It started with Linda’s Tavern, and in the 20 years since, Linda Derschang has created an empire of beloved neighborhood spots. Today, in addition to Linda’s, there is King’s Hardware, Smith, Oddfellows, Bait Shop and Tallulah’s. Each spot has its own unique personality, and all are popular local hangouts. Derschang spoke with Where about her inspiration, where she has date night and the next stop on her travel itinerary.
Linda’s was your first venture into bars and restaurants. Where did the inspiration come from?
The look and feeling of Linda’s is partly inspired by the Northwest and partly by mountain bars in Colorado where I grew up.
You had previously owned a clothing boutique. Why the new type of business?
I was in my 30s and ready for a change. Before that, I went to school to study visual art and played bass in a few punk bands—why only have one career in your life?
When you open a new spot, what comes first—the look and feel, the name or the location?
Location, concept and then the name.
All of your establishments have a ton of personality and style. What inspires you creatively?
Travel is my number one inspiration—I pay a lot of attention to what’s going on in New York, LA and in my favorite European cities. I’m also inspired by magazines, books and my friends.
Where do you find all the unique décor?
I’m always on the hunt for good finds. I’m constantly looking at Craigslist, eBay, Etsy, thrift stores and antique stores all over Seattle.
What can visitors expect to find if they visit one of your restaurants?
Hopefully they will always find friendly staff, a great meal and a tasty drink. Our main focus has always been on designing spaces for friends to gather.
Any new projects currently percolating?
Our company feels like it’s the perfect size right now and we have no current plans to open any new places. But I think I said that after Linda’s Tavern opened in 1994.
What is your fondest Seattle memory?
My favorite recent memory is from an afternoon this summer—I spent the afternoon sailing on Lake Union and we docked at Westward for dinner.
What is your favorite restaurant in Seattle?
I love Canlis—it has such a sense of understated luxury, beautiful design and gracious staff on every visit. Of course the food and the wine list are always amazing.
Favorite store in the city?
Totokaelo. Or otherwise known as TotoTrouble.
What is a must-see or must-do for a visitor to Seattle?
I love the view from Olympic Sculpture Park, and some of the sweet spots in Madrona right by Madison Beach—Bottlehouse, Molly Moon’s and old Seattle staples like the Red Onion [Tavern].
What is your favorite Seattle landmark?
The Space Needle.
What makes Seattle special?
The people, the lakes, mountains and energy of Seattle make it a very special place.
What is the No. 1 destination on your travel wish list?
Right now it’s London, but it changes regularly. I just visited Denmark and Amsterdam and they were both lovely.
What is your favorite vacation spot?
NYC—my best friend lives upstate and I love having the dichotomy of going in between the forest and one of the biggest cities on earth.
What is your favorite way to explore a new space?
I love to just walk and explore typically, but I was just in Amsterdam and Copenhagen and it was a blast riding bikes all over town.
What is a must-pack item when you travel?
Books. I get nervous if I don’t have enough to read. I don’t use a Kindle so I prefer paperbacks to hardbacks for travel.
Window or aisle seat?
My Perfect Day
Coffee and The New York Times in my yard during the summer.
Spin at Flywheel.
Brunch at Tallulah’s with friends.
Walk at Discovery Park with a buddy and my dog, Jack.
Dinner with friends at a new restaurant in town, and be home in time to catch "Homeland."