Critic's Notebook

Beware Falling Prices!

Trend of the month: Restaurateurs across town are repositioning themselves a little lower on the food chain.

By Kathryn Robinson February 13, 2012

Le Gourmand’s little downmarket sister

Time was not so long ago when a restaurateur who wanted to up the popularity and lower the accessibility threshold of his or her restaurant would simply open a downmarket adjunct next door. Maestros like Bruce Naftaly at the (sob) soon-to-be-late Le Gourmand would open adjacent bars like the (sob) soon-to-be-late Sambar; the lesser then serving as a kind of literal and figurative anteroom to the greater.

Think Serafina and Cicchetti. Flying Fish and On the Fly. Elemental and Elemental Next Door.

These days the trend appears to have morphed into something else: upscale restaurants downscaling themselves.

Back in October the spendy French jewel in the heart of Pike Place Market, Campagne, became the more accessibly priced Marche Bistro and Wine Bar. (It already had a downmarket adjunct, Cafe Campagne.) Last week Spring Hill in West Seattle stunned the gastronomosphere by lowering price and concept to become Ma’ono Fried Chicken and Whisky, in response to a city’s rapturous embrace of Spring Hill’s weekly fried chicken nights.

Now this week, Restaurant Zoe plans to reopen in its new digs on Union, having fled Belltown and big prices to adopt at least three of the biggest trends currently dominating Seattle dining: kitchen garden, Capitol Hill address—and, yes, a “loosened-up” price point.

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