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Friday, April 5, 2002 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Neighborhood Deals

Diner serves up 'Happy Days' look that kids will like

Special to The Seattle Times

Diner


72 S. Washington St., Seattle, 206-340-8859

American

$$

Hours: breakfast 6:30 a.m.-11 a.m. Mondays-Fridays, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturdays; lunch 11 a.m.-7:30 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, 10 a.m.-7:30 p.m. Saturdays.

Beer and wine / credit cards / smoking permitted in bar / obstacles to access: three steps at front door

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Early dismissal: two words working moms sometimes dread. Thinking I could turn it into our own personal "Take Your Daughter To Work Day," I said to my kindergartner, "Let's go out to lunch."

"Again?" she complained, jaded at the age of 6. "We'll bring a friend," I coaxed, "and we'll ride the trolley after." It was the right combination of bribes, and soon we were headed downtown to the waterfront.

Luckily our destination du jour turns out to be a great place for kids. "We welcome children," reads the sandwich board on the sidewalk in front of Diner, which opened in October near Pioneer Square. We slide into a red vinyl booth parked next to a vintage Wurlitzer jukebox and, before we even have our coats off, the waiter plunks a box of 64 Crayolas and a whole tablet of blank newsprint on a shiny table already crowded with menus, condiment bottles, salt, pepper, sugar, nondairy creamers and a napkin dispenser.

Most of the lunch menu reads like a kid thought it up. Sandwiches predominate, and it's an all-American lineup between the bread: burgers, PB&J, grilled cheese, chicken in various guises, a BLT, a French dip, a Reuben and a club, as well as several variations on the Philly cheese steak.

Breakfast entices the commuter crowd with scrambles, omelets, oatmeal and flapjacks. From 4-7 p.m., a traditional Happy Hour, with deals on beer, wine and food, follows the Soda Fountain Happy Hour from 3-5 p.m., when a two-scoop banana split is $2.50 and you save a quarter on sodas and shakes.

Diner has the '50s look nailed, right down to the checkerboard floor; Richie, Potsie and Ralph of "Happy Days" would feel right at home. But it's not a perfect slice of American pie. Our shakes were thin, the burgers distinguishable from fast food only by their thickness, and we carried home the lingering scent of cigarette smoke on our coats (smoking is permitted in the small bar adjacent to the soda fountain).

None of this mattered to the kids. Before we left to catch the trolley, the waiter critiqued their masterpieces like a seasoned preschool teacher, then taped them up on a wall already plastered with crayoned ferryboats and rainbows. Will we be back? I'm afraid so.

Check please

Cup of soup of the day: Potatoes, bacon and cheddar ought to yield something with more body and flavor than this desultory liquid, stringy with cheese and floating strips of soggy bacon. If this is homemade, they'd do better to open a can.

Texas chicken sandwich: Avocado and cheddar top this well-grilled chicken breast served on a hamburger bun with a side of mild tomato salsa and broad, golden steak fries.

Hot turkey sandwich: Either someone forgot to assemble it or this sorry attempt at an American classic is meant to be open-faced. Either way, a slice of deli meat, brown and stiff from the grill, on top of four triangles of toasted white bread just doesn't cut it. The mashed potatoes taste like the box was boiled with them, and the goop billed as gravy has little flavor beyond salt.

House salad: A plentiful portion of crisp, cold iceberg lettuce, cucumbers and tomato, minus the promised croutons, but served with a generous bowl of dressing on the side.

Chocolate shake: You get the shaker with the dregs, but this lumpy glass of milk can't even support a straw.

Itemized bill, meal for two:

Cup of soup of the day: $1.75

Texas chicken sandwich: $6.75

Hot turkey sandwich: $6.25

House salad: $3.50

1 chocolate shake: $2.75

1 pop: $1.50

Tax : $2.09

Total: $24.59

Providence Cicero: providencecicero@aol.com.

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