The Turf: Gone in Name Only

Ludi's changes very little about the legendary dive.

Toward the end of 2011, when the Turf's owner announced he would be changing the working-class downtown restaurant's name, certain publications that hadn't devoted any ink to the Turf in eons (aside from the occasional crime recap) began to eulogize the place as though the whole of Seattle's underclass was about to be sent into the great hereafter (i.e., Tukwila) with a 21-gun salute.

In a piece titled "Good-Bye, Turf: the End of an Era," one melodramatic scribe bemoaned the fate of the bar's patrons, wondering: "Where will all those people go now?"

They'll keep going to the Turf, in fact. While a handful of more expensive items have been added to the menu, the Turf of new is still very much the Turf of old. It's just called Ludi's now.

There's a $16 rib-eye on Ludi's menu. It may or may not have been on the Turf's menu. It doesn't much matter, because no Turf (er, Ludi's) customer is ever going to walk into the Turf (oops, Ludi's) looking to order a $16 rib-eye. If they're looking for food, they'll be ordering a grilled ham and cheese, fries, or a Filipino appetizer, like lumpia. I ordered all of the above, and my total bill—which still bore the words "The Turf Restaurant"—was under $10.

As for the decor, it's identical to the Turf's. A photo of a meat sandwich on one of the walls used to say "Turf" on it. As with the restaurant, only the name has changed. In fact, when asked what Ludi's (the name is from the owner's family) has that the Turf didn't, my server quickly and confidently replied: "Everything is the same."

During a recent Friday lunch hour, business was booming. Actual black people, an increasingly endangered species north of Spokane Street, enjoyed affordable lunches in the diner portion of the space and cocktails in the back bar. A slightly inebriated middle-aged gentleman stumbling around with a glass of whiskey took credit for playing the Temptations on the jukebox, announcing that it was "old-school, like back in Harlem."

This gentleman was of Caucasian descent. If we're to dispense with ethnocentric political correctness for a moment, his claim that he knows what it was like "back in Harlem" is a dubious one. But nowhere near as dubious as the notion that some sort of era has ended at Second and Pike.

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