The Northwest Flavor Issue
Why Are So Many Chefs Opening Markets?
For the food, obviously. Just not the food on the shelves.
When Tom Douglas opened Home Remedy, a general store at the foot of the Via6 apartments in Belltown, its shelves were filled with kitchen staples like mustards and rice noodles and granola, plus all the food and drink implements necessary to throw an impromptu party, or be welcome when you show up at one. The big draw was supposed to be the prepared foods from Douglas’s various restaurants; the cooler is full of Brave Horse Tavern pretzels, Serious biscuits, Cuoco lasagna, and Douglas-recipe cookie and pie dough.
But when the doors opened last summer, everyone went crazy for the pizza.
During lunch hour, the hot food counter in the center of the modestly sized store generates major lines. Douglas estimates the market goes through 200 New York–style (sorta) slices a day. The rice bowls and burritolike Indian chapatis have their own devout fans, and staff can hardly stem kale fast enough to keep up with the demand at the salad bar.
One year later, these hot food items make up 60 percent of Home Remedy’s sales. All those items on the shelf? Just 3 percent, says Douglas.
Some of Seattle’s most prominent chefs are jumping into retail, collectively giving Seattle a new type of shopping experience. It looks like a high-end grocery, but packs its true heat at the deli counter.
In Pioneer Square, Matt Dillon’s London Plane looks like a kitchen-design Pinterest board sprung to life, with a counter selling meat, cheese, and prepared salads, and shelves lined with bags of dried nettles and colorful tins of Italian anchovies. Volunteer Park Cafe owner Ericka Burke is opening Canal Market in Eastlake—later this year, she hopes—where she promises a general store feel and a “vibrant deli island” dispensing espresso, juice, salads, and sandwiches. Meeru Dhalwala turned a space next to her restaurant Shanik into a small market with a cooler of grab-and-go foods and a takeaway lunch window, while John Sundstrom’s new Lark location will have a small separate retail area.
The reasons behind the trend are prosaic—scalability, customers who stop in weekly rather than monthly, and a glut of new apartment complexes around town filled with people who need beer and basil-scented dish soap. But generally chefs view markets as another more casual way to sell their food.
Skillet founder Joshua Henderson partnered with Fuel and High 5 Pie owner Dani Cone to open a mercantile called Cone and Steiner on Capitol Hill last year. Henderson’s Huxley Wallace restaurant group will supply the ready-made food there and at the upcoming Pioneer Square location. And any good restaurateur knows the importance of booze sales; thus far the small bar and growler station is the store’s runaway hit. Apparently Seattleites like to drink while they shop.
Shelf items might be window dressing for ready-made food, but when a chef’s in charge, that food is still selected with care and is as local as possible. Cone and Steiner attracts customers with tastings of cool, Washington-made cider, crackers, and condiments. “But you also need French’s yellow mustard,” says Henderson. “People want both of those things.”
A Mercantile Shopping Trip
Cone and Steiner
532 19th Ave E, Capitol Hill, 206-582-1928; coneandsteiner.com
Chef Ownership: Joshua Henderson and Dani Cone
Product Placement: Soon takeaway foods will hail from Henderson’s upcoming Quality Athletics.
Grocery List: Lots of local products, plus self--service candy jars and a four-seat bar where you can order a pint or fill a growler. The owners of Retrofit Home are partners, hence the section of clever housewares.
2121 Sixth Ave, Belltown, 206-812-8407; tdhomeremedy.com
Chef Ownership: Tom Douglas
Product Placement: A majestic two-shelf lineup of Rub with Love products, plus another display at the register.
Grocery List: A spot-on mix of specialty and grocery store brands, plus take-home versions of familiar T-Doug menu items, like tubs of Brave Horse Tavern’s pimento cheese dip.
The London Plane
300 Occidental Ave S, Pioneer Square, 206-624-1374; thelondonplaneseattle.com
Chef Ownership: Matt Dillon (partner Katherine Anderson also owns Melrose Market’s Marigold and Mint)
Product Placement: Dillon’s culinary friends like Ayako and Family jam and Foraged and Found Edibles are well represented.
Grocery List: Aspirational staples like grapeseed oil, emmer flour, and tinned mackerel, plus gifty kitchen items
500 Terry Ave N, South Lake Union, 206-486-6884; shanikrestaurant.com
Chef Ownership: Meeru Dhalwala
Product Placement: Frozen Vij’s brand boil-in-bag meals
Grocery List: Lunchtime to-go orders of chickpea and rice pilaf and Shanik’s signature chai, plus coolers full of chapati, chutneys, and easy dinner reheatables, like tubs of yellow lentil daal.