462 N 36th Street
What often makes a brunch experience so memorable is something that’s incredibly difficult to pin point and to explain to those who haven’t experienced it yet. I’m not talking about the food itself, and I’m not necessarily talking about the service. I’m talking about that impossible-to-explain “it” factor and charm that can make a largely average brunch spot into something worth writing home about. With the ability to break the possible chain of routine and soulless brunches that can often happen when it becomes a weekly activity, establishments which are a little rough around the edges have the ability, more than anywhere else, to make brunch feel like an outing again. And mimosas on special that you can pay for with pocket change doesn’t hurt either.
Our second brunch outing of our recent trip south of the boarder took us to a quaint yet not-so-small diner in the Mount Pleasant-esqe neighbourhood of Fremont. Filled with more artisan glass-blowing boutiques and crystal and precious stone shops then any one neighbourhood could have the need for, Fremont seemed to be the centre of Seattle’s brunch obsession. We pulled up around 11 am on a Sunday to a sea of red flannel shirts and thick-rimmed glasses with the lenses popped out, an indication that either we were in the right place, or that this would be just another case of falling into the hip kid’s trap. However, considering that Roxy’s came up time and time again both through sleuthing brunch recommendations online and through local word of mouth, we decided to brave the reasonable and somewhat expected twenty-five minute wait.
Walking through the doors to Roxy’s was an experience in itself. With decor reminiscent of a preschool classroom mixed with a rumpus room in a bargain-basement retirement home, the atmosphere was both charmingly aggressive yet welcoming – a combination that I’ve seen successfully achieved at very few places. We were sat at a table that didn’t look like it belonged in a truck stop diner, but rather looked like it was thrown out by the dumpster behind a truck stop diner, picked up by someone who had recently heard that shabby-chic was a thing and still don’t quite fully understand what it is, and then spent a couple of years sitting uncovered in their basement crawlspace. The entire space was old, it was inviting and it was one of the most authentic and genuine brunch places I’d been to in a long time.
We were immediately caffeinated and alcohol-ed by a server who provided some of the most convincing “can I top your cup up, sugar” diner service I’d ever received. Laid back, genuine and attentive, he added to the entire American diner experience that I constantly miss when I’m up in the great white north. Roxy’s offers up some of the most unique and reasonably-price brunch beverage options that, at least my Canadian self, hadn’t seen on a menu before. From New York style egg creams to two dollar mimosas and a delightful combination of a shot and a swift smack in the face from your sever (called the Restraining Order), Roxy’s ensures that you’ll leave your brunch jacked up on sugar, entertained and slightly tipsy – all indications of a successful brunch outing.
One of the main selling points of Roxy’s brunch, is their claim that they are the only authentic New York style Jewish diner in the Seattle area. The possibility of finally finding somewhere on the West Coast that would offer something that might come close to the beautiful bagels that I enjoyed back east was too tempting to pass up. I opted for a classic onion bagel with butter, which was not an add on, but rather came with my meal along with a side of home fries. Although this significant upgrade from the usual side of toast that you see with most set breakfasts was good, it still wasn’t what I was hoping for. It didn’t have the same chew and I fondly remember those big apple ones having. However, the rest of my meal more than made up for my neutral feelings about it, and lived up to other memories that I had of different and delicious dishes that I had on previous trips down south.
My brunch companion was slightly more ambitious than I was and went for something that neither of us had ever seen on a brunch menu before. Instead of an english muffin, at Roxy’s you have the option to substitute that for two potato latkes. Even though you’ve actually just gone and turned your benny into a tiny little hash, the difference that having that extra potato was unexpectedly noticeable, mostly because of how much more filling the dish was. The hollandaise itself was nothing special, if not a little runny, and left something to be desired. However, this was one particular benny where the hollandaise wasn’t the centre of attention and it didn’t bother me. The eggs were poached well, the sausage was well-seasoned and moist and the latkes were crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. Although also having hash browns on the side as well posed a bit of a challenge for my brunch companion, it is still a portion that one very hungry person can easily finish. Nice try, America.
The search for a chicken fried steak comparable to one that I had years ago at a small diner in Mt. Vernon has been an all consuming one. Although I did find one that satisfied those pesky diner cravings in Vancouver, I’d still been searching for one that was just as good or better than that illusive one that I had so long ago. Convinced that crafting the perfect chicken fried steak must just be an American trait, I chose to ignore the benny-obsessed voices in my head and opt for this diner classic. The steak came with hash browns, country gravy, a bagel and two eggs and, of course, I ordered a side of hollandaise to go with it. Though it was not at the same level as the illusive Mt. Vernon steak, the one that I had at Roxy’s was good nonetheless. A crispy, deep fried crust surrounded a still-juicy steak inside, and the gravy was the focal point of that dish as it was some of the best I’d ever had. The hash browns were decent and the eggs were cooked well. After my meal I was more than satisfied – I was nearly immobile and in need of a nap.
Numerous factors influence whether you have an average, a good or a great brunch experience. At Roxy’s, although the food wasn’t spectacular, it didn’t matter. The combination of the personable service, charming atmosphere, authenticity and incredibly reasonable price point made that particular diner experience one of my most memorable. It was successful in creating a heart-warming and stomach-grumbling memory that I’ll, no doubt, look back on fondly when I’m attempting to power through the many disappointing Canadian chicken fried steaks that I’m sure are in my future.
Atmosphere & Service:
Next Visit-Dish: Roxy’s Latke Breakfast Sandwich – two scrambled eggs with bacon, ham, pork or veggie sausage, cheddar cheese and tomatoes sandwiched between two large potato latkes. Served with a side of sour cream. ($8.95)
Ideal Time to Brunch: Before 9:30 am or after 12:30 pm on the weekends. Any time on a weekday.