Museum of Bite

Randy's Restaurant is a relic of Boeing's high-flying past.

 Way down East Marginal Way, across from the Boeing Company's Museum of Flight, there sits a permanently beached British Airways Concorde. So much promise, the Concorde. But having timed the speed-of-light commuter market so perfectly wrong, the Concorde is doomed to be a gaudy relic of the past, something to be fawned over by tourists and aerospace enthusiasts alike—but never again cleared for takeoff. Like the Concorde, Boeing was once big and sexy. Not so much nowadays: Microsoft, Starbucks, and a gazillion little start-ups make the East Marginal behemoth look stodgy, old, and unwieldy. But, wonder of wonders, an assload of laborers still show up for work there every day, and those people still have to eat. All of this—the Concorde, the past, the big old bird manufacturer—helps explain the inexplicable durability of Randy's Restaurant, a 24-hour greasy spoon that abuts Boeing Field in the industrial no-man's-land where South Seattle meets Tukwila. The ambience at Randy's is Oklahoma truck stop meets Denny's meets American Legion Hall meets vintage aviation shrine. There are lots of model warbirds hanging from the ceiling and walls, and the cooks all wear American flag kerchiefs. The old waitresses have big hair and big voices, and the young ones look sweet but tired. What the Sam Hill are they doing here, way down south, serving hashbrowns to graveyard-shift machinists, long-haul he-men, and wanderlust-stricken parolees? Maybe it's the anonymity, the ability to earn an honest buck in solitude without a snowball's chance in Jamaica that a high-school boyfriend will randomly drop in—at least not sober and before 3 a.m., anyway. All-night diners like Randy's—ones that pledge no allegiance to a neighborhood (because there aren't any neighborhoods around to be found)—don't adhere to real-world standards. They create their own reality: one where canned corned beef hash bests the Celtic variety and American cheese atop a standard-issue omelet is heaven; where uniformed cops dine alongside drifters in pastel vinyl booths without interrogating or booking them. The steak at Randy's is a bit tough, but so is the clientele. The pancakes are enormous—perfect for soaking up a night of drink. And if the holes in the salt and pepper shakers appear to be a little wider than more highfalutin haunts, it's not by accident. Not enough flavor on the plate? Add it yourself. While Randy's clientele is diverse enough so as not to be labeled Boeing's unofficial corporate cafeteria, it's probably not a stretch to say that if the company were to fall by the wayside, so, too, would Randy's. The company, like the diner, has found a way to stay just nimble enough to keep things humming day by day, hour by hour. The Concorde: no such luck. Big and sexy's great and all; but if you can't get off the ground anymore, what's the use? Bottom Feeder is a bi-weekly tongue-dive into Seattle's fast, cheap, and out-of-control culinary underworld. It alternates with Jonathan Kauffman's bi-weekly Voracious.

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