South End Sandwiches

Smarty Pants serves simple food with style.

A GREAT SANDWICH SHOP IS not a thing to be taken lightly, particularly when the great sandwich shop also has a full bar. When that great sandwich shop with a full bar serves great sandwiches well past lunchtime and into the hours of night when eating is not really always just for nourishment but maybe for soaking up beer or providing a base for a few vodka tonics and perhaps preventing a crippling hangover the next morning, the shop becomes all the more vital. And when the great sandwich shop with a full bar and great sandwiches is also in what might be the best neighborhood in town, and the kitchen is stocked with not just traditional cold cuts but also vegetarian Field Roast, which is also made there in that neighborhood (maybe the best one in town), this sandwich shop deserves attention. Fittingly, the sandwiches, soups, and salads at Smarty Pants in Georgetown win your full consideration. Even the space of the restaurant itself, like the best of its neighbors (see "Best Neighborhood Makeover" in our Best of Seattle: Food & Drink section), is worth pondering. Large wood ceiling tiles seem left over from an artful construction project, probably one completed by whoever is building the excellent sandwiches. The gringa ($7.25), with pulled pork, lime, and—here's where the name probably comes in—a mortar of mayo generously slathered on a pillowy roll, is as perfect as the Reuben ($7.25), which is slightly sloppy with sauerkraut, yet due to the substantial marbled rye and careful craftsmanship, solid and sturdy, too. The hefty sandwiches come with either potato salad or chips and salsa, resulting in a full plate and a full stomach at dinner or lunch. The Reuben, like everything on the menu, can be easily transformed into vegetarian fare at no extra cost with a substitution of tomato Field Roast. Smarty Pants owner Tim Ptak says David Lee, chef and head honcho at Field Roast, the Georgetown company that makes the delicious grain meats, has praised Smarty Pants' veggie Reuben as the best he's ever had, and I would solidly agree. That the meatless substitute is made just down the street from Smarty Pants further solidifies the warm neighborhood vibe. (Lee and Field Roast are also profiled in Best of Seattle: Food & Drink; see "Best Grain-Meat Guru.") Homemade daily soups ($3.25) are delicious and inventive twists on old favorites, the homemade salsa is chunky and delicious, and the homemade salads (tuna, potato, and egg are available as a trio sampler for $7.25; the tuna sandwich is $7.25, the egg $6.25) meet or beat any family recipe—although the tuna may a little too soupy for some. With the small kitchen and its batch-by-batch mentality, it's likely that your salads and soups were made just before you walked through the door. This homemade, small-batch setup also means that you may wait just a few extra minutes for your sandwich to arrive, but you'll hardly be bothered by this, especially if you're sitting outside on the sunny patio. Ptak, a Georgetown resident and Chicago native who was once a hair cutter and then a welder, started Smarty Pants because, as he says, he was hungry. Aside from fancier restaurants and crappy convenience-store fried chicken, obtaining food after 8 p.m. in this town is often a real chore—doubly so if you're in the South End. Thanks to Ptak, this is no longer the case. And because he started Smarty Pants to satisfy his own hunger, plenty of it is a reflection of him. A motorcycle hobbyist, Ptak turns on the tube and shows races on Wednesday nights—and offers specials like the great $5 Sloppy-Joe-and-PBR-pint deal. And you certainly don't need handlebars to appreciate the way Smarty Pants sets a table. Instead of paper napkins, you'll get a mechanic's oil rag. Sans oil, of course.

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