Cultivating Community: A restaurant focused on family
By Sarah Mackay
Not quite open for lunch, I knock on the front door, cup my eyes and peer in to find my eleven o’clock appointment in the far back of the restaurant prepping for the day. I’ve arrived to discuss kindness with West Seattle’s Circa restaurant owner, Gretchen Williamson-Evans. Near the front are two children bouncing and darting inside; I wave and point to their Mom in the back of the kitchen. They jump and bob around a little before disappearing to the back. Gretchen quickly heads my way smiling as she dries her hands on a clean apron. Two of her three boys stand about waist high wide-eyed and curious as I introduce myself.
We head to the kitchen where she resumes chopping, sprinkling and dashing ingredients into a large pot while thoughtfully answering my questions about owning a restaurant that’s successful and exudes a warm ambiane. “People often ask me how do I do it? It’s my dream job; I’m not blowing smoke… it really is,” she says with a smile then resumes making the soup-of-the-day and homemade bread.
She’s curious about food and passionate about entertaining good friends.“ My whole life, I’ve truly loved giving a good dining experience,” she said. Before her children were born and prior to owning a restaurant, every Friday night friends, much to their enormous delight, would come to her house for a ten-course dinner. They pour into her kitchen and dining room to join in the celebration of food.
She transformed that love into the kitchen of Circa, a cozy corner in the back of the restaurant, walls painted light yellow with every appliance, surface space and chopping device required to create culinary sensations. Gretchen is no stranger to Circa, she served for a few years before buying it in 2016 along with her husband Bill Evans who emerged though the back entrance with a big smile and a warm handshake. They’ve continued the great service and along with their own unique New Orleans style of cooking intertwined.
Gretchen and her husband pour their mutual love of people and food into Circa. The two happily married co-owners transcend their genuine passion of food and people into a warm and nurturing vibe; they naturally manage the restaurant with a customers-come-first approach. The dozen or so wood tables fill the space well with local art decorating the deep rustic red walls. A fabulous bar is frequently filled with regular customers who might be catching a game on the screen above the bar.
“The restaurant is an ultimate realization of what I love; the purchasing, preparing and presentation of food. If you truly love what you do, people can feel that. You have to have a love of place to create the good vibe,” says Gretchen. What I don’t tell her is she and her husband exudes positive energy; they listen serve, share laughs and above all, keep the customers front-of-mind. This is their secret ingredient to happiness and a well-run business with a family of regular customers who saddle up to the bar catch-up with the staff and order their favorite dish and drink. Many customers visit weekly; it’s a home away from home for staff as well. The owner is focused on family whether at home or in their restaurant family is part of the recipe. With Gretchen, it’s possible that where there’s a good vibe, there’s good food.