Last weekend was a bit slower than I'd been hoping with fewer than 40 guests each night, and then this review appeared;
When someone invites you into his kitchen, you expect him to know what he's doing, and Austin Cantina owner and chef Jefe Birkner does. He and his crew serve up a proper Tex-Mex feast, from the chunky salsa that accompanies the premeal tortilla chips to the meringue-topped banana pudding that you must save room to enjoy. Everything is freaking superlative
I don't know exactly what day the review went live, but between Monday and Tuesday hits on this blog more than doubled (not quite tripled) and a significant portion is coming from NWsource.com
Tuesday of this week came less than $5.00 short of beating our Saturday night sales and Wednesday saw more sales than either Friday or Saturday.
I'd like to think that some of this increase is due to our marketing efforts, we put a sign out front advertising $2.00 off Margaritas after 8 and we've been passing out menus with coupons like crazy over the past few days. Last night at 7:30 there were only about 3 tables occupied in the restaurant, by 7:45 I could see the crowd building and by 8:15 I don't think we had an empty table. Seems like the "after 8" marketing is paying off, but few of those guests bought margaritas. We did sell more wine last night than any 2 nights in the past. Tuesday night we sold our first full bottle and last night we sold 2 more.
Of course, the most exciting thing last night was our "celebrity" guest. Tom Douglas is a real fixture of the restaurant community here in Seattle, he owns/operates nearly 10 local restaurants, writes cook-books, sells packaged food and has appeared on the Food Network. He's also very active in mentoring others and helping grow the local food scene. Chef Douglas was a friend and adviser to Connie and Carol who operated Dandelion in this space until July of this year. Douglas' mini "empire" reminds me of Lettuce Entertain You in Chicago, with lots of variety and many different themed restaurants, but Tom is also a notable chef that ties them all together in a way that Lettuce didn't really do. I guess New York has a similar phenomenon with Mario Battali or Bobby Flay, but there isn't much like that in San Francisco or Austin.
Around 8:30 last night I greeted a couple at the window table and chatted about the chicken fried steak without recognizing Chef Douglas until, as I made my rounds, another customer noted "It's nice to have Tom Douglas eat here, isn't it?"
DOH!!! I didn't even realize. I mean, I've only been in Seattle since '05 and I'm not that connected to the "local scene", but of course I realized immediately which customer it was. They finished their appetizers completely and made pretty short work of their entrées as well, leaving behind a few black beans and some chutney. Try as we might we couldn't get them to sample our desserts nor could we get Chef Douglas and his dining partner to accept the meal "on the house". I took a few minutes to speak with them after they finished and he spoke very well of the food. When I asked permission to use his name on this blog he also said "make sure to mention that I thought the food was very good".
This coming weekend is another set of big opportunities for promoting our local, small business. The 4th Annual Sustainable Ballard Festival, starting at 11 a.m. at Ballard Commmons Park and Peggy Sturdivant (who finally stopped in this week to say "Hi" in person) is hosting the NW 24th Clean-Up and Ice Cream Social from 10a.m.-12 p.m. on Saturday by the old library site, from Market street North (just past our front door) to 65th. We hope to participate in both and pass out menus and coupons to all who will accept. Maybe see you there (or you could always come into the restaurant for dinner)