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What's in Claire's Pantry?

Perfection is in the pie at this downtown Edmonds family eatery.

With sunny skies and the temperature soaring to a near-balmy 60 degrees this week, I almost got carried away and dined al fresco in Edmonds.

Almost.

After picking up a bag of chow at for my cats’ weekly review, the jacket-less walk across the parking lot convinced me it’s not yet time to have dinner outdoors.

I thus settled my car into one of the free three-hour parking spots off Fourth Avenue in downtown Edmonds, marveled again at the beautiful concept of free downtown parking, and crossed the street to .

Upon stepping across the threshold I was greeted by a wall of windows looking into Claire’s cocktail lounge. The lounge is a full-service affair, but I opted for a glass of house cabernet sauvignon for just $2.50 with dinner purchase. Honestly, I think $2.50 for a glass of vino is venturing into risky territory, especially if you accept that the average retail markup is 300%. But while certainly not on par with the fine products from our many excellent Washington wineries, Claire’s bargain cab was tolerable.

The Claire’s Pantry menu roundly covered all the quintessential family restaurant classics. All-day breakfast, steaks, burgers and sandwiches. Chicken entrees, pastas, fried seafood plates, salads, and numerous sweet finishes. Most dinners were priced between $10 to $15, with salads beginning at $6.95. There wasn’t much in the way of global flavor and nothing was particularly inventive, but hey—10-ounce prime rib dinner for $15.95.

Almost as good as a thrifty steak supper is a thrifty turkey dinner, which is what I settled on at Claire’s. Turkey is apparently kind of the “thing” at Claire’s. There was an entire menu section dedicated to the bird, headed by the spelling-challenged assertion, “Everday is Thanksgiving.” Among other gobbler goodies featured were a turkey pot pie, turkey salad and two kinds of turkey sandwiches.

It was roast turkey dinner all the way for me, though. For $12.95, the sheer volume of food I received from my industrious server was impressive. A generous green salad topped with beet shreds and sunflower seeds accompanied by a side of my chosen blue cheese dressing started off the proceedings. The housemade dressing was the standout ingredient; the menu noted that jars of the blue cheese and other varieties were available for purchase.

My dinner plate turned out to be something of a mixed bag. The green beans were in no way prepared from fresh produce, but they were tender and appropriately salted. I confess to preferring my green beans more soft than crisp, so if you’re also in the pass-al-dente-collect-haricots-vertes camp, Claire’s beans may just work for you.

The mashed potatoes were cafeteria-variety, and the lack of anything resembling a lump cast suspicion on the spuds’ origin. Most disappointing, however, was the “moist sage stuffing.” It was moist, to be sure, but salty beyond the point of being palatable. Fortunately, the giblet gravy was mild without being bland, and a perfect accompaniment to tasty turkey tending just a hint towards dry. Claire’s menu states that turkeys are prepared daily and this freshness was evident in the excellent flavor of my hearty portion of white meat and smidgen of dark.

Having grown up in Oregon’s cranberry country where cranberry sauce is made on the stovetop and has actual berries in it, I’ve never taken to canned cranberry jelly such as that which Claire’s provided. This is clearly a weird cultural issue on my part.

Almost without equal, the most exceptional part of my meal at Claire’s Pantry was the last course: pie ($4.50 per slice). The restaurant’s pie case is a sight to behold, with enormous pastry shells filled with pecans or apples, and crème fillings with Rainier-sized whipped domes. On this occasion there were at least five kinds of pie available, enough perhaps to give the ordering patron too many choices.

The chocolate pie was divine, with slightly sweet, dense whipped cream topping that could be worthy of dessert status all on its own. Beneath the snowy layer was thick chocolate crème—not just a wimpy pudding—and a flaky crust hinting of salt to perfectly balance the filling’s sweetness. The apple pie boasted a double layer of impressively thick crust encasing perfect slices of buttery cinnamon-kissed apples. If you take away nothing else from this review, please heed this advice: Even if you’re stuffed from dinner, take a piece of Claire’s pie to go.

With offerings including crayons and a kids’ menu plus senior specials for the 55-and-older set, generations are invited to mingle harmoniously around the table at Claire’s. Mingling much more cacophonically on my visit were a couple members of the service crew, one of whom audibly bickered at her co-worker, the other appearing to have dropped by off-shift to loudly socialize with her busy colleagues. There may have been background music, but it was hard to tell.

Despite a few flaws, Claire’s Pantry proved itself to be a budget-friendly spot with a menu meeting all the criteria of Diner 101. There were highs and lows, but overall Claire eked out a passing grade riding on honors in pie.

Jack Fleming March 25, 2011 at 04:10 PM
Alway fun to read your great reviews Jennifer! Thanks!
Jennifer Cox March 25, 2011 at 05:49 PM
You're very welcome! I'm kind of craving another piece of Claire's pie myself...

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