Excerpts from her blog, All You Can Eat Trader Vic's has seen its last day — again. The Lincoln Square restaurant closed after service...
Excerpts from her blog,
All You Can Eat
Trader Vic’s has seen its last day — again.
The Lincoln Square restaurant closed after service Saturday — 2 ½ years after its much-
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Employees working at the adjacent Bellevue Westin, just a mai-tai splash from Trader Vic’s front door, were surprised to find the restaurant’s windows papered over on Sunday.
“It closed because it just didn’t make it,” said restaurant consultant Larry Hamlin, one of about 25 local investors in the franchise — who’d hoped the restaurant would bring back the paradise lost after Trader Vic’s at the Seattle Westin closed in 1991.
The Bellevue location proved less than golden, according to Hamlin: “All of the investors lost their money.”
Citing a letter sent to investors late last week, Hamlin said, “It was not successful, they were losing money every month and they determined it was best just to close.”
Are you wondering what’s to become of the 7,800-square-foot Trader Vic’s restaurant and bar? I was, for about two minutes. Then I read between the lines of a news release sent Monday, crowing: “Pearl Brings Lustre to Bellevue’s Dining Scene: Dynamic new restaurant at Lincoln Square set to open late fall.” Oddly enough, there was no word in the release about Trader Vic’s. But Pearl’s address — 700 Bellevue Way N.E., Suite 50 — sure looked familiar.
Turns out chef Bradley Dickinson and his business partner Mikel Rogers are moving in.
Dickinson (former chef-exec for Schwartz Brothers restaurants Daniel’s Broiler, Spazzo and Chandler’s Crabhouse, where he’s worked for 25 years) and Rogers (regional manager for Schwartz Brothers, whose management expertise was honed at Rosellini’s The Other Place, Trattoria Carmine) are psyched about the opportunity. “I’ve been working on the project for almost a year, but this location came up a couple of months ago,” says Dickinson. And they jumped on it.
With a contemporary American menu and 200-plus-seat dining room and bar, the goal is to create “a real urban feel in the middle of downtown Bellevue.” And that, says Dickinson, is going to be a challenge on a “restaurant row” that’s home to P.F. Chang’s and the Cheesecake Factory. Rather than being part of that, er, chain of events, the independent restaurateurs are hoping to create a dining scene more reminiscent “of Belltown and Queen Anne” than we’re used to seeing in Bellevue. If all goes smoothly, Pearl should be open by mid-November.
Meanwhile, Trader Vic’s-ionados reacted to the restaurant’s passing with mixed emotions.
Some acknowledged that as competition for diners’ dollars reached a crescendo in Bellevue and elsewhere, stratospheric prices — among other disappointments — had kept some hard-core fans from returning to the Lincoln Square restaurant.
Tom Robinson has eaten at Trader Vic’s restaurants the world over for nearly 50 years, and attended the gala preview-dinner in Bellevue with his wife, Barb. But they’ve made very few treks from their home in Edmonds since then.
“It’s not a destination anymore and I don’t think the franchises are going to do very well. They’ve cheapened it,” said Robinson, whose house is decorated with Trader Vic’s memorabilia. “I thought it wouldn’t last, but I didn’t think it would close this fast,” Robinson said after hearing the news of the closure. “We were there just a few weeks ago for the first time in a year and a half.” Lunch service, he said, was abominable — despite a near-empty dining room.
Charity auctioneer Sharon Friel admitted that she and her husband, Dick, hadn’t been to Trader Vic’s in 18 months, and she senses that the closure is “a sign of the times.” Not just the financial downturn, she says, but a generational change.
“It was my generation that has all these memories,” said the former sorority sister who recalled Trader Vic’s original Seattle location as the height of luxury back in the early ’60s. “But even I didn’t support it.”
For patrons who did, the closure has hit hard. “Our group has met in the lounge every Sunday for happy hour since the doors opened just over two years ago,” wrote Michael Merry in an e-mail to The Seattle Times after he’d heard rumors of the closure. “We call it our ‘church.’ Sometimes it’s two of us, sometimes it’s close to 20. We think it is a great way to end one week and prepare for another.”
Merry will miss “the best smoked ribs and mai tais I have ever tasted” — and, especially, the Trader Vic’s staff. “They’re like our family, and it will be hard to see them leave.”
This blog material has been edited for print publication.
Nancy Leson’s blog excerpts appear Wednesdays. Reach her at 206-464-8838 or firstname.lastname@example.org