It is fitting that Martin Luther King Jr. Way is situated in the Ranier Valley, a neighborhood considered the most culturally and economically diverse in the Pacific Northwest, and a reality which St. Dames serves to accentuate. During the time it took me to eat a three-course meal, I saw a lesbian couple quietly flirting in the corner, a middle-aged man studying alone in a horseshoe-shaped booth, a family with two well-behaved kids, and some university students talking at warp speed. Everyone was warmly welcomed and treated with quick service.
Apart from the wide range of customers, it should be noted there is no Saint Dames. There is a meaning for Dame, however: the British equivalent of knighthood for women (the oldest person appointed a Dame was 100 years old). The medieval derivation of the word is subtly represented in the decor of the restaurant, with dark hues, wooden tables, and lots of lighting that emits very little. Although the music is decidedly (and thankfully) non-medieval, the restaurant does play the classics like "Stand by Me" and "Cruisin."
The menu sports Mac and Cheese ($9.25), transformed vegan-style, with a strong nutty taste. The typical cheesiness is replaced with braised tamari kale, a welcome alternative that lightens the traditional heaviness of comfort food. Kale is a frequent addition to their dishes, a vegetable most commonly eaten by peasants during the Middle Ages.
The Nut Burger ($9.75) comes on a crispy baguette (making it more a sandwich than a burger) and is served with whipped vegetables. The Samosa Style Hush Puppies ($5.75) are fried potato and vegetable balls served with tamarind mint sauce. They broke easily and were the perfect temperature for immediate mastication.
Samosa Hush Puppies
While the restaurant has a couple of false positives (there is no Saint Dames in religious iconography and the burger is really a sandwich), the food is satisfying. I would rank this restaurant on par with the honorable title of Dame, but not the equivalent of a Saint.