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Chow Foods

The story of Peter Levy, part 2

Last month, we learned how Peter got into the restaurant industry, opened Beeliner Diner, and incorporated Chow Foods, and partnered with Jeremy Hardy on the 5 Spot.

"Along with the closure of Luncheonette #1, Beeliner Diner was slowing down. In 1996 we opened Jitterbug in its place with New American Cuisine, a little more refined than diner food. We added a small bar and went from 28 to 42 seats. It did well but when Dave Harris, the original owner of the Other Coast Café, offered us a ton of money, we sold. It didn't last long and we got it back. We cleaned and remodeled the space and sold it to a young man with good experience. He lasted six months and we got it back in 2008."

In 1999 as they were still bouncing back from Luncheonette, Peter was running errands and found he could take care of all of them at University Village. 'Hey, this is a neighborhood,' he thought to himself. Hearing that a restaurant was closing there, he looked into it. Developer Stuart Sloan wanted them in and helped financially with opening Atlas Foods with a rotating menu of global foods. "I realized too late that it is not a neighborhood, it is a shopping mall. There were a lot of rules that didn't work for us. We stayed through our ten-year lease and then were gone. It was a break-even deal for us."

2003 saw the birth of Endolyne Joe's (end of the old trolley line) in West Seattle. "The space was a cool mix of restaurant, deli, grocery, antique store, live music, and coffee, but they couldn't execute. We took over and it was the first time I was the general contractor. Again, we decided to offer rotating menus; Endolyne Joe's has been featuring foods of the Americas (North, Central, and South America) since its inception. The rotating menus always give our neighborhood residents a new menu to sample 3-4 times a year. The cost of offering these rotating menus is about $50-55,000 per year for the research, staff training, and new decorations for each festival menu," said Levy. This is a challenge in the ever-changing world of the restaurant business."

The Hi-Life in Ballard's old firehouse opened in 2004 (photo). "Ballard was a family place then and I had little kids. I wanted to do a place that would allow me to come in and have a cocktail and no one would be upset if my kids threw mac 'n cheese on the floor. We had a good 15-year run there."

Hi-Life now closed

They opened the Mt. Baker Mioposto in 2006. "By design, our only equipment was a woodburning oven. It did well. In 2008, the recession kicked our ass. We set up our office in the Jitterbug bar. In 2009 after 20 years, Jeremy and I decided to split up the company. He wanted a one-concept company and I didn't. He took Coastal Kitchen and Mioposto. In 2011, we sold both the Coastal Kitchen property and restaurant." Jeremy used the money to grow Mioposto (four locations now) and Peter bought a building in Tacoma. Peter took Atlas, handling the liquidation after their lease ended, as well as 5 Spot, Endolyne Joe's, Hi-Life, and the Wallingford space.

"In 2012, I opened Wallingford as TNT Taqueria and it's been a wonderful location for us. Quick service is where the industry is going. Fine dining is great. Casual dining has its work cut out for it. Everyone wants things delivered to them, they don't want to go out. And hiring personnel is one of the biggest challenges that the casual dining segment faces in the upcoming years."

Chow Foods has been making changes, as they have all along, to meet changing neighborhood needs. "Hi-Life was great, but it became clear as dinners declined that the neighborhood had changed." The 5 Spot recently went to breakfast and lunch service only.

Peter has turned the building he bought into two options, a full-service restaurant, Cooks, and a quick service restaurant, Brewers Row. They are not listed on the Chow Foods website because he didn't want to go storming into Tacoma as some big Seattle thing. "I really want our Tacoma restaurants to be representative and responsive to the local area to establish ourselves as a South Sound company." Cooks Tavern opened in 2016 and Brewers Row in 2017. Cooks offers daily breakfast, lunch, dinner, and cocktails and wine. As always, there is a base menu, but a new global menu changes every four months. Brewers also offers three meals a day, organic coffee and espresso drinks, 26 mostly local draft beers on tap, as well as over 75 cans and bottles. Food is Mexican with specialties like mole burritos and butternut squash tlayuda, with seasonal specialties.

Dish at Cooks

"I love the restaurant business. I've soared to the highest heights and been at the deepest depths. Having done it so long, I still have a fierce love for this business." Peter sees future growth for his company, like so many other restaurateurs in Seattle, outside the city given the overall business climate there. Sounds like we get to see more from Peter Levy in the years to come.

Connie Adams/March 2020

Click here to read part 1.

Chow Foods

5 Spot, Queen Anne
1502 Queen Anne Ave N
Seattle, WA 98109
206-285-7768

Endolyne Joe's, West Seattle
9261 45th Ae W
Seattle, WA 98136
206-937-5673

TNT Taqueria, Wallingford
2114 N 45th
Seattle, WA 98103
206-322-0124

Tacoma

Cooks Tavern
3201 N 26th St
Tacoma, WA 98407
253-327-1777
cookstavern.com

Brewers Row
3205 N 26th St
Tacoma, WA 98407
253-327-1757
brewersrowtacoma.com


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