Turns out there’s a lot in a name.
Like most cities, Seattle has been a hotbed of eating and drinking establishments since its youth. Early waterfront settlements in Pioneer Square laid foundations of modern infrastructure, later expanding to areas like Ballard, where the influence waterborne industry took hold. Other residential sectors became established as the city grew, although industrial trade stayed focused along the Puget Sound corridor, from the Locks to the Duwamish.
An array of laborers, longshoremen and seafaring types graced this busy strip of commerce, bringing with them a taste for strong drink and hearty food. Saloons and eateries abounded, with bars easily outnumbering churches in areas like Ballard. Remnants of those blue-collar days remain, in hideaways like the Lockspot Cafe, Sloop Tavern and Waterwheel Lounge. Ties to industry and the sea trade are readily apparent in the names of these establishments and others around the city.
In more recent history, Seattle has taken a sharp turn away from blue collar work towards a different path. Mirroring a history of immigration and settlement in the area, an unmistakable influx of newcomers is again under way. The attitudes and demographics of this group are perhaps similar to earlier arrivals; they bring with them coffers of bullion eager to be spent at the expense of antecedent traditions. Seattle has become a decidedly white-collar stronghold.
Areas like Ballard are no longer impoverished migrant-laborer communities which house families double-digits in size. These formerly rustic enclaves have transformed into trendy gentrifications carelessly stacked with cookie-cutter residential/retail amenities. Historic icons such as Hattie’s Hat are outnumbered by hollow abstractions like Eetbar, Hotel Albatross, and Rodeo Donut. Leilani Lanes and Denny’s on Market Street are mere wisps of memory, gobbled up by the development-monster.
One would assume that this change has enough momentum to continue, and surely it will. The bubble of construction could burst, but that remains an imaginary fantasy for now. As the city grows in population (but not land area), new dining options are opening constantly, all hoping to snag a piece of the apparent gold-rush. Curiously, there appears to be a few gastronomic platitudes that have emerged from this expansion, most noticeable being the very names of Seattle dining establishments. Behold, the glorious ampersand!
The following venues all feature this beautiful logogram, most which adjoin two clever nouns, ranging from the logical to mystifying. The list is sorted first by predominant geographic area, then by year opened (based on best research). It seems that the trend started in 2007, with chef Matt Dillon’s Sitka & Spruce original Eastlake location, taking off in stride in 2009 with four spots adopting the ampersand that year.
As an aside, take note of the frequently used “& Co.”, an obsolescent jingle if ever there was one. A few examples depart from the strict use of ampersand, but have been included notwithstanding. Venues that come recommended, satire-aside, have been underlined.
- Lock & Keel, 2000
- Sip & Ship, 2002
- Staple & Fancy, 2010
- The Walrus and the Carpenter, 2010
- Percy’s & Co., 2013
- 8 oz. Burger & Co., 2014
- Bourbon & Bones, 2014
- Brimmer & Heeltap, 2014
- Porkchop & Co., 2014
- Capitol Hill
- Sitka & Spruce, 2007
- Anchovies & Olives, 2009
- Needle & Thread, 2009
- Crumble & Flake, 2012
- Speckled & Drake, 2012
- Bitter/Raw, 2014
- Herb & Bitter, 2015
- Meat & Bread, 2015
- Bathtub Gin & Co., 2009
- Hook & Plow, 2011
- Bell + Whete, 2014
- Shaker + Spear, 2014
- Pioneer Square
- Tak & Toni’s Dome Stadium Tavern, 1975
- Owl N’ Thistle, 1991
- Bottle & Bull, 2014
- Balls & Whistles, 2015
- Milstead & Co., 2011
- Queen Anne
- Emmer & Rye, 2009 – 2012 (closed)
Granted, some of the above listed venues offer the best of their category in town. Milstead & Co. is unbeatable in regards to immaculately prepared single-origin coffee. Personal mailbox services at Sip & Ship are tip-top. The tartar at Walrus kills. Those names make sense. And what of Brimmer & Heeltap, the trendy gastropub that usurped Le Gourmand? The place is anachronistically named for a brimming cup and its subsequent dregs; a glib moniker implying plenty of pork belly sous-vide with St. Germain broth.
Sometimes, two words are simply too many. Simplicity is so zen. Let’s break it down to one focal word, maintaining clever appeal. Here is a second list, first broken down by neighborhood, then alphabetically. In lieu of more exacting historical research, the author’s memory quick-scan of the list puts the majority of venues as open in the last six years or so, a trend that mirrors the ampersand lot. Take note of cutesy nibble-nouns like morsel. Again, favorite spots that have earned high praise have been emphasized.
- Capitol Hill
- Ballard, Fremont
- Hommage (closed)
- Pioneer Square, Downtown
- Queen Anne
- Wallingford, Greenwood, U-District
- Lake Union
- Ravish (closed)
- Beacon Hill, Central District
A fun coincidence that the CD/Beacon Hill has both Oak and Bannister. Rumor has it that Crown Moulding is soon to open in a renovated Chinatown warehouse, following initial build-out delays. The Laotian pop-up will feature artisanal street food paired with locally-sourced rice wine slurpees.
Finally, a third list. Coming full-circle, this one highlights bars of old, especially in the Ballard area. Many of these taverns and diners have stood the test of time; well-worn outposts that hearken back to times of old. The majority opened in the mid to late 20th Century. They are all unified by the possessive apostrophe, the most comforting of punctuation.
- Ballard, Fremont, Phinney, Greenwood, Wallingford, Interbay
- Bad Albert’s
- Bleacher’s (closing)
- Four B’s
- Molly Maguire’s
- Paddy Coyne’s
- Downtown, Pioneer Square, Belltown, ID
- Emmett Watson’s
- Shawn O’Donnell’s
- Capitol Hill
- Big Mario’s
- Clever Dunne’s
- Roosevelt, U-District, Maple Leaf, Greenlake
- West Seattle, White Center, Georgetown, South Park
- Bellevue, Renton, Redmond, Woodinville
- JJ Mahoney’s
- Uncle Mo’s
- Queen Anne
- S. McHugh’s
- Shoreline, Edmonds
- CD, Madison
One can note how the possessive apostrophe adds a familial charm to the name of a place, as if a patron is visiting an old friend. Not that anyone these days actually knows Goofy of Goofy’s Sports Bar, or Hattie of Hattie’s Hat. Or do they?
Let’s do a little experiment. Try flipping the two words from existing venues around, and the feeling changes completely:
- Restaurant Zoë (stylish bistro, Capitol Hill, Seattle, WA) vs. Zoë’s Restaurant (serene surf & turf, Virginia Beach, VA)
- Cafe Juanita ($$$$ Italian, Juanita, Kirkland, WA) vs Juanita’s Cafe (casual Peruvian fare, Queens, NY)
- Bar Sue (housemade Fireball on tap, Capitol Hill, Seattle, WA) vs Sue’s Bar (beer koozies and burgers, Osceola, WI)
Interesting how a quick reversal ups the ante of posh. Let’s try it with some of the above listed places:
- Cafe Beth
- Restaurant Lowell
- Bar Ozzie
The fragrant smell of sizzled quail egg with artisan romesco is in the air! We’ll need an Aperol Spritz on tap with that.
Lastly, some venue names that have genuine zip and creative spark. Not surprisingly, the quality of their offerings is top notch.
- 9 LB Hammer, Georgetown
- Add-a-ball, Fremont
- Bait Shop, Capitol Hill
- Damn the Weather, Pioneer Square
- Green Leaf, Belltown
- HoneyHole, Capitol Hill
- Lost Lake, Capitol Hill
- Uneeda Burger, Fremont
- Vidiot, West Seattle
A certain courage is needed to buck the trends of modern culture. Ultimately, uniqueness helps a venue stand out, and speak for itself. Regardless, any name reflects a moment in time, a keen litmus test to gauge a city in flux.
Presented by Medium Plus, 2015