There is lots of talk these days about the dangers of social media. But it was decidedly old media that has put Tom Douglas’s foot in his Seattle all-star restauranteur mouth following his decision to use an awful experience at an unnamed Capitol Hill restaurant as an example of “what not to do” on his KIRO radio program. Douglas’s biggest mistake? In the new media era, there’s really no such thing as an unnamed restaurant.
“So, last night, I’m up on Capitol Hill. I have my 2-year-old niece with me…” the story begins on Douglas’s Seattle Kitchen episode that aired last Saturday and is available online below.
What follows is a litany of transgressions against Douglas and his party of four that seem to have crawled straight from the bowels of Yelp.
- The restaurant should have more seats
- The restaurant was out of 2 of the 5 reds on its wine list
- It was out of the liquor to make the “specialty” cocktail table ordered
- The appetizers were “pretty good”
- The waitress, “sketchy”
- Ordered entrees at 6:50p hoping to get out in time for Grammy’s broadcast. By 7:50p only 2 of 5 entrees had arrived.
- Entrees were a “B”
- Paid and wouldn’t let owner take the unserved entrees off the check.
- Owner of the restaurant “recognized me” (OK, here’s where it get less Yelpy)
“Our food needs help. Would you consider helping us out on our food?” Douglas says the restaurant’s owner asked him in a moment of likely star-struck hope and, apparently well-placed, nervous dread. Douglas doesn’t say what he said to the restaurant owner at that point.
It took readers at foodie news blog Eater Seattle all of one comment to nail down the secret Capitol Hill restaurant’s identity thanks to the numerous identifying attributes Douglas includes in his broadcast:
- Interior is prettier than expected
- Mixed reviews on Yelp
- Hanna Raskin said it was shaky
- Five red wines on their red wine list
- 10 specialty cocktails
- Appetizers were pretty good (B or B+)
- Owner comes from a restaurant family
- 5 months old
The list of restaurants that opened on the Hill in October is surprisingly lengthy: Bako, Momiji, Terra Plata, and Altura. The list of those restaurants nailed by Hanna Raskin is short. Though one could argue that her mayo-focused opinion of Momiji is also “shaky.” Add our information on Keeman Wong’s family background in the restaurant business, and the commenters were pretty sure about it. Douglas was burying Bako — even if he didn’t mean to.
“I haven’t had an experience like I had last night in quite awhile,” Douglas summed things up.
“This one’s just not going to make it.”
Douglas tells CHS he didn’t intend for the fingers to be pointed at a specific restaurant and would not confirm that he was speaking about Bako.
“That never occurred to me. That wasn’t the point,” Douglas told CHS on Tuesday. “They were suffering through the same issues we had faced — a comedy of errors.”
He also said he isn’t planning an apology. “I didn’t intend for it to be taken that way and if I wanted to say anything like that I would say it to the restaurant owner in person and not on the blog,” Douglas said.
Thierry and I have a very fun radio show every Saturday and Sunday on KIRO where we talk restaurants and our love for them. We both have been through the trials and tribulations of opening restaurants and know that it is an incredibly difficult business. In the 23 years I’ve had my own restaurants we have both enjoyed terrific reviews and have learned from the less than fantastic reviews. When I talk of restaurants, my goal is to never burry anyone, but be constructive in my criticism. –Tom Douglas
We asked Bako’s Wong to comment on the situation and if he was willing to confirm that Douglas had visited his restaurant earlier this month but haven’t heard back.
But we’re fans of constructive criticism. If you have advice — constructive advice — for any Capitol Hill restaurant Douglas might visit next, let us know in comments. Or tell it to the restaurant owner in person and not on the blog. Your choice.