Local Food
3:02 pm
Tue December 17, 2013

Bellevue's Iconic Lil' Jon Restaurant Reopens After Kitchen Fire

Lil' Jon bounced back from a kitchen fire in June to reopen on Monday.
Credit KUOW Photo/Steve Scher

Lil’ Jon Restaurant and Lounge in Bellevue’s Eastgate neighborhood is serving its classic American diner fare again — and the many regulars who filled the place opening day couldn’t be happier.

“I enjoy being here. It’s everybody knows your name, just like Cheers,” Sharon Aboe said. “It’s good food and good people.” She started coming to Lil’ Jon 20 years ago and was glad to take her seat again at the counter.

Employees at Lil' Jon proudly wore "Welcome Back!" on the back of their shirts in honor of the reopening on Monday.
Credit KUOW Photo/Steve Scher

In June a fire destroyed the kitchen. Throughout the summer, loyal customers posted letters and notes of support on the restaurant’s windows. They put flowers by the door.  Fans followed the restaurants remodel on Facebook.

The Sjolander family has owned and operated Lil’ Jon since it opened in 1967. Jay Sjolander is the third generation to be running the restaurant. He said some customers had been worried that the old diner would lose its character after the remodel.

“We would have people come and look through the windows during the construction,” Sjolander said. “So I’d call them in and walk them through and they’d say, ‘Oh, it looks the same.’”

The restaurant was packed on Monday’s opening day. Longtime customers were fist-bumping Sjolander as they came into their old haunt, happy to see familiar countertop and stools.

Even the first responders were excited about the reopening. Tom Dickson of the fire department said a lot of state troopers and fireman like to pop in to what he called a good, local, hometown place.

Surrounded by modern car dealerships and new mini-malls, Lil’ Jon’s angled architecture and vinyl décor is a throwback to the late 1960s.

So is its menu.  Customers at the reopening cheerfully sat down to eggs with chicken fried steak and gravy, as well as burgers , clam strips, homemade soups and dangerously large cinnamon rolls.  Breakfast is served anytime.

Sjolander started mopping the floors at Lil’ Jon when he was 14. He did most of the jobs in the place before taking over from his parents. On Monday morning , his children were out on the floor bussing, mopping and serving Bellevue.

Related program: