St. Clouds not only serves customers at its Madrona location but also people at five homeless shelters. Photo by Ronald Holden
St. Clouds not only serves customers at its Madrona location but also people at five homeless shelters. Photo by Ronald Holden
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Three decades ago, there was a novel by John Irving called “The Cider House Rules.” It was set in an orphanage, St. Cloud’s, in rural Maine, with a doctor, Wilbur Larch, who was both an obstetrician and an abortionist; and an orphan, Homer Wells, who was trained as his successor.

In the movie version, Michael Caine played the doctor, Tobey Maguire the youngster, but long before the movie came out, the book was adapted for the stage and produced at the Seattle Repertory Theatre. English teacher John Platt, from the Charles Wright Academy in Tacoma, ended up cooking for the Rep’s cast and crew as they workshopped the production.

By this time, Platt was no kitchen amateur; he had trained at Coastal Kitchen and 5-Spot and had been a general manager.

When “Cider House” took itself to Los Angeles and then to Broadway, Platt teamed up with colleague Paul “Pablo” Butler, the Spanish teacher at Charles Wright, and plunged into the restaurant business.

Both men were social activists and wanted to incorporate a spirit of community in their project, which found its home in the Madrona space vacated by Cool Hand Luke’s (1131 34th Ave.). They decided to emulate Dr. Larch’s sense of duty and generosity, so they named the restaurant St. Clouds, and they made a commitment to monthly “homeless cooking” events.

Since 2001, Platt and Butler have been feeding more than 200 people at five homeless shelters every month, based on food donations and ideas from participants. As they say on the restaurant’s website, “We hope, by the act of creating a meal together, we can build more connections among ourselves and provide an hour of dignity and good food for those who find too little of both in their lives.”

They cook on the third Wednesday of every month, and everyone is invited; bring an apron, a knife, a cutting board and a few vegetables.

If you come as a customer on a weeknight, there’s a happy hour from 5 to 6:30 p.m. If you come on Monday night, there’s jazz in the cozy bar at 8 o’clock. If you come for brunch on the weekends, be prepared to wait a while. (St. Clouds does provide baskets of toys for the littlest kids.)

The food is homey, unfussy, comforting — not just for the orphans, not just for the residents of Madrona, but a place where all of Seattle can find a sense of home and family.

Two more closures

Madrona hangout Pritty Boys Family Pizza (1430 34th Ave.) has closed abruptly. Owner Darren Pritt said (via his answering machine) that he was calling it quits after three years.

One of the attractions of the pizza parlor was a kiddy corner, now no more.

Pritt had also been a silent partner in Belltown’s Branzin, but sold his majority interest to a group of Korean investors. His father, Frank, founded Attachmate, a pioneer in the field of computer terminal emulation, which grew from a single, local office to a worldwide company.

The previous occupant of the Madrona space, Dulces Latin Bistro, had first moved downtown, then, just nine months ago, opened at 18th Avenue and East Madison Street. Then, just days after Pritty Boys closed, so did the new Dulces location. There’s been no explanation from owners Carlos Kainz and Julie Guerero about the closure. 

Elsewhere around town

The KuKuRuZa Gourmet Popcorn people scored a coup: They opened their seventh store, a franchise location, in a suburb of Tokyo. The Japanese are “kuku” for popcorn; there’s a two-hour wait just to get into the store. Despite the sound of the name, it’s not Japanese but Russian, the word for “maize.”

The biergarten atop Capitol Hill that used to be known as Von Trapp’s has changed its name to Rhein Haus, after at least one member of the “real” “Sound of Music” Von Trapp family (who operate a resort in Vermont called Von Trapp Lodge) complained.

Sahale Snacks, the Seattle outfit that makes and distributes high-end energy bars, has been sold to JM Smucker, as that company seeks to expand its “lifestyle” brands.

Quorn, a manufacturer of meat alternatives based in the United Kingdom, is expanding into the Seattle marketplace. Based on a yeast culture called mycoprotein, Quorn was founded by the film producer J. Arthur Rank in the 1950s.

Starbucks is bringing back its cold-weather favorite, pumpkin-spice latte, early this year, before Labor Day.

Oma Bap, a Korean fast-food spot, closed in Bellevue but is opening at 12th Avenue and Cherry Street on First Hill.

Katsu Burger in Georgetown has closed; it was supposed to be the first in a chain of Japanese-themed burger joints.

Il Gabbiano (“the seagull”) has opened in Pioneer Square; it’s a Roman-style pizza joint from Mike Easton of Il Corvo (“the crow”).

Eric and Sophie Banh, sibling owners of Monsoon and Ba Bar, have announced plans for a steakhouse, 7 Beef, at 1305 E. Jefferson St., with a late fall opening.

The Pellegrini Foundation has named the recipients of its prestigious Pellegrini award (a sort of lifetime achievement award for contributions to Seattle’s food scene): Tom Douglas and his wife, Jackie Cross. Previous winners include fish expert Jon Rowley and Armandino Batali, owner of Salumi Artisan Cured Meats.

RONALD HOLDEN is a restaurant writer and consultant who blogs at Cornichon.org and Crosscut.com. To comment on this column, write to MPTimes@nwlink.com.