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Café to Café


The Eighties, Part 1

By Ronald Holden

1981 Two brothers, Peter and John Morse, launch a company called Fratelli's Ice Cream. ( Fratelli means brothers in Italian.) By 1988, the company begins sponsoring the "Fratelli Family Fourth" fireworks display on Lake Union. The company is sold in 1998 and disappears. Under a succession of sponsors, the fireworks display continues until 2009.

1981 Lisa Dupar (photo), who grew up in Georgia and has worked professionally in Zurich, arrives in Seattle as the first female chef for the Westin Hotel. She starts her own restaurant, Southern Accents, which soon turns into Lisa Dupar Catering. A new restaurant, Pomegranate Bistro, opens in 2005. Five years later, she publishes Fried Chicken & Champagne, which wins the James Beard award as the nation's best first cookbook.

1982 Longtime home brewer Bert Grant, a Scot whose day job is running the S.S. Steiner hops brokerage in eastern Washington, starts Yakima Brewing & Malting so he can sell his Scottish Ale to the public. The following year he opens the state's first brewpub in downtown Yakima.

1982 Paul Shipman, a brand manager at Chateau Ste. Michelle, joins Gordon Bowker in starting a brewery in a machine shop in Ballard, thereby launching the big-city craft beer movement in Washington and, soon, across the country. (Anchor Steam is already operating in Boston.) Dubbed Redhook, the first batches taste alarmingly like bananas. Once the problem is solved (a strain of wild yeast), Redhook expands rapidly, especially after it agrees to be distributed nationally by Budweiser.

1982 The Phan family opens Cat's Submarine Shop at the corner of Rainier & Jackson, but the store's homesick Vietnamese customers often ask instead for pho (pronounced fuh), their homeland's beef noodle soup. The family begins preparing it on weekends, and it doesn't take long for the soup to catch on, and the store is renamed Pho Bac. More recently, the Phan family's youngest generation rebrands the spot Pho Bac Sup and adds a natural wine bar and a new signature dish: short rib pho.

1982 A restaurateur from Los Angeles, Luciano Bardinelli, whose strong suit was Armani, moves to Seattle because the autumn leaves remind him of his northern Italian home. His first restaurant, Settebello, challenges the prevailing meatballs-in-red-sauce culture with classy, northern Italian fare: osso buco, sweetbreads, agnolotti stuffed with veal.

1983 A bakery named Le Panier opens in the Pike Place Market. Not just French, but "very French." Are you craving Brittany's famous pasty, Kouign Amann? An épi or a pain de campagne? A brioche nantaise? A macaron? A petit sablé? A Napoléon? This is the spot.

1983 Costco opens its first warehouse store on Fourth Avenue South in Seattle's SODO industrial district. One of the founders, Jim Sinegal, had worked in California for Price Club, one of the original discount warehouse chains; his partner is Seattle attorney Jeff Brotman. It becomes the world's second largest retailer (after Walmart) with 750 warehouse stores, 90 million members ($60 a year), and sales of $130 billion. (The revenue from memberships accounts for 70 percent of operating income.) It is the nation's leading retailer of, among other things, organic food; it also sells $400 million a year in wine. Hot dogs are still $1.50.

1983 Jon Rowley (photo), a native of Astoria, Ore., who had dropped out of Reed College to become a fisherman in Alaska, is hired to promote the fisherman's association in Cordova. He hand-carries the season's first fresh fish from Alaska to chef Wayne Ludvigsen at Ray's Boathouse at Shilshole Bay, who marvels at its vibrant persimmon color. Thus is born the mania for Copper River Salmon. Rowley also works with Taylor Shellfish to help restore the tiny Olympia oyster, almost wiped out by toxic effluent from paper mills, and goes on to promote Taylor Shellfish across the country. The sommelier at Ray's, Jeff Prather, finds the perfect wine for Copper River salmon: pinot noir. Rowley, who passed away in 2017, also created the Peach-o-Rama promotion for Metropolitan Markets.

1984 The supersonic Concorde lands at Boeing Field, carrying 218 cases of the new vintage of Beaujolais Nouveau from France; tens of thousands line the runway to welcome the flight. First off the plane is Mick McHugh, the puckish restaurateur (FX McRory's, Jake O'Shaughnessey's) who dreamed up the promotion. McHugh's partner, Tim Firnstahl, is the consummate inside man, a Harvard Business School grad who writes a 400-page "manual" that covers every aspect of restaurant service, from elaborately-worded menus to idiot-proof kitchen recipes to busboys' bow ties. McHugh, meanwhile, cajoles artist LeRoy Neiman into painting a mural of the restaurant. (The cost is a cool $100,000.) The McHugh-Firnstahl partnership lasts until 1988, when they divide up their restaurants by flipping a silver dollar from the top of the Space Needle. Firnstahl loses the toss and McHugh claims McCrory's, but is forced to close in 2017 when the building requires structural repairs.

1984 Also in Pioneer Square, Carmine Smeraldo arrives from Vancouver, BC, as an advance man for Canadian restaurateur Umberto Menghi. Menghi eventually opens two restaurants (Umberto's and Il Terrazzo) but retreats after a couple of years. Smeraldo stays behind and renames one of the spots Il Terrazzo Carmine; it becomes an elegant haven for fine dining amid the neighborhood's sports bars and clubs. After Carmine's death in 2012, his widow and sons expand the restaurant with an aperitivo bar called Intermezzo.

Stay tuned for part 2 of The Eighties in November.

October 2018

Ronald Holden is a Northwest native who's been writing about local food for over 40 years. His latest book, Forking Seattle, is available on He blogs at

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