Sloppy standards mar Sound View
Special to The Seattle Times
Directly west of the fish-flingers is this Pike Place Market standby, a breakfast and lunch cafe tucked so snugly into the bowels of the Market even longtime Seattleites might have overlooked it. The place does some overlooking of its own, as its name suggests. Out the windows of the narrow space unfurls the broad blue spectacle of Elliott Bay, with the Olympics standing watch above. Perhaps they are asking, "Why isn't the Sound View Cafe better?"
After all, the place has been here for 30-some years, the past 12 under constant ownership, and it just reopened after a thorough makeover (new facelift, new kitchen staff, new menu) with dinner service to debut in a matter of weeks. The setting, considering the Market surroundings and that view, couldn't be more authentically Seattle. Simple breakfasts and lunches are not so hard to get right. And the prices (almost everything well under $10) keep expectations in reasonable altitudes.
No, the problem seems to be that the kitchen's standards are lax. Fruit garnishes are mushy, toast arrives with no butter. ("Oh, you wanted butter with that?" asks the server, as if you had requested anchovies for your cheeseburger.) Details are consistently overlooked. It's not that the food — a lineup of soups, salads, sandwiches and breakfast items — is bad, not at all. It's just not so good as to demand a visit.
And that's a problem, for unless the Sound View Cafe happens to be in your orbit, a visit takes some doing. "No obstacles to access" may be technically true — a series of ramps and elevators makes even the lowest recesses of Pike Place Market wheelchair accessible — but nothing about getting to the Sound View is easy. Parking near the Market in summer requires feats of prestidigitation. Navigating through the gawking hordes is like dog-paddling through molasses. Once you're there, you wait (in vain) for a greeting at the door, then wait to seat yourself at a table, then wait in line to order your food.
Service (once you experience it) is friendly and efficient, and what they bring you may well be worth the low prices they're asking. For this critic, it just wasn't worth the effort.
Huevos rancheros: Pretty lackluster meatless chili and Spanish rice came wrapped in a flour tortilla and topped with enchilada sauce, cheddar cheese, sour cream, avocados, salsa and two eggs. This earned a solid shrug and a "kinda dry" from the huevos rancheros expert at the table ... not a sterling endorsement. The home fries with it were thick wedges of potato, sautéed up with a slew of paprika.
Sound hotcakes: They were too cakey. But for $3.95, you still might be pleasantly surprised to receive several large buttermilk cakes, topped with a festive pouf of whipped cream and strawberries.
Veggie burger: This was the winner of the bunch. Atop the standard veggie patty came a tower of fresh vegetables — sliced cukes, tomato, onion and lettuce — along with mashed avocado and cream cheese. The addition of the latter two made for pretty rich eating, but it was certainly enjoyable, if hard to stretch your mouth around.
Latte: Creamy, smooth, just fine — even if it is some no-name brand.
Molasses cookie: There's a fine display of foofy desserts on hand here, many of which are made elsewhere. The cookies are done on premises. The molasses cookie was crunchy on the edges, mushy in the middle and nicely flavored. Not bad.
Itemized bill, meal for two
Huevos rancheros $6.95
Sound hotcakes $3.95
Veggie burger $4.95
Latte (mug size )$1.95
Molasses cookie $1.45
Kathryn Robinson: KathAnRob@aol.com
Copyright © 2003 The Seattle Times Company