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Friday, May 31, 2002 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Neighborhood Deals

Rose Club presents a bouquet of creative tastes in cozy setting

Special to The Seattle Times

Rose Club Cafe


***

SE CORNER OF 34TH AVE S AND MCCLELLAN

3601 S. McClellan St., Seattle, 206-725-3654

American

$$

(R)

Hours: 6:30 a.m.-3 p.m., 5:30-9 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays; 6:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesdays; 6:30 a.m.-3 p.m., 5:30-9:30 p.m. Fridays; 7:30 a.m.-3 p.m., 5:30-9:30 p.m. Saturdays; 7:30 a.m.-3 p.m., 5:30-9 p.m. Sundays.

No obstacles to access / Visa, MasterCard / beer and wine.

Like a lot of restaurants, the Rose Club Cafe displays and sells the work of local artists. On the night I ate there, it was under the gaze of Heidi Barack's childlike paintings of googly-eyed animals, and I felt a bit like Max in "Where the Wild Things Are."

Unlike Max, however, I wasn't sent to bed without my supper. It was Monday, ladies night, and our waiter explained that in honor of the ladies (the egalitarian spirit is courtesy of the Rose Club's owners, both women), all customers were entitled to two-for-one pizzas and half-price bottles of wine. I turned thirstily to the wine list, a brief but considered selection. The house white ($23 when not half-off) is a chardonnay, sure, but it's Tranchand's 2000 Macon-Villages, a white Burgundy, drier and less oaky than most California chardonnays.

The restaurant is housed on the ground floor of an imposing classic brick apartment building and fills out its space with panache. In addition to the art-adorned walls, the cafe sports booths with solid hardwood benches. The simple décor borders on the drab, but every table has at least an oblique view of adjacent Mount Baker Park.

So the Rose Club is a nice-looking place with cheap wine, which would be thoroughly irrelevant if the food didn't measure up. Luckily, it does.

Those thin-crust pizzas, crackling with flavor, include purple potato and roasted garlic spread ($10.95), pepperoni ($10.95) and two daily specials, one vegetable and one meat. The meat special might be sausage, bacon and spinach ($11.95), a combination that will make you wonder why everyone doesn't put bacon on pizza.

Entrees are turned out from the New American mold. There are a couple of pastas with an international flair and a shiitake risotto with gorgonzola and sour cherries ($13.95). Thai-spiced crab cakes ($16.95) with gumbo and braised greens are also available as a vegetarian entree without the crab cakes ($9.95). Desserts rotate; if our crème brûlée was any indication, skipping dessert would be foolish.

Dinner is not the only draw at the Rose Club. Come in the morning and you could sip a cup of coffee and read the paper, or enjoy a frittata such as the sausage, red pepper and oregano ($8.95), or French toast on house-made challah ($6.25).

The restaurant has become known for having only one waiter on duty, but it's a cozy place, not for those in a hurry, and the service is more prompt than you might expect. Our waiter was friendly and ready to discuss specifics of the food.

The laid-back Rose Club Cafe may not be where the wild things are, but as a neighborhood hangout with good food, it's wildly successful.

Check Please:

Caramelized onion and goat cheese pizza: A crackling-thin crust is topped with coarsely diced sweet onions and creamy knobs of goat cheese. With no tomato sauce or mozzarella, this makes a light and tasty appetizer for two.

Soba noodles with griddled vegetables and Thai peanut sauce: The first thing you notice about this bowl of noodles is the tropical aroma produced by the last-minute sprinkle of toasted coconut. The usual problem with peanut sauce is that the first bite is exciting, and every subsequent bite is dull. This one neatly sidestepped that pitfall, delivering a complex sauce and nicely cooked red peppers, daikon and noodles.

Cracked black pepper fettuccini with roasted beets, arugula, chèvre: I didn't detect much black pepper in this otherwise likable plate of pinkish pasta. The beets had the proper "fertile soil" flavor, and the goat cheese made the dish creamy but not too heavy.

Green tea crème brûlée: Not long ago, one of Seattle's scenester restaurants served me the worst crème brûlée of my life. The Rose Club, I'm glad to say, serves one of the best. The subtle green-tea flavor isn't allowed to get in the way of a brilliant custard with a crusty top.

Itemized bill, meal for two

Caramelized onion and goat cheese pizza: $11.95

Soba noodles with griddled vegetables and Thai peanut sauce: $10.95

Cracked black pepper fettuccini with roasted beets, arugula, chèvre: $12.95

Green tea crème brûlée: $5.25

Tax: $3.82

Total: $44.92

Matthew Amster-Burton: mamster@mamster.net.

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