The 5 Point Cafe: stiff drinks and crabby charm
After 85 years, Belltown’s 5 Point Cafe still retains the grit and charm of Old Seattle.
Seattle Times staff reporter
For all the grunge-gy goodness and sloppy drunkenness to entertain you at The 5 Point Cafe, there’s still nothing more fun than reading the admonitions and benedictions posted on its five-page menu.
Posted under the heading of omelets:
“The 5 Point is a place open to all types of people, including those in various states of inebriation, and with sometimes extremely different political, religious and social ideologies. If you are easily offended, there’s a good chance you will be offended here.”
Below its “Liver and onions” and other diner-type specials:
“There is no law that can force us to put up with you if we think you’re acting like a jackass. And if we ask you to leave, for God’s sake, don’t start telling us about your ‘rights.’ Just shut up and get out.”
Oh, 5 Point Cafe, and to think we almost lost you. Opened in1929, this institution was in danger of shutting down until David Meinert swooped in and saved it five years ago. This Belltown dive celebrates its 85th anniversary this week.
Meinert seems to relish his role as defender of the working class and savior of old Seattle. He also helped save the historic dive bar The Comet Tavern and last year opened a 24-hour diner, Lost Lake Cafe, that’s almost a spitting image of The 5 Point Cafe.
It’s one of the cheapest happy hours in the city. A charred, diner-style cheeseburger topped with lettuce and tomato with a side of hand-cut fries costs only $3.50 during happy hour, as cheap as fast food, only this will taste three times better. It’s a greasy spoon on steroids, with happy-hour snacks like fried bacon mac-and-cheese balls and deep-fried battered bacon strips served with country gravy.
But I would go no further than that. The ($4) dry steak bites served no redeeming value other than as a delivery agent for the Cajun sauce.
Besides its bumper-sticker littered wall, The 5 Point is actually cleaner than any dive bar needs to be, since Meinert spruced it up a bit. The tile floor is new. The cushy vinyl seats are comfortable, no tears — no gum stuck underneath — and not a lot of carved initials and graffiti on the tables either.
When it comes to drinks, patrons don’t mess around. It’s a vodka-and-whiskey kinda bar (not necessarily together, but that wouldn’t be out of the question for some of the clientele).
The characters, they are here. There are patrons playing air guitar to Grand Funk Railroad and dudes expounding on the virtues of the Eldorado Pickup truck. Nearby, a guy is slurring his impression of Jack Nicholson in “The Shining” while downing Jack Daniels. This was at 4 p.m.
Come midnight, the rowdiness increases tenfold.
Come for the cheap burger or come out of curiosity, but bring your sense of humor. No Seattle Freeze here. Mingle. Hoist a can of Rainier with the stranger two seats over. Pick a song from the jukebox. And pay no mind if some drunk boos your taste in music. They’re just teasing. They like you.
Or maybe you’re one of those unruly drunks who got booted out. No worries. Your guide to redemption is posted on the menu.
This expulsion may be permanent, it may just be until you sober up, or it may be until you convince us that you will stop acting like a damned fool in the future. We’ll let you know our final verdict when you skulk back to The 5 Point with your tail between your legs.
The 5 Point Cafe, 415 Cedar St., offers happy hour Monday-Friday 6 a.m.-9 a.m. and again at 4-6 p.m. The early happy hour is breakfast food and $5 Bloody Marys and other morning cocktails, and the evening specials feature its signature $3.50 cheeseburger-and-fries deal and other bar snacks from $2.50-$4, and $2-$3 beer and $3.75 well drinks (206-448-9991 or http://the5pointcafe.com/).
Tan Vinh: 206-515-5656 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @tanvinhseattle