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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Seattle Restaurants: All Look Same?

Posted by on Wed, Jun 15, 2011 at 12:56 PM

Nancy Leson talks to Graham Baba Architects, the gentlemen who designed the Walrus and the Carpenter in Ballard, the T-Doug trio Brave Horse Tavern/Cuoco/Ting Momo in South Lake Union, Eltana on Capitol Hill, Revel in Fremont, Skillet Diner on Capitol Hill, and more.

The unasked question: Do all these places look and feel kind of the same, and are we sick of it?

 

Comments (16) RSS

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1

A lot of sterile overpriced LA-cum-Asian styled restaurants whose menus use the term "wood-fired" as frequently as the declarative "the"?

Naaaaaaaahhhhh.....
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe http://_ on June 15, 2011 at 1:06 PM · Report this
2
I've never been to any of them, and I'm still sick of it.
Posted by yuiop on June 15, 2011 at 1:18 PM · Report this
Max Solomon 3
r.e. revel: it would be nicer if the seating was comfortable.
Posted by Max Solomon on June 15, 2011 at 1:27 PM · Report this
4
i work above the ting momo/brave horse/cuoco building.

we were just discussing today how the whole shebang looks like something you'd see in orlando. sadly, it sort of tastes that way too.
Posted by deepconcentration on June 15, 2011 at 1:28 PM · Report this
jackie treehorn 5
@4 Orlando has better service I bet.
Posted by jackie treehorn on June 15, 2011 at 1:31 PM · Report this
Cato the Younger Younger 6
I've been to Skillet Diner and was sick of that after 10 minutes.
Posted by Cato the Younger Younger on June 15, 2011 at 2:05 PM · Report this
7
also, la spiga.

beats that lameness that is mistral or the uber weak poser shit Pubes Elemental is doing
Posted by Pb Elemental=horrible business on June 15, 2011 at 3:53 PM · Report this
kitschnsync 8
I love Revel's food, and the seating in the restaurant is OK, I guess. I really like suitting at the counter and watching the chefs work.

But the seating in Quoin is atrocious. Most uncomfortable barstools ever.
Posted by kitschnsync on June 15, 2011 at 4:58 PM · Report this
9
Something many of these places also seem to have in common is terrible noise-dampening characteristics.
Posted by Apocalypse Tom on June 15, 2011 at 6:50 PM · Report this
10
I agree with #2.
Posted by sassafras on June 15, 2011 at 11:22 PM · Report this
11
@9: The architects address this in the linked interview—they say sound-dampening is expensive, so it's a money thing, which I guess means sound is one of the lower priorities on their and/or their clients' lists. Personally, I'd rank it high and pay to make it right; ears are a sense, too!
Posted by Bethany Jean Clement on June 16, 2011 at 8:58 AM · Report this
12
they also did Melrose Market/Sitka & Spruce, I personally love that space. I've maybe been to about 2/3 of these restaurants and overall have been pretty pleased with the experiences there. Its a fine line between "conviviality" and cacophonous distraction, and some of their restaurants certainly perform better than others, but I enjoy so much of what they do right in helping develop an identity for a restaurant, that I find it easier to overlook the imperfections.
That being said, I think the architects have distinct ideas about what they prioritize in a restaurant design, what the "big moves" ought to be (which for the most part I like), but they start to lose their individuality as it increases across more and more of their projects.
Posted by tofu oyako on June 16, 2011 at 10:12 AM · Report this
13
Yes, these restaurants all feel coporate, soul-less, heavily regulated, disneyland-esque. I do not have a good experience at them.

Seattle's establishments are trending in this direction due to these types of designers and other "business-minded" firms who don't care about a truly organic environment, or at least putting pieces in place to establish one.

But there are still some restaurants with character left. A few examples: El Chupacabra and Gainsburg in Greenwood, Zayda Buddy, Paratii and Ocho in Ballard, Quinn's, Grimms, the Tin Table and Cafe Presse in Capitol Hill, Elemental in Wallingford, the Virginia Inn near the Market - just to name a few. These restaurants range from "budget friendly" to upscale - not all are great, but they all at least attempt to have a distinct atmosphere and an some kind of organic feel.

The spots you mentioned above (and many others) are barely a notch above the PF Cheesecake Grill in terms of their decor, atmosphere, and the just general vibe. "Ohh look, they have the latest $12 cocktails, look at the sleek bar and the interesting furniture, look at the faux earthy tones and note the half-smile "shit eating grin" service."
Some of them have alright food but I just no fun in those types of sterile environments where you feel like a cog in a well-oiled machine, who is being overcharged for a truly uninspiring experience void of any real susbtance.

I'd rather eat at a crazy Italian restaurant like Medin's Ravioli Station where the owner smokes while cooking, the layout and setup looks like it was designed by a crackhead, and the bar patrons engage in crude, sometimes incomprehensible conversation (plus some pretty good food, somehow) - Because it has character and soul, and reaffirms the fact that I'm alive. (I left Revel/Quoin somehow feeling like a piece of my soul had died). But I digress.

I don't understand why Seattle is moving in this direction when cities like San Francisco, Chicago, and even Portland are having a surge of great, unique restaurants open, where the proprietors understand how to establish a distinctive, organic environment that lends itself to a truly satisfying meal and experience.
More...
Posted by g-ballz on June 18, 2011 at 2:48 AM · Report this
14
And let me add one more point (as if I didn't already say enough):

At least with chains like PF Changs, The Cheesecake Factory, or the Melting Pot you know exactly what you're getting - a high-end chain experience. No one's trying to hide it, there's no deceit here.

On the other hand, faux chain restaurants like Revel/Quoin or Brave Horse Tavern really believe they're "authetnic Seattle restaurants" and you usually recieve snarkier service, less consistancy, but with all the negative trappings of a high-end chain. These are worst kind of places, because they are truly not honest.
Posted by g-ballz on June 18, 2011 at 3:09 AM · Report this
15
Dude, what do you have against Revel to be writing this crazy essay attacking them at 3 AM in the morning? To be totally clear, I'm not necessarily defending Revel here, it's just that I can't believe you are such an idiot, I had to post in order to call YOU out, G-Ballz, as a dumbass. You clearly don't know what you're talking about, G-Ballz or whatever. Why would you call Revel out for being "corporate" and "soulless" and at the same time praise Cafe Presse and Quinn's? I would say Revel, Presse, and Quinn's all belong in the same category, what I would call "local, upscale, bourgie" (bourgie = bourgeoisie). These kind of places are definitely locally owned and typically have a strong chef presence. Revel, for one, is owned by a local husband and wife chef team. They seem really nice and certainly don't deserve to be attacked by you and dismissed as "corporate." When you throw around a term like "corporate" so casually, I gotta wonder what it even means to you? Why is Revel corporate, but Quinn's, owned by Scott Staples, who also owns Uneeda Burger and Zoe, is not corporate? Or why do you like Cafe Presse, which I would think has all of the same negative attributes that you identified in Revel (overly though-out, "Frenchy" theme; ownership by an owner that owns multiple "upscaley" restaurants)? In the end, I really just think you are a clueless fool. I mean, do you even know what you're talking about, ass?
Posted by SarntLee on June 21, 2011 at 7:25 AM · Report this
16
No I don't believe all places look and feel the same. Some restaurants have similar décor or color scheme or even a similar building construction, but there are way to many varieties to call them all the same. For example the MOJO iCuisine Interactive Restaurant designed by Frankie Fan and a Mexican restaurant "Frida" have a totally opposite look and feel.
Posted by I-5 Design & Manufacture http://www.i5design.com/ on June 29, 2011 at 10:47 AM · Report this

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