Meander's, a six-month-old diner in West Seattle's Morgan Junction (since relocated to White Center), has gained such a devout following through word-of-mouth that it hasn't even bothered to replace the sign of the prior tenant, a mediocre Chinese restaurant called Jade West. One's on the way, promises owner/chef/greeter Miranda Krone, but "the oil paint needs at least three solid days of weather in order to cure properly." And, well, this is Seattle.
Big Scoop Meander's interior, in all its simplistic glory.
Meander was the nickname given Krone by one of her dad's friends during her central Washington upbringing. She's named Meander's country-fried steak after him--Don--to return the favor. Her restaurant, which seats 13, features one four-top and nine counter stools, where all eyes are fixed on Krone, who (wo)mans the grill five days a week. On any given Sunday, she's typically joined by her waitress and friend, Afton Larsen, an energetic redhead who's charged with enforcing a strict prohibition on outside beverages--especially from Starbucks. "No mermaids!" was her way of succinctly reprimanding a customer one recent morning, although go-cups from nearby C&P Coffee Co. are happily exempted.
Krone is planning a late-summer expansion of Meander's that will allow for 26 additional seats and a used bookstore. "I got me a yen for some old books," says Krone. "God knows it's tough to make money selling books, but it'll add to the atmosphere."
That atmosphere is somewhat reminiscent of the original Shopsin's, the family-run Greenwich Village diner that was the subject of the documentary I Like Killing Flies. Shopsin's pot-bellied chef and patriarch, Kenny Shopsin, made a name for himself through an ability to cook almost any dish from any cuisine, and somehow possessing the components to do so in a foxhole-like kitchen. He's also famously mercurial when it comes to his interaction with customers; to ultimately land in Kenny's good graces requires Kevlar skin.
Krone, thankfully, lacks Shopsin's surliness. But Meander's layout dictates that she's forever onstage. "That's what was attractive to me about this space--I like working both front and back of the house," she says, noting that Meander's affords the opportunity to do both at once. "I felt really self-conscious at first, especially when I realized my butt was at [customers'] eye level, which is why I switched from wearing pants to skirts."
Her culinary dexterity also mirrors Shopsin's. Not on the menu? Not a problem, provided she's got the requisite ingredients on hand. Always considered veggie biscuits and gravy an oxymoron? Krone will convince you otherwise.
Like the Admiral Junction's Heartland Cafe, Meander's has found success by staying open from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights for the post-last call crowd. "I was a little worried about whether it was going to be too rowdy, but it's good folks who come in," says Krone. "And the service-industry folks can roll in too, since we stay open until 4."
Meander's food is impeccable--the Spur, with serrano peppers and chorizo, rates among many standouts--and impeccably sourced. Coffee comes from Vita, milk and eggs come from Smith Brothers, smoked salmon comes from Loki, and the sausage comes from Uli's.
"Uli pulls up front on this great big BMW motorcycle, and comes tooting through the door with 40 lbs. of sausage," says Krone, who previously cooked at a sport-fishing tent camp in Alaska. "I slept in a tent for two and a half months, and my kitchen was in a tent. It was pretty awesome, actually."
Meander's, 6032 California Ave. S.W., 932-9840