There is something deliciously reckless about doing what's bad for you. A certain exhilaration accompanies the abandoning of the well-manicured lawn of common sense for the wild fields of dissolution. And so it was that I anticipated my possibly fatal exploration of the wonders of four of Seattle's best greasy spoons. I imagined the effect that plates and plates of biscuits slathered with sausage gravy, or eggs scrambled with bacon, or a waffle dripping with butter and syrup would have on my all-too-human cardiovascular system. Yet what glory is there without risk? What great success was ever achieved without the possibility of abject failure and even death? Knowing the possible consequences, I embarked on my quest.
The number of tasty, greasy breakfast spots in Seattle exists in an unfortunate ratio to the number of hungover or otherwise desperate Seattle residents in need of a hearty serving of bad-for-them food to get through the morning (or afternoon). But if you've got the strength to stick out the lines, your reward lies in the slick of ameliorating grease that coats the slippery path from temperance to indulgence.
When talking about grease in Seattle, the Mecca Cafe (526 Queen Anne Ave N, 285-9728) commands attention. I don't remember having ever been to the Mecca for breakfast before, but that may be because I don't really remember much about the time I've spent in the debauched embrace of this dark place. And though this morning I drank nothing but good, strong coffee ($2), I saw pints of bloody marys collecting like peanut shells on the smooth Formica of several nearby tables. Spurred on by the caffeine, I bulldogged my way through a plate that included scrambled eggs, two thick slabs of crispy bacon, a mound of greasy hash browns, and a waffle made fresh by my server ($11.20). And while the egg was anemic and the hash browns somewhat flaccid, that comforting waffle and salt-lick-salty bacon sent me on my way corpulently complacent.
If you prefer your grease served in sunnier environs, make the trek across the bridge to West Seattle's Chelan Cafe (3527 Chelan Ave SW, 932-7383). Populated with churchgoing folk and Port of Seattle workers off the night shift, and staffed by middle-aged women who might call you "hon," the Chelan is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year, and it's always buzzing, but never crowded in the way central-city spots often are.
On a recent Sunday morning, I devoured two pieces of egg-heavy French toast, a nice blob of hash browns (still not crispy enough), and a fluffy egg ($4.99), while my dining partner dug into the Chelan benedict ($6.79), which layered biscuits, gravy, spicy sausage patties, eggs, and hash browns in one soul-saving, heart-destroying, incredible package.
But not as incredible as the biscuits and gravy at The Dish (4358 Leary Way NW, 782-9985) in Fremont. There is something about a well-made biscuit—its buttery, flaky layers of bread resisting complete saturation by the chunky, spicy, sweet gravy—that makes me believe that this world is governed benevolently by something greater than us. The Dish serves theirs with a pristine slice of watermelon that is nice to suck on between bites, to prepare the palate for another taste of heaven. The defining feature of the gravy here is its sweetness. I don't mean honey sweet or sugar sweet, but meat sweet, the mark of a sausage constructed with care, full of complementary flavors that, in turn, enhance the buttery ebullience of the stock. In short, it's one of my favorite meals in the city, but be prepared to wait outside to get into the tiny, friendly dining room.
You may also have to wait at Glo's (1621 E Olive Way, 324-2577). But I suggest going on a Tuesday morning before work where, if you're lucky, you'll walk right in and sit down at one of the few tables. When the menu arrives, there are many directions you can go, but if you're at all intrigued by the possibility of a coronary brought on by sheer deliciousness, I recommend the corned beef hash ($9.25). It took a while to arrive, but when it did I could see immediately that it was going to be something special—heavy on the beef, crunchy on the outside, and served with the best home fries I've had in the city and some scrambled eggs that were fluffy and sprinkled with paprika. I didn't want to eat it all. I shouldn't have eaten it all. But I did eat every last bite of it, and then I didn't eat again until dinner.
And really, that's how it should be. A big, greasy breakfast should fortify you against the rigors of the day, allow you to coast through to dinner or beyond on a wave of fat and caffeine. I felt like a seal after these breakfasts, sleek and blubbery, insulated against the cold and rain. I felt ready to press forward until my body, frail thing that it is, succumbs at last to my accumulated misdemeanors. And though I'm not ready to depart this world anytime soon, I could think of worse ways to check out than with a belly full of biscuits and gravy.