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The Lunch Ladies ~ Caring at The Luncheonette

West Seattle Herald, September 29, 2008
By Emily Williamson

There is something timeless about the Luncheonette.

Upon entering, I often feel as though I am watching a film and trying to discern which era I am observing, 1910's? 40's? Earlier? Later? Maybe it's the tiny silver antique salt and pepper shakers (so cute I want to take them home) the floral English plates, or the entire décor, but the place seems to be from a different time.

The next thing I notice is that everyone seems relaxed. In the city? Preposterous! But it's true. The whole environment, the staff, the customers move in a fluid, calm choreography.

On this day we were warmly welcomed by a woman that looked familiar. She smiled at us as I studied the menu board and Miranda made her order. She knew exactly what she wanted.

The Luncheonette consists of two rooms. The entry consists of a large pastry and quiche case and chalk boards on the left displaying the specials of the day. (They also display the menu on a sandwich board sign on the corner of Oregon and California) There are usually two soups, two sandwiches, two or more kinds of quiche, and many desserts.

As I gave the hostess my order I nibbled on the gingerbread samples. I ate more than I was supposed to and hoped no one noticed.

When we were done ordering, we walked into the main room and relaxed into our seats and waited for our meal. Look! I thought, now I am one of the happy calm customers in the timeless movie!

I fidgeted with the sweet salt and pepper shakers while Miranda started on our subject for the day. Caring.

Great, the stock market it going down the tubes and we are facing the biggest financial crisis of my lifetime, and Miranda is talking about caring?

"I talked to my banker today," she tells me. "And I have lost a some of my portfolio." She admits.

"I am sorry to hear that," I respond. I have lost nothing because I have no investments.

"But that is not the important part of this story," she continues.

Our food arrives and it looks delicious. I have the turkey cranberry Gouda sandwich, and Miranda has the caramelized apple, brie, and onion quiche and a cup of broccoli tortellini soup. My sandwich comes with a side of slaw. It looks so pretty on the antique Safford/Wedgewood style rose plate, but Miranda ordered the better meal. They were both great, mind you, but after one bite of her quiche and I wanted the whole thing. There was something inevitable about the ingredients, as if, of course, apple, brie and onion are always supposed to be combined with egg batter and poured into a quiche! I ate my delicious sandwich as I listened.

"No, Emily, it isn't about the stock market and how much I lost. It is about the fact that our entire nation is waking up to the fact that we cannot spend beyond our means, that we need to live by integrity, because ultimately all of this crisis is what happens when we don't. This is the crisis of unmet promises."

"What does that have to do with caring?" I asked as I ate my sandwich. The fresh bread and thick sliced turkey was perfect with the tang of the Gouda and cranberry.

"Because, we may see a time of real struggle ahead, so what's a better time to be generous, compassionate, caring? You might not have money, but you might have a few hours to help volunteer at the food bank or a homeless shelter. What about letting the person in front of you at the grocery store have their turn first, or giving up your parking spot, or leaving a gift card in a mailbox of a neighbor? Make a pie! Mow someone's lawn! Drop a twenty dollar bill on the sidewalk! It may not fix anyone's retirement package, but we can make each other's life much better with just a small amount of effort."

"How is your meal?" the hostess asks us.

"Great," we reply.

That is when I recognize what make The Luncheonette so timeless and special. It is the quality. Every detail is attended to, and yet is seems effortless. There is only one attribute that creates such ease and presence, and that is a deep and abiding caring for their food, their environment, and ultimately, their customers.

We left feeling full, grateful, and happy. (And no, I did not steal the little salt and pepper shakers.)

Emily Williamson has lived in West Seattle for over ten years and loves it. She can be reached at


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