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Friday, December 7, 2001 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Neighborhood Deals

Pick a side: Ale House & Cafe draws the line

Special to The Seattle Times

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Most bars that welcome families with kids during meal hours (think the McMenamins chain or the Madrona Eatery & Ale House) do so in one room. This can put a damper on the smoky bar atmosphere, but when the fusion works you get an inviting room with good beer and frequently good food as well.

Wedgwood Ale House & Cafe takes a different tack. The Ale House and the Cafe are separate rooms with separate entrances. The former allows smoking and is 21-and-over; the latter is smoke-free and all-ages. Both serve the same menu (including drinks) from the same kitchen and bar; the cafe adds a small kids' menu with items such as buttery pasta with Parmesan.

In the warm, convivial atmosphere of the Ale House, you can take a seat at the horseshoe-shaped bar and order a burger ($6.50-$7.50) and one of more than a dozen ales, lagers and ciders on tap. It's the kind of beer selection that makes me proud to live in the Northwest.

The same food and drink is available in the cafe, but the atmosphere is not: It's a quiet, spartan room with a few tables and booths rather than a place to kick back and get comfortable. Since the barroom is simply a large rectangle, it would be hard to have designated smoking and nonsmoking sections, so the effort to accommodate nonsmokers is admirable, but I felt like a second-class citizen in the cafe. However, whether by intent or through some cosmic balancing principle, service is slow in the bar but snappy in the cafe.

Wedgwood Ale House & Cafe

8515 35th Ave N.E., Seattle, 206-527-2676.

American

$$

Recommended

Hours: 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Mondays-Fridays, 8 a.m.-1 a.m. Saturdays-Sundays.

Beer and wine / major credit cards / no obstacles to access.

The menu doesn't stray far from classic bar grub. There's a Philly cheesesteak ($8.95) and half a dozen burgers, including chicken, buffalo and two meatless versions. The beef patties are seasoned with Worcestershire, garlic, onion and sage. I'm of two minds on this practice: All of the seasonings are tasty, but while eating I was thinking to myself, "This tastes so familiar... what else combines ground beef, onion, garlic and spices?" Meatloaf, of course. (Burger purists may request an unseasoned patty.)

Probably the last thing you're imagining while reading this is going out for a turkey sandwich, but if your fridge and gut aren't still bulging with leftovers, the Wedgwood's juicy house-roasted turkey has much to recommend it. In addition to the cold version (see Check Please), it's available hot with Swiss cheese on a baguette ($7.75).

I'd go back and linger in the Wedgwood Ale House anytime. The cafe, on the other hand, needs rethinking: Sinking some time and money into fixing up the décor would go a long way, and the walk to the cafe's side entrance could use some extra planting to make it more inviting. It would be great if the average beer-drinking nonsmoker (that's me) could approach the Wedgwood Ale House & Cafe and face a really tough decision over which one to hang out in tonight.

French onion soup: The layer of cheese could have been a bit more broiled, but I'm a sucker for even an average French onion soup, and this one had a rich broth and plenty of nicely cooked onions.

Cold turkey sandwich with soup of the day: Just when you thought you didn't need another turkey sandwich, this one turns out to be a standout, with juicy slices of turkey (roasted on-site) on brown wheat bread. Today's soup was a marvelous potato-ham — perfect cold-weather food with big chunks of ham.

Chicken fettucine: This American-style kitchen-sink pasta concoction started out on the right track with al dente fettucine and flavorful strips of grilled chicken, but the vegetables (including broccoli and peppers) were undercooked and the cream sauce a bit too rich. Neither of these problems would be hard to fix.

Itemized bill, meal for two:

Copper Canyon Porter: $3.75

Wyder's Pear Cider: $3.00

French onion soup: $3.50

Chicken Fettucine: $9.95

Cold turkey sandwich with soup of the day: $5.75

Tax: $2.41

Total: $28.36

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