Where Edmonds celebrates
CAROL BANKS WEBER
He’s a man with big ideas, and a bigger heart. His friend and marketing director Carolyn Douglas calls him the “host of this community,” and his restaurant “the place where Edmonds goes to celebrate.”
He’s Tom Budinick, the entrepreneur and philanthropist behind 190 Sunset — a gathering place where everyone comes to meet, eat, and drink.
No one’s left behind. Budinick won’t have it. “There’s no pretentiousness here, no keeping up with the Joneses,” he says. “I want you to feel comfortable coming off your boat in docksiders and shorts, sit at the bar for a gourmet burger and a nice, cold beer. But I also want you to be equally as comfortable coming in dressed to the nines before you go to the ballet or the opera.”
There’s something for everybody.
190 Sunset sits in a sweet spot at the waterfront, in the completely renovated, over 20,000-sq.-ft. Salish Crossing Marketplace, where a “dilapidated” antique flea market once used to be, “literally with fleas, I think,” Budinick chuckles.
Not anymore. Salish Crossing is a magnet of cutting-edge chic, housing his destination restaurant, Scratch Distillery, Cascadia Art Museum, Brigid’s Bottle Shop, Spud Fish & Chips, Top Pot Doughnuts, Hunni Co., and EVVIVA Wood Fired Pizza, among others.
The road to 190 Sunset happened quite organically. After years entertaining his “villager friends” who’d often crash his place, it got to a point where “they were urging me to open a restaurant, and after awhile, it became, like, okay, this is a good idea, turn all you leeches into paying guests. [laughs]”
On Sept. 8, 2016, Budinick’s 230-seat restaurant and bar opened for business, giving the small town of Edmonds a much-needed place to land. People came in droves, celebrities, locals, tourists, curiosity-seekers, those fishermen in their docksiders. 190 Sunset grew into a community hub in a hurry, an extension of Budinick’s home, welcoming, entertaining, fun — a place nobody wanted to leave.
“This is where you’d meet an old friend for a cocktail or close a business deal, celebrate a milestone,” describes Budinick, who came from a long line of Seattle fishmongers. “It starts with a cocktail. Maybe you have something to eat, maybe you don’t. Maybe come back for dinner, maybe you stay, maybe you just come in for dessert after a show at the ECA. There’s something for everybody.”
His entire family pitches in. Wife Lisa helps manage the restaurant (she inspired the recent menu change toward more shareable bites), daughter Lilli hostesses, and son Drake busses tables.
“We recently gravitated towards a largely shared plate menu. That’s the way my wife will eat. Sit down, have a cocktail, and just graze,” Budinick adds.
With Sounder transit, ferry traffic, nearby parks and Puget Sound, and downtown just up the street, the area was ripe for the kind of social club he wanted. “That’s what attracted me here,” the restaurateur says. “The train station is literally right behind our building. People park right there, in that parking lot. So they start their day commuting. To get down to your boat, you gotta pass right by my restaurant…and then the ferry, four million cars pass right in front of our restaurant a year to get on that ferry.”
Soon after the opening, the media came calling, always a good sign. Eater, Evening Magazine, Seattle Times, Seattle Magazine…very good signs. Zagat singled out the restaurant’s fall opening as one of the 10 most anticipated. Star mixologist Niles Peacock’s high-octane performances — part-showman, part-scientist — received top votes for “Best Bartender” in 2017 from K5 Best of Western Washington. In March of that year, the restaurant won the “OpenTable Diners’ Choice Award.”
Executive chef Skyler Gemar sustains Budinick’s high standards, serving locally sourced, seasonal Northwest cuisine, including the popular “Nana’s Fried Chicken” on Sunday, freshly caught seafood, and shareable, grazing plates — “food for every mood… at various price points” — as well as a fine selection of craft cocktails, specialty drinks (try “The Girl Next Door,” inspired by Kim Karrick’s Scratch Distillery’s barrel-finished gin), spirits, and wines.
Add an exhibition-style kitchen, a 21-seat, illuminated high-tech bar, the biggest deck in town with firepits going all year, Santa Brunches, Toast of Edmonds, and other events — and you have a restaurant worthy of the hype.
“We do this Toast of Edmonds Cocktail Classic, where we get all the bartenders in town here and it’s a blowout,” Budinick says. “Bartenders compete for best cocktail of the year, for a charity function. This will be our third one coming up.” The Toast of Edmonds is one of the biggest events in February, with celebrity judges from Seattle — news anchors, on-air personalities, community leaders — voting on best craft cocktail. The general public also votes in the crowd favorite category.
This past summer, the 190 Sunset president/founder expanded his restaurant space to make room for a private, upscale dining room, seating 80. The new dining room’s where Brigid’s Bottle Shop used to be (they’ve relocated next to the museum). It’s closed off from the main dining area, quieter, featuring a glass-enclosed wine cellar for 24 guests, a piano bar, and leather booths.
Budinick started working in the restaurant industry very young, back when he was 14, 15, with Ward Enterprises (13 Coins, El Gaucho). After 10 years, he moved on to Restaurants Unlimited, a group that runs many dining establishments nationally, including Cutters Crabhouse, Palomino, and Palisade. He also oversaw a chain of Auntie Anne’s Soft Pretzel franchises in the Midwest before settling back in Edmonds in 2010.
190 Sunset Ave., Edmonds
Featured Image: Sesame-crusted, seared Ahi Tuna Salad with crispy wontons — perfect for sharing. Photo by Jacob Smithers Photography.