According to popular myth, 90 percent of restaurant startups go under in the first five years.
Those near-suicidal odds are far better than the chances of Canlis installing a take-out window anytime soon — but still.
The reality is tough enough: Various studies peg the failure rate at 60 percent after the first three years and 70 percent after a decade.
Queen Anne and Magnolia have experienced their share of restaurant roulette: Still, they have their landmark survivors. And they are home to new restaurants that have figured out what the neighborhood really needs.
The Paragon Bar & Grill on upper Queen Anne, 18 years old in April, is a still-vital veteran working in the shadow of the kind of high-rise development down the street that may someday overtake it.
“A lot of people think of the Paragon as an institution — that the Paragon will always be there, that the Paragon will always be packed — which is not true,” owner Todd Ivester said. “I think Queen Anne wants to keep its charm and not become another corporate strip mall. But you can’t afford Queen Anne Avenue to be one-story buildings. That’s the way the world is.”
Meanwhile, Tanglewood Supreme, tucked away on Wheeler Street in Magnolia Village, is the new kid on the block, generating word-of-mouth praise since its October 2012 opening. Magnolia Village — with its iconic Szmania’s and the more recent Mondello Italian Restaurant — has always been a dining destination, but owner Kent Chappelle sees more expansive possibilities.
“Every neighborhood in Seattle has a community of chef-based restaurants,” Chappelle said. “I would be happy to see two or three more restaurants in the Village.”
Both restaurants, in their own ways, reflect the evolving realities of their respective neighborhoods.
The opening of Paragon Bar & Grill, 2125 Queen Anne Ave. N., in April 1995, heralded a new day for a neighborhood in transition. The ownership group saw upper Queen Anne as Seattle’s version of San Francisco’s Marina District, which is why they located on top of the hill, not in Belltown.
Belltown behavior, however, came to Queen Anne: suburban Bacchantes cavorting or worse in the neighbors’ flowerbeds, drunken table dancing, limos coming and going and who knows what.
And, yet, the Paragon has settled down to become a signature Queen Anne place: comfortably laid-back at lunch, with a bistro menu, and crowded after dark, the bar still packed, still a “dating” scene, though for an older set than in the beginning.
Ivester, 51, a native of South Carolina — a soft-pawed accent is still detectable — presides over his restaurant with an almost incongruously understated manner for a place once known for its raucousness. He lives on Queen Anne and is married with two children.
His father was in the construction business: Ivester’s original goal was to get his engineering degree and return to someday take over the family operation. While attending Clemson University in South Carolina, he tended bar.
“At the end of every night, you’ve got cash in your hand,” Ivester said. “It wasn’t good for scholastics.”
Ivester also worked on boats out of Hilton Head and sailed up and down the Atlantic Coast — trips that included the tough work of long-line fishing. Following a co-worker to San Francisco, he worked in the restaurant business there in the late 1980s and into the ‘90s.
Meanwhile, in Seattle, the Paragon’s ownership team opened with 40 small investors and community buzz behind it. Ivester, through connections, got a call to interview up north. He didn’t want to leave the Bay Area but arrived in Seattle on one of those clear, blue-skied days, and that was that.
Three other upper Queen Anne restaurants are still in business from those days: The 5 Spot, Queen Anne Café and Hilltop Ale House. Chinoise opened in 1996.
“We had a four-year honeymoon,” Ivester recalled. “It was great. People were shocked at how a bar could be so packed.”
The community, as mentioned, was not always amused.
“What are bars supposed to be?” Ivester said. “We cut loose and shake off the world’s worries at the end of the day.”
Ivestor assumed ownership of the business in 1999.
The Paragon’s food, in the process, has not been overlooked. “Profit is in the bar,” Ivester noted. “The staying power is in the food. Bars come and go.”
The food has always been the attraction for a percentage of the Paragon’s clientele. The lunch menu ranges from the Catfish Po’Boy, seafood specials, a choice of salads, to the Paragon Burger. Among the dinner features: Southern-fried pork chop, flat-iron steak and shrimp scampi. Live music happens five nights a week.
Long work weeks and thin profit margins are a restaurant owner’s lot. In regard to how he’s stayed with it all these years, Ivester recounts how a couple recently celebrating their 50th-wedding anniversary at his restaurant was asked the same question. “Just show up,” came the answer.
He professes no regrets.
“Every bartender dreams of owning their own place; I was no different,” he reflected. “Have I made the money I wanted to make? Absolutely not.”
And, yet, “We’re hands-on. I still like what I do. I don’t want to do anything else. It’s hospitality.”
Showing up and staying “on top of the vision,” as he puts it, is what Tanglewood Supreme’s Chappelle, 45, does every day, too, in his 60-plus-hour workweeks.
The 35-seat seafood bistro at 3216 W. Wheeler St. is causing a stir in local food circles.
In January, Seattle Times restaurant critic Providence Cicero wrote, “I wish I could keep Tanglewood a secret.”
So much for wishes: Chappelle said a woman staying at a Bellevue hotel recently arrived by taxi.
Tanglewood Supreme is named after Chappelle’s mother’s casserole dish; his father’s 50-year-old Old Fashioned recipe accounts for one of the bar’s star items.
Chappelle, who lives in Magnolia, has a varied background with a common theme: drive, hard work and managerial smarts. At 16, he started out as a dishwasher at Denny’s and went on to work as a server for Schwartz Brothers restaurants.
Raised on Mercer Island, Chappelle fished and sailed local waters with his family — a model of the family sailboat hangs opposite the kitchen. After attending the College of Idaho, Chappelle earned his associate’s degree in music-video production from the Art Institute of Seattle in 1990.
He worked as a DJ in clubs and opened a recording studio with two others in the early 1990s. At the tender age of 22, he sold the business to Paul Allen.
Afterward, Chappelle took to the road with the alternative rock band Candlebox as guitar technician and stage manager. Touring sharpened Chappelle’s managerial skills.
In 1996, he returned to Seattle to work for Microsoft as event manager. “It was just like dealing with rock stars, but this time with rock-star managers,” he recalled, “in different clothes but some of the same behaviors.”
In 1999, Chappelle went to work for Seattle Super Supplements as its first general manager, which expanded to 23 stores. He ended his run with the company as marketing director before stepping down.
“I was exhausted,” Chappelle allowed. He spent time volunteering at his son’s school, Lawton Elementary.
“People can’t believe I’ve never owned a restaurant. They ask, ‘Are you overwhelmed?’” he said. “It’s a hard business. It’s one of those businesses where you have to stay on top of things. But I’ve got a fantastic team.”
The combination of moderately priced seafood dishes for lunch and dinner and creatively prepared non-seafood items has hit a chord with the Magnolia community and beyond.
“I actually had a guy jerk the door out of my hands as I was opening it,” Chappelle said with a smile.
The dinner menu runs from Rod & Reel King Salmon via Port Townsend’s Cape Cleare Fishery to Grass-fed New York steak to salt-brined sablefish. Lunches include Grass-fed burgers, Baja fish and chips and Rod & Reel Albacore Tuna.
Chef Jeffrey Kessenich, formerly of Brasa, runs the kitchen with sous chef Tyler Johnston, a team Chappelle said is almost telepathic in the quiet way they work together.
Chappelle’s hiring methods speak volumes. Some 150 resumes poured in as he searched for a chef. After a handful of phone interviews, Kessenich was one of the few called in — to be given a $50 budget to cook a meal. The guidelines were strict, with a dimension of creative freedom built in. Kessenich passed the test.
Like Ivester on Queen Anne — who has done it and then some — both men are adept on boats: Chappelle appears rigged to beat the restaurant survival odds. “I get a lot of thank yous,” Chappelle said. “There’s a sense of community here.”