I recently had the chance to go to one of Seattle’s great restaurants: The Ruins. Located at the base of Queen Anne near Mercer Street and Aurora Avenue, not a place to hide, but that is what this private restaurant has done from most of Seattle since it opened in 1993. And that is how Joe McDonnal, who opened the restaurant with his partner in business and life, Virginia Wyman, wanted it. The Ruins website proudly states “Seattle’s Best Kept Secret.”
When I was invited to The Ruins recently (inquire about membership to The Ruins here), I had no idea Joe McDonnal, 79, was very sick with pneumonia in Palm Springs, CA. Mr. McDonnal passed away on January 31st. During his lifetime, he not only created The Ruins, a restaurant as well as a base for catering and a place to host weddings and corporate events, Mr. McDonnal was a mentor to many of Seattle’s restaurateurs. Both Ethan Stowell, who owns four Seattle restaurants including Anchovies and Olives, and Joanne Herron, who opened the French bistros Le Pichet and Cafe Presse, worked under and were encouraged by Mr. McDonnal.
Mr. McDonnal is survived by his “unmarried spouse” of 32 years, Virginia Wyman, his sister Maribel Cadmus, and his brothers Bill and Fred.