The high-backed captain’s chairs, the white Russians, the interviews and more.
In honor of the closure of South Lake Union’s 13 Coins on New Year’s Day (after 50 years!) some Seattle Times staffers shared their favorite memories there — the high-backed captain’s chairs, the white Russians, the interviews and more. Share your own with us here.
“Those chairs. Those glorious brown Naugahyde counter chairs are what I loved most about 13 Coins. Turn one to the right, climb on in, spin back toward the counter and watch the show at the grill like Captain Kirk commanding warp speed. Men in white shirts with sweaty brows chucking flaming frying pans of eggs or meat or pasta. Didn’t matter, it was all bathed in butter or oil, slid onto the plate and served oh-so-hot, while you sat tucked into your own little brown vinyl booth-for-one, picking over a battered silver boat of salami, pepperoncinis, olives and pickled veggies, occasionally catching the eye of another counter diner, like you were each having a secret lunch with yourself.”
— Nicole Brodeur, columnist
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“A few of us took Jerry Brewer there for his going-away. He fell asleep over his plate of spaghetti.”
— Rich Boudet, Sunday sports editor
“Nothing about 13 Coins made sense. You could order a $30 double-bucket of clams at 3 a.m. Tourists in white T-shirts sat at those pleather booths next to Amazon executives in another. And while millennials glued to their phones swarmed the neighborhood around the restaurant, most of the 13 Coins clientele seemed to be enjoying retirement. Indeed, I once saw two vans from an assisted-living facility parked outside. A driver told me the residents wanted to do happy hour. It was 3:30 p.m.”
— Paige Cornwell, staff reporter
“Dad was a traveling salesman after leaving the music business. When I was a teen, he’d sometimes take me on his trips — nice to get out of Vancouver, Washington. On visits to Seattle, he once took me to the 13 Coins near Sea-Tac airport and ordered sautéed cow balls for me or something, I don’t remember. When I came to The Seattle Times the first time I worked here in the early 2000s and saw the 13 Coins next door, it was like I was home. Dad died a few years ago. When 13 Coins leaves SLU, I’m pretty sure I’ll be thinking about him.”
— Doreen Marchionni, deputy metro editor
“Japanese ballplayers and exotic dancers hang out at 13 Coins for last call. That’s what I heard. That rumor was repeated enough that my beer buddies and I would carouse at the bar after 1 a.m. out of boredom. I never did see any. What I found was the late-night desperation and the heartbreaks, the just off-the-clock waitresses complaining about people who are too handsy or don’t tip well. Or both. And lots of bags-under-their-eyes insomniacs and drunks who slur their orders. And why, oh why, does the bartender always shake my martini when I requested it stirred?”
— Tan Vinh, staff reporter
“Long before I worked at the Times, my kids were enraptured by 13 Coins. Everything seemed extravagant: the plushness of the booths, the richness of the food, and, most of all, the size of the desserts. The chocolate cake was enormous — doubly so in the eyes of a child. The prices were pretty extravagant too, so we didn’t go often. I never quite figured out who did, besides Seattle Times staffers. It was an intriguing mystery: Who were all these people who had money and wanted to spend it in a place that felt like a 1950s social club? But after joining the Times, I became sort of enraptured too. You didn’t have to be rich to have a drink in the bar. You could sit in semidarkness and trade confidences with colleagues. In keeping with the retro vibe, I started ordering white Russians. The place makes a mean white Russian. I can’t think where we’ll go now.”
— Nina Shapiro, staff reporter
“The prices were outrageous. The food was mediocre. But I could always count on hearing at least one Frank Sinatra tune every time I was there.”
— Sandi Doughton, staff reporter
“I spent most of my 13 Coins time in the bar, with its impressively simplistic construction-paper decorations for each holiday (a doily heart for Valentine’s Day!), too many gin-and-tonics, and the just-absent-enough service. It was a bar — nothing more, nothing less — and therefore all we needed. It will be missed.”
— Paige Collins, features editor
“There are windows in the bar that look out onto the parking lot. I used to like to park my SUV right in front of them with my two very young children in the back seat, and just wave into the bar. Sometimes, their mother would be in there …”
— Mike Carter, staff reporter
“I don’t remember many of my 13 Coins memories. Some things are better left unremembered.”
— Ryan Blethen, staff reporter
“How many times have Seattle Times staffers gathered at 13 Coins? How many job candidates interviewed in those high-backed booths? How many Thirsty Thursdays, post-election nights and staff farewells were held in that dark bar? Rain or shine, night or day, Tuesday or Thursday, the Coins was so damn close, convenient and cozy. We could duck in there in a downpour without an umbrella and be back before our next meeting or final curfew. Coins is only the latest casualty of a South Lake Union explosion that has blown up everything around us, even our old building. As cranes and skyscrapers rise above us, we’re still here, smaller and scrappier but still in need of a place to celebrate, commiserate or just grab lunch. I’m sure we’ll find a new spot, but it won’t be 13 Coins. Let’s make sure we send her off in style.”
— Don Shelton, editor-in-chief