Across from the Paramount, the restaurateur’s latest project has a musical, as well as culinary vibe.

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The newest Tom Douglas restaurant, The Carlile Room, sounds swanky but it’s not. A relaxed space built for partying, it grooves to a late-’60s, early-’70s vibe, an era when the future James Beard Award-winning chef/restaurateur was growing up in Delaware, and swanky just wasn’t in style.

The concept is a little convoluted. Douglas is a longtime fan of singer/songwriter Brandi Carlile, the restaurant’s namesake. The guitar she used to play while busking at Pike Place Market hangs above the host stand. But apparently the idea for the musical theme started when Douglas acquired a large black-and-white painting of Bob Dylan, a late night eBay purchase that once graced a Grammy stage and now conceals the hallway to The Carlile’s restrooms.

The musical homage stretches a little thin in the hefty “Book of Booze.” Cocktails are divided into “June Cleaver” versus “Joan Baez,” labels that convey little about the drinks (conventional/unconventional?), not to mention June wasn’t a musician. More cleverly, on the profusely annotated wine list, French reds are called “the Beatles of the wine world” because they are “often referenced, always compared to and perpetually inspiring.” Unusual varietals like Austrian zweigelt and Greek xinomavro are listed under “B-sides.”

The Carlile Room ★★★  

New American

820 Pine St. Seattle


Reservations: accepted for groups up to 20

Hours: lunch 11:30-3 p.m. daily; dinner 4:30-midnight daily; bar menu 3-4:30 daily; happy hour 3-6 p.m. daily, 10 p.m.-midnight Sunday-Thursday

Prices: $$$ (lunch openers $11-$14, entrees $14-$19; dinner openers, plant-based plates, meat and seafood sides $14-$17; meat and seafood entrées $27-$33)

Drinks: full bar; new and classic cocktails; wine, cider and beer from near and far

Service: relaxed and professional

Parking: on street and in nearby lots and garages

Sound: loud

Who should go: Paramount Theater patrons and conventioneers; good choice for a business lunch and for vegetarians

Credit cards: all major

Access: no obstacles

Seattleites born before the dawning of the Age of Aquarius may recall The House of Turkey as fondly as Douglas does. The Carlile’s lunch menu commemorates that erstwhile eatery with a turkey club, turkey stew, turkey salad and more. The “hot turkey plate + three” bearing moist slices of breast meat, sautéed veggies, smashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and mushroom gravy, is what Thanksgiving dinner should be but so seldom is.

Besides talking turkey, the lunch menu delivers such “standards” as a cheeseburger, a steak salad and a seasonal “garden plate,” lately comprising potato-and-squash fritters seasoned like crabcakes with Old Bay and sassily sauced with green tomato rémoulade. It’s a delightful harbinger of dinner’s plant-based hit parade.

A dozen or more plates on the dinner menu feature plants; most are vegetarian, some are vegan, a couple incorporate meat, fish or shellfish. The menu suggests pairing a plant with one of a half-dozen meat or seafood items, most of which come as scaled-down “sides,” in addition to “regular” portions.

A side of meat? I love it.

“The idea was to do a steakhouse in reverse,” The Carlile’s GM Amy Richardson told me in a phone interview. “We really love the plants in the center of the plate. It’s the way Tom eats, the way so many of us [in the company] like to eat.” The concept also excited chef Dezi Bonow, a 12-year veteran of the Douglas organization and most recently chef at Palace Kitchen.

The meat (or seafood) sides tend to be minimalist presentations of four to six ounces at most. A small filet mignon on the rare side proved as tender as the oyster mushrooms with it; its pool of jus whispered of horseradish. Dainty apple and currant chutney, lightly perfumed with smoke, garlanded a burnished drumstick and moist slices of breast from a rotisserie chicken. A chunk of red-wine-braised lamb shank came with piquant eggplant, pickled huckleberries and hazelnuts.

The plant-based plates often incorporate something pickled and have more frills. I found slices of pickled peach strewn among the almonds, cilantro and mint that embellished savory, satisfying chickpea and fava fritters (think falafel), a vegan dish.

A splash of aged vinegar provided the right amount of sharp acidity for pan-roasted Brussels sprouts and apples under a soft cap of buffalo milk mozzarella. Vivid kale pesto, myzithra cheese and pumpkin seeds perked up roasted delicata squash with pan-fried ricotta dumplings, a dish both luxurious and restrained.

Pickled pear and roasted-apple aioli edged a bowl of tiny chanterelles sautéed with greens, bathed in “bird jus,” a potent duck-and-poultry broth. That dish, blanketed with a crisp-edged, sunny-side-up fried egg and a melt of ash-streaked Morbier cheese, topped the charts.

Sample menu

Chickpea-fava fritter  $14

Chanterelles with fried egg  $15

Ricotta dumplings  $15

Petite filet mignon  $17/$33

Pepper pot  $29

The one plate I sampled that failed to coalesce was a beet salad. Though lively with pickled melon and dill sour cream, it was undercut by mushy purple fingerlings, oddly textured smoked black cod, and limp, exhausted-looking herbs and greens.

The Carlile basks in the glow of the Paramount Theatre marquee, and it is clearly designed to capture theater throngs and convention crowds. The energy in the room rises and falls accordingly.

Related video: On the farm with Tom Douglas

Jackie Cross grows vegetables, including potatoes, for Tom Douglas Restaurants. The married couple’s organic farm in Prosser, Washington, supplied the restaurants with 60,000 pounds of produce last year. Read more. (Corinne Chin / The Seattle Times)

One night, I had tickets to a show and so hurried through a cioppino-like seafood stew called “pepper pot.” Though its pièce de résistance, grilled salmon collar, was over-charred, I savored the tiny clams and shrimp, ribbons of squid and chunks of rockfish in a tomato sauce feisty with Mama Lil’s peppers.

The dinner menu is available until midnight, so if you have an early curtain consider dining after the show, or stop by for dessert. The sophisticated choice would be a toasted éclair, split and filled with pumpkin custard, pepper-dusted marshmallows and spiced wine gelée. Warm, creamy rice pudding, crowned with vanilla-poached pears and cinnamon-almond streusel, is the kind of treat you want to eat in a flannel nightgown by a roaring fire. Pear-riesling sorbet with Concord grape granita and excellent ginger snaps offers a rousing climax that will send you off invigorated for the journey home.