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Café to Café



By Ronald Holden

In the process of updating his most recent book, FORKING SEATTLE, to be released later this year, Ronald has added a new feature: a chronology of the city's culinary history, from its very earliest days (Manca's Cafe, Frangos, Borracchini, Uwajimaya) to the present (Edouardo Jordan, Shota Nakajima, Howard Schultz, Jeff Bezos). Here's a look at the '60s. What a trip, man.

1961 A brash young grocery salesman named Rich Komen talks the University of Washington athletic department into giving him the food concession for Husky Stadium. Komen enlists his friends to bag up peanuts by hand. A year later he gets the concession for the World's Fair. In 1969 he opens the Red Baron, then Horatio's, then Clinkerdagger Bickerstaff & Petts. In 1971 he teams up with Ray Lindstrom, and their company, Restaurants Unlimited, eventually operates dozens of locations under different names and concepts, including Palisade and Palomino.

1962 The Seattle World's Fair. The Space Needle is built; its design captures the national public's imagination and adds to Seattle's image as a forward-thinking town on the country's northwest frontier.

1964 A self-styled cowboy from Tacoma, Stuart Anderson, opens a Western-themed steakhouse along Elliott Avenue that he calls Black Angus, offering a steak dinner for $3. Anderson sells the company less than a decade later and it continues to grow to over 100 locations nationwide, promoted by TV spots featuring a "Marlboro Man" version of Anderson himself, but by 2004 it is insolvent. A private equity firm rescues Black Angus from bankruptcy and operates 45 stores today, none in Seattle.

Photo copyright Bob Peterson

1965 Professor Walter Clore of Washington State University's extension service begins traveling the state and urging farmers to plant vinifera grapes and make premium wine. He is the Johnny Appleseed of Washington wine.

Walter Clore 1984

1965 Seattle attorney Alec Bayless rounds up a dozen investors and buys land to grow wine grapes in the Tri-Cities. Sagemore, Bacchus, and Dionysus are the state's first major vineyards since Prohibition.

1965 Wally Opdycke, a business analyst for local insurance company Safeco, proposes an investment in a defunct wine operation called NAWICO. When Safeco declines, Opdycke and a private syndicate buy it themselves and give it a new name: Chateau Ste. Michelle. Within a few years, in search of expansion capital, Opdycke sells the winery to UST, a leading manufacturer of smokeless tobacco products. UST is later acquired by Altria, a $25 billion umbrella for several tobacco brands including Philip Morris.

1967 Victor Steinbrueck, professor of architecture at the University of Washington, who had been involved in the design of the Space Needle, publishes Market Sketchbook, a collection of intimate pen & ink drawings of the Pike Place Market. It becomes a best-seller and swings the plebiscite to "save" the Market from developers. His son, Peter Steinbrueck, later serves on the Seattle City Council.

Photo copyright Bob Peterson

1967 Annie Agostini, born in Corsica and raised in Marseille, decides Seattle needs a French touch. She opens a take-away stand, the Crèpe de Paris on Seventh Avenue, then moves to new quarters in Madison Park. (The space will become Sostanza, then Madison Park Conservatory, then Madison Beach Cafe, then Park Place.) In 1978 she moves back downtown, to the Rainier Tower, and adds a dinner theater to her repertoire, and, with Chef Dominique Place, carries on for another 30 years until she retires in 2008.


1969 François Kissel, a classically trained chef from the Bordeaux area, opens Seattle's first authentic French restaurant, the Brasserie Pittsburgh, in Pioneer Square inside a one-time soup kitchen called the Pittsburgh Lunch. Painted on the window is the reassuring message "Tables for Ladies." In 1975, he and his wife, Julia, add the City Loan Pavillon, which extends from the Globe Building into the newly gentrified Occidental Park; then, in 1978, comes the jewel-box Maximilien in the Market. François retires to a seaside village on the Atlantic coast of France and passes away in 2018.

Photo copyright Bob Peterson

1969 Atop what is derisively called "the box the Space Needle came it," the SeaFirst National Bank building, a chef from southwestern France, Gilbert Barthe, opens the Mirabeau. On the menu: Canard à l'Orange, Pheasant Toulousain, and Geoduck Provençale. It closes in 1991.

1969 Restaurateur Gerry Kingen buys Sam's Red Robin tavern, a dilapidated hangout at the Eastlake end of the University Bridge. After a while he adds hamburgers to the menu, but instead of a single, standard burger, he offers over two dozen varieties, thereby kick-starting the gourmet burger craze. Within a decade, he starts selling franchises; by 1985 there are some 500 Red Robins around the world. Kingen sells most of his shares and goes on to other ventures. (In 2010, the original tavern is closed and, beyond repair, is torn down in 2014.) Meantime, Kingen opens the city's first "fern bar," Boondock's, Sundecker's & Greenthumb's on Broadway, followed a couple of years later by a similarly fanciful Lion O'Reilly's & B.J. Monkeyshine's. A basket of steak "fingers" is $2.50, a six-ounce top sirloin with pan-fried oysters is $6. A Capitol Hill real estate firm claims that the restaurants are "so good they saved the neighborhood." In 1985 Kingen buys the Beach Broiler in West Seattle and transforms it into Seattle's second-highest revenue restaurant, Salty's on Alki.

1969 Four prominent University of Washington professors start making their own wine using grapes (shipped by rail from California). Their hobby soon becomes a commercial operation that they call Associated Vintners; they hire a professional winemaker and change the name to Columbia Winery. In 2008, control passes to Ascentia Wine Estates, a California outfit, and four years later the winery is purchased by E. & J. Gallo Winery.

July 2018

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