Bottomfeeder: Stuart Anderson's Filthy Rich Seattle Roots

Before Stowell and Douglas came Black Angus' colorful founder.

Before Tom Douglas and Ethan Stowell there was Stuart Anderson, founder of Black Angus and progenitor of all modern-day Seattle-based restaurant empires. Like Douglas, Anderson was a personality-plus marketing ace. And like Stowell, Anderson grew up privileged, the son of a "world-famous" orthopedic surgeon who was so in-demand that, as Anderson writes in Here's the Beef! My Story of Beef, "he was at his peak earning ability during the Depression; consequently, instead of suffering as so many others were, we had two maids to wait on us, and two Cadillacs in the garage. "In a way, I regret not suffering the pangs of the Depression," Anderson, who lived in Broadmoor, adds. "I don't mean to trivialize it to those who struggled through it; however, I did have to walk clear across the golf course to go back and forth to school each day." After serving in World War II and managing an Iowa office building his grandparents owned, Anderson returned to Seattle at age 26. He quickly set to purchasing the downscale Hotel Caledonia downtown near the Eagles Auditorium, which now houses ACT Theatre. "As fast as I could, I installed a small bar in the lobby," writes Anderson of his legendary Ringside Room. "Hookers, seamen, hustlers, and wrestlers made up most of my trade . . . It was a life of seedy hotels, smoky bars, and blameless sex." In 1964, Anderson opened his first Black Angus (since closed) on Elliott Avenue in Seattle. It wasn't long before he'd expanded to more than 100 properties before selling it to a larger corporation, which mismanaged the business before selling it to another entity. Today there are 46 Black Anguses (Angi?) in six western states. The Federal Way Black Angus, like its Lynnwood kin, is located near an I-5 off-ramp. Upon walking into the BullsEye Bar (formerly known as the Square Cow Fun Bar, a way better name), there are evidently no hookers, wrestlers, or cigarette smoke. But for a cookie-cutter outfit, the rustic-comfy decor, if not the food, would do Ol' Stuie (the SHAG spokesman is now in his 90s and lives in California) the saloon owner proud. As for that food, the "steak soup" tastes suspiciously like canned beef barley, the prime rib isn't thick enough, the salad comes from a premixed bag, and the baked potato's dry. But the three-cheese bread is tangy, the filet mignon passable, and the service cheerfully attentive without feeling forced. Black Angus has always been more about charm anyway, and what a charmed life Mr. Anderson's lived. mseely@seattleweekly.com

 
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