ALL SEATTLE'S ABUZZ over downtown's latest ber-hip eatery, an outrageously cheeky vending machine-themed restaurant—how adorable!--perched on the second floor of Pioneer Square's deliciously rugged Polson Building.
71 Columbia Street,
no reservations accepted
open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
cash only; no bar; casual dress
Capitalizing on the hedonistic and breathlessly impatient attitude of the Jet City's young, on-the-go, sweats 'n' sneakers dot-com workforce, the minimalist Snack-o-Matic boasts a complete and intentional lack of kitchen and waitstaff—save for one coverall-clad machine stocker transporting fresh pallets of mouthwatering delicacies for the caf駳 sassy, versatile menu. Sound irresistibly inviting? Let's go!
As my companion and I entered Snack-o-Matic, we were immediately struck by its bold, no-frills design ethos—call it Bauhaus meets frat house. A few prints adorn the walls, with a signed Heimlich maneuver poster commanding your eye. The buzzing fluorescent lights and linoleum floor immediately signal that this is a place to eat, where frivolous conversation will be drowned out in the convivial din.
As befits Snack-o-Matic's wonderfully topical "start-up" ambiance, patron-employees are encouraged to enjoy all three meals of the day within its steely confines and to wolf down their fare in seconds before scurrying back to their cubicles. But for the rest of us this means no lines and no waiting! In this refreshingly casual, seat-yourself atmosphere, you simply scoot up a folding metal chair to the table of your choice, then start counting your change. What's on the menu? Let's find out!
For appetizers, my companion and I selected the Planter's honey-roasted peanuts ($0.60), Wrigley's Doublemint gum ($0.50), robust Old Tyme pretzels ($0.75), and luscious Hostess Ding-Dongs—which we found a bit overpriced at $1.00 per serving. This sumptuous fare admirably served to whet our appetites, as we were whisked into cocoa and cake heaven by the Ding-Dongs' luxuriously spongy brown texture and frosting. A tad overboard was the interior knot of white vanilla frosting that compromised the pastry's otherwise finely lacquered consistency.
Consulting the wine list, we thought it prudent to cover both the clear and cola ends of the soda spectrum, finally selecting a tart '00 7-Up and decidedly dusty vintage '78 Tab (at $0.60 per can). Both proved invigoratingly bubbly and carbonated, with a rich bouquet and subtle undertones.
My companion and I sought some recommendations from the passing one-man machine stocker, maitre'd, waiter, busboy, and cook, who greeted our request with a raised eyebrow, then jerked his thumb towards the change machine. (Happily, in Snack-o-Matic's well-run establishment, our crinkly greenbacks were unwaveringly accepted without that frustrating "straighten it out and try again" rejection—even with singles that had been torn, taped, and defaced!)
As a first course, my companion and I elected to share servings of flavorful Kit Kats ($0.75), chewy Three Musketeers bars ($0.75), spicy O Boy Oberto pepperoni sticks ($0.85), tangy Slim Jims ($0.75), and those old redoubtable favorites, Kellogg's Pop-Tarts ($1.00). Portions were fresh and bountiful, while unfolded napkins served admirably in lieu of china. Utensils were unnecessary, we discovered, as we devoured our repast with bare fingers—how intriguingly Continental!
For entr饳, my companion and I tried the Cheez-Its ($0.85), Bugles ($0.85), Wheat Thins ($0.90), Rice Krispies Treats ($1.00), mackerel-flavored Cup o' Ramen ($1.25), Mr. Nature Unsalted Mix 'n' Yogurt ($0.45), and more gum ($0.50). The combination of sweets and salts, of preservatives and food dyes, and of sucrose and MSG sated us both perfectly. Then my companion and I cleansed our palettes with recent vintage Talking Rain bottled water ($1.00 each). (One burnt, curiously misshapen Bugle didn't interfere with our enjoyment of the meal, although it did serve to remind us of unhappier dining experiences we've had at the laundromat.)
Finally, for dessert, my companion and I opted for the succulent Junior Mints ($1.25), complimented by M & M's ($0.65), Famous Amos chocolate chip cookies ($0.85), and yet another packet of gum ($0.50).
Estimated cost per person: under $10. Elapsed time for our meal: 15 minutes, and my companion and I were back at our desks—until our next visit to Snack-o-Matic!