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Updated: Apr 22, 2023


Oldest Bar In Seattle Five Point Cafe Review And Tavern Near Space Needle In The Great Wide Thirsty Thursdays Travel Blog

The 5 Point Cafe


The longest family run eatery in Seattle also happens to be one of the oldest bars in the city, and they’re well-known for doing things their own way. It’s a dive bar diner, The 5 Point Cafe!


CONTENTS



Where is it?

The 5 Point Cafe is just 2 blocks away from the Seattle Center, the complex that includes the Space Needle, Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP), the Pacific Science Center, and Chihuly Garden and Glass, along with the Climate Pledge Arena, and more attractions.


The physical address is: 415 Cedar St, Seattle, WA 98119



How to Get There

Since the 5 Point Cafe is a short walk from the Seattle Center, the easiest way to get there is via the Seattle Center Monorail. It comes from the Westlake Center in Downtown Seattle, just a few blocks away from Pike Place Market.


The Monorail is relatively inexpensive ($6.50 round-trip) and it’s a lot nicer to not have to worry about parking, as it can get expensive, especially if there’s a big event happening. And since the Westlake Center is a major transportation hub for Seattle public transit, chances are that you could take a bus or train there and skip driving at all. We stayed in the Chinatown area and just walked up to the monorail.


If you must drive there, there are parking garages and lots near the cafe. Be like we said, when an event is happening in the Seattle Center, the parking rates jump dramatically.


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Menu at The 5 Point Cafe

The 5 Point Cafe is a 24-hour diner, first and foremost. They’re proud of the fact that they service ‘working class stiffs’ at all hours of the day and night. The menu and the drinks reflect this attitude.


Breakfast is served 24-hours a day, and it is everything one could want from a dive bar or a diner. Every main item on the menu, from breakfast items to sandwiches to burgers to their 5 Point Specialties, run between $10 and $20. Nothing on the menu is over $20. They have soups, salads, and appetizers, as well, for reasonable prices. Beer-Battered Cheese Curds and Poutine highlight the appetizer menu. Or you can be brave and order 1lb of Fries or Tots with cheese. It’s a dive bar AND a diner and the food exemplifies this.


They have a full bar and even serve breakfast drinks, including pint-size mimosas and what they call the Brass Monkey, a pint of domestic beer with a splash of OJ for $6, so it’s really just a beermosa. Drafts and canned beers are around the same price with the nicer stuff being a couple bucks more. They also serve Mimosas (and a Man-mosa with a shot of mandarin vodka) and Bloody Marys.


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History of The 5 Point Cafe

The 5 Point Cafe was opened in 1929 by Preston Smith and his wife Frances. A year later, they opened a sister restaurant, The Mecca Cafe. When the Prohibition ended in 1933, the two cafes became two of the first establishments to start serving alcohol, making the 5 Point Cafe the oldest continuously-operating bar in Seattle.


The Depression was a tough time, but Preston was determined to take care of his staff, most of whom continued to work for him for upwards of 20 years. It didn’t help that most of the city’s politicians and police officers were corrupt at the time, causing a 9 month loss of the Mecca Cafe liquor license when Preston refused to “fix it” for the handsome sum of $1,000, the 1933 equivalent to $22,924 today. Preston won out in a raucous public hearing, to the joy of many working stiffs that supported the Cafes.



Preston and Frances’ son, Dick, took over in 1975. Dick was well known for his dislike of authority (much like his father) and became infamous for thumbing his nose at the local government. When construction began that would block the restaurant’s view of the Space Needle, he installed a periscope in the men’s restroom with a clear view of it. He installed a faucet on the roof that sprayed the sidewalk, keeping the transients from sleeping against the restaurant. He led the opposition to the Seattle Commons, a planned urban ‘Central Park’ by Paul Allen, billionaire co-founder of Microsoft, that would have displaced hundreds if not thousands of local residents.


When Dick passed in 2001, the people who bought the 5 Point tried to make it less of the dive bar that it is, much to the dismay of the regular clientele, and it came extremely close to closing permanently. David Meinert saved the establishment in 2009, purchasing it to bring it back to Preston and Frances’ original vision of serving large portions of inexpensive food and welcoming everyone, except those who think not everyone should be welcomed.


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Our Experience

We were spending the day in the Seattle Center area using our CityPasses to visit the Space Needle, MoPOP, and Chihuly Garden & Glass, but we needed somewhere to grab lunch between sightseeing. We did a quick search over our morning coffee and found The 5 Point Cafe close by, with reasonable prices, and it didn’t look super touristy. What we didn’t know is just how awesome the 5 Point Cafe was going to be!


It ended up being one of our favorite restaurants of our whole month-long train trip across the country and back.


Our first clue was the Covid Safety sign outside the front door, requiring masks inside. Essentially, the message boiled down to: if you don’t like it, leave. It became clear that the 5 Point Cafe takes a stance and sticks with it, which is very appealing, especially when it comes to public safety.


As we approached, a bunch of families showed up at the same time and we thought it was odd, as the place definitely had a dive bar feel and children seemed to be out of place. The host must have sensed this, as she sat us on the Tavern side of the 5 Point Cafe, which she referred to as the “locals side”. We didn’t know that was a thing, but we were grateful to be treated like locals. The Cafe side, aka the “tourist side”, is where the families with children sat, along with the small patio in the front, as it was a beautiful day outside. We felt right at home where the host sat us, as it appeared to be a bunch of locals hanging out on a late morning/early afternoon.


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The walls on the Tavern side were plastered with a bunch of stickers, some for bands, some random, and it was entertaining to look at all of them. The bartender acted as our server and was super down to earth while joking around with the locals sitting at the bar. He was attentive to our needs and made us feel at home. There was a digital jukebox on the wall that controlled the music blaring into the bar, which you (as the guest) could control from an app on your phone. The vibe was definitely more punk rock than diner. We even noticed a moose head on the wall overhead with bras hanging off of it!


We both ordered the Brass Monkey, a pint of PBR with a splash of OJ, that was exactly what we needed at the time. The menu now just says ‘a domestic beer’ so don’t get your hopes up if you’re married to the idea of PBR. Phoebe’s chicken fried steak was massive, and the 5 Point claims it is the largest in Seattle, at 11oz. Since she grew up in Oklahoma, Phoebe is a sort of chicken fried steak connoisseur, always ready to try it when she sees in on the menu, and she was fairly pleased with this one. The breakfast philly cheesesteak I had with cheesy grits was quite tasty.


It was awesome to be treated like locals, even though we’re not. I don’t know if it came down to the attitude we have, in general, or the inevitably annoyed looks we gave the rambunctious children while waiting in line, but it was an experience that makes us want to go back. It’s definitely made us ponder what makes for a good tourist vs a bad tourist, so perhaps we’ll write another blog post with our thoughts on the matter.


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Reservations at The 5 Point Cafe

The 5 Point Cafe doesn’t take reservations, so feel free to stop by anytime for a full meal or just for a beer. It’s a pretty small place, so be prepared to wait a few minutes, especially if you go during peak hours.


The Cafe is open 24 hours, 7 days a week, with the bar open from 6am - 2am every day. On Fridays, Saturdays, and special event days, the place is 21+ only from 10pm-2am.



Our Verdict

The food is large portions at affordable prices, the waitstaff is friendly, and they’re no-nonsense; what’s not to love about this dive bar diner? If we lived in Seattle, we’d be frequenting this place; and the next time we’re in the city, we’ll definitely check out their sister restaurant, The Mecca Cafe. If you’re in Seattle, especially spending your day sightseeing around the Seattle Center, take a break at the 5 Point Cafe, but don’t act like a tourist!


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Quick Reference Guide

What

Where

How to Get There

The Seattle Center Monorail from the Westlake Center is the easiest way. If you must drive, there are parking garages and lots in the area, but they can get expensive when there are big events happening.

Time Commitment

We spent maybe an hour having lunch, but you could stay however long you feel like it since they’re open 24 hours a day.

Menu Highlights

The Chicken Fried Steak is the largest in Seattle. Their breakfast specials are amazing, including the breakfast drinks, like the Brass Monkey.

Cost

Everything on the menu is less than $20. Drinks are reasonably priced for it being Seattle.

Reservation Info

No reservations. The place is small but pretty popular, being the oldest bar in town, so expect a bit of a wait. We went after the lunch rush and were sat almost immediately.

Our Verdict

Make it a stop while sightseeing in Seattle, but make sure to act like a local, not a tourist!


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Adam Neubauer Travel Blog Writer For In The Great Wide Thirsty Thursdays

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