Saturday, March 31, 2012

Snippets from the food & drink scene

Deli: moving from "too weird" to "family friendly" ?

The rumor was circulating earlier this month that Park Place Deli was up for sale, a story that seemed all too likely. Over the past few months we'd been getting reports of strange and inappropriate behavior by the deli's staff, which apparently included their yelling at each other and sometimes at the customers.  In fact the atmosphere in the place had apparently deteriorated to the point where at times it was, in the words of one former patron, "just too weird." The tense situation in the shop was compounded by stories, true or not, about the public behavior of owner John McCormick in the neighborhood.  So the idea that he had decided to throw in the towel after five years of owning the place did not seem farfetched.

As it happens, however, Park Place Deli is not for sale.  When we went in to check out the rumors we were met by a very friendly bunch of employees who reported that selling the store was under consideration "for about two hours."  But in the end, McCormick apparently decided to counter the deli's growing Seinfeldesque reputation by bringing back some old hands and conjuring up a "family friendly" environment.  Deli manager Nic Albice, in an email to us, confirms this scenario and reports that he himself had previously worked for John for three years, and other staffers are also former employees.  "The Deli is not for sale and is here to stay," he says. "I plan on changing a few things, giving the Deli a little makeover and a revamped menu." Patrons should expect "the same great deli with a new look and feel."

Stay tuned.

[Owner John McCormick has responded to this posting.  Click on "Comments" below to view his response.]

Kudos for MPC's Cormac Mahoney

Madison Park Conservatory's chef/maestro Cormac Mahoney came in for a pretty heady honor this month when Food & Wine Magazine named him as a "People's Best New Chef" nominee for the region.  The chefs from only ten restaurants across the "Northwest & Pacific" were nominated by the magazine for what was an on-line beauty contest, where anyone could vote.  The magazine's "regional" coupling of the Pacific Northwest with Hawaii is the first of its kind that we've seen--and in fact the winner turned out to be the one chef in the contest from Hawaii.

Nevertheless, the honor of the nomination is the thing.  Here's part of what F&W had to say about Mahoney:  "WHY HE’S AMAZING: Because his irreverent take on global cuisine is drawing crowds to Seattle’s tony Madison Park neighborhood."

Cafe Parco expanding seating

One of the great things about the old Madison Park Cafe was the fun of sitting outside on a warm, sunny day and enjoying the ambiance of Madison Park.  Since Cafe Parco took over the space last year, however, there has yet to be a single day on which that finely balanced combination warmth and sun was just right for outdoor dining.  We're sure that day will come.

In the meantime, Cafe Parco has embarked on an project to create a private dining room on the lower level of the building, where the restaurant had initially placed its racks of fine wines.  Some MPB readers had asked us what exactly had happened to those prominently displayed bottles, and Cafe Parco's blog provided the answer. Manager Nic Norton, who is doing the remodel work himself, reports that the new space will be used for small parties, which cannot be easily accommodated upstairs.  He also notes on the blog that lunch will be returning to the schedule April 11, though it will only be available on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. The menu will be similar to the weekend brunch menu, he says.

In case you missed it, Cafe Parco, was the subject of a rather mixed two-star review in The Seattle Times last month.

Karen's next thing

And speaking of both Madison Park Cafe and wine bottles, Seattle Met Magazine reports that the Cafe's longtime owner, Karen Binder, is back from vacation and on to her next role as proprietor of wine shop Binder's Bottles. Its strictly an on-line affair where, according to the magazine, Karen states that patrons can get "anything they've tasted or seen in a shop or want me to find for them."

[Photo of Cormac Mahoney by Karen Loria, swiped from the Food & Wine website.  Park Place Deli is located at 4122 E. Madison St.; Madison Park Conservatory is located at 1927 43rd Ave. E.; and Cafe Parco is located at 1807 42nd Avenue E.]


  1. Bryan, you are usually such a responsible reporter -- but using something like " . . . stories, true or not, about the public behavior of owner John McCormick . . . " is just a smear, and not up to your own standards.

    1. This was a tough call since the details of the supposed incidents have not been ascertained by us. But the fact that the stories were out there was a probable factor (admitted by some of the staff) which resulted in the need to take some action to salvage the Deli's operations. So, whether the stories were true or not, they had an piling-on impact on the Deli's reputation. And that's all we are reporting here.

  2. Bryan, I have been struggling with my mental health (bipolar) for the past few years and it has been a miracle, a gift from God, that I still have a business that does okay. Have I acted inappropriate to customers? Have I acted inappropriate in the neighborhood? The answer to both questions is yes. Am I embarrassed by my actions? Yes. But I am moving forward, working with mental health experts, taking meds, working less. I have been self medicating myself (alcohol) for the past few years and it damn near killed me. I apologize to Madison park. I will continue to make soups,
    sandwiches, and salads and will treat my guests with the care they deserve.

    1. Bravo, John for stepping forward and admitting that you, like many, have weaknesses, but are working to address them. I have been a long time customer and will continue to be.

      It was nice to see some of your old staff return.

    2. I, for one, am in favor of redemption, John. I am also in favor of local businesses staying in business. I, too, applaud you for seeing the light, admitting your failings, and taking action to make things right.

  3. Does 15 years in the MP Village qualify us as long term "denizons?" We have seen much happen here in this short time. Still love it and would hate to leave it, but much of what we have seen is negative. Book store: gone. Neat clothing store gone. Banks occupying major retail areas. With cops guarding the premises no less. Big boxes replacing long time cottages.

    The newer entries to our restuarant scene do not thrill us. We will give them another chance perhaps but our one experience in the Conservatory (terrible name) and Parco (less terrible but not great) made us miss the previous incarnations greatly.
    In the Conservatory we (my wife and I) took our 2 guests and were seated upstairs. It was so dark we had a hard time seeing our food, what their was of it. It was not nearly as satisfying as the price tag for our "meals" would have warranted. Way overpriced experimental food. In another instance we took an out of state visiting relative to lunch at Parco and the food was not good,the service worse. And the decor, c'mon!!
    We were embarassed because we wanted to show off our village's new addition that looked like it was going to be of some quality. Take a look at the weirdness of the entrance and the landscaping. Oh my!
    I think we have egotistical chefs at work here and they mistake the kind of places that we "denizins" really enjoy.
    Oh how we miss the MP Cafe with its comforting atmosphere and always good and tasty food. The lines at the door all the time were not for nothing. Get a clue, restauranteurs!

  4. The food scene is exploding all over Seattle with the exception of Madison Park. We most always leave Madison Park to go out to dinner. Madison Park has lost a lot of charm. How many pubs do we need? How many Banks do we need? Long vacant storefronts?

  5. We love MPC and had a fabulous, amzingly yummy dinner there on Saturday night. I couldn't be more happy to have them in the 'hood!

  6. Anybody else miss Crepe de Paris and the ice cream crepes?

  7. We have such wonderful plans to extend the outdoor seating at Parco. With the extended cold weather we've had to put all of our landscaping plans on hold longer then we originally planned.

    In September, we conferred with a horticulturist on the best method to remove the ivy out front. This involved lots of manual labor, herbicide, a special layer of material designed to prevent re-growth and a lot of patience. We won't want it sprouting up once we lay the pavers which are due to arrive May 7. Weather permitting, once we are able to move forward, you will see additional outdoor seating both in the lower area and the old street side porch.

    We also are making an effort to save the tree in the court yard. We are told, by the arborist working to restore it to all it's glory, that is is called a "Variegated Tulip Tree" Apparently it has been seriously over pruned, causing alarming stress to it's estimated 100 year old system. He advised us to let it be for now and he'd come back once it started to warm up again to see if we can selectively trim some branches. With patience, it can be saved to provide perfect shade for the prettiest patio in Seattle for many years to come.

    We greatly appreciate everyone's patronage and hope to see you soon. We are so excited for patio season to begin!

    I'll have Nic post the new Lunch menu soon, it will include some of the weekend brunch offerings as well!


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