Secret's out about Mira! Good food, vibe abound

What looks like a converted rumpus room in the basement of the Labor Temple turns out to be Belltown's best-kept secret. It's a casual den with an alternative vibe, all-day hours and a wicked good list of simple sandwiches, pastas, breakfasts and snacky noshes, all to be enjoyed with those noble beverages you see lined up gemlike against the bar.

In short, Mira! is just the kind of place many of us moved to Seattle for. Of an autumn afternoon you can cozy up in the bar, which offers (like any self-respecting rumpus room) a fireplace and couches; or you can take a table in the main chamber, vividly painted in patches of bright reds and golds and greens. Or, if it's Indian summer, grab a perch in the hidden courtyard, concealed apart from the din of Belltown like a geode.

The background music rocks in the key of Belltown, but the place avoids the phony pretension that afflicts many a lesser neighboring establishment. So chances are you'll like the place — but will you like the food? On one critic's admittedly limited appraisal, absolutely.


2800 First Ave., Seattle; 206-448-8833



Hours: 7 a.m.-6 p.m. Mondays; 7 a.m.-midnight Tuesdays-Thursdays; 7 a.m.-2 a.m. Fridays; 5 p.m.-2 a.m. Saturdays

Full bar / AE, MC, V / Smoking OK in bar and courtyard only / No obstacles to access (via Clay Street entrance elevator)

Rating: Recommended

Morning brings breakfast burritos, French toast and egg plates; noon a lineup of sandwiches (melts, burgers, clubs) and salads to render anyone indecisive; evening fancier items, like Kobe flank steak ($15.95) and chicken katsu ($10.95); and during happy hour (4-6 p.m. weekdays) or late-night (10 p.m.-midnight weekdays), nibbles only happy or late hours can justify — jalapeño poppers, deep-fried zucchini, coconut prawns. You get the idea.

Menus are short and preparations are simple, but all is substantively done, and at bargain prices.

And you cannot beat the vibe with a stick. A find.

Check please:

Cream of asparagus soup, cup: Impressive, with its subtly seasoned finish and nap like velvet. It also concealed a secret pow; always a plus in a vegetable soup.

Spinach salad: A huge pile of baby spinach came topped with orange bits and nice big globs of blue cheese, held together in a house-made orange-honey-walnut dressing. It was a big juicy success, sweet bursting into savory nicely, and delish with two fat slices of grilled and oiled rustic bread.

Grilled cheese sandwich: Just fine, though nothing to knock your socks off. Thick slices of cheddar, provolone and tomato inside two fat flaps of good country bread, grilled crispy. (A little on the small side, though for $4.95 who can carp?) The advertised fresh basil turned out to be a tightfisted scatter of teensy basil pieces, a real disappointment. Fat fries dusted with paprika, and lots of them, came alongside.

Itemized bill, meal for two

Cream of asparagus soup, cup $2.95

Spinach salad $5.95

Grilled-cheese sandwich $4.95

Tax $1.21

Total $15.06

Kathryn Robinson: