Seattle DINING! logo


Evergreen Ad 2023


Martini Brunch

A Story of Love, Longing, and Endurance

Histrionic, but there's something about Brooke and Charlie Martin (aka The Martinis) that makes you veer toward using dramatic movie-poster speak. The drama of their meeting, the opening of their first restaurant, and the way people are drawn to them and their brunch menu is apparent. Here's how the story unfolds.

Photo by Tom Mehren

They met on Instagram in 2012, Brooke (she/her) in Seattle and Charlie(they/them) in Corona del Mar, California. Both interested in the same girl, they kept running into each other and began talking. "We would talk for hours on end," recalls Brooke. "Our first date was on Skype. I made an Old Fashioned, and Charlie drank straight Jameson out of the bottle. We became part of each other's every day. I have always loved food and knew Charlie had been on Food Network and that they would feed me." A year later, they decided Charlie would come to Seattle to meet in person. "We met at Mulleady's Irish Pub in Magnolia; it was one of those moments when you see someone and know you've been together before." Brooke took Charlie to all her favorite places. Cue the montage of Pike Place Market, Kerry Park on Queen Anne, Roxy's Diner, ferries, sailboats, Alki Beach. Charlie went home to clear things up and return to Brooke.

Things went along until March 15, 2020, when they were both furloughed due to the pandemic. Pandemic unemployment wasn't enough to pay the bills. "We leaned on what we knew - food," says Brooke. "I don't like to waste and had a bag of small, sweet peppers, but didn't use them all. I asked Charlie if they could do something with them." Charlie adds, "I whipped up some hot sauce, our Fu Sauce. We'd make jams and jellies." Brooke continues, "That was the beginning of our canning adventure, Martini Lunch. We made red wine jelly, Fu Sauce, spicy Asian mustard, tomatillo salsa, garlic fermented honey. Friends would drop by with bread or pie, and we'd give them what we'd made. The items were well received, so Martini Lunch became a canned food business. When we were able to go back to work, we continued Martini Lunch on the side and kept coming up with new recipes, selling donation-based to friends. When our lease was up, we decided to leave Seattle. We love Seattle, but it was expensive, and we'd been moving every year; we were tired of moving."

Charlie knew what they were good at: running a restaurant and kitchen. "We adored Seattle and would go back but can't imagine being able to buy a restaurant there. Brooke's folks are in Mount Vernon and getting older. It felt like the right move." Brooke's dad found a condo, they liked it, and have now been in the same place for three years. It was also an opportunity to have their own restaurant. They had several concepts in mind and immediately started looking at locations. There was one restaurant they wanted to try but every time they went, it was closed. One day, Brooke saw on Facebook that they were truly closing. At the same time, Charlie sent her a photo of the real estate agent's name on the restaurant door. It was theirs in October 2022. They had a lot of concepts they were considering, but this place felt like brunch with big windows and natural light.

Opening a restaurant can be an endurance test. Charlie knows, having spent 13 years opening restaurants for California Pizza Kitchen in Arizona, Texas, and California. But doing it for and by yourself without a million-dollar budget is different. "We had heard that what took the longest to get was the liquor license, so we did that first," says Brooke. There was no fire in the kitchen, the former spot was run on microwaves, panini makers, etc. They had to put in a kitchen, hood, fire suppression system. "It was a huge opening budget," recalls Charlie. And then the liquor license was approved in 30 days. Once you have it, you must use it within 10 days. They were nowhere near ready. "I'd look at Brooke each morning and our eyes were like plates; we were totally caffeinated before we had coffee. I finally said, 'We just set a date and make it happen.'" They were getting pushback from the Liquor Board, but were given two extensions, then were told they had to open in January 2022. Charlie asked if it could be the very last day in January and was told yes. And then the gas kerfuffle. To get someone to fix the problem would take 3-8 weeks in Skagit Valley. The furnace went out and they were told, "That's on you." Brooke's dad was the backbone of their build-out. Right before they opened, he got sick (he's okay now), and they had no bar. There was no soda gun because Brooke believes in fresh juice and craft cocktails, yet without a bar, there was no space or refrigeration. They soft opened with 4-5 menu offerings, but no fryer items. They made a bar out of nothing and bought bagged potato chips. "I hated it," says Charlie. People loved it.

"We officially opened the first week of February. The gas and hood were done. There was a cold snap and the air intake in the kitchen didn't work; the kitchen was as cold as it was outside. I was cooking in a full scarf and coat." Then two refrigeration units went out and they had to throw out all the food. And now? "Every day gets better," says Charlie.

"We were busy right off," says Brooke. "Without enough storage space, we were going to the store every day to buy eggs." Charlie adds, "We're now going through 4-5 cases of 15 dozen eggs, 60 pounds of butter, and 7-8 pounds of hollandaise a day over four days." Word of mouth from friends and family was key. Brooke had been working two bartending jobs and everyone there knew they were opening a restaurant. She hit social media hard. It's all paid off.

Unless otherwise noted, photos courtesy of Martini Brunch.

Read about Brooke's and Charlie's backgrounds here.

Check back next month to read part 2.

Connie Adams/July 2023

Martini Brunch
1300 S 2 nd Street
Mount Vernon, WA 98273

We've worked hard to upgrade this site. Click here to notify us of any problems we need to correct.



Subscription has its privileges - Each month Seattle DINING! publishes new features on new restaurants, food and beverage news from around the Northwest and special events. Don't miss out on these informative stories.

Sign up today for your FREE subscription and you'll get a notification each month when the new issue comes on line. You'll also be the first to find out about special Seattle DINING! events.  What are you waiting for? Sign up now!

 Click here to sign up now!