[Photos: S. Pratt]
As Greasy Spoons Week 2013 continues, we honor Seattle's venerable Wedgwood Broiler by enlisting the help of Mike Seely, former editor-in-chief of Seattle Weekly (where he won an IACP award for his Murray Stenson article) and author of Seattle's Best Dive Bars: Drinking & Diving in the Emerald City, who grew up exactly half-a-block from the Broiler.
The Wedgwood Broiler is the quintessential suburban American restaurant of the 1970s. Only it's located within Seattle's city limits, and it's not the '70s anymore.
Anchoring a Northeast Seattle strip mall in an ultra-residential, Mayberry-esque neighborhood, the windowless Broiler has been around since the late '60s. The well-tenured waitstaff will crumble cheese crackers and bacon bits on your dinner salad if you ask, and the kitchen still prepares liver and onions, lasagna and salisbury steak, along with a prime rib special that runs through the weekend. Suffice it to say, many of the Broiler's regulars take their supper closer to 5 o'clock than 8.
The Broiler's 21-and-over lounge is so severely partitioned from the dining room that teetotalers could be forgiven for failing to be cognizant of its mere presence. Replete with vinyl-backed barstools and booths, it's the sort of environment where an out-of-towner could get away with stoking the embers of adultery, yet also the type of place where a lone Wedgwood denizen can be virtually assured of bumping into a neighbor within a six-door radius. Its house Manhattans come in small or large martini glasses, and its popcorn is air-popped and drenched in fresh butter. On the walls of the men's bathroom are 20th-Century beer pinups; the Broiler oozes class and classlessness simultaneously. You half-expect Ron Burgundy to walk in, climb atop a table, smash some tumblers with his zip-up boots, and play jazz flute ("Hey, Aqualung!") — and there are cars in the parking lot which would vouch for his presence.
Mind you, "greasy spoon" would be an inaccurate way to characterize the Broiler. But then, in this day and age, the versatile Broiler escapes easy classification. It's too humble to be a chophouse, too nice to be a diner or dive, and too laid-back to be a Saturday night hotspot. By insulating itself against the world around it, the Broiler has, in its static approach, become oddly revolutionary, and unflinchingly comfortable.