Thirteen Coins, 125 Boren Ave. N., (206) 682-2513 - From Long Island to Los Angeles, "local institutions" tend to deteriorate in direct proportion to the amount of publicity they get. Seattle's legendary Thirteen Coins, however, has lost none of its cachet. That could have something to do with the large portions of comfort food - French onion soup, fettuccine Alfredo, grilled steaks - that casually attired diners can watch being prepared with a panache that reflects the Northwest's "no snobs allowed" ethos. With high-backed, red swivel chairs at the counter, one critic compared the atmosphere to the set of a gangster film. But the dim lighting is all about pleasure, not business. Open 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, Thirteen Coins remains lively late into the night with a full menu.

Cherry Street Coffee House
, 103 Cherry St. (second location at 2121 First Ave.), (206) 621-9372 - Here as everywhere, Starbucks and Seattle's Best Coffee dominate the roasted-bean scene. That hasn't stopped the independent Cherry Street Coffee House from becoming a recent favorite with downtown office workers. The small shop serves the expected assortment of bakery items and multiflavored coffee drinks, but also adds a good selection of trendy teas. The usual to-go frenzy creates lines in the morning, but the real draw is the relaxed seating area (down a small set of stairs just off the main entrance) and sidewalk tables.

Cafe Allegro, 4214 University Way N.E.
, (206) 633-3030 - The Seattle coffee revolution began with small, hip coffee shops in old brick buildings - like Cafe Allegro, which, since 1975, along with its owner Nathaniel Jackson, has been a fixture with the University of Washington crowd. It's open nightly until 10:30, but the best time to visit is in the morning, when students and professors are still moving slowly and placid views of the colorful trees on the classic UW campus are visible through the front windows.