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Friday, April 28, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Dining Deals

The last best place for a taste of old-school Seattle

Special to The Seattle Times

Andy's Diner

2963 Fourth Ave. S., Seattle; 206-624-4097

American

$$

Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, 8 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturdays, closed Sundays.

Full bar / credit cards: AE, Disc, MC, V / obstacles to access (all entrances have stairs).

Rating: recommended.

The regulars belly up to the Club Car bar at Andy's Diner on a wet Saturday afternoon, including a lady who has come out of the rain wearing a plastic hair bonnet. NASCAR is on the tube, but the conversation is about canning. The lady with the bonnet is none too pleased that mayonnaise jars have gone from glass to plastic.

Is nothing sacred? Well, actually, Andy's Diner is.

A South Seattle institution since 1949, Andy's is not the local haunt that adopted the phrase "Where friends meet friends," but since The Dog House is long gone, this is your best bet to experience a taste of old Seattle.

Andy's, which stretches across a series of conjoined railcars, is more about atmosphere than food, although the down-home grub — especially the house-special charbroiled steaks — offers good sizzle for the buck.

Best known as a lunch spot, Andy's opens early only on Saturday, although the waitress will toss you a breakfast menu whenever the fancy strikes (you, or her). The lunch menu features sandwiches (cold or hot), burgers, salads, soups and entrees that top out at $9.95. Dinner is pricier, but at $16.95 for a 12-ounce prime rib or $18.95 for a 10-ounce filet, who's complaining?

Andy's draws a mix of laborers from the Georgetown industrial area and members of the Seattle Police Officers Guild that has offices next door. Too-cool-for-Denny's hipsters also dig the scene.

The restaurant does not charge a fee for private parties that rent the banquet rooms. That's what I call old-school Seattle.

After your meal, tour the joint. Check out the Presidential Car once used by Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Head toward the back and peek into the groovy banquet cars. Admire the bowling trophies. Try to place the year of the Sylvania walnut-cabinet console TV. Marvel at the collection of railroad ephemera on the walls. Play some pull tabs. Get lost trying to find the bathroom.

And on your way out, grab a nifty postcard from the host stand. They're free.

Check please:

French dip: You want basic? You got basic. Served with au jus or barbecue sauce, the prime rib (left over from the night before, which is not a bad thing) is sliced thin and tender, the French roll is soft. Comes with a Romaine-and-iceberg mixed salad, although I was hoping for all iceberg for nostalgic effect.

Steak and eggs: The 6-ounce top sirloin (also sold as a "luncheon steak" entree) bears the stripes of a charcoal broiler and, I'm happy to report, the smoky goodness, too. Mmm, hash browns!

Cherry pie: Served with two forks — and a serious roll of the eyes from the waitress, who had to run back into the kitchen to check before she could tell us the fruit-pie selections of the day. Hey, no problem. We came for the crust.

Itemized bill, meal for two

French dip $8.95

Steak and eggs $8.95

Cherry pie $3.50

Two coffees $3.00

Tax $2.25

Total $26.65

Stuart Eskenazi: 206-464-2293 or seskenazi@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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