Saying goodbye to Lake Hills’ Stamos Cafe

Sam and Stella Stamos opened their eatery in Lake Hills more than 26 years ago. Over the years it became a community favorite, known for down-home food and a warm atmosphere.

  • Saturday, April 26, 2008 12:00am
  • News

A For Lease sign in the window of the former Stamos Cafe in the Lake Hills Shopping Center says the popular restaurant won’t be returning after a devasting fire last year.

The property is officially for lease

Sam and Stella Stamos opened their eatery in Lake Hills more than 26 years ago. Over the years it became a community favorite, known for down-home food and a warm atmosphere.

When they retired, two Korean couples invested in the café, maintaining the same menu. This was a relief to many regulars who feared their favorite spot would close when the original owners left.

The restaurant maintained a loyal, mainly retired, clientele until a fire caused by a gas-line failure forced it to close for repairs in June 2007.

Since then, speculation about the café’s re-opening has been all the buzz among the regulars.

A seasoned Stamos visitor who asked to remain anonymous said that “when the fire happened, people were still there and grabbed menus” in hopes of reviving the dishes that had been a longtime tradition.

The simple, “greasy spoon” recipes were a favorite among many. The retired population frequented the diner for a hearty breakfast or lunch, since earlier meals meant lower prices and more time to relax in the evening.

It also provided a place to catch up with neighbors. The regular also noted “people would just start talking to the person in the booth next to them.”

Other community members such as Yelp blogger Ellen C. found it a “great escape from the sterility of Bellevue,” saying “the food [was] true diner fare.”

Another Yelper, Julia Z., said it was a great place for a hangover cure and early-morning excitement, noting that they even had pull-tabs.

Unfortunately those craving a filling meal, some good conversation or a way to recover from last night’s party will have to look elsewhere, because the Stamos Café isn’t returning.

On June 5, 2007, the city issued a building permit to repair the damages, totaling $200,000, to the property located at 555 156th Ave. S.E. Final inspection for the shell and core of the tenant space was granted March 24, 2008.

According to Mike Brennan, deputy director of development services for the city of Bellevue, “a shell and core doesn’t mean the tenant will move back in.”

The former cafe has been gutted; all equipment has been removed. Some interior walls have even been knocked out, although Brennan noted this is not a required procedure.

“When leasing a building, they gut it to make it more marketable,” he noted.

The property is “cleaned up and prepared for occupancy.” However, Brennan said it will not be approved for occupancy until a new tenant configures the space for his or business (meaning adding appropriate exit signs, restrooms, etc.) and meets city codes.

As can be seen by the “For Lease” sign still hanging in the window, someone has yet to configure the space.

The previously quoted visitor noted that “until then, I’ll just have to do more cooking at home.”

Leah Gohring is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory.

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