CJ's & The Lucky Diner Engage in a Belltown Breakfast Bland-Off"/>
The Lucky Diner's chicken-fried pork tenderloin sounds ingenious. It tastes, however, like solidified air, rivaled in blandness only by the eatery's spare, generic decor, which would be a fine homage to Residence Inn lobbies if that were actually the intent.
Granted, the retro uniforms are cool, the diner stays open 24 hours on weekends, and a lady who brought her cat in on a stroller told a waitress that her feline really dug the aura. But First Avenue has seen the likes of this before a few blocks north at Minnie's and Whym, which often sat empty until they died their quiet deaths. Among Belltown night owls, it seems, only the 5 Point survives.
Across First from the Lucky Diner is CJ's Eatery, a 7 a.m.-3 p.m. proposition which has achieved modest success largely by cranking out power breakfasts and lunches for the business crowd at the speed of Dick's. While its menu, which features blintzes, latkes, and frittatas named after New York City neighborhoods, is far more inventive than Lucky's, its ambience actually out-blands its newer neighbor, boasting all the charm of a hospital foyer, which is slightly less charming than that of a Marriott.
CJ's servers wear whatever they want and are extremely polite and attentive. Our server identified herself on our bill as "Shannimal," and, unlike her Lucky counterparts, seemed thrilled to be scurrying about the dining room. CJ's might not be much to look at, but it's a well-oiled machine that delivers exactly what you expect it to.
If CJ's and the Lucky Diner were to merge, they might form the perfect hash-house. It would stay open 24 hours on weekends and have a few tables' worth of sidewalk seating. Its servers would have awesome designer uniforms and names like Shannimal. It would serve chicken-fried steak instead of pork, and price its dishes on the humbler side of $10 (and not nickel-and-dime its customers for extra gravy and a biscuit instead of toast).
Unfortunately, such a hybrid is purely hypothetical.
CJ's Eatery, 2619 First Ave., 728-1648