we wanted to splurge on something a little higher end. Greatly appreciated by those of us in the late night food service sector.”

— Peter Balch

“When 13 Coins first opened, it had no sign. I drove around for a while without finding it, so I parked elsewhere and hailed a cab. I’ve been a patron ever since. I still have the 20th-anniversary medallion on my key ring. One memory: For the Lake Union fireworks, a bunch of staff and patrons would climb a ladder from the staff break-room and watch from the roof. Best view ever.”

— Fred Kline

“I go there every single time I’m in Seattle. Just for the creme brulee. Once I had a 3-hour layover at SeaTac. I rented a space for them to keep my luggage, then called a cab to go across the street to get my most favorite creme brulee. My husband thought it was crazy and a waste of money. Actually, it was worth every penny, and I’d do it again.”

— Andrea Magill

“After the trick-or-treaters petered out at my Mount Baker house in 1975, my friend Ross and I visited 13 Coins for some drinks. The bar was full of folks in costumes. My favorite was the guy inside a homemade Juke Box. He tossed the bartender an extension cord that provided flashing lights and power for his record player. He took requests from the box of 45’s. That was the best of many lunches, dinners, and happy hours at 13 Coins.”

— Bob Blunk

“Never forgot sitting next to Wilt Chamberlain at the counter as he downed frog legs. I said ‘ugh’ to him, he laughed and offered me one. … Now at the age of 73, I have only good memories of the 13 Coins.”

— Kathleen Nesse

“My now-wife, then-girlfriend was craving eggs Benedict at 7 p.m. on a Thursday, and Denny’s wasn’t going to cut it. After a quick Google search, we found the Coins and off we went to start our love affair with this location. We have since returned for our engagement celebration dinner, first dinner out after our first kiddo was born, and countless late-night end-of-shift hash browns and beer. SLU will miss you guys!”

— Jon Guncay

“For my entire life, my father (Robert, or ‘Bob’) has been a waiter at the 13 Coins. I remember eating tiny baby pickled corns and salami, barely fitting on the big swivel chairs at the counter, or feeling so small in the comfortable confines of leather booths. I remember going to the labor hall in Belltown as my dad fought for his worker’s rights. I even remember learning that the building next door was the Seattle Times! I thought that was really great, that my dad worked next to the newspaper we received at our home. … On 4th of July, we would meet my dad and watch the fireworks on the roof of the nearby opera hall. Once, on a late night out, my brother in law and my wife split chicken fried steak and buttery steamer clams. I will really miss the 13 Coins and the historical significance it has. The 13 Coins made it possible for me to go to community college, live in Seattle in a nice home, and have leftover Chicken Parmigiana in the fridge. Good bye, old location of 13 Coins! We will really, really miss you.”

— Alexander Guettler

“In the late 60’s while working graveyard stocking groceries at the Queen Anne Thriftway, every so often our night crew would break away for an early a.m. ‘lunch’ at the Coins. Joe’s Special was the favorite, and the restaurant was always something to look forward to.”

— Terry Halverson

“When I came to Seattle as a UW freshman in 1968 my older brother invited me to have lunch in a restaurant he clearly wanted to showcase, The 13 Coins. I had never really seen anything like it. Somehow, it seemed to fit right into my idea of what modern Seattle felt like; architecture of the Space Needle/ Science Pavilion blending with the Seattle Center Fun Forest. In the mid-1970’s when I worked at the Coins as a pantry chef, my attitude as a 20 something showed through in my description of the workplace: Seattle’s premier second-tier restaurant. They worked you hard and they worked you fast. They also taught me a great deal about making such varied items as Caesar salad, Hollandaise sauce and cheesecake. In the early 1990’s, after not having been to the restaurant in years, I was able to create my best Coins memory. Early in the morning of January the first I drove to the Sea-Tac restaurant, ordered eggs Benedict for breakfast and walked across the street and met my friend Ted for a charter flight to Pasadena. We had tickets to the Rose Bowl and watched the Huskies win the National Championship under a blue sky. As Mr. Murray said in one of his films: ‘now THAT was a pretty good day.'”

— William Waight

“I discovered the 13 Coins on a climbing trip in 2006 and went back every time I was in Seattle. Miss the London Broil special. Best memory was asking my wife to marry me in the big center booth that faced the kitchen. She claimed that she was too nervous to eat after the big question, but in hindsight the plate of mustard chicken was practically licked clean and both relish trays were empty. Thanks for the great memories, looking forward to visiting the new location on our next trip.”

— Ryan Wuslich

“Holy Names Academy’s (really) best class ever has been gathering there with some of our teachers for informal reunions. We’ll be in SODO in January.”

— Mimi Krsak

“My wife and I frequented the downtown 13 Coins many times in the 1980’s as my wife’s business office was located in the same building (known then as the Mart Building). We both have many fond memories of sitting at the broiler bar watching the cooking and especially the flames, yes the frying pan flames were the highlight of every meal. Later on in the early 90’s I was traveling in and out of SeaTac weekly so we changed our favorite dinner venue to the SeaTac 13 Coins…there, one late evening, sitting at the broiler bar (naturally) I happened to mention to the chef that the flames at the downtown 13 Coins were always much higher and brighter, to which he said ‘flames, you want flames, I’ll show you flames,’ at which he proceeded to put on a ‘SPECTACULAR’ show of frying pan flames that left the entire restaurant in awe…one more reason why 13 Coins will always be our favorite place to eat. We can’t wait to visit the new restaurant on King Street. Thanks for the great story and write up on the history of the chain in Seattle.”

— Vince Ward

“Ironic…I’m reading this story about the amazing 13 Coins restaurant closing on the 45th anniversary of meeting my beautiful wife at the 1972 Army-Navy game. This will be the first game I’ll not have her with me since that time; she passed after a short, tough fight with cancer in April this year. That said, I have wonderful, warm, very special memories of multiple birthdays, anniversaries, and simply “date nights” at 13 Coins. It was unquestionably our favorite place in the world to eat (having spent 30 years in our great Army with multiple assignments overseas ranging from Germany to Korea…we lived lots of places and ate lots of great food!). I’m a Seattle native, she was from Philadelphia; we came back to live on Whidbey Island after taking off the uniform, and 13 Coins was simply ‘our place’ in the city. She loved it…and I did too. Whether a booth or the bar…the food, the service, the atmosphere (Joe’s Special ALWAYS found its way to our table)…just ‘being there’ was fun, relaxing and memorable. Thank you to all at 13 Coins for giving us those memories!”

— Greg Stone

“13 Coins was a favorite after-hours haunt for inebriated rockers following the pre-grunge scene at clubs like Astor Park. (Anyone remember The Heats or The Cowboys?) The butterballs from the complimentary anti pasti would get thrown and stuck to the top of the mirrored wall, in order to watch them ooze downward, leaving slug trails for the next hour or so. Later in life, my kid and I would delight in being able to order steak and eggs alongside Fettuccine Alfredo any time of day.”

— Jon Alberts

“I was a waiter at the Coins from 1982-1990. I’m retired now. In my life I did many different jobs. Teaching, running a book store, fundraising for a number of non-profits. I think being a waiter at the Coins may have been my favorite. We were each well-trained by one of the experienced waiters when we started out. We learned the common style. We were all good at what we did, helped each other out, saw that our customers were well served, and left to their privacy. We understood who was in a hurry, and who wasn’t, and how to work with the timing of both. We knew the menus, we knew the drinks. When I started, I worked all the shifts, and ended up on the day shift. I think maybe the graveyard shift brought in the most interesting people, but I’m not a night worker. On all shifts, interesting people from all walks of life, all ages. The Coins was a wonderful, friendly, lively machine. I loved my time working there.”

— Cal Kinnear

“My Dad took me there at 9 p.m. on the eve of my 21st birthday in 2001. He convinced the waiter that it was just fine to bring me a Long Island Iced Tea a few hours before I was legitimately 21. I was so pleased to be initiated into legal drinking age at such a classy establishment. We ate fettuccini Alfredo and I learned what a sous chef is by watching the employees work from the bar.”

— Andrea Crossman

“I was a cook at 13 Coins downtown for about 5 years in the late 70’s / early 80’s. I worked day, night and graveyard shifts along the way. The most entertaining stories came from the graveyard shift for sure. We always had a major rush after 2:00 a.m. when the bars closed and you never knew what was going to happen or who you were going to meet at the chef’s counter. I remember the late owner Elaine Ward waltzing behind the cooks line during dinner one night after a couple martinis I am guessing with a fur coat and high heels. I met many great people that worked there including my first wife as a matter of fact! Great memories, great people, great era. Sad to see it go, it was iconic!”

— Dexter Wellington

“The 13 Coins restaurant chain has been intimately a part of our family since they opened in 1967. My dad, Joey Ing, designed the one next to the Times building and the one in SeaTac. Someone else did the Bellevue one which is a bit more recent but borrowed from my dad’s original designs. I was only a few months old when the original off Boren first opened up. My dad was 30 years old when the owner, Jim Ward, hired him to come up with something new and sleek. My dad said that Mr. Ward wanted to take a gamble to see what this young architect could do. My dad likes to recount the stories of how he came up with the designs for the restaurant and some of those ideas were met with high resistance by Mr. Ward as being unconventional at the time but agreed in the end and those designs subsequently became iconic in many patrons’ memories from the custom high-backed chairs and booths to having the kitchen in the front for patrons to watch instead of hidden in the back to the beaded tall metallic lampshades over each dining table. My dad had then gone on to focus on designing all of the Anthony Homeport restaurants over the next 40 years which also has had an impact on our family as well with the owner, Budd Gould, being a close family friend.”

— Jeff Ing

“A friend and I went to the Coin after every show we saw at the 5th Avenue (season tix) for 15 years. (Mind you, this was back when we still had two daily papers in town.) The Jimillini is still the best drink in the place and though it hasn’t been advertised in at least a decade, you can still get one. After a dinner that started with F.O. before the prime rib (rare as it comes, please) and broccoli, it’s the perfect night cap. The best part, though, had to be the staff (all long gone) who knew us on sight, had our drinks of choice waiting, and treated us like royalty. One by one they moved on, and they were each missed when they were gone. With the Boren store closed, I fear the only time I will go is when I’m taking people to the airport. (Pioneer Square just isn’t my scene.) Times change, but what’s becoming of this city is sad and painful to watch.”

— Robert St.Thomas

Note: Comments may have been edited for clarity.