"Eat it and Beat it!" isn't something most successful restaurants shout at their patrons, but that didn't phase the Beeliner Diner. The diminutive diner on Northeast 45th Street was opened by Peter Levy in 1988, and shuttered in 1995. Levy went on the open many more restaurants with business partner Jeremy Hardy, ruling breakfast and "blunch" throughout the 1990s at places like the 5-Spot on Queen Anne, Endolyne Joe's in West Seattle, The Hi-Life in Ballard, Atlas in University Village, and Coastal Kitchen in Capitol Hill. But it's the 32-seat Beeliner Diner that has me nostalgic. Nostalgic for greasy spoon specialties, service with sass, and waitresses that would call out orders like "heart attack" and "tom on toast" to the cooks working the line.
"We were doing things then that you couldn't do now with Yelp and all the self-proclaimed critics," recalled Levy. The savvy restaurateur owns the new TNT Taqueria that opened in the old Beeliner space last summer. Levy, who recently split from partner Jeremy Hardy, still owns 5 Spot, Endolyne Joe's and the Hi-Life. Waiters serving up platters of food alongside smack talk, is not something you see at Levy's restaurants today. "We had one guy at the Beeliner that gave customers a lot of shit without them even noticing. He knew when to give it and when to pull back. Others tried to emulate him, but not everyone had the same finesse." Still, complaint letters were mocked and hung on display on the diner's walls.
One thing critics and customers agreed on however, was the food. Beeliner Diner served breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week. There were unique omelets like the Pig in the Orchard (mixing sausage and apples in with the eggs), chicken fried steak, burgers, reuben sandwiches (the aforementioned "heart attack"), handcut fries, blue plate specials, and coconut cake. "We made everything from scratch," Levy offered. "The only thing in a can was tomato sauce. Even the coconuts we cracked and scooped for making the coconut cake." That changed a little bit when the Beeliner was reviewed by The Seattle Times' food critic John Hinterberger. "When reviews really meant something," Levy added. "The place got super busy. We weren't able to keep up with cracking coconuts, so we moved to a frozen product. "
I worked at Starbucks in the early 1990s, next door to the Beeliner Diner. I often worked the early shift from 5 a.m. to 11 a.m. and would often find myself sitting at one of the five counter seats at the Beeliner after work, eating breakfast. I got to know some of the waiters and some of the cooks over the course of the year or so I worked in the neighborhood. Even in the cramped 800-square foot space, with the loud chatter of patrons and even louder banter of the staff, the Beeliner was a relaxing and entertaining place to unwind. The plate of crisp, spicy home fries in front of me was just a bonus.