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Tom Douglas restaurants?

I'm researching my first trip to Seattle, and have ended up with several Tom Douglas restaurants on the list: Etta's, Palace Kitchen, Serious Pie... I'm a little concerned about quality being lost to empire building. Does anybody have opinions as to whether they are as good in real life as they look on paper? Thanks!

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  1. My husband and I were just in Seattle a couple of weeks ago and stopped in at Serious Pie one evening. We thought our pizza was excellent and perfectly cooked. I would note that we took a Savor Seattle Food tour of Pike Place Market the next morning and in talking with others on the tour, at least one couple did not have as good of an experience. Their pizza was burned and tasteless (their words). We did not make it to any of his other restaurants.

    1. I'm a huge TD fan. Our current fave is Cuoco. But love Serious Pie, and Palace Kitchen as well (lavender goat cheese fonduta is bliss). Never been to Etta's, and had an good, not mind-blowing, meal at Dahlia. Apparently his little breakfast sammiches are amazing...but have yet to try. Maybe you can do so for me :)

      1. They're not all equally good - but I'm a huge Palace Kitchen fan. I take all my out-of-town guests there and most ask to return on subsequent visits. (Lola, nearby, is the best restaurant breakfast in the city in my book.)

        Serious Pie is ok - pretty good, even - but isn't worth a wait when the Palace Kitchen is a couple of blocks away.

        1. the problem with a talented chef running multiple - but all unique - establishments is finding competent substitutes for himself. when all the planets line up, a meal at a TD place is as fine as one can desire BUT i have also been served stale, overcooked and otherwise unacceptable food often enough that i seldom use his places any longer - especially as there are so many other kitchens in the same neighborhoods with the creative talent on site every day.

          1. I am also a fan of breakfast at Lola's. I like Dahlia...the menu is pretty simple and done fairly well. Etta's is a fave of one of my friends and is less upscale. I prefer Palace for just drinks.

            1. I had a service experience at Dahlia that was so bad I will never return. That is probably unfair and my experience was probably unusual, but so be it.

              Etta's is still consistently good, although (for me) has never really hit a grand slam. I like Palace Kitchen and Serious Pie. I actually enjoy Lola the most, because I think the menu there is the most unique, and I concur that they offer what is likely the best breakfast experience you'll find downtown.

              I don't find that any of the TD restaurants start out great then go downhill.

              1. Serious pie and Serious biscuit are fabulous places with truly unique offerings. If you go at happy hour to the Serious Pie location above(Serious biscuit)...you can order off BOTH menus...and have a glass of wine....heaven.

                1 Reply
                1. re: sedimental

                  Serious biscuit. Yum!

                  Try the biscuit with crispy ham hock and collard greens.

                2. Thanks, everyone, for the feedback! I think I'll keep Palace Kitchen on the list, and breakfast at Lola's.

                  1 Reply
                  1. It's been several years since I've been to Seattle and we dined at Etta's which was good..
                    We stayed at the hotel where Lola's was and though it was good, the staff were so rude and full of themselves, that I wrote to Tom...no one got back to me and I vowed to never return to a place that doesn't give a rats ass about me, the customer.
                    Dahlias we only had drinks..

                    I found Pike Place chowder in the alley up from the Pike Place Market sublime for their seafood chowder.

                    8 Replies
                    1. re: Beach Chick

                      I knew that the Hotel Andra runs room service from the Lola kitchen,since they share the same building, but I did not realize that Tom Douglas actually owns the hotel as well as the restaurant.

                      Can someone else please verify that...?

                        1. re: firecracker

                          Thanks for the information, firecracker.

                        2. re: Gizmo56

                          I never stated that Tom Douglas owns the Hotel Andra..

                          1. re: Beach Chick

                            "We stayed at the hotel where Lola's was and though it was good, the staff were so rude and full of themselves, that I wrote to Tom"

                            ...I guess the "it" referred to Lola, rather than to Hotel Andra. The wording of the sentence is such that it appears that "it" refers to the hotel.

                            Sorry to hear you had a bad experience with the servers at Lola. The has not happened to me at Lola, although I once had a very similar experience at The Dahlia Lounge.

                            1. re: Gizmo56

                              Loved Hotel Andra...rooms a little small but a great location.
                              Maybe the server I had, went to work at the Dahlia Lounge.. hee hee
                              When in town, I would definitely give Lola's another try.

                              1. re: Beach Chick

                                I'm gald you liked Andra. I have always heard good things and I am planning a city "stay-cation" weekend there later in the summer with my spouse.

                                If Lola falls down (in service or anything else) when we are there, I will definitely post to this thread. Our bad experience at Dahlia was LONG ago, so I don't think there is any overlap in our matching bad experiences, but your description completely resonates with me. And I think it is very troubling that you took the time to put together a letter to Mr. Douglas and got zilch back. That would have been a "last straw" for me.

                                Best wishes to you, BC. I am sorry I misconstrued your original post.

                                1. re: Gizmo56

                                  No worries Gizmo...thank you for your kindness.

                      1. I like TD restos ok, but they all have their issues. Both Dahlia and Lola have very short menus. If you happen to like one of the items on the menus, it's fine, but I tend to get one of the same two things each time we go there (and I work two blocks away, so that's fairly regularly). I have never had any issues with service at either place being rude. The servers at Dahlia can be really SLOW at off times, but will speed up if you let them know. Serious Pie is good, but the wait (original location) can be annoying and the high tables are uncomfortable. I love the pizza with the egg on it, but the last 4 times I've craved it, I couldn't deal with the wait, so I passed. I haven't been to the new location yet, though. I am not a huge fan of Ettas - there's nothing wrong with it, but it's not particularly outstanding or interesting. My favorite thing I've had there was corned beef hash for brunch. YUM. Palace Kitchen is the biggest question mark for me - I don't understand why people love it. The food is meh, especially the burger, which I expected to love. I do like the pretzels and shuffleboard at Bravehorse tavern, and they gave me a bunch of Arnold Palmer refills, which I appreciated on a hot day.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: akq

                          Yeah, I think Etta''s is solid, but not spectacular. I tend to like Palace Kitchen, but maybe because it is close to Jazz Alley so it gives me an alternative when I see a show to their overpriced and very mediocre food. I think my experience with service at Dahlia may well have been a fluke, but it was so very bad that my wife spouse and I can get past it, it has become legendary in our memory.

                          I like the Greek theme at Lola, and especially their weekend breakfasts, so it has become my favorite of the TD restaurants. But I completely share your perception that none of his restaurants are "knock your socks off." level.

                          1. re: akq

                            Interesting. Of all of the TD restaurants, Palace is the only one I like. Etta's is okay, but you can find most of the dishes at other TD places for less money. Dahlia is fine - I tend to take my Mother and her friends there. The only thing I like at Lola are the flat breads and the dips, but I've had horribly snotty service there in the past. And the bar should be missed. Bravehorse and Cuoco are fine, but too expensive for what they are. I agree with exactly what you said about Serious Pie. It's good but not worth the wait. Palace on the other hand. We go pretty regularly, most recently last Friday. We always get the plin and someone always gets the burger. If it's corn season - you HAVE to try the fried corn. Revelations this last time were fava beans still in the pods, blanched then grilled. You eat them whole, pods and all. They were fantastic! The other was radish fruit. They pickled them three ways and they were so good and something I'd never had before.

                          2. Well, you've all given me plenty to think about! I think there are lots of great choices in Seattle, and even the ones that don't get very top marks still sound pretty great. I'm looking forward to it!

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: arashall

                              I've actually never had a bad experience at one of T-Doug's places...in fact, I think much of the admiration he gets is his pretty impressive ability to run an empire of quite different places that nevertheless manage to keep the quality of food and service pretty good.

                              The flip side, though, is I think you also pay a Tom Douglas premium. With perhaps the exception of Brave Horse and Serious, the check is always met with a little surprise..."I spent how much on that burger?"

                              FWIW, I pretty much always take out of town guests to Palace and Serious Pie.

                              1. re: pusherman

                                Breakfast at Lola sounds good to us, where do we park ?

                                1. re: DriverPhil

                                  There are lots of options. On the same side of the street and on the same block as Lola, closer to Lenora, the Warwick Hotel has a public covered parking lot with very reasonable rates. There is an open lot in the middle of the block on the other side of 4th Avenue, and there is another open lot on Virginia between 3rd and 4th on the right as you approach 3rd.. Also it is not all that tough to find street parking in that neighborhood during breakfast hours.

                                  Enjoy!

                            2. I am personally a big fan of Serious Pie, particularly the potato/rosemary/pecorino pizza. The crust is amazing.

                              Unfortunately, I think some of his other restaurants are a bit hit and miss. Salmon is always on the menu at Dahlia and Palace, and I had one of the best salmon dishes of my life at Palace Kitchen, but I've also had salmon there that is just good. Same goes for Dahlia--I've had some mind-blowing meals and some just okay meals. The salmon preparations at all of the TD restaurants change regularly, and I think some preparations are a lot better than others. At Dahlia, the five-spiced duck has either declined or I had a bad experience last time I went there. The first time I had it, maybe 6 or 7 years ago, I thought it was spectacular, but the last time I went there and ordered it I found it dry and the sides it was served with uninspired (while the duck is always on the menu, the sides change regularly).

                              I did have a nice meal at Sea Star earlier this spring, and their outdoor patio right on the market can't be beat for location. It would be a nice spot for an afternoon drink and an appetizer, if you hit us on a sunny day!

                              I would second the recommendations for Lola's brunch.

                              Thanks, sedimental, for mentioning Serious Buscuit--I'd forgotten that I've been meaning to go there! I will put it back on my list.