Royal Forks

At Salty's weekend buffet, more is more.

When faced with a brunch buffet of absolutely epic proportions—such as the one at Salty's on Alki Beach—you find yourself doing things you would never ordinarily do. You leave the house, dressed in a comfortable approximation of your Sunday best, steadfast in your plan not to make a complete pig of yourself, but three trips through the S-curves of polished aluminum warming pans later, you've blown that promise sky-high. You've even begun toying with the very gauche idea of undoing the top button of your skirt. On your plate, there are chocolate-dipped skewers of fresh strawberries sitting on top of peel-and-eat prawns, and you just watched your mom nab a syrup-drenched silver-dollar-sized pancake, an O'Brien-ed potato, and a hunk of maple-glazed kielbasa on the same fork. Your nephew's cantaloupe is bathing in the red sauce of his penne, but the 5-year-old is eating it just the same. As you and he watch huge ships bringing tons of those mysterious metal containers into port, you notice that all the rules have gone out the window. THERE ARE BRUNCHES all over the city, one for every palate, appetite, and budget, but in terms of sheer volume and variety—not to mention view-Salty's is king. Adored by many as the quintessential special-occasion destination and the best place in town for summer sunset watching and yet snickered at by those who believe menu offerings like coconut-flaked prawns went out of fashion with big hair and white high-tops, Salty's is a Seattle institution no matter how you slice it. At Salty's weekend brunch, it's hard not to be a fan-unless you are morally opposed to a little gluttony and in possession of an ironclad constitution. Or if you don't have ample time to eat. When I called to make a reservation (strongly encouraged) at 1:30 p.m. for my mom, nephew, and myself, the Salty's associate I spoke with warned that we would only have about an hour and a half to eat (the kitchen stops preparing food at 2 p.m.). Inferring that an hour-and-a-half window for eating just wouldn't suffice, I moved our plans back an hour. The following Sunday, I understood why. You almost need hard numbers to understand the amount of food available at Salty's weekend brunch. Salty's executive chef, Dan Thiessen, says that per weekend, 120 pounds of diced potatoes are needed for dishes like the sweet, hearty, and wonderfully delicious smoked Alaska king salmon hash; 60 dozen whole eggs are used in warming tray after warming tray of traditional eggs Benedict; 210 pounds of bacon are consumed; and some poor kitchen scrub slices and dices 240 pounds each of pineapple, watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew. If numbers alone don't work for you, perhaps the word "chocolatefall" will do the trick. Milk chocolate (30 to 40 pounds of it) is melted and made to cascade down a three-story waterfall of sorts; marshmallows, strawberries, and bananas are offered as dunkables. Additionally, more than 20 different delicate pastries, fruit pies, and cookies are prepared along with delicious raspberry jam filled Puyallup Fair scones, Washington apple dumplings, and ridiculously decadent caramel-glazed cream-cheese cinnamon rolls. And don't worry about saving dessert for last. Have some with your homemade corned beef hash or Caesar salad. No one is going to tell you not to. Carving tables of roast beef and ham are lined up next to waffle irons and French toast griddles. Around the corner there's an omelet bar, a crepe bar, and a made-to-order pasta bar with lobster ravioli and sinful sauces. Professional shuckers stand at the ready behind an ice table of raw Hood Canal oysters, Penn Cove mussels, and Dungeness crab. There is Louisiana catfish with papaya salsa, Cajun seafood and sausage paella, and blackened salmon. In fact, considering the absolute abundance of seafood alone, the price for brunch ($28.95 for adults, $20.95 for senior citizens over 65, $11.95 for kids ages 5 to 9) is hardly exorbitant. We watched the family next to us go all out on crab legs and prawns; they seemed to be using the brunch buffet as an all-you-can-eat seafood splurge. Of course, when dealing with such extreme quantities, quality slides just a bit here and there, but it's actually very impressive that such a huge undertaking is so well executed. Buffets are often blander the bigger they are, but that rule doesn't apply here. REST ASSURED, FOLKS will make hogs of themselves come the weekend at Salty's. Our very handsome and friendly waiter said that the craziest he had seen ate for four hours straight and then stood up and announced that she had won. The restaurant itself is immense, and by the time the first vat of biscuits and gravy arrives, the place is packed. This probably won't be the most cultured eating-out experience you've ever had, and you will be reminded that overindulgence is the American way, but you certainly won't need to eat again for the rest of the day. And Mom will love it. Salty's on Alki Beach, 1936 Harbor Ave. S.W., 206-937-1600, WEST SEATTLE. Brunch: 10 a.m. 2 p.m. Sat., 9 a.m. 2 p.m. Sun. Lunch: 11 a.m. 3 p.m. Mon. Fri., 11:30 a.m. 3 p.m. Sat. Dinner: 5 9 p.m. Mon. Thurs., 5 10 p.m. Fri., 4 10 p.m. Sat., 4 9:30 p.m. Sun.

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