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Friday, July 1, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Dining Deals

Bakery feeds cravings for made-from-scratch goodies

Special to The Seattle Times

Specialty's Cafe & Bakery


126 Bellevue Square, Bellevue; 877-502-2837 (no numbers for individual stores).

Sandwiches, soups, salads

$

Web site: www.specialtys.com

Hours: 9:30 a.m.- 9:30 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays, 11 a.m.- 7 p.m. Sundays.

No alcohol / credit cards: MC, V / no smoking / no obstacles to access.

Rating: recommended.

Anyone looking for a fresh-baked cookie, honest and delectable, would probably not think to aim first for Center Court at Bellevue Square. The strange thing is — they should.

Specialty's Cafe & Bakery was launched in San Francisco in the late '80s by a couple who wanted to create a traditional, everything-made-from-scratch bakery and cafe based on unique home-baked breads, fresh vegetables and fruits, and lots of healthful grains. (This was edgy thinking in the '80s.) Specialty's was born — a hit from the day it opened; its oddly generic name entirely at odds with its unusually satisfying fare.

The business spread to eight addresses in San Francisco, each a stand-alone made-from-scratch bakery, ultimately spreading to Chicago and Seattle (one downtown at Union Station, another at Third and Spring) besides. The Bellevue store, occupying the primo corner late held by La Batelle, opened in April.

The menu is built on long lists each of sandwiches and salads, both available either in established menu-item form — chicken pesto sandwich ($5.65) with roasted roma tomatoes and spinach; roasted veggie sandwich ($4.95) on toasted focaccia with red-pepper pesto and balsamic vinaigrette; Greek Cobb salad ($6.50 as an entree/$4.75 as a side) featuring spinach, Kalamata olives and oven-roasted chicken; chicken Caesar ($6.50/$4.75) — or compose-your-own creations. (Like a salad bar, only without the sneeze guard.)

Prices are terrific by any measure — and doubly so within this bastion of Eastside affluence. A regiment of uncommonly affable servers buzz about behind the counter — some tossing the made-to-order salads, others hauling fresh cookies out of the oven or bringing orders to the tables strewn around Center Court.

Specialty's is a well-oiled machine, with a line for the folks wanting real lunch alongside a quickie line for folks just hankering for coffee and a pastry.

And hanker you will, after one bite of a plump semi-sweet chocolate-chunk cookie, fresh from the oven. I believe I'm hankering now.

Check please:

The Cobb sandwich: You can tell when a place has its heart in a sandwich: when its ingredients are scrupulously fresh and are put together with intelligence and intention. This one features slices of flavorful roasted turkey along with bacon, mayo, crumbled blue cheese, avocado and "the basics" (which here are leaf lettuce, tomato, dill pickle, red onion, black pepper and Italian dressing). It's all piled between two slices of the softest imaginable potato poppy-seed bread, fresh from the oven. The single best use of $5.65 in Bellevue Square.

The Italian sandwich: Ditto the raves above, only for a hot sandwich, fat and perky, starring salami, bologna, mortadella, mayo, good mustard, Swiss, Provolone, peppers and "the basics," all on toasted focaccia. Nice and feisty.

Oatmeal wheat-germ bran chocolate-chip cookie: I know, I laughed, too. But this was a terrific cookie: fat and fresh and flavorful, served well by its healthful ingredients and served warm in the bargain. (I've since been back for the oatmeal and the chocolate-chip cookies ... with nary a disappointment to date.)

Itemized bill, meal for two

The Cobb sandwich $5.65

The Italian sandwich $5.65

Oatmeal wheat-germ bran chocolate-chip cookie $1.60

Tax $1.13

Total $14.03

Kathryn Robinson: kathrynrobinson@speakeasy.net

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company

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