Plants & Peacocks

Tom Douglas's Latest, the Carlile Room, Is Now Open

It's not a steak house; it's a plant house. With a DJ booth and stuffed peacocks and lots of cheese.

By Allecia Vermillion July 7, 2015

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It seems singer Brandi Carlile has already made an appearance. Photo via Tom Douglas Restaurants.

Tom Douglas's latest, The Carlile Room began its theoretical life as a karaoke bar, or maybe a house of prime rib; now the menu celebrates plants. There's a tufted leather DJ booth, two life-size stuffed peacocks, and an insanely cool Electric Coffin diorama in a front window, conceived as a fun way to block passersby views of the ladies bathroom, but featuring a Seattle scene complete with a wolf breathing fire and a tiny San Francisco 49ers squad getting their asses kicked on a seafaring vessel piloted by a giant seahawk.

You know, pretty typical stuff.

The Carlile Room is now open across from the Paramount Theatre, serving food and drinks from 11am straight on til midnight. Peacocks and fire-breathing wolves aside, the lounge is inspired by its proximity to one of the city's most reliable music and theater venues, plus Douglas's own love of music from the 1960s and beyond. The name, yes, is absolutely a nod to local singer Brandi Carlile.

Chef Dezi Bonow came here from Palace Kitchen, and before that the Dahlia Lounge. The Carlile Room was originally conceived as a place where diners would eat prime rib off a rotisserie with sides a la carte, steak house style. But after pondering the relative quantity of downtown steak houses, says Bonow, "We took the a la carte thing and flipped it around."

He refers to the restaurant as a "plant house." In other words, vegetables are the centerpiece of the menu—roasted cauliflower with pearls of  fregola sarda pasta in lobster broth, fritters of chickpeas and fava beans, with cilantro and mint. Meat can be either a side dish to all these vegetables or a main event; plates of rotisserie chicken or lamb shoulder braised in yogurt come in larger and smaller sizes.

Mark Bittman and Michael Pollan would undoubtedly approve, but Bonow doesn't want to come off as preachy about produce. The giant rotisserie in the open kitchen should put those concerns to rest. In the back of the room is what Douglas terms the "sipping bar," home base for the wines as well as Carlile Room's ample cheese program.

Music is everywhere, but not in a cheesy, theme way. The late 1960s dominate the decor, but not in a "time to shoot another scene of you smoking and looking inscrutable Mr. Hamm" way. On the far wall is a giant image of Bob Dylan, reportedly a prop from the Grammies Douglas purchased a while back. The cocktail list is divided into June Cleaver (classics) or Joan Baez (less restrained drinks) while the wine list is sorted into greatest hits and B-sides.

What was once a fairly sterile new construction space is now surfaced in rough wood beams, excellent light fixtures, and textured orange tiles, giving it far more personality than its spare predecessor Cantina Lena.

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The Electric Coffin guys delivered the diorama earlier this week. Rumor has it initial conversations included a request for "Kenny G riding a dolphin." Photo via Electric Coffin's Instagram.

There will be a menu for theatergoers, plus a larger-than-average dessert list for after the show, and cute, and goofy-sweet touches like the check arriving in would-be playbills. The old-school tradition of a hunter's breakfast has been transformed into a tribute to Hunter S. Thompson. It's served between 10pm and midnight and includes a quantity of food that's either horrifying or enchanting, depending on your level of sobriety.

A DJ will spin a few nights a week; I heard some vague talk of T-Doug himself manning the booth on occasion, plus threats that it would just be two straight hours of Joan Baez. That tantalizing visual aside, this corner of downtown could really use a spot for drop-in drinks or theater-adjacent dinners. Once Sansei opens across the street this fall, Ninth and Pine will be hopping, indeed. 

Also, here's a cool time lapse view of the space...

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