Elliott Bay Cafe

What's perfect: the setting. Books, books, books, and more books shelved atop those books wall you in at the pleasingly European—or at least East Coast–ish—Elliott Bay Cafe. What's also perfect: the counter staff. It would be one thing if these people were merely friendly and efficient at the same time, but we hardly know what to do with the fact that they're also among the most aesthetically interesting folks we've ever seen gathered under one roof. What's usually quite good: the actual food. Black Sparrow Press fans will appreciate the sandwich titled "Bukowski's 'Ham on Rye.'" For $6.35, you get—you guessed it—Black Forest ham, Swiss cheese, tomato, and Mediterranean dressing (a tart, lemony olive oil) on rye bread, plus a "side of malice." What could stand improvement: some of the other menu descriptions. The "caramelized veggie roast" sandwich ($6.35), which we opted to have grilled on Essential Baking Company's sour white, isn't actually "slathered in caramelized roasted onions." One or two onion slices, cooked to a tepid medium but not browned and buttery, were a nice enough component of the otherwise serviceable sandwich (made with Field Roast, Swiss, and veggies), but we felt a little cheated. Still, a menu comprising homemade soups, eight sandwiches (more than half vegetarian), four salads, a couple of breakfast items, espresso, and pastries (vegan, organic, and wheat- free among them) is reason enough to head downstairs for some coffee and a bite after you do your book browsing upstairs. 101 S. Main St., 206-682-6664. PIONEER SQUARE

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