For years, Tom Douglas’ restaurant empire has managed to walk a delicate line, pleasing locals while welcoming tourists. As Seattle’s premier restaurateur, he has given us a half-dozen places—Serious Pie, Palace Kitchen, Dahlia Lounge, Dahlia Bakery, Lola, Etta’s—where we can find reliably tasty and sometimes downright superb food. Douglas and his team were ahead of their time in their unabashed support of local provisions and seasonal produce. If this is starting to sound like a big setup to a giant “but,” well, you’re half right. Seatown Seabar, Douglas’ latest restaurant, and Seatown Rotisserie, the takeout shop just next door, make their home on the bustling corner of Western Avenue and Virginia Street at the edge of the Pike Place Market. But what’s different about Seatown is how much it feels squarely aimed at tourists, especially those with full pockets. A long bar dominates the coveted corner space, which is painted in primary colors but otherwise feels a bit undesigned; the cooks are on full display, but the drama we’ve come to expect from Douglas’ interiors—Palace Kitchen’s U-shaped bar and dim lighting, Dahlia’s Northwest-via-Asia flair—is lacking here. The food is quite good (at least inside the restaurant). I especially liked the smoked seafood—trout, oysters, black cod, etc.—all served atop freshly griddled blini, although when each maybe-two-bite piece is about $2.50, well, you’re going to want at least a half-dozen of those babies, so you do the math. The Wild Thing, a tower of avocado, Dungeness crab, tobiko and sriracha aioli, is tasty indeed, but it’s also $15. That’s my biggest gripe about Seatown: The puffed-up prices fairly scream “tourist restaurant,” as does a wine list leaning toward big, soft reds.
At the takeout counter next door, it all sounds good: rotisserie meats—porchetta, lamb, one each day of the week—plus pot pies, side dishes and more to take with you for a picnic or for a casual dinner at home. But the peri-peri-rubbed lamb sirloin (Fridays, $18/pound) was a supreme disappointment: dry, sliced far too thin, cooked to medium-well. Likewise an $8 summertime tomato sandwich, which was just tomatoes (great tomatoes, but still) on fresh Dahlia bread with minty feta, served all alone in a box. At breakfast, the smoked sablefish English muffin sandwich was quite yummy, but for $10 would it be asking too much to get a pickle tossed in there? The bake-at-home turkey pot pie ($34/family size) was a real tease: It smelled buttery and divine baking in the oven, but after cutting into it, I found the creamy middle had separated into sludgy thickness at the top and brown liquid at the bottom. Add to that the clumsy, large, dried-out pieces of turkey, and veggies cut into humongous chunks, and the whole thing left me dumbfounded. I know the Tom Douglas team can do better than this. Having made seven visits to Seatown and its takeout sidekick, I feel a bit let down. I had hoped for something new and delicious from Douglas, instead of a gentle recycling of what he’s already done. It seems I’ll have to wait for his next venture—a multi-use space in South Lake Union that will open in March. Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily; brunch Sat.–Sun. Pike Place Market, 2010 Western Ave.; 206.436.0390; tomdouglas.com. $$