The Stop: For the last time, I disembarked the light-rail line at University Street Station underneath Benaroya Hall.
The Vibe: With rare exception, February is a disgusting month in Seattle. It is gray and rainy, and that seasonal depression we apparently all experience here has settled in. For this, the farewell column of Café Car, I found myself huddled at the top of the escalators that empty out at University, across the street from Benaroya. With rain coming down in fat droplets, I had no desire to explore. All I wanted was something hot to eat and a beer.
The Café: With building awnings to keep me protected most of the way, I made a dash for The Essential Market, just up the street. (The address is listed as 1305 Fourth Ave., but the entrance is on University. 624-6715.)
The market opened three years ago, according to the very kind Korean man behind the counter. And at first glance it looks like just another downtown mini-mart. But this place ups the fanciness level of instant lunch by a factor of 10, with more fancy dessert options than one normally expects, a long list of panini options that come stuffed with meat and fixin's, and a selection of rare and unusual beers that rivals Wallingford's Bottleworks.
I put in a turkey panini order and started perusing the beers, finally landing on something called Trappistes Rochefort 10. The 11.2 oz bottle had an $8.99 price tag attached.
With the rain pouring outside, I decided I had to try it.
With beer, it turns out, you mostly get what you pay for. Nearing double digits, this was one of the richest, most complex, interesting, and still satisfying beers I've enjoyed.
At The Essential Market, you also get what you pay for. The prices aren't low, but there are a big table and several chairs where you can enjoy your lunch without feeling like you're sitting in a tiny grocery store.
Whether you're looking for an escape from the rain or a place to relax after your last ride on the Link Light-Rail Cafe Car, it's the perfect place to relax and warm up.