Toronto-born corporate chef Bruce Pinkerton came to Seattle some 20 years ago to help open a hotel, since bulldozed. He stayed on, though, and launched the concept of Designed Dinners, a food preparation center and take-out kitchen. The meal-assembly "industry" continues to grow nationally; Pinkerton's business expanded to several locations, most recently at 2nd and Denny in Belltown, and he added Urban Wine Cafe earlier this year.
Then opportunity really knocked. The café in the complex of high-tech buildings along Elliott Avenue (F5, Classsmates.com, Clear Channel), a barebones corporate lunchroom, came up for lease. Over 2,000 employees had nowhere else to eat. Pinkerton and his crew transformed the space in just eight days and managed to open the handsome, new Urban Cafe on 09 09 09.
There's seating in the pastel-green café for about 30; the menu begins with breakfast, and moves on to soups, do-it-yourself salads, sandwiches and specials (displayed on a hi-def TV screen) like chicken breasts or pork chops. Pinkerton will also cater the various in-house events, and use the café's generously sized kitchen (and new, walk-in freezer) to produce his Designed Dinners. Is it gourmet cuisine? No, of course not, although our cumin-scented, pulled-pork panino on ciabata was clearly a notch (or two or three) above standard lunch counter fare. Pinkerton's customers, whether eat-in or take-out, don't want surprises, they want balance, reassurance and comfort: the essence of food.