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TRACE Market

Hotel restaurant officially disrupted, part 1

W Hotels likes to be known as an industry disrupter. They take luxury elements, things luxury-minded travelers look for, and adapt them to the lifestyle of their customers. Under normal circumstances, lifestyles and trends change. Throw in a pandemic and things can really go wild.

Opened in 1998, Seattle was the fourth W Hotel created. As of third quarter 2020, there were 72 W Hotels globally with more on the way. TRACE restaurant was originally created as a W exclusive with other Trace restaurants located at the W Austin and W San Francisco. The concept is farm to fork-traceable ingredients. W Seattle GM Wade Hashimoto has more than 27 years of luxury hotel experience, including Ritz-Carlton. "I've loved working at high-end hotels, but the W experience is different. It encourages everyone on the team to creatively color outside the lines and we hire talent who thrive in that environment. And as the luxury appetite changes, we're not bound by the formal luxury stigma." Wade arrived at W Seattle in October 2019, expecting a record year ahead. He wanted to look at TRACE restaurant to see what might be tweaked. And then the pandemic hit.

Wade Hashimoto

He decided to use the time to think about an alternate future for TRACE. How could it have a relevant future and place in Seattle? It needed to keep on brand with elements of luxury yet meet the needs of a changing city/demographic. "Our business travelers no longer do business onsite over long lunches or dinners. A full dinner service isn't what they're looking for; we want to give them the luxury of time. And families aren't looking for formal meals either." They also looked at location. Seattle is a tech center; techies are notoriously casual. W Seattle is near theaters and people like a quick bite before they're off for their evening or a drink afterward. Greg Campbell, Director of Sales and Marketing, notes, "We have residential buildings on either side of us. We want to be part of the community, not just an extension of the hotel." Wade adds, "There are plenty of good, special occasion restaurants near us; we didn't need to do that. We want to continually flex with what guests and locals want."

Wade came up with the idea of TRACE Market. It pays homage to TRACE restaurant, taps into being part of the community, and responds to travelers' wishes. His team came up with four necessary passion points:

1. Artisanal. TRACE has always been about craft. It needs to be artisanal and fresh. A peek-a-boo window into the kitchen allows guests to see the food being made.

2. Fast. "When you are serving to locals, it's not the same timing as a traditional restaurant. People want things in less than five minutes."

3. Local. TRACE has always been about sourcing locally to support producers nearby. "Our Chef Ross Lewis is a farmer. He brings microgreens and mushrooms in, and he also knows other local purveyors."

Breakfast Bowl

4. Planet-friendly. "This is a personal passion point for me," explains Wade. "During the pandemic, it's pained me how much we have hurt Mother Earth with all our packaging. We want to be as green as possible. We've added a water refill station so people can use their own water bottles. We make sure our packaging is compostable. And we're working on a new concept where to-go items come in a vessel that you can bring back to us. Greg has named it the Bento Back Program. This is in the infant stage right now, but the idea is that you bring the vessel back when you return for another item. We give you a new one, then clean and sanitize the vessel for another use. We're committed to doing something different."

TRACE Market will have a new entrance and sign on Fourth Avenue, near the bus stop. "I spent some time sitting and watching people get off the bus," recalls Wade. "We needed to make it easy for them to stop here before going to the office." Once inside, there are large TV screens hanging from the ceiling. One is the menu, the other shows photos of the food. If you're trying to avoid buying anything, do not look at those pictures. Chef Ross Lewis has created mouthwatering items you must have. To your right is a grab-and-go nook (the former private dining room) with freshly-made items, TRACE Market and W items, W-branded reusable water bottles, umbrellas, Fonte coffee, candy. Straight ahead is the to-go counter (the former sushi bar). You can place your order and there is another TV menu board above the counter to help with those last-minute decisions.

Clear cases will offer freshly-made pastries from Pastry Chef Tien Lam: cinnamon rolls, matcha scones, gluten-free cookies, and more. "Tien will also do off-menu items. The team has permission to get creative and guests like a secret menu!," says Wade. At lunch, the cases will hold salads and fresh produce. To the left is the barista station. Both the to-go and barista areas have registers so that customers picking up grab-and-go and retail items can go to either, avoiding long lines. Turn around and there's an exit door. This keeps the area separate and independent of the hotel. There will also be over 45 seats for inside dining.

Breakfast pastries

Breakfast items include an individual quiche with spinach, goat cheese, and golden oyster mushrooms from the farm of Chef Ross; a Blazing Bagel Sandwich with bacon, cheese, egg, and tomato aioli on a jalapeño cheddar bagel; avocado toast. "We slice and fan the avocado instead of mashing it. Cut and serve-it's so fresh," says Ross. Lunch brings an Impossible Greek Meatball Sub; Soba Noodle Bowl with pickled veggies, shiso leaves, and mushrooms; Mediterranean Bowl with falafel and hummus of the month; and a Jerk Chicken Sandwich. "This has habanero pepper in it that is calmed down in sandwich form and with our turmeric pickled pineapple," assures Ross. "It has lots of flavor!"

Watch for part 2 in August


TRACE Market
1112 4th Ave
Seattle, WA 98101


Blazing Bagel

Photos by Jean-Marcus Strole Photography

Connie Adams/July 2021


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