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Café to Café


Marcus Lalario

Seattle's 'fill in the space' guy

People go into business for a lot of reasons; Marcus Lalario sees what's not available and shoots to fill that void. Sometimes he meets someone and wants to do something with them.

That's how Ciudad Grill and Bar Ciudad came about. He had 95 Slide, a sports bar on Capitol Hill which is now closed (named for the year that Griffey slid into home plate for the AL division win), and Chef Matt Dillon came in. "We became friends because we're sports fans. Eventually we were like 'we should do something;' we love chicken and were thinking about rotisserie chicken. I went to Portugal to study barbecue/grill/rotisserie, and learned a lot. Then we were 'let's make it more like grilled meat and have a place where people can share food over a table and eat with their hands.' We called it Ciudad because that's the name of the restaurant of the chef I met in Portugal. To-go/quick serve rotisserie chicken became Bar Ciudad."

Earlier, Marcus saw a need for a burger joint on Capitol Hill. "There were plenty of burgers, but no joints. I wanted to do a shitty backyard burger well: all-natural ingredients, grass-fed beef, local buns, potatoes soaked overnight. We didn't want to push it in peoples' faces: no 'beef from cows fed at sunset…' I was a skate kid growing up and wanted my crack: fries and burger dipped in the milkshake. A space next to the Baltic Room opened, and Li'l Woody's went in during 2011. It's a place that's inclusive of everyone. People responded." There are four locations now, with an airport location coming in 2018.

A burger of the week at Li'l Woody's: onion dip, chips, American cheese, and bacon

Marcus used to skateboard or walk to Catfish Corner. When the space became available in 2014, he was asked to put a Li'l Woody's in. "It didn't feel right for the neighborhood. I had a concept called Fat's Chicken and Waffles; soul food done right. Erica White was a manager at Li'l Woody's and she went to Fat's. It's really her restaurant. Our chef, Patrick Dours, comes from New Orleans."

Marcus started in the music business. At 14, he lied to Easy Street Records saying he was 16 so they'd hire him. The fact that he'd do anything to get the job appealed to them; they kept him on. When not in the store, he interned as their college radio promotions: 10 years without pay. "It never occurred to me I should be paid, I loved promotions so much. In between, I managed bands, had dance parties, raves. I bought a male strip club, Mr. Paddywacks, and turned it into an all-ages dance club called Beat Bar. I was under 21, so couldn't have a bar. I sold it to a woman; she sold half back to me. By then I was 21, so I remodeled and turned it into a bar called Ghetto Tech. I sold it and got into Drum and Bass parties, electronic dance music. I was managing bands and had a small record label, Under the Needle. Ghetto Tech came back to me, so I turned it into the War Room in 2005. We said, 'Peace is our Profession,' and security were called peacekeepers. It got a lot of attention. I had been doing Yo Sun! at Chop Suey and Drum and Bass at the Baltic Room, so I moved those to the War Room. I'm out now, but Yo Sun! went on for about 10 years and the Drum and Bass nights are still happening. There was no dress code, we had LBGTQ nights, BBoy nights, ladies' nights, male hot mess, house music, hip hop. It was a place for friends to hang out without breaking the bank. I was getting out of music management and into bars, but ended up helping friends with their group, Band of Horses. I worked with them through their second record, then split. I didn't want to tour. I started a marketing company and had clients like Red Bull, and I've invested in places like Molly Moon, the Viceroy, and the Saint. I opened Captain Blacks, then sold it. In 2010, I turned the War Room into HG Lodge. I got tired of being out late, so I turned it into 95 Slide."

Marcus started a clothing line called Alive + Well on Capitol Hill, then started Batch 206 with Jeff Steichen. Jeff had been his mentor since the Showbox. Health issues arose for Marcus and he decided to slow down and got out of Batch 206. Partners run the daily business at Alive + Well; Marcus is still designing. He and a friend are starting a new clothing line, Can't Blame the Youth, that will be available only online. He was involved with a hotel in the SoDo area, but backed out. "I don't do things based on dollars, I do shit I think is cool and find ways to make it profitable. I'm still looking at hotels." And there's Midnight Supply screen printing that does work for touring artists, Sub Pop, the Seahawks when they were in the championship. His marketing company is working with Modelo, and taking on more clients. He's looking at more restaurants and non-management music-related things.

What drives him? "I understand my capacity. I'm a more spiritual person now, but not in a religious way. I like to put shit together and see how it works for me. It can all co-exist. Seattle means so much to me. I grew up in Juanita/Kirkland and lived on Capitol Hill for 20 years. My two Li'l Woody's GMs are now part owners in the company, and I'll do more of that. I'm on a path of giving back to kids: we do free burger day at Woody's, give through Treehouse and New Beginnings. It's not for publicity, it's the right thing to do. I saw others do it, and it made me want to. If your door is open, you work hard, come from a good place, and mean well, everything good starts to happen."

Li'l Woody's

Ciudad Grill, Bar Ciudad

Fat's Chicken & Waffles

Alive + Well

Midnight Supply Co.                     Ciudad Grill

Connie Adams-August/September 2017

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