Family Meal of the Week: Klassy Burgers With Kraft Singles at Matt's in the Market

By: Julien Perry | Posted August 27, 2014
Family meal at Matt's in the Market
Matt's kitchen became a short-order grill for an afternoon.

There are meals in almost every restaurant serving off-menu items that you would never be lucky enough to eat unless you worked in the restaurant. They’re called family meals and they're served before or after service to feed those who work tirelessly to bring good food to your table — staff members who rarely get a chance to eat during their busy shift.

You’d never find a burger with processed cheese on the menu at Matt’s in the Market, but when it comes to their family meals, anything goes. And it seemed an appropriate farewell to summer when they grilled them up last week.

Family meals at this popular Pike Place Market attraction are served around 3:30 p.m. and feed about 20 people—cooks, servers, dishwashers and sometimes even the Radiator Whiskey crew from across the hall will stop by to pilage.

The afternoon cooks usually whip up the staff meal. “The night crew mostly just grabs a plate and starts wolfing it down right there on the line,” chef Shane Ryan tells me. “Some days we have no time at all [to eat] and some days we might have 15-20 minutes.”

The meals consist of just about anything the guys have on hand. “Anything from pasta to ribs to frittatas to porchetta sandwiches to just soup and salad some days. We make a lot of sausages, so sometimes there’ll be like chorizo and eggs. We’ll do tacos and set up taco bars once in a while. It depends on what we have available.”

Today’s meal consisted of burgers with Kraft cheese slices and a side of salad.

Says Ryan, “We’re really classing it up!” 

It was interesting being on hand for the staff meal here at Matt’s. They started putting out their food while diners were still lingering over their lunch. Once all the plates were cleared,  the staff grabbed a burger and scattered across the dining room that, excluding Billy Joel’s “New York State of Mind” playing on the speakers, was eerily quiet. As a diner, I’m not used to experiencing Matt’s like that. It’s always bustling. Today was a nice change.

Only one table was occupied by staff this particular afternoon. “The [lunch] servers,” Ryan tells me, “seem to gravitate towards the bar because they’re having their shift drink at the end, so they’ll have a glass of wine and eat their food.”

Ryan and his team used to do two family meals—one to appease the afternoon crew and the other for the night shift. “Sometimes cooks can get cranky at the end of a hellacious shift. It’s 11 p.m. and you’re cleaning down the line and now you have to cook family meal for everybody? It didn’t go over well.”