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Matt's in the Market's Best Customer Was Dan Bugge

Welcome to The Gatekeepers, in which Eater roams the city meeting the fine ladies and gentlemen that stand between you and some of your favorite impossible-to-get tables.
[Photo: 1521Second]

Matt's in the Market started life as a cafe called Counter Intelligence, on the top floor of the Corner Market Building. Matt Janke turned it into one of Seattle's iconic restaurants a dozen years ago. Before moving on to start Lecosho, he sold it to one of his best customers, Dan Bugge. Eater sat down with Bugge recently to talk about getting a seat in a restaurant with Seattle's best views.

Do you even take reservations?
We do! We take reservations for both lunch and dinner. I have UrbanSpoon's Rezbook on my iPad. But we always leave two or three tables open for walk-ins. Plus you can get a full meal served at the bar.

What table should I ask for?
The window tables have the best view because you can see down into the Market, which has a lot of entertainment value during the day, but every table in the house has a view of the water and the mountains.

How did you get here?
I threw fish down in the Market for ten years, and I'd have lunch up here at Matt's almost every day. I was looking to open a restaurant in the Market, and eventually Matt Janke sold me his place. We did some remodeling. We expanded from 23 seats. Now we have 52 seats in the restaurant, plus 8 at the bar, but we kept the name.

What are your most popular dishes?
At lunch, the pork belly banh mi and the Dungeness crab and arugula salad. At dinner, the spring cassoulet and the platter of house-made charcuterie. Our chef is Chester Gerl, whose cooking at Place Pigalle I knew very well from my fish-throwing days. He's an amazing talent.

How about your own favorite places in Seattle?
I really enjoy Bisato, Scott Carsberg's cicchetti bar in Belltown. I like Quinn's on Capitol Hill. I live in Greenlake, so in my neighborhood I like Revel. And Cantinetta, they start making me a Manhattan when I walk in the door.

How has the closing of Chez Shea, next door, affected you?
We're sorry to lose them as a neighbor. We often sent people over to their lounge to wait for a table.

What's your focus when you're at the door?
To stay personable, because you set the tone for the guest's visit. Stay calm, no matter what, even if everything's running behind. Stay in communication with the guests, especially if they have to wait. Pour some wine, that'll buy you 15 minutes!

You're in the middle of the Market, which is Seattle's biggest tourist attraction. What percentage of your guests are out-of-town visitors?
The fact that we're not ground level makes a huge difference. We say we're above the hustle and bustle of the everyday market.

I think about 20 percent are out-of-town visitors, 30 percent are locals bringing in out-of-town visitors, and 50 percent are true-blood locals.

We get a lot of referrals from concierges downtown. They know that their guests will have all the elements of a great Seattle experience here: the view, the food, the hospitality.

Giada di Laurentiis came in for dinner when she was in Seattle last week. But we didn't have a table available for another hour and a half, so she went back to her hotel, the Four Seasons (a block down the street) and tweeted that we had a 90-minute wait. I tweeted right back and invited her to make a reservation next time she's in town.

We have athletes, ballplayers, musicians. Derek Jeter came in with Minka Kelly. Dave Matthews, Eddie Veder, John Legend, the Black Keys. Mike McCready, he comes a lot.

Suggestions for people who want a table?
Call ahead. I'll tell you if anything's available. If not, I'll put you on the waiting list. We just want to make people happy.

I've stopped reading them. They'll complain because they have to walk up the stairs, they'll complain that the Market is scary, they'll complain that they have to go down the hall for the bathroom.

Your favorite customers?
We've got a group of six people, three couples who come in every Saturday at 11:30 and sit at the bar.

--Ronald Holden

Matt's in the Market

94 Pike Street, , WA 98101 (206) 467-7909 Visit Website