Correction appended. See below.
Hidden amongst the bars of Water Street is a gem of a restaurant that many people don’t know.
Some students mistake it as a coffee house (which it is), others mistake it for a bakery (which it is). Other students flock to the restaurant-bakery-coffeehouse every weekend. Whatever you think it is, you should check it out.
The Nucleus, 405 Water St., celebrates its one year anniversary this weekend. The restaurant serves breakfast and lunch, and is open Thursday through Sunday, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
My first trip to The Nucleus was a recent Sunday, around 11 a.m. After walking in, my eyes immediately focused on the black chalkboards behind, above and next to the register that listed the menu. I had my choice of breakfast or lunch (lunch is served after 11 a.m., breakfast is served all day). After toying between a few items, I chose the Seattle Blues sandwich, a crab and two-cheese sandwich, with an Italian soda.
My accompaniments chose a whole wheat waffle with blueberries and a curry chicken salad sandwich with carrot ginger soup.
Owner Jeremy Kachmar said the goal of the menu is to offer spins on classics.
“We really try to provide something Mom would do for you at home,” he said.
And did he succeed.
First off, my Italian soda was a perfect mix of sparkling water and raspberry flavoring. My sandwich was situated on two pieces of fresh ciabatta bread, and melted to perfection.
My friend’s curry chicken salad was seasoned well, and offered a kick to a classic. Her carrot ginger soup was velvety, and filled with goodness. The soup was pureed and no one ingredient overpowered the other.
My other friend’s waffle was amazing. It was light and fluffy, and sprinkled with fresh blueberries. A small pitcher of real maple syrup accompanied it.
All the items we ordered were under $10, and worth every penny.
Kachmar said an average breakfast runs from $4 to $7, and lunch is anywhere between $5 and $8.
The menu features sandwiches, omelets, quiches, eggs, soups and other items. Visitors can also enjoy alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages like Bloody Marys and coffee drinks.*
Favorites on the menu include the Castro sandwich, a pulled beef sandwich, the Southwest omelet, and their French toast, made with orange zest, Kachmar said.
The Nucleus also offers weekly specials (like my Seattle Blues sandwich). Sometimes these become regular items.
“If a special catches on we put it on our local menu,” Kachmar said.
The atmosphere of The Nucleus is eclectic and warm. An old deli counter features a fish tank instead of food and the large glass windows are softened by rich floor-length curtains. The wooden tables and chairs are crowded into virtually every nook and cranny the small restaurant has.
The visitors are also an assorted group. When I went families, couples and groups of college students were there. People were dressed in sweatshirts, jeans and even church attire.
“We have quite a diversity of people,” Kachmar said.
The Nucleus’ size would be the only critique I have. On the Sunday I visited, it was difficult to find a seat, and others were left standing. However the cramped quarters can be avoided by ordering your meal as take-out, rather than eat-in.
Other than my two petty complaints, The Nucleus is a pretty obvious choice. It’s close, convenient, affordable and tasty. And I bet it will beat that leftover Toppers’ in your fridge from the night before.
*CLARIFICATION 4-11: The Nucleus acquires temporary liquor licenses to serve Bloody Marys on special occasions only.
CORRECTION 4-13: The Nucleus has a beer and wine list that is used on special occasions only. The restaurant does not have a liquor license.