If you’re a newcomer to town, you need to hit this old-school favorite — and if you’ve been around, don’t forget to show your love. Welcome to the first in a series celebrating Seattle’s classic restaurants.
Shiny new restaurants are opening in Seattle at an unprecedented rate, but we tend to only pay attention to our classic greats when it’s too late (hello and goodbye, Bakeman’s). Well-priced, locally owned, community-centered and timelessly tasty is what we’re after in this series, and Voula’s Offshore Cafe is an excellent place to start.
Voula’s Offshore Cafe: 658 N.E. Northlake Way, Seattle; 206-634-0183, voulasoffshore.com; Monday-Friday 6 a.m.-3 p.m., Saturday-Sunday 8 a.m.-2 p.m.
THE FOOD NETWORK’S Guy Fieri loves it; so does Dale Chihuly, whose glassblowing studio is just a stone’s throw away. Tucked among the boatyards of north Lake Union, Voula’s Offshore Cafe has been making delicious diner classics for more than three decades — omelets and Benedicts, burgers and French dips, endless (and bottomless) cups of coffee. A regular old club sandwich here is a total beauty, its huge quarters barely held together by toothpicks; the Greek Hobo scramble threatens to overtake its platter, rife with Greek sausage (aka gyro beef), mushrooms, onions and hash browns, carpeted with tangy feta cheese. A hand-dipped chocolate shake comes with more rich, velvety, teeth-hurtingly cold goodness in a tin cup, because Voula’s does things right. (Their excellent hot sauce, made with Japanese chili peppers, is so popular that they go through about 10 gallons a week.)
It was just the Offshore Cafe until Voula Vlahos took the place over in 1984, after coming to the United States from Greece; her husband had found work as a tailor at Nordstrom, and she was concerned about paying for college for their sons Nikos and Sikey. Now they run the place, though you’ll certainly still see Voula from time to time. Nikos says they’ve seen a lot of change, with the city growing up around them, but that regulars from the very beginning still come in. They plan to keep the place going — and, crucially, they own the modest one-story building.
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Inside, the jaunty blue-and-white color scheme, tidy curtains and framed photos of customers’ boats lend a shipshape feel, and a seat on a swivel stool at the shiny faux-wood counter gives a view of the magic happening. That copper bowl is used for whisking omelets; the hum of the grill hood soothes frayed nerves. Especially once a big plate of excellent food is in front of you, Voula’s is a place that makes you feel like everything’s all right. It’s breakfast and lunch only, but if you show up before official opening time, you can come on in and pour yourself a cup of coffee.
More on classic Seattle spots: