This is the second in a series of columns written by anonymous readers attempting to mimic the style of the Surly Gourmand, who is on sabbatical until October. This week's guest columnist goes by the handle "Texanne Yourmomtoo."
Bro, how come more people in Seattle don't wear sunglasses or frost their tips?
There is a portion of the food loving population, often going by the term "foodie" or "professional cook," that believe the Food Network has turned cooking into a shit show of semi-hometarded antics, 30-minute ship wrecks, and general douchebaggery, reducing the term "chef" to celebrity status. A recent addition to the tool box, the blonde-tipped frat boy hawking diners, drive ins, and dives from a XXL bowling shirt was no exception to the yuckling parade of characters the Food Network force chokes the general public with. One would assume he spends as much time in the salon having the stylist bleach his hair the perfect shade of "Playboy bunny blonde" half an inch above the scalp line as his fans do devoutly watching him tool around the country choking down greasy diner food, proving once and again he is a man of the masses, not just a man of great mass.
The silhouette of the rotund platinum hedgehog should then serve as a warning, when seen stenciled on the side of a local establishment. A warning, perhaps, in that it is a beacon to the kind of people who put their worship in a man who not only wears Oakleys, but wears them backwards, the lenses resting on the back of his neck like drunken bromeos looking for the next girl to flash her tits in Cancun.
This icon, sprayed in nearly audible bleeding neons on the side of the wall at Voula's Offshore Cafe, is a siren to many--"duck and cover," watch out for girls gone wild. Thank fucking god, for Voula's, that its reputation as one of the best old school diners in the city brought a staunch stream of regulars in long before the arrival of the troops of Fieri-ites and the Food Network Decals now strewn across the awnings. Thank god, I have to say, because this time the asshole got it right.
While technically onshore, this offshore cafe has for over 20 years been curing Seattle's surliest of hangovers with mounds of greasy diner breakfasts, stuffing poor college kids with enough food to fuel a weekend, welcoming families, evident by the baby pictures tiling the back wall, and winning repeat customers without the help of a national broadcasting company. And it managed to do this as one of the last holdouts of a restaurant with a large smoking section in a city that shames most smokers to alleyways and the confines of their backyards.
The omelets, like no others in this yuppie brunch ridden city, are cooked tissue thin, then folded like an envelope around your standard omelet fillings: denver, ham and cheese, mushroom and swiss, along with a few that nod towards the owners Greekness, like, duh, the Freegy Greeky, packed with barely caramelized chunks of white onion, feta cheese and greek sausage. Made from three eggs, these omelets, spreading across the large oval plates that have clearly seen as much action as your mom, prove the point I've been making to the female population for years, the good things come in big packages.
No diner would be allowed to keep the public from rioting with pitchforks and torches without a section of the menu dedicated to big, downy, plate-sized American pancakes. Not those limp-wristed European types that flop all over the plate like a whiskey dick undergrad all over your mom, but tall fluffy syrup sponges. Voulas represents this breed of pancake well, albeit from a powdered mix you can see the two career short order cooks mixing from a seat at the counter that wraps the 2 flat tops. Most dry pancake mixes of the "just add water" variety produce a griddle cake that's as dry as your mom's vagina, necessitating barely legal amounts of butter and syrup to make them moist enough to choke down. Somehow Voula's dry-mixed pancakes lack the cotton mouth effect, and manage to be quite edible on their own. This doesn't, however, stop most from drowning them in the fakeish maple goo no diner would be caught dead without, served at Voula's warmed and in an eight-ounce pitcher you know still contains the previous diner's leftovers.
Included amongst the obligatory stacks of plain and blueberry pancakes is the Chinese Pancake, a single flapjack containing an egg orbited by chunks of deli ham. As far as I can tell this pancake has nothing to do with Chinese people. In fact, I would argue that if brought to the Chinese community's attention, they would start a small revolution to have the name changed to "round eye pancake." Despite a weak cultural link to its namesake, the Chinese pancake is mother fucking delicious. Something unexpectedly tasty happens when sugary syrup hits the egg, which has been dropped into the middle of the pancake just after the batter is laid out on the griddle.
The back of the diner, appropriately littered with boxes from that day's delivery of a thousand or so pounds of hash browns, hosts an inky black smoker, chugging away like the little engine that barely made it over the mountain, filled with pork and salmon. Both make several appearances on the menu, although only the benedict made with the shards of smoked pork and a chipotle hollandaise, coyly called the Pinata Benedict, was listed beneath the heading, "Guy Fieri likes..."--which a few years ago was simply titled "Today's special." Not only did this Chipotle hollandaise clearly come from a reconstituted mix, perpetuating the great American mantra of "just add water" but it was punctuated by a flavor so mediocre it went strait to video, so to speak, traveling from Mexican Authenticity to a Jack In The Box burger in a mere moments after the American public began struggling to say it.
With the yuckling echoes of Fiere's punny words "I can't pronounce it, but I sure can eat it," I expected all this to add up to an experience I'd forget sooner than most guys forget your mom's name. To my delighted dismay, the dish was damn tasty. The smokey heat from the too often abused Chipotle cut through the richness of the holindaise and highlighted the smoked pork. The reconstituted holindaise, while clearly the culprit in a commonly held misnomer that the classic french butter sauce is made from American cheese, had a thick, velvety texture I found more appropriate to this hearty version of the benedict than the classic frothy buttery sauce would have been.
A small box in the left hand side of the laminated menus, fresh from a polishing with Windex, corralled two dishes called "Hobos" away from the rest of the breakfast menu. Clearly not allowed to mix with the polite society of smiley faced pancakes and sides of crispy bacon, these dishes are comprised of heaping piles of shredded hash browns mashed together with onions and sausage, to which liquid egg is poured in and allowed to cook. Only a thick blanket of cheese hides the appearance of a pile of food dug from a restaurant garbage can by a hobo himself. While it is of common belief to many that Hobo's only eat from the big rock candy mountain drinking from lemonade streams and smoking off cigarette trees, some, it seems, came to Voula's, dug a pile of omelet/potato/sausage garbage from a can, asked for some cheese melted on top, and didn't demand royalties when the dish ended up on the menu.
Only the bravest and most hung over can stomach an entire hobo, so swollen on the plate it threatens to throw your toast off the side were it not glued down by the thick blanked of oozy cheese adhering it to the giant mass of breakfast. The country sausage and cheddar cheese making the Hobo are swapped for garlicky fennel specked Greek sausage and feta cheese in the Greek Hobo, making you imagine an encounter between a real life hobo and a Greek hobo while you decide between the two. Pondering the virtues of feta vs. cheddar, one imagines the Greek hobo offering Ouzo from his flask while the American hobo unties his red polka dot knapsack from the stick over his shoulder and takes out the bottle of Mad Dog 20/20 you can't buy in the city limits anymore. By the time you've chosen between country and Greek sausage, these two have swapped the top hat opened like a tin can for the Greek fisherman's cap with moths living inside the holes they've eaten from it and are walking into the sunset.
Coffee is from a company behind the building with a fancy label that somehow manages to roast coffee to the exact same flavor as the stuff in the green can your grandparents wield for visitors, perfect for the ample refills poured by the competent female service staff still going by the term, "waitresses." Stale donuts, available to grab from a covered cake plate by the door, offer some distraction from the extensive waits made only longer by the presence of travelers with the Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives cookbook doge-eared. Bring your kids if you got em, or steal someone else's--this place seems to be packed with them. If that's not your preference just pull your Oakleys around to the front of your head, shove your face in one of the newspapers left behind, and pretend they are not there.
If you watch long enough, you'll see people well into their 30's dragging their breakfast mates to the tiled wall to show them their own baby picture that has been there since they started coming in. Look to the back wall and you'll see original paintings by Dale Chihuly personalized to Voula herself, and chunks of the Slo-motion, a wooden hydroplane that was the toast of this once working class town, built across the street from Voula's in the restaurant's early days. Whatever you do, don't let the fact that some knob from The Food Network vomited his brand all over this place distance you from what really is one of the original and best Seattle breakfasts around.
Rating: 8 frosted Fieri tips out of 10.