Wow. Third Place Books and the owners of the Flying Squirrel pizzerias have turned a grocery store that was never quite big enough into a gleaming bookstore and conjoined restaurant, a space illuminated by banks of brand new windows, with an almost civic stature about it.
On Saturday, the former home of PCC in Seward Park will officially begin its new life as Seattle's latest Third Place Books location and as Raconteur, an all-day bar and restaurant from Flying Squirrel partners Bill Coury and Brian Vescovi.
How fitting that Seattle now has a bookstore with 20 taps of beer and six taps of wine downstairs, and an open invitation to browse shelves with a drink in hand—handy the cookbook section is just beyond Raconteur's deep red booths. This might also be the nation’s first bookseller with a smoker in back and plans to make its own pretzels (and bagels on weekends, topped with salmon from that smoker).
Walk in the front door and you’ll immediately see shelves and tables stocked with hardcovers and paperbacks on one side, the white-tiled espresso counter (nitro cold brew tap at the ready) and dining room on the other. Tables are way farther apart than they need to be, a nice change from the elbow-to-armpit proximity often necessary to pay pricey restaurant rents elsewhere in town. Down a wide flight of plank stairs is a reasonably light-filled basement, serving the same menu in a more tavernlike setting, complete with cocktails, shuffleboard, and a few TVs. One of the aforementioned beer taps pours a custom Raconteur Rye beer made by Counterbalance Brewing in Georgetown; winemaker Proletariat furnished custom red and white blends.
When Coury and Vescovi signed on to the restaurant side of the project, they figured food should be familiar and comforting, since the space is likely to draw a lot of families, and books hold the starring role. But the straightforward starter-and-mains dinner menu pulls influences from all over. There are tacos and burgers and steaks, moussaka, a vegan shepherd’s pie, and plenty of big salads. Coury’s a fan of the clam dips and fritos appetizer, and of the dan dan noodles, a dish he promises is a face-melter.
Weekday breakfast is full of scrambles and waffles; brunch adds things like huevos rancheros and pannekoeken. Lunch is all about salads and classic, hearty sandwiches and tacos. There's no pizza here, but Raconteur does share Flying Squirrel's penchant for making things in house, from sauerkraut to ice cream.
It’s very en vogue for restaurateurs to talk about creating “community spaces,” but this is a community that could really use a good space, and Raconteur covers everything from morning laptop and coffee sessions to midday stroller set meetups and after-work cocktails and snacks.
Both bookstore and restaurant open Saturday at 5041 Wilson Ave S with a slate of author appearances that include Tom Douglas, pie poet Kate Lebo, and a host of other fantastic non-food writers like Maria Semple, Garth Stein, and Jeopardy hunks Ken Jennings and Tom Nissley. Keep tabs on the Raconteur website and Facebook page for updates, specifics hours, etc.