Lunch gets no respect. The lobby for Big Breakfast has conned us sheeple into believing it's the most important meal of the day. Dinner is spent with the people we love most. Lunch is an annoyance, something to demolish over your keyboard. And that's a shame, because lunch is the weirdest meal of the day. We eat lunch with coworkers we don't like; we eat lunch with strangers. We discuss new projects and have affairs over lunch. Why waste that time with something you scrounged in a Starbucks, wrapped in plastic like a corpse?
Out on the edge of Pioneer Square, Bakeman's (122 Cherry St, 622-3375) has been chugging along since 1970, and it's the lunch-counteriest lunch counter you've ever seen. If City Hall, as many city employees inform us, is a glorified high school, Bakeman's is its school cafeteria, with industrial trays, a wall of bottled drinks, and absolutely no frills. The people who plan the city's future meet here to throw printouts of spreadsheets around a table and pretend they're really excited about preparing the slides for the next ideation meeting.
Bakeman's is visually schizophrenic: Half the room is a white cafeteria—the sort of thing you might find in a hospital—and the other half is a dark lounge with a nonfunctional bar. Men in bad suits and women in impractical shoes sit awkwardly at tables, greeting coworkers as they wander in. At the end of the serving line, I ask Jason Wang, the owner and cashier, what variety of cakes he has today.
He points down to them: "What does it look like they are?"
For a second, I rear back and the Seattleite in me prepares a passive-aggressive comment. Instead, I go with it. "Uh, lemon poppy?"
"And what else?"
He nods. "So why'd you ask me?"
Good question. There's a line of people behind me, waiting to eat their goddamned lunches. I was wasting time, and time is money.
The thick slab of lemon poppy cake ($1.25) is moist, but, disappointingly, it doesn't taste much like lemon. Bakeman's turkey sandwich ($4.50, add an extra quarter for cranberry sauce) is a delight. It's not elaborate—mayonnaise and iceberg lettuce are major components—but the thick slices of white meat are fresh-roasted and juicy, and the wheat bread, while not Macrina-good, is baked on-site every day. The cup of sausage, sauerkraut, and roasted red potato soup on the side ($2.25) is excellent—salty as all hell in the best way possible, with the smoked kielbasa and potatoes playing off each other for dominance. It's nothing fancy, but it's prepared well, the kind of good fuel a city needs in its belly to make it to the end of another day.