214 Broadway E
Seattle WA 98102
Good For Burgers, But Otherwise Hit and Miss
By: Steve G
Cafe Septieme is one of the mainstays of Broadway, and one that has withstood the gentrification of Capitol Hill. One by one, it seems that many long-standing businesses and buildings are being replaced with newer upscale buildings (e.g. condos) that are eliminating the vintage appeal of the neighborhood. For as long as I can remember, Cafe Septieme has always been a fixture on Broadway and I was excited to have the chance to finally go there. We checked out Cafe Septieme with hopes of finding out how this place has lasted so long in the area.
As you walk through the entrance, you're treated to a high ceiling and deep red walls with several photos and pieces of artwork, which give it a kind of hipster vibe. At any moment, I was expecting a beatnik to break into a verse of slam poetry. Cut into the ceiling, a skylight adds to the very warm and inviting mood with natural lighting that is perfect on a sunny day. Separated from the dining area is a bar/lounge area that is great for grabbing a cup of coffee or a slice of one of their desserts. The Technics sound system, large hardwood dance floor, and elaborate lighting made us guess that this place transforms into a bit of a nightspot once the sun sets, but we didn't stay long enough to confirm our suspicions.
Once we got situated at our table, we perused the menu and had a problem trying to find something that really piqued our interest. The menu didn't seem to possess any real variety and we were at a loss for words when it came time to pick something. It seemed like we were railroaded into picking a sandwich or a basic entree dish. The dinner menu had a somewhat wider variety of options, including their breaded German pork that I've heard so much about.
After much deliberation, Grant decided on the Spaghetti Bolognese ($7.95) described in the menu as having a stewed red sauce and savory beef. The actual dish's sauce was less stewed than described, although it did look kind of homemade--now that isn't necessarily a good thing, as he noted it tasted no different from the garden variety spaghetti sauce that he's made at home. Consequently, he wasn't too impressed by his meal.
Robin opted for the Vegetarian Burger ($8.95) with its rice, tofu and vegetable patty. Served with Kettle-style chips, she noted that the patty was clearly better than anything commercially made (Gardenburger, anyone?). But like all things, it too had some downsides. The patty seemed pre-cooked and merely re-heated, which really affected the freshness and taste.
I ordered the Gorgonzola Burger ($8.95), which like the vegetarian burger came served with a side of kettle-style chips, and some homemade ketchup. The burger was made with a chuck patty that probably was pre-made earlier in the day, but regardless it was a pretty enjoyable burger. The creamy gorgonzola was heaped on top of the patty and gave the burger a distinctively salty flavor.
The service at Cafe Septieme was a little spotty when we were there. It seemed at times that there was only one person running the entire restaurant. No offense to the waiter, who was very friendly and polite, but after ordering the only time we ever saw him again was when it was time for the bill. Of course, I assume this is a fault of the staff scheduling more than anything else.
I know Cafe Septieme has been around for a while, but the experience we had there still didn't answer my question of how it has managed to stay around for so long. The best thing going for it is its ambiance, which makes it great for those looking for something a little more enclosed and cozy. While the food is not spectacular, the prices at Cafe Septieme make it a decent choice if you're in the Capitol Hill area.
While I felt a little bad about Grant's poor experience here, mine own was more enjoyable. The burger was quite tasty and the ketchup was mucho enjoyable. I would have liked to have tried out the homemade ketchup with some fries, but Kettle chips will do just fine. I expected to see a standard to sub par burger, but the quality really took me by surprise. Made with a nice chuck patty, the burger tasted fantastic with the gorgonzola really putting the icing on the cake. If there's anything worth trying here, it's the burgers and based on Grant's dish I'd have to pass on the other entrees at Cafe Septieme.
I have to admit that I was a little disappointed when I saw how little choice there was on the lunch menu at Cafe Septieme. At first glance it looked like it was limited to humdrum American fare--very heavy on the burgers and meat. Not being the biggest fan of beef burgers, I went with the vegetarian burger, which proved to be a pleasant surprise--the patty appeared to be housemade (rather than commercially made) and generously sized, making for a very tasty meal. The only thing that could have made it better would have been to have a freshly made patty, rather than a pre-made and re-heated one.
The Cream of Saffron Soup was another pleasant surprise. Made with tomatoes and goat cheese, these three main flavors blended together very well, and were balanced with each other. It was also the first time I have honestly enjoyed saffron!
In the end, my initial disappointment was replaced with satisfaction, after enjoying such a flavorful, fun meal. Let other places have long menus filled with rabbit liver pate, wasabi mashed potatoes, or some other cuisine du jour--I'll happily take my veggie burger at Cafe Septieme any day of the week.
The spaghetti was indeed quite poor. The red sauce was essentially diced tomatoes, carrot slices, celery and some tomato sauce that was quite mild. It made me wonder exactly how long this stew had been sitting around. The only real flavor came from what tasted like a tub of butter mixed into the spongy pasta, which was about as appealing as coronary surgery in a room full of flies.
To compound matters, even the raspberry cheesecake, among half of dozen cheesecakes laid out at the front of the store, proved to be unpalatable. The crust was mushy, the cheese was gooey, and the toppings tasted like canned cherries in corn starch. The only thing that could have saved this cake was a "mass produced" warning sticker letting us know what we were in for--even the worst of dentists give patients a warning before drilling into teeth.
In my opinion, Cafe Septieme tripped and fell, but it apparently only landed on me. Steve and Robin both enjoyed their meals, so while I can't roundly dismiss the restaurant, I will certainly approach it with hesitation in the future.