At The Sit & Spin, Bring Your Appetite & Laundry

Restaurant review

XX Sit & Spin, 2219 Fourth Ave. ($) Sandwiches, soups and salads. One menu 11 a.m. to midnight Sunday through Wednesday and 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Thursday through Saturday ($3.95 to $5.25). Beer and wine. Non-smoking area. Access for disabled. No credit cards or checks. Reservations, only for large parties: 441-9484. -------------------------------------------------------------------

Wash away any trace of postholiday blues at Sit & Spin, the cafe/urban laundromat/art gallery/performance hall in Belltown. It's an eatery with a sense of humor. Not enough restaurants make us smile. Sit & Spin, with its 1950s decor, almost defies one to keep a straight face.

Bring some of your best friends, dirtiest laundry and hearty appetites. Once you've adjusted to the novelty of a large number of customers packing duffel bags of clothing and bottles of liquid detergent, you step up to the food counter and study the menu, a pleasing selection of snacks, sandwiches, salads and drinks.

After our friends tossed a few rugs into the washers and fed the machines with quarters, we gathered around a chrome-and-Formica dinette set to feed ourselves with appetizers.

The Urban Nachos ($4.25) were a generous plate of chips and cheese mounded with salsa and sour cream. For an extra $1 you can order them with the cafe's 5-Bean Vegetarian Chili, a well-seasoned specialty of the house including tomatoes, beer and brown sugar. The chili also may be ordered over brown rice in cups ($1.95) and bowls ($3.95).

Half vegetarian

"Our menu is about 50 percent vegetarian and about 50 percent carnivore," says executive chef and general manager Stephen Claussen, who designed the kitchen and much of the menu. "We aim to have something for every taste."

He brings to Sit & Spin a decade of restaurant experience, starting as a dishwasher and working his way up to assistant chef at The Roost in Issaquah. The other creative force in the kitchen is chef Mikel Percy, who trained at the Culinary Institute of America and chefed at the Warner Bros. studio in California before moving here.

Percy's artwork, displayed on walls of the gallery area, was his entree to Sit & Spin. When owners learned he also was adept at preparing entrees, they offered him the job he took two months ago.

While our laundry continued to spin, we ordered Blue Moon Bread ($1.50) - blue cheese, green onions and butter melted over focaccia. Another item shared as an appetizer, Black Bean Pita ($4.50), was bland.

Drinks include wines by the glass from Wyndham Estates of Australia, several beers (the local Jet City Ale is a favorite) and a generous selection of health drinks from the juice bar. We especially enjoyed the Gilligan's Island with Ginger smoothie ($3) a frothy blend of pineapple, pear, banana and ginger root.

Games before your meal

Before ordering sandwiches, we sandwiched in a quick round of the National Enquirer board game, creating outrageous headlines to match outrageous photographs. Boxes of games are stacked high on shelves for customers to entertain themselves while enjoying meals and waiting for clothes to dry. It's an inspired adult version of coloring paper place mats with crayons, and further evidence that this place takes the art of casual dining to new highs.

Paninis, the grilled Italian-style sandwiches ($3.95 to $5.25), are specialties here. The focaccia is seasoned with olive oil and herbs before filling with a variety of meats, cheeses and vegetables. The No. 2, roasted red peppers, olives, artichoke hearts, roasted garlic and provolone, is a winner, although during one visit the garlic was too raw. With the sandwiches comes a colorful coleslaw flavored with sesame oil dressing.

Also recommended are the Great Grilled Cheese, with smoked gouda and sliced tomatoes, and the Cashew Chicken Tarragon, both served on nine-grain bread. The P-Patch Bagel ($2.95), with cream cheese, tomatoes, carrots, sprouts and cucumbers, is one of five bagel sandwiches.

The "Sit & Spin"ach Salad ($4.25), with roasted peppers and mushrooms, has a light pesto dressing.

Claussen is especially proud of his soups and chowders. Recipes rotate, but two of the customer favorites are Northwest Salmon Chowder and Thai Curry Peanut Soup.

Slices of Snickers Pie and Granny Smith Apple Caramel Pie ($3) were sweet endings to happy visits at this good-time place where you can accomplish so much more than satisfying your hunger.

In most restaurants with bars there's a final call for booze orders near closing time. At Sit & Spin, the rules of the house include: "Last Wash by midnight Thursday-Saturday, 11 p.m. Sunday-Wednesday."

Times staff reviewers make visits to restaurants anonymously and unannounced. They pay in full for all food, wines and services. When they interview members of the restaurants' management and staff, they do so only after the meals and the services have been appraised. They do not accept invitations to evaluate restaurants.