One World Restaurant will never serve strawberries in January, but my duck confit (a duck leg poached slowly in its own fat) with braised red cabbage, pine-nut-crusted chèvre, and buttered pumpkin, plus an appetizer of beetroot soup (ornately prepared with black cumin, ajo blanco, and merlot oil) are all reminders of the fantastic, locally sourced, and seasonally focused food that can be enjoyed the time of year I visited, a late, gray fall transitioning into an early, gray winter. The price of this entire meal? A mere $15.95.
The week prior, for a buck less, I put away an entire Oregon quail served in a seasonal pomegranate walnut sauce. For an extra $5.25, the waiter brought me a pre-French-Revolution-level-decadent dessert of vanilla-mango mousse topped with a miscellany of house-made chocolate confections and pineapple slices, and finished with a ring of white chocolate sprinkled with actual gold.
Square One Bistro, located right next door to One World, is also committed to high-quality, local cuisine, but at even lower price points. Here, I enjoyed a big plate of green curry mussels with egg noodles, blistered peppers, and shallots for $10. And the nearby Buzz Cafe boasts a pastry case where you'll find some of the weirdest, most experimental, and delectable baked goods in Seattle, like a locally sourced fig, goat cheese, walnut, and wine Danish (for $3.75), or a pistachio tart with matcha mousse ($3.25); the latter was creamy and salty, and the only unifying quality between its ingredients was the color green. Yet it worked.
The menu at the former two eateries changes weekly, while the selections at the Buzz change daily, sometimes hourly. None of these jointly run ventures are open during the summer—and Katherine Kehrli (who oversees all three) says the pastry case at the Buzz is the only one that actually makes money.
But despite receiving a bevy of five-star Yelp reviews and being located on prime real estate (near the Capitol Hill light rail station, within view of a beautiful George Tsutakawa–designed fountain), few people actually know these places exist.
That's likely because One World, Square One, and the Buzz are part of Seattle Central College's culinary program, all three are located on campus grounds, in the Edison Building, and there's a very narrow window of dining opportunity—while school is in session, during lunchtime hours (this quarter, they're open January 15–March 20, Tuesday–Friday, 11:15 a.m.–12:45 p.m.).
The goods in the Buzz's pastry case are overseen by top pastry chef and Specialty Desserts & Breads program instructor Regis Bernard, a Brittany native with a classic French culinary education.
At any other restaurant, that duck confit feast would be upwards of $30. However, at One World and Square One, part of the price is covered by the staff's tuition—they are all students at SCC—and another by taxpayer subsidies. It is one of the few restaurants you'll find where the staff actually splits the check with you. In fact, both restaurants lose money on every dish they serve. Even though almost all the student staff is unpaid, associate dean Kehrli's operating costs are high—and include sending the staff out to Skagit Valley farms to learn about the food they're serving from the ground up, and managing an on-site greenhouse to supply the restaurants with the freshest possible microgreens.
But it isn't so much that SCC offers an experience that would be more expensive in another Seattle restaurant. Kehrli, Bernard, and the rising talents of SCC's culinary program provide an experience that you can't buy in another Seattle restaurant. And that's what makes it special.