Capitol Hill food+drink | Tom Douglas staying downtown after Capitol Hill debut

Tom Douglas sees his future across from the Paramount (Image: Runberg Architecture)

Tom Douglas sees his future across from the Paramount (Image: Runberg Architecture)

T-Doug in 1989 at the age of 31  (Image: Tom Douglas Restaurants)

T-Doug in 1989 at the age of 31 (Image: Tom Douglas Restaurants)

In a time when food+drink innovation is flourishing on Capitol Hill, one of Seattle’s boldest restauranteurs made a relatively modest debut to the neighborhood scene. In December, Tom Douglas opened Serious Pie Pike inside the enormous Starbucks Reserve Roastery. Unlike many other Douglas ventures, the third location of the pizza and pie eatery has an unassuming presence — both inside and outside its Melrose Ave home.

“I don’t think big restaurants are the future, I think it’s small restaurants. Small restaurants are where it’s at,” said Douglas, who runs an empire of Seattle food and drink establishments that includes some rather large presences like Palace Kitchen and Brave Horse Tavern.

Douglas’s future — at least immediately — also won’t include Capitol Hill. But it won’t be far away. The prolific restauranteur has begun planning to open a project in the new apartment development across from the Paramount Theater. Currently moving forward under the working title the Carlile Room, Douglas and his camp are playing coy on the specifics. “We’re building out a really cool new restaurant,” a spokesperson for the company told CHS, refusing to spill anything about the concept or the menu.

Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 8.06.36 AMTargeting a June opening, the Douglas camp hopes to build off the large crowds at the Paramount where the company already handles concessions and catering — and had planned a falafel joint at one point. At this point, even the official name of the project is a secret. “You never know until the day it opens,” the spokesperson teased.

With Serious Pike, Douglas said he wasn’t necessarily seeking to open a Capitol Hill establishment, the deal with Starbucks just happened to fall into place with an already perfected restaurant formula. Like the first two locations, Serious Pie Pike is based around a gourmet, wood-fired pizza concept that features Douglas’s signature use of fresh, seasonal and foodie-favorited ingredients.

The new restaurant is soft-seperated enough from its Starbucks anchor to feel like its own entity, although a larger sign was recently installed to better direct wide-eyed customers coming through the Starbucks entrance.

So far, Douglas said Serious Pie Pike has been a success, but he’s not interested in further expanding his footprint on Capitol Hill. “I don’t have any irons in the fire. I’m a downtown guy,” he said.

A serious pizza pie (Image: Tom Douglas Restaurants)

A serious pizza pie (Image: Tom Douglas Restaurants)

Part of being a downtown restaurant owner means generating your own drawing power in a neighborhood that gets considerably quieter at night. To keep the street life buzzing around his existing businesses, Douglas said he’ll continue to focus downtown. Douglas can also walk to each one of his restaurants from his downtown condo — another key criteria for selecting any new location. Serious Pie Pike falls just on the edge of Douglas’ walking radius. The Carlile project also, of course, makes the cut.

Douglas is hardly a newcomer to Capitol Hill. In 1977, an 18-year-old Douglas arrived in Seattle and moved into his first apartment on 14th and Republican. He toiled in Capitol Hill kitchens and bars, like the now shuttered Boondock’s, Sundecker’s, and Greenthumbs. That has given Douglas enough perspective to know every hot neighborhood eventually cools.

“In 1977, Capitol Hill and Broadway was the shit… teeming with restaurants and people,” he said. “In some ways its back at being the place again.”

Seattle’s new restaurant innovators will inevitably find more fertile ground to launch ventures away from Capitol Hill. It remains to be seen how many of the neighborhood’s current bars and restaurants will last in an industry where longevity is nearly impossible to achieve. Douglas is at least one example that trendy chef-owners can build some serious staying power. Especially if everything they create is within walking distance of home.

Capitol Hill food+drink notes by jseattle

  • Speaking of small spaces, Little Uncle announced it will close its Pioneer Square location but continue to operate its E Madison walk-up. In fact, Wiley Frank and Poncharee Kounpungchart say they’re looking for something more like their E Madison location to re-open in Pioneer Square. “We are better in a smaller space. Less is sometimes more,” PK told Seattle Met. Just like Tom Douglas said… Meanwhile, the E Madison walk-up just east of the Bullitt Center has finally re-opened after what management said were staffing issues following Frank and Kounpungchart’s annual travels in Thailand.
  • SoLU couldn’t sustain hotshot Shanik. The sibling to Vancouver’s much-loved Vij’s is closing in March:
    Dhalwala wasn’t terribly familiar with Seattle when she decided to open a restaurant here; she didn’t realize this city likes its eateries casual, cozy, and barlike. And she had no idea about happy hour, which is especially huge around Amazon; “it doesn’t culturally exist in Canada.”
  • Jason Stratton’s exit from the Spinasse family is a shocker but financial issues around a downtown sibling restaurant seemed to be a harbinger of change.
  • Congratulations to Capitol Hill’s newest beer brewery, little Outer Planet. We’re told the small production outfit only ran out of beer on one tap over their first weekend — the Imperial Stout.5d01e036b
  • “The lowest median tips per hour for waiters and waitresses—around $7—were in Minneapolis, Detroit, and Seattle.”
  • Starbucks is so happy with its fancy new Capitol Hill premium roasting facility that it is looking for which city to open in next.
  • There will be a new Capitol Hill venue for watching the Tour de France this summer.
  • Roanoke Park Place reports: “Well, it’s official. The landlord offered us another 5 years to keep pouring frosty beers, making tasty cocktails, and stuffing your gobs with nachos and Skookums. Just signed the lease. Cheers!”
  • This “Guide to Brunch Wait Times” pretty much mails it in with write-ups on only four venues but includes Broadway’s Americana in the mix. You’re supposed to wait for brunch, no?
  • A dangerous combination:
  • Want some of the (secretly) best charcuterie in Seattle? Try the Pine Box.
  • The Zaw take and bake pizza at 15th and Pine is suddenly back to life after a long closure. We’ve asked the company for more information but haven’t yet heard back.
  • GQ named E Pike’s Trove part of its 25 Most Outstanding Restaurants of 2015 calling it “like a plalyground [sic] for your taste buds.”
  • Dwell magazine calls Summit’s Single Shot one of The 10 Best-Designed Bars in America:

    (Image: Dwell)

    (Image: Dwell)

 

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