The Catholic Seaman’s Club: Arms Wide Open

The Belltown club serves sandwiches and ping-pong to “brothers” of all faiths.

Contrary to popular opinion, the Catholic Seamen's Club is neither: (a) a sperm bank for believers in the Holy Trinity, nor (b) a private club. While it caters mainly to sailors and fishermen, it's open to the general public. And judging from the lunch crowd, the public is largely unaware of this fact—which is too bad for the public, because the Catholic Seamen's Club serves a mean grilled ham-and-cheese sandwich, with a view.Situated above the Del Rey on First Ave., this Belltown "club" is not to be confused with the sort of Belltown clubs (like the Del Rey) that the mayor's nightlife Gestapo has been trying to put the screws to. Although the Catholic Seamen's Club offers beer by the bottle, pool, ping-pong, foosball, and a big-screen TV in a dark lounge area, it's not the rowdy type. On the first floor is a chapel, open to sailors of varying denominations (a note on the glass says prayer rugs are available for "Muslim brothers"). On the second floor is a large, sunny, brightly-lit room, where sailors (and remember, the public) may eat, play any of the aforementioned games, and make use of house computers and telephones for a modest fee. There are also storage lockers for sailors in need.Some tables—namely the ones by the west window, which offers a relatively unencumbered view of the Sound—feature small potted plants as their centerpiece, and wall space is dominated by decor of two types: the sea and the church. Papal imagery pervades the area above the coffeepots, and currency from at least a hundred international ports of call is pasted nearby. A grilled ham and cheese, a la carte, is ridiculously cheap ($4), and the $3 grilled cheese is even cheaper (and simpler, given the obvious absence of ham). If you want fries, that'll cost you a buck-and-a-half more.Presiding over all this is an elderly Catholic priest with a discernible brogue named Father Tony Haycock, whose album of folk shanties, Home from the Sea, is available for purchase at the lunch counter. The server is an ultra-friendly bespectacled gentleman roughly Haycock's age, and the main cook is a similarly affable Latino gentleman (assisted by a Vietnamese comrade) who will probably be surprised to see you. But for a Four Seasons view at Super 8 prices, a little shock and awe is infinitely

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