Critic's Notebook

How to Look Like a Seattle Restaurant

Opening a Seattle area restaurant? Check out our handy design template!

By Kathryn Robinson February 6, 2012

Tin Table, a Type 2 Seattle restaurant. Exposed brick wall, check.

Prospective restaurateurs, listen up: Anyone opening a restaurant in the greater Seattle area is legally bound to follow one of three design mandates, on file in the city licensing office. Doubt it? Then why does it seem as if every new Seattle restaurant looks like one of the following?

1. Cool. Stark. Minimalist. Hard-edged. (Frequently deafening.) Think Black Bottle, Spring Hill (soon to be Ma’Ono), Revel, Crush, Boom Noodle, Mistral, Madison Park Conservatory.

2. Hipster chill, mottled concrete floor to exposed ductwork ceiling. Must have at least one wall of exposed brick; extra points if faded paint from a ‘40s-era wall ad is barely discernible. Think Tavolata, Brave Horse Tavern, Staple and Fancy, Terra Plata, Tin Table.

3. Elegant Designer Living Room, upholstered in creamy neutrals. Think Art at the Four Seasons, Canlis, The Book Bindery, John Howie Steak House.

Of course there are exceptions. Think of the overwrought Old World opulence of the Georgian Room; the early-Rococo, late-exploded-flea-market Bizzarro Italian Café; the sparkling, retro-cute Skillet Diner. And don’t forget the magnificent theater pieces from restaurateurs/set designers Deming Maclise and James Weimann, whose Poquito’s is a visual feast of lush Mexican tile and wrought iron, and whose Bastille could be arrested for impersonating a Paris train station.

Maclise and Weimann will be among the panelists tomorrow night (Tuesday, February 7) at Town Hall in the Seattle Architecture Foundation forum, Restaurant Design: How Design Affects the Dining Experience. My esteemed colleague Allecia Vermillion will moderate as they, along with restaurateurs Ethan Stowell and Chad Dale, discuss and debate and digest this most under-discussed critical aspect of the dining experience.

Should be great. See you there at 7pm.

Show Comments