Three years ago this week, Cornichon penned a typically snarky post about the proliferation of nutcrackers on Seattle streets. Grumble, grumble, crunch, crunch. Off they went to eBay, ne'er to be seen again. Until now. Turns out, they were almost all bought by one guy, Gerry Kingen, the local hospitality entrepreneur who turned Eastlake's beer-n-burger Red Robin into a national franchise and the old Beach Broiler into Seattle's second-highest-grossing restaurant (after the Space Needle, over $11 million in 2008): Salty's on Alki Beach.
"Happy Hollandaise!" says Salty's cheerful exec chef Jeremy McLachlan, surveying the festive multi-level dining room overlooking Elliott Bay and the Seattle skyline from Harbor Avenue. This time of year, the restaurant undergoes a festive transformation, with some 65 nutcrackers standing guard over the decorations.
Sure, you drop by here with out-of-town guests for a summer drink on the patio; or for the packed brunch on weekends. Still, plenty of folks come gunning for this place, convinced that the food is swill or worse, but Cornichon begs to differ. Sure, it's not Canlis, nor is it a trendy boutique. What do you expect for a 250-seat dinner house with a billion-dolar view upstairs and a suite of banquet & catering spaces at water level? What you get is good food, well-prepared; good value ($10 blue plate specials at lunch), a wine list focused on local bottlings. Never ceases to amaze us, bloggers will drop $40 for a veal chop with soubise demi-glace at a trendy new hole-in-the-wall with a fancy chef and minimalist decor and go mmmmmm, then complain that their $30 rib-eye or salmon filet at a classy "view" restaurant is overpriced. Next time you're inclined to grumble, remember that a view of anything (water, mountains, playing field) automatically accounts for the first 30 to 50 percent of the tab.
Kingen didn't have to buy any nutcrackers, let alone all of them, but he did. He saw what a "tradition" of holiday decor did for Manhattan's Tavern on the Green and found Seattle's nutcrackers displayed at the Pacific Science Center. He not only bought every last one, he bought the molds, too.