The Ruins – Seattle’s Best Kept Secret – The Way He Wanted It

The Ruins Seattle Outside

The Ruins from the Street

The Ruins Seattle

A Horse of Course

The Ruins Seattle

Orchid in Dining Room

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.

Is Canlis Expensive?

CanlisThe other day I was out and someone brought up Canlis Restaurant, which I believe is the best restaurant in Seattle.  There are many restaurants that I enjoy, but to me, when it comes to ambiance, food, and service, there is none better.  The discussion about Canlis that night had varied opinions, but no one could sway mine.  Then the inevitable argument against Canlis came up: “But it is so expensive.” I realize the economy is struggling, so my argument is much weaker than before.  Nevertheless I argued, as I have for years, that Canlis is not expensive, at least in comparison to other top Seattle restaurants.  So this time, I decided to back up my assertion with a simple search.

I personally love to order the New York or Filet Mignon at Canlis, thus I thought I would see how their steaks compare to other restaurants where I have enjoyed a great steak.  The competition was chosen from memory with relative ease: Daniel’s, The Met, and El Gaucho.  I know I am leaving out some great steak houses, but these were the first that came to mind.  When I checked each of their websites, I found the following:

Restaurant New York Filet Mignon
Canlis $48 $48
Daniel’s $44 $45
The Met $48 $49
El Gaucho $59 * $45

* 14 oz steak

Some of the restaurants stated the size of the cut, others did not.  I cannot remember what sides come with a steak in one restaurant versus another.  And like I said, I only compared the price of two different steaks and nothing else on the menu.  But to me, this proves my point that Canlis is not expensive when contrasting it to what I think are comparable restaurants……but really does any restaurant compare to Canlis?