The sign propped on the sidewalk in front of Valentine's reads "food.music.art," keying you in to the fact that here servers are rockers and sandwich-making is art. Located in the West Burnside archipelago of clubs and late-nighteries just shy of the Burnside Bridge, Valentine's beckons hungry wayfarers as well as night owls craving low-decibel conversation.
The vibe is super-mellow. A small couch, a few wooden tables, a large magazine rack—displaying a jumble of art and culture mags as well as local zines—and a four-stool bar that wraps around the tiny exposed prep area sit in this airy, ground-level space. A flight of steps lead up to a small performance space for DJs and bands.
Whether you want coffee and a cookie or to wine and dine, Valentine's has a way to woo you. The bulk of the menu features sandwiches, however, and at first glance you may feel a snore tickling your nose. You'll soon find that Valentine's co-owner/chef Jason Bokros' sandwiches are special.
Take the Reuben ($8), for example. The thinly sliced corned beef is so pink and well-pickled it deserves to be sniffed like a flower—revealing hints of peppercorns, mustard seed and caraway. It's slathered with a bright-red, piquant chili sauce rather than a tired Thousand Island.
Most sandwiches are branded by the grill press, giving them ample crunch and oozy insides. All come with a house-cured sweet dill pickle and chips or a tangle of field greens. The Black Forest ham and Gruyère sandwich ($7) is simple and delicious, as is a tofu sandwich ($7) with a sticky-sweet peanut, mango and ginger chutney.
The roast-pork sandwich ($7) is dressed for success (caramelized onion, sautéed spinach, spicy marmalade) but somehow falls short. The thinly sliced meat cooks a bit dry, and the jam sitting on top binds the vegetables but does little for the meat.
The cheese plate ($4/$8) stars a rich and creamy Stella bleu alongside a hunk of fontina, a wedge of brie and a mound of goat cheese. The meat plate ($4/$8) stars Salumi (Seattle's cured meat mecca) salami—one favorite is intoxicatingly perfumed with allspice, while a softer salami bites back with red chili.
Good-value red and white wines—mainly from Spain and Italy—are poured into generous tumblers. Beer is by the bottle, from Stella Artois to Guinness, unless you want a ubiquitous can of Pabst—it's a buck.
There are many incarnations of Valentine's, depending on the time of day you visit. Doors open at 11 am, when the smell of Stumptown's Hairbender blend and egg-and-cheesy fill the air. A full-bodied Côtes-du-Rhône may be a suitable nightcap before doors close at 3 am.
Since this savory spot opened last summer, devotion to creative culture has been evident. Valentine's is young and full of wall space constantly checkered with rotating local art. And crafting a killer sandwich—well, that's an art unto itself.
Valentine's, 232 SW Ankeny St., 248-1600. 11 am-10 pm Monday-Tuesday, 11 am-3 am Wednesday-Saturday, closed Sundays. $ Inexpensive.