May 21st, 2015 by Clark Humphrey

Mama’s Mexican Kitchen, the family-owned eatery that for 41 years has been a bastion of the pre-gentrification Belltown, closes this year, perhaps in September.

Its 1924 building will be razed for yet another 60-unit “mixed use” development.

Mike McAlpin, who’s owned Mama’s from the start (and used to also own the nearby Lava Lounge), says he’ll retire. Many of his employees have been there for 15 years or more.

I’ve been going there almost since it opened. Its Second and Bell corner spot once seemed way out in the wilderness, a million years from either downtown or Seattle Center. Art/music types had begun to flock there, attracted by what were then low rents close by to everything. Mama’s became a hangout and a resource for this community. Its cheap and plentiful food and margaritas, its friendly Elvis/Marilyn interior decor, and its unpretentious vibe kept its regulars coming back, even after many of them couldn’t afford to live in Belltown any more.

Yes, there are fancier and even more “authentic” Mexican joints out there these days, or at least ones more amenable to modern tastes. (Mama’s recipes came from McAlpin’s Cal-Mex grandmother, and are heavy on melted cheese and mild salsa.)

And there are many, many other dining and drinking joints in today’s Belltown; some at prices as tall as the condo towers now dominating the area.

But there isn’t anything else like Mama’s, and there probably never will be.

3 Responses  
  • Eric Scharf writes:
    May 21st, 20157:05 pmat

    Nothing refried can stay.

  • Elaine Bonow writes:
    May 21st, 20158:21 pmat

    I heard the funky studios are going too. But No real news about that yet. My 1/4 block is going next year too and the US Bank building too and, and, and. To me it is the price we pay for the future, a place that we old timers will fondly remember. The kids will look at photographs of these old places and think the old stuff was so cool just like we like looking at Vintage Seattle photographs today.

  • Xan Nyfors writes:
    May 21st, 20159:22 pmat

    I too love Mama’s and have from the beginning. When I lived a few blocks from it in the early 80s I would walk over and eat there. It has always been comfy, with comfy food. Alas that it is going.

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