Much has been made of the Central District's dramatic shift from Seattle's black sociopolitical epicenter to a relatively affluent, majority-white enclave with, in realtor-speak, a can't-miss location. Given this cultural overhaul, it's astonishing that a would-be yuppie magnet like the eclectic Judkins St. Cafe--with a white owner, no less--attracts as diverse a clientele as it does.
The cafe, preceded in its small space by Charlie's Flame Broiled Burgers, serves "healthy comfort food" at insanely cheap prices, especially during breakfast, where the most expensive dish is $4.50. Its interior, with maybe 10 tables, signals an intentionally vague intent. It can serve as a morning work station with bottomless drip coffee for a telecommuter, an after-work beer-and-appetizer destination for a couple of thirsty strangers, or an intimate dinner spot for a casual young couple.
Judkins St. Cafe's location is a challenge. If it were located on MLK Way, it could quickly turn into a postage-stamp version of the Hi-Spot. But as its name suggests, it's located near the I-90 lid on Judkins Street, a residential road off MLK Way. Short of superhero peripheral vision, the only ways someone is going to find the cafe are to either know it's there or randomly happen upon it on foot.
To his credit, owner Mike McGloin seems to recognize that survival will require a little more than the "If you build it, they will come" approach, marketing his place as a de facto community center and holding special promotions on Father's Day and the like. Far from an absentee owner, McGloin can usually be found waiting tables himself.
McGloin's menuisn't long, but is nonetheless spectacularly diverse, ranging from burgers and grits to roasted chicken and brioche french toast. They've got foreign wine, and then they've got Coors Light and PBR. It's hard to imagine even the most finicky customer taking a gander at Judkins Street's menu and not finding something to indulge in.
Juicy and sauced deliciously, the marinated-chicken sandwich is served on a roll and comes with a huge pickle. Meanwhile, a bowl of macaroni and cheese is as thick and rich as one could ask. The lone disappointment is the salad it comes with, which looks as though it's been dumped out of a premixed bag from the Safeway produce aisle.
Granted, the cafe, which opened in February, is still finding its footing. One promising recent addition: a couple of Georgetown Brewing tap handles. Alas, if anything can help overcome a less-than-optimal location, it's great beer.
Judkins St. Cafe, 2608 Judkins St., 322-1091, CENTRAL DISTRICT