Chef Tom Douglas says ‘Seattle is a funny restaurant town’

Nov 5, 2012, 8:12 AM | Updated: 12:51 pm
Chef Tom Douglas says Seattle’s restaurants are ‘a little homemade’ compared with...
Chef Tom Douglas says Seattle's restaurants are 'a little homemade' compared with other major city's establishments. (AP File photo)
(AP File photo)

Chef and restaurateur Tom Douglas, with 13 Seattle restaurants and more on the way, says Seattle is a “funny restaurant town.”

In an interview in San Francisco to promote his new book “The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook,” Douglas says, as you might expect, there’s no comparison between the City by the Bay and the Emerald City.

He points out San Francisco gets millions of tourists a year.

“You can support a type of food scene here that we could never support in Seattle,” Douglas tells Inside Scoop, a website for breaking news on restaurants.

“With that, just like Manhattan, comes diversity, depth. There’s a lot of depth in what you have,” he says. “There might be 10 notable bakeries in Seattle. In San Francisco, there might be 10 in the Mission alone. You have the ability to support that many.”

People who live here might not realize there is a Seattle style restaurant.

Douglas describes it as being, “A little homemade, not spending millions of dollars into decor. You don’t see many restaurants in Seattle with the big, million-dollar decor.”

He also notes a lot of national restaurateurs haven’t been able to make it in Seattle because it’s a “funny restaurant town.” He says here, we value health care, livable wages and time off more than other big cities.

While Douglas has many successful restaurants in Seattle, he admits he’s also had some “clunkers.”

“We had one in the Pike Place Market, on this beautiful corner that I was trying to clean. There are some issues in the Pike Place Market. Lots of homeless, drug dealers and thugs. It was starting to affect one of my long term restaurants, Etta’s,” he says.

Another restaurant that didn’t work was Ting Momo, a Tibetan dumpling house.

“Right next door, I had my most successful restaurant ever, Brave Horse Tavern, turning people away every night. And this Tibetan restaurant was empty,” Douglas says.

He finally closed that restaurant and had success when he turned it into a food truck business.

Opening restaurants is fun for Douglas, and a little bit like playing poker.

“In poker, you get dealt the cards, you put a couple chips down, make your decision. With restaurants, you’ve got an idea, the space, the right people to lead it, and I put a bet down on it,” he says.

Douglas doesn’t operate with partners or debt. He puts his own money into every project.

He’s remained loyal to Seattle, in part, because his daughter is here, a recent college grad.

“I certainly could’ve opened any place in the country, but I only have one kid,” he says. “I wasn’t interested in being (in another) place when she was growing up.”


Read the full interview from Inside Scoop here

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Chef Tom Douglas says ‘Seattle is a funny restaurant town’