But for reasons involving gay bars and last call, this weekend I wound up at the 13 Coins—near Boren Avenue North and Denny Way—twice. Two nights in a row, even. It’s not just that nothing else nearby was open: I went back the second time because the food was amazing at the 13 Coins. And no, I can’t believe I just wrote that.
The topper—seems risky to order this—was the best calamari I’ve ever tasted. I wasn't just buzzed. Eating most calamari is like masticating thick rubber bands crusted with saltines. But at the 13 Coins, they cut strips from a hefty squid steak, which, when battered and fried, turned into crispy blond corkscrews that steamed from the center. The Caesar salad was umami-rich with anchovy.
How can this be? The interior looks like the bridge of the Starship Enterprise, upholstered in grandpa-brown leather, and is notorious for serving overpriced pablum from a food replicator.
The 13 Coins had gone downhill and lost customers for several years, says 13 Coins manager Spencer Fairbanks. “Customers said it wasn’t worth it.” But about a year ago, he says, Kassandra McGregor—formerly the executive chef at the Broadway Grill and the Red Lion—took over as the head chef.
“Now customers say that the flavor is back and the taste is back. It is kind of how they remember this place,” he says. “Everything is prepped here and made here. Nothing comes in a bag or a box or anything.”
And while many items on the menu are still exorbitantly priced ($50 New York steak, anyone?), some stuff is reasonable ($13 ham and cheese three-egg omelets with hash brown and toast, or a $20 chicken parmigiana that feeds two). The portions are massive, and it's impressive for American food when the birds are sleeping. Who knew?