There is a whole lot to adore about the quiet little Belltown haunt Tilikum Place Cafe. The snug, leafy, West Village-y feel, right in the shadow of the Chief Seattle statue, where Belltown meets Seattle Center. The careful eye of the chef, who knows just how flaky to make a tart crust, just how creamy to make an ethereal bowl of celeriac soup.

And ohhhhhhhh that soup.

The list goes on, from Essential Bakery bread—that you don’t pay extra for!—to a long list of desserts including a fathomless amaretto bread pudding to rival the exemplar at Boat Street Cafe.

But what gives the place its ineffable spirit of welcome? The feeling that you’re a regular from your first footstep inside the joint? The question is “who”…and the answer is servers like Vanessa.

Big smile. Friendly without a trace of dopey. Reflexively knowledgeable about the food, and, more importantly, the wine. The soul of affability, flexibility, and welcome…like she were welcoming us proudly into her own home.

Thanks Vanessa. Because of you—and, okay, about 96 other things—we’ll be back.

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