Jason Price | Seattle, Wa

Management Consultant, Entrepreneur, Urban Farmer

link to home page of Jason Price Seattle

Seattle Restaurant Scene

And the Next Big Thing in Seattle is…

by Jason Price, Seattle, WA

An Embarrassment of Riches

I'm always on the lookout for what the next big thing in food will be in our fair Emerald City.  We're blessed with the most amazing array of produce, seafood, fungi and meat that should be the envy of the food world.  The diverse climate of our state includes beautiful coastlands, lush rain forests, dry plains, verdant valleys and everything in between.   The Farm-to-Table movement has taken hold here and Farmer's Markets are overflowing every weekend.  People want to eat locally and are willing to be educated about their food and where it comes from. Because of this, we're seeing a resurgence in small scale farming that is allowing the great chefs of our region to bring us an even better level of quality than we imagined less than 10 years ago.

When I first moved to Seattle I thought it was just an 'ok' food city.  Coming here from Chicago and after having lived in Europe, San Francisco and New York - I was underwhelmed by what was available.  Yes, Tom Douglas was doing his thing and there were a few good places but hey, who can eat at Canlis every night?  Fast forward 9 years later and we've seen a major evolution in the quality of what is being presented as well as the creativity and venues in which we are now seeing.

Food Trucks Take the Town

In 2007/8 we saw the first 'gourmet' food trucks hit the streets of Seattle being led by the likes of Skillet, Marination and Where Ya At Matt?.  These were not your father's roach coaches.  They were few, hard to find, and a bit rogue when it came to regulation (there just wasn't any formal process to deal with them) - but they were pretty damned good.  Our neighbors down the road in Portland had the food truck concept nailed for years but Seattle was just starting to explore this portably delicious little concept.  After 5-6 years of evolution and more well defined rules - there are now over 100 trucks in the Seattle area alone.  Hell, there are even food truck festivals and competitions now.  A major victory for the little guy wanting to get into the food business without having a quarter mil to drop on a primo spot on the Hill.  We now even have the likes of Seattlefoodtruck.com to tell us when and where we can get our daily fix of mobile goodness.  A step in the right direction.

A Focus on Local, Quality Ingredients

Between 2009-11 I started to notice an explosion of restaurants focused on good, local food that wasn't centered on Salmon on a Cedar Plank.  New flavor profiles were being introduced with the likes of Seif Chirchi and Rachel Yang's Joule and then later Revel.  Matt Dillon was rocking the scene with his diminutive Sitka and Spruce in an Eastlake Strip Mall and expanding later into larger digs in the Melrose Market as well as opening The Corson Building in Georgetown.  Ethan Stowell was seeing huge success with How to Cook a Wolf on Queen Anne and Renee Erickson scored huge hits with The Walrus and the Carpenter and The Whale Wins.  Tom Douglas' empire was expanding rapidly while staying true to locally sourced ingredients and people really started to take notice of what was on their plate and where it was coming from.  The people of Seattle were starting to take notice and demand better!

The Micro Restaurant Emerges

In the past 1-2 years we've seen a continued evolution of the focus on quality and locally sourced ingredients.  So many new and good restaurants have opened in the last 2 years alone that I have a hard time keeping up with them.  I experience them vicariously through friends and fellow bloggers who eat there for me and then I make an educated decision on where to spend my valuable food dollars.  A recent trend has emerged which is light on the pocketbook and heavy on culinary satisfaction.  The micro-restaurant has arrived and is winning the battle for the discerning Seattleites dollars much in the same way as the food truck revolution did several years ago.  We now have the likes of Paseos (which has been leading the charge for years in this genre), Il Corvo, La Bodega, Little Uncle and Kedai Makan.  These are places where the food is so good that people don't mind standing on line for 45 minutes to get a bowl or bite.  Standing in line for a micro-restaurant is like waiting to get into a club or buy tickets for a concert.  It's a veritable social event in itself and no one is complaining - they all know the drill (until the 'we are out of bread' sign goes up at Paseos) and they are in for the long haul.  I'd love to see this trend continue with more pop-ups, micro restaurants and good, inexpensive food that I'm happy to wait online for.

And Finally, the Neighborhood Joint

"Don't call it a comeback, we've been here for years!"

I was having lunch with Josh Henderson of Huxley/Wallace fame the other day and we started talking about the next big thing.  We both readily agreed that we'd love to see more quality neighborhood joints in and around Seattle.  The kind that anchor a block and allow for other small businesses to thrive.  Take, for example, the small block in Ballard which contains The Fat Hen, Honore Bakery and Delancey among others.  This is one of the most perfect examples of what each neighborhood should have.  All they need is a small, gourmet deli/sundry shop on that block and they are in business.  Restaurants like Volunteer Park Café in Capitol Hill, Cantinetta in Wallingford, Pair in the U District and Bar del Corso in Beacon Hill are all examples of what small restaurants can do for a neighborhood.  Bonus points to each of those for producing pretty damned good food on a consistent basis.

I think we need more of these places in our fair city which, really, is a big collection of neighborhoods.  Small, quality restaurants that people can walk to.  Commercial strips that don't contain a 7-11, Quiznos or Taco Time but rather a bakery, 10 table restaurant, pizza joint, wine bar, green grocer, butcher, fishmonger - you get the picture.  Who wouldn't want to walk to any of these places from their home?  Who wouldn't patronize these places if the quality was good and they were putting their money back into their community?  Nobody.  All you aspiring chefs, business owners, and food purveyors out there - I challenge you to make it happen!

Chef Interviews

Holly Smith, chef at Cafe Juanita, by Jason Price, Seattle Erica Burke, chef at Volunteer Park Cafe, by Jason Price Seattle Jason Stratton, chef at Spinasse, by Jason Price Seattle Derek Ronspies, chef at Le Petit Cochon, by Jason Price Seattle Maria Hines, chef at Tilth, by Jason Price Seattle Matt Janke, chef at Le Cosho, by Jason Price SeattleMatt Lewis, chef at Roux, by Jason Price Seattle Renee Erickson, chef at The Walrus and the Carpenter, by Jason Price Seattle

Feeds of Interest

  • recipes from grandma | jason price, seattle
  • urban chicken raising by jason price, seattle
  • great wines of the world i have tasted by jason price, seattle
  • all about heritage pigs by jason price, seattle
  • great chefs of seattle by jason price, seattle
  • the art of making charcuterie by jason price, seattle