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Café to Café


An upscale pub for Capitol Hill

In the midst of Capitol Hill growth rises the Sunset Electric Building, with the key sidewalk-level corner inhabited by Stout, a neighborhood pub with great beer and a menu that gives a nod to European comfort food.

Stout is owned by Paul Reder, owner of the Tap House Grills. He knows his beer. "Stout is concept driven," explains Paul. "It's specific to the Capitol Hill folks who love craft beer. They know their beer and are picky about what they drink. You can't waste a handle on Bud Light anymore. We have 20 taps and 60-65 bottles. Bottles will be a fluid thing (no pun intended): we've got a great list, yet some may come off or we may get a case or two of something hard-to-find, or of limited quantity. Stout is a showcase of what we've learned about beer over the last 15 years." While beer is king, there is also a wine list Paul is proud of that is "not massive"-8-10 wines by the glass, all available by bottle. With a full bar, cocktails are also part of the experience.

Food-wise, they're not breaking the mold. "We'll do familiar items really well. Flatbreads, meatloaf, mac and cheese, burgers and sandwiches. We've spent an inordinate amount of time on our pretzel, like six weeks. There's more dough to it, it's about the size of a baseball, but knotted like a pretzel. I think we'll sell a lot of them and it has to be perfect."

Paul is not a chef himself, but he defines and communicates what he sees in his mind and lets others execute that vision. He's the one who makes it all-food, décor, music, ambiance-work together. "We call Stout a pub, but it's more upscale," he says. "Most European pubs, especially the older ones, have a marble bar top, so we're using one that's called 'Zebra Stripe.' We have steel and wood which speaks to the name Stout-hardy-as well as beer. We also see ourselves as kind of a default sports bar. In European pubs, everyone goes to watch their team. That's what we want to be for Capitol Hill; we have 16 TVs. In the bar area, there will be four TVs together that we can use to show different matches or put them all on one game that shows as one large screen."

Stout's andouille corn dogs (calamari in back)

They want to be the kind of place where the bartender knows the customers' names because as neighbors, they return again and again. With all the different beer, customers can have a different experience each time they come in.

Much of Stout has been done by local artisans and companies: wrought iron chairs, table tops, the mural above the taps, steelwork, chandeliers (glass was hand blown five miles from Stout). While they are using larger companies for some food items, they are also using local firms like Macrina Bakery for others.

When you enter, you are in a small enclosed vestibule which helps keep cold air out. It leads you to the host desk where a few seats allow you to wait for a table or just have a beer. To the left is the bar itself and, further to the left, taller tables in the bar/lounge. In front of the bar is the general dining area with banquettes and tables. To the right of the entry is another room for general dining or private events. A huge metal door, moved by wheel and chain, can be pulled down for privacy. There is one TV in this area for sports or use by groups who want to show pictures or presentations. Restrooms are separate, but hand-washing areas are communal. "Our kitchen is 25% of our total square footage. Line and prep areas are separate and we have a nice cold storage locker. We don't have a lot of storage space, but we're using space efficiently."

Stout's bar and dining room, courtesy of Stout

Paul has been looking for the right property for 4-5 years. Originally he thought he would do more locations of Tap House Grill (see our 2002 story), but couldn't find the right location. After the economic challenges in 2008, he decided to do something smaller, more intimate. He was looking for about 4000 square feet; this is larger at 5000. "I wasn't in a hurry. Capitol Hill seems like the right place. With growth in South Lake Union as well as here, it's the right spot to be the new restaurant. Many people feel there's a loss of character in the neighborhood, but I think the growth is a good thing. There's still an organic and Bohemian quality here. Seattle's pinned in; we can't really have urban sprawl, so we're going up. That means higher density. I've eaten in a lot of restaurants around here and they all seem to be doing well."

Both Tap House Grills have 160 beers on tap and are much larger than Stout. "When I opened Bellevue in 2002, if I'd had 15 beers on tap, I'd be gone now. 160 beers on tap is a show piece. It's a way to say 'look at us!' Every day, a bartender is given someone's phone to take a video, walking along the tap wall. We find photos people have taken on the Internet. Now my new model is something smaller, although some people would not call 175 seats small. I'm thinking 3500-5000 square feet. At that size, there are many more properties to choose from. A lot of people are surprised I'm still going in Seattle, but that location was a real find. We took a chance and it worked." Seattle opened in 2007. This summer, Bellevue will celebrate 13 years and Seattle 8.

Ribbon-cutting crew (l-r, back row): Krista Maes, Dan Nelson, Paul Reder, Brad Herron, Fernando Buitron. Front row: Paul's daughters Jordan (9) and Chloe (12)

"I'm not looking to become a giant restaurant group. This is a creative outlet for me and I have fun with it. If it gets too large, I won't be doing what I love. I'm very fortunate to be able to create a job for myself, something I am personally connected to."

1530 11th Ave (at Pine)
Seattle, WA 98122-3904
Opened January 2015

Tap House Grills
1506 Sixth Ave
Seattle, WA 98101

550 106th Ave NE
Bellevue, WA 98004                                                Stout's four-in-one TV screen

January 2015

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