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I thought the most disheartening thing I could encounter on a review visit was an overcrowded dining room.

As much as I like a restaurant

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Reviewing the Review: Dining Alone. Very Alone.

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I thought the most disheartening thing I could encounter on a review visit was an overcrowded dining room.

As much as I like a restaurant pulsating with people, my work is pretty much doomed to be either ignored or irrelevant if I write about a place where it takes an hour to score a table. If the food's bad, it's likely the hordes already know it, but have found an excuse not to care. And if the food's good, I'm not telling readers anything they don't already know. Raving about a restaurant with a multiple-page waiting list makes me feel like the dupe who just discovered Pearl Jam. Even worse, by writing a positive review, I risk burdening a young restaurant with still more customers it isn't yet equipped to handle.

But after my first visit to LloydMartin, the subject of this week's review, I decided an empty dining room is far more dispiriting than a dining room in which every table's taken.

When I walked into the upper Queen Anne restaurant around 7 p.m. on a Monday, there were two or three other people at the bar. But they left before I finished my first course, making me the lone customer in the room. The situation wasn't entirely unusual for LloydMartin: After I wrote my review, the restaurant's general manager sent me an e-mail that began as follows:

Dear Ms. Raskin,

Sorry to bother you, but I just wanted to send a note that a primary part of our dining experience will be changing come around the time you release your review. Come January 5th, our tables will be reservation only and the bar will remain open for walk-ins and waiting parties.

While that's a wise strategy for a restaurant struggling to predict nightly traffic (or lack thereof), it certainly doesn't convey the confidence of a restaurant that's effortlessly filling its seats. LloydMartin's apparently off to a rough start.

That's a shame, since LloydMartin offers a solid menu of regionally-informed dishes and a charming space in which to eat them. The restaurant deserves more customers.

Earlier this week, Allison Scheff of Seattle Magazine called upon her readers to eat at restaurants they love. I agree with her wholeheartedly: Praise can't keep a kitchen afloat. Too many restaurant closures are met with a chorus of "oh, I always meant to try that place."

Restaurant consulting firm Baum & Whiteman recently forecasted 10,000 restaurants will close in 2012. Some of those restaurants are closing for the right reasons: An owner retires to Florida, or a community decides it's no longer interested in eating warmed-up Sysco products. (Of the 9,450 restaurants which closed during the 12-month period ending in April 2011, just over one-third were independently-owned.) But many of the restaurants with worrisome balance sheets are culinary gems, serving terrific food. Wouldn't it be great if Seattle didn't lose any of those restaurants in the coming year?

Find more reasons to visit LloydMartin in my full review, here. Or, if you're more the visual type, skip straight to Joshua Huston's slideshow.

Follow Voracious on Facebook & Twitter. Follow me at @hannaraskin

 
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