Seattle has had a difficult time embracing its industrial port city roots of late. Our mayor’s preferred option for viaduct replacement would have patently screwed over truckers; Georgetown is more a haven for artists than Boeing machinists; and South Lake Union, once downtown Seattle’s utility closet, has been largely transformed into a high-tech playground by virtue of Paul Allen’s money (and Tom Douglas’ food).
Yet despite the presence of Starbucks World Headquarters and its attendant food-truck pod, the neighborhood of SoDo remains a visible reminder that Seattle still makes and moves a whole lot of stuff. And when the people who make that stuff seek midday fortification (or a cold draft beer), the family-owned SoDo Deli stands as a can’t-miss option.
SoDo Deli promotes itself as an establishment that serves “sandwiches as big as your head.” The French Dip, while very good, is only as big as a calf muscle. However, the satisfying Italian Meat Trio (salami, ham, pepperoni) is at least as big as a kindergartener’s head, and even harder to get one’s mouth around.
During the ’90s, when Seattle fancied itself as a San Francisco in the making, urban boosters predicted SoDo would emerge as something similar to the city by the bay’s SoMa district. That never really happened; ultimately, Georgetown lapped SoDo as south-central Seattle’s foremost industrial-chic neighborhood. But that’s OK: Relieved of all pressure, SoDo, with an incongruous mix of nightclubs, factories, railroad tracks, and restaurants, has organically become something of an industrial spelunker’s paradise.
Set against this backdrop, SoDo Deli functions as a sort of neighborhood rec room. Its walls are decorated with vintage portraits of pin-up girls, and there are newspapers strewn about the shelves near the counter. There’s a plasma TV with a Super Nintendo hooked up to it. And there’s even Manny’s on tap, just like it would be in your uncle’s kegerator.