I didn't think Smarty Pants was a very likely name for a restaurant, and I had never heard of it, but the editor had. He asked me to go to Georgetown and eat lunch there.
I got there about 2 p.m. Friday, a quarter hour past the end of the lunch rush, and had the place to myself. Tina Forbes was holding forth behind the bent-L bar/counter and Barry Semple was handling kitchen duties.
The sandwich board outside the door at 6017 Airport Way S. promised "Food & Booze" and indeed, Tina worked the bar backed by a full selection of spirits, wine and bottled beer on welded steel shelves.
Smarty Pants' logo is a no-nonsense, in-your-face, young cartoon woman in twin ponytails, coveralls, work shirt and boots. One hand holds a wrench and the other is on her hip. Keeping with her young, Rosie the Riveter image, the décor is retro industrial chic with welded and bolted steel trim on the bar, nine fixed-pedestal stools with round steel tops, bare brick walls and a small industrial crane arching from the wall behind the bar to the center of the rough concrete-floored room.
A long banquette stretches across the wall opposite the bar facing eight square tables and lots of chairs.
The place, though not large, has a feeling of spaciousness, partly because the walls are mostly devoid of decoration and partly because of the high ceilings. The impression is of a machine shop that has been emptied and turned into a rather stylish (but not fancy) restaurant. That is deliberate. This place used to be a machine shop. It has been a restaurant for only a month.
The two-page menu offers hot sandwiches on one side (all but one of the nine offerings are $7.25, the other one, the BLT, is $6.75) and cold sandwiches on the other (all but two of the seven cold sandwiches are $7.25, the other two are $6.25). All sandwiches are served with a side of potato salad and a pickle spear. You can also choose a dinner salad, a cup or bowl of 5-alarm chili ("the best this side of the Duwamish") or a meal-sized portion of Frito pie.
A hot sandwich named Miss Piggy caught my eye. The description said it was "succulent pork, slow-simmered to perfection in an award-winning sauce, topped with slaw." Raised, as I was, in St. Louis, a town with some reputation for barbecue, I went for it.
"Oh, good choice," said Tina in absolute delight. "That's the best thing on the menu. It's my favorite." She added that the sauce was concocted by a friend of the owner, Tim Ptak, and had won a high place in a national barbecue sauce contest.
"If you like BLTs, ours is really great," she added.
When Miss Piggy arrived she absolutely filled the plate, with just room for a scoop of potato salad and the pickle. The bread was a large, toasted, high-quality roll and the filling overflowed it.
Tina said something else.
"Mmmph, mmp," I replied suavely. She abandoned me for duties elsewhere, leaving Miss Piggy and me alone.
Between the sauce and the red cabbage slaw, the sandwich is a mooshy, two-handed affair. It was as tasty as it was messy. I did manage to set it down occasionally to try the potato salad. This is not your runny, deli-counter potato salad. It is the real stuff, and an excellent complement to Miss Piggy. A beer is the perfect beverage with this sandwich. Five napkins later I besat my stool full, fat, dumb and happy.
Smarty Pants is open 11 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. Monday through Thursday. It is open to 3 a.m. Friday and Saturday and until midnight on Sunday.
Barry said that Miss Piggy just happens to be the restaurant's number one seller, but the BLT is his favorite.
"It's a real meaty sandwich" he said.
Smarty Pants is named after Michelle, Tim's partner, who is, according to both Tina and Barry, a real smarty pants. But what's her last name?