When is a diner not a diner?
When you’re seated in a spacious room that’s clearly a diner, with swivel stools and tabletops flecked with color. Slipping into a cozy bench seat in a booth upholstered in dove gray, you are reminded of your high school days.
Yet it’s not the ’50s and this isn’t a full-on reproduction of the past.
There are no chrome-edged countertops or jukeboxes in the corner. The music is calmer and more modern but doesn’t evoke Americana. The soundtrack ranges from Anita Baker to ZZ Top but you can still hear yourself think.
There’s a subtle European feel in the small touches. The glass shelving with brass fittings and the wall of stylized birds flying away.
It’s hidden away in an unremarkable place. A building along an industrial stretch of Interbay’s busy Elliott Avenue, beside an orthodontist, it’s the last place you’d think to find great food.
It feels a bit disconnected from the city, with a view of trains passing by and grain silos waiting to be unloaded, but this location is a short distance from the downtown and even closer to trails along the waterfront.
If you haven’t guessed already, it’s the Champagne Diner.
Chef Brian Miyamoto makes no bones about it. This is a diner, but he brings new and exciting elements to the traditional greasy-spoon favorites, without messing with these comfort dishes.
“Chef Brian Miyamoto grew up in Hawaii, helping open Masaharu Morimoto’s first location there. In Seattle, he’s worked at Restaurant Zoe, Art of the Table, and L’Oursin.”
- A gooey tuna melt is only brightened by adding fresh Pacific cod and gruyere.
- Mainstays like burgers, grilled cheese, and meatloaf, are available, each with the chef’s unique twist.
They serve a vegetarian option that’s not just for vegetarians. Their veggie potpie is peppery with lots of thyme. The glossy brown pastry lid is lightly layered and melts into the savory filling inside.
Reubens filled with the surprise of pork belly and traditionally loaded omelets made silky from a hint of gruyere are several upscaled diner food offerings.
The omelet is their basic diner breakfast.
There are no bacon and eggs here, with the menu category of “Eggs & Things” rotating in intriguing dishes like shakshuka, which features poached eggs in a spiced tomato and pepper sauce.
Another breakfast favorite is their loco moco. It’s a Hawaiian comfort food classic, made by topping rice with a fried burger, which is then smothered with a rich, brown gravy and finished with a fried egg.
The menu is as fun and eclectic as it is well prepared and delicious. There are choices for picky eaters and the staff is attentive and careful to support food allergies or other specific needs.
For the special occasion, Champagne Diner features a perfectly cooked, medium-rare 36-ounce grass-fed rib-eye for $75. It includes two sides and a creamy, mushroomy Sauce-Diane. The mashed potatoes should be one of your side choices, as they are silky smooth with just-right-salty chicken gravy.
There are some bubbles on the menu but it’s not a champagne bar. The name is said to be inspired partly from Seinfeld’s frequent champagne references and partly a play on the expectation that champagne is only for fancy dinners and not diners.
The simple wine list includes unusual choices of only natural wines, an increasingly popular option in Seattle. This type of wine is part of a movement among winemakers to produce wine using simple or traditional methods, usually without pesticides or herbicides.
945 Elliott Ave. W. #201, Seattle; no phone, no reservations. champagnediner.com
usually opens 11 a.m.-11 p.m. every day, check the website for Covid details.
Service is knowledgeable and super-friendly, though delays may occur
Access: no obstacles, two gender-neutral restrooms
Champagne Diner is ‘old-school’ carefully balanced with new, and it feels like the right kind of déjà vu.