Welcome to My Life at Home, where we slow down for just a minute to share a glimpse into the lives of food lovers we’d love to get to know better. Kick off your shoes and get comfy!
Running a restaurant takes serious work. Running restaurants plural takes guts and a good dose of secret sauce. There’s a reason why certain places make it, and if you’re lucky, certain places are good at reproducing their vibe in a successful cadre of subsequent venues. This is what Linda Derschang of The Derschang Group has been doing—with gusto—over the past 25-plus years.
The veteran restaurateur has made her mark on Seattle’s dining scene since 1994, when she opened her first bar, Linda’s Tavern with Sub-Pop Records, the label that made it with Nirvana (R.I.P. Kurt Cobain). Since then, she’s put her Midas Touch on numerous bars and restaurants, including Oddfellows Café, Smith, Tallulah’s, King’s Hardware, and most recently, Queen City. I have yet to make it to the Emerald City, but I already feel a kinship with Linda’s portfolio of popular haunts. The menus, the style (which you’ll soon see is an extension of her very cool, individual taste)—you just know a place is good when it gives you those warm and inviting, where-everybody-knows-your-name Cheers-y vibes.
I recently had the chance to bend Linda’s ear and ask the busy boss lady—who’s called Seattle home since 1987—about her condo-home life (when she can fit it in!) in the Belltown neighborhood, and the challenges of staying relevant in such a competitive industry over the years. Read along—and be prepared for some next-level Westie cuteness.
HANA ASBRINK: Hi, Linda. How long have you lived in your current home and what do you love most about it?
LINDA DERSCHANG: I’ve lived in my condo for two years. I love the convenience of being right in the city, and having beautiful views and a terrace.
HA: Describe your decorating style for us. Who are your design influences?
LD: I always want to achieve a combination of style and comfort. I’m mainly influenced by travel, but also books and magazines, and I can certainly go down the Instagram rabbit hole.
There’s not one main designer who has influenced me. I pick up inspiration and ideas here and there. The Eames Lounge Chair is the best reading chair, hands down. I had wanted one for years, but moving into the condo meant I had the perfect place for it. I decided to buy a new one instead of vintage so that I could wear it in myself. I’m planning on reading in it for the next 20 years—or more, if I’m lucky.
HA: What are your favorite home retailers?
LD: I love ABC Carpet & Home in New York City. I shop at vintage stores around Seattle, and I buy from Design Within Reach and a bit of IKEA. I also thrift and hit flea markets.
HA: If your walls could talk, what would they say?
LD: “She baby talks to her dog WAY too much.” Ha, the joys of living alone.
HA: Tell us more about your beautiful Westie. How does he make himself at home?
LD: My Westie is named Jack. He’s 11 and really just the best dog ever. Well, most of the time—he’s a terrier, after all. He makes himself at home on every cushion in the house, on the bed, and on both sofas. He also loves hanging out on the terrace watching birds. And he brings in The New York Times most days (not the Sunday edition, of course).
HA: Where could we find you on any given weeknight?
LD: I’m out quite a bit. You could find me at one of my spots checking in and meeting friends, especially at my newest place, Queen City. I also know a lot of people in the creative world, including artists, so I go to a lot of openings and dance performances. I also love lectures, book readings, and band performances.
HA: How often are you able to spend time at home?
LD: I spend a couple of nights a week at home. Honestly, if I was at home for four nights in a row, I’d probably have to be ill.
HA: Do you have a signature drink or dinner-party fare?
LD: It depends on the time of year, but in the summer I love to serve Aperol Spritzes and rosé; a watermelon, feta, and dry-cured olive salad with cold roast chicken; and Frankie & Jo’s ice cream. It’s simple, healthy, and delicious.
I’m also big on having friends come over and cook at my house. I love prepping the house for parties, and if I’m not cooking, I can just take care of the music and make sure everyone is having fun. (And most of my friends are much better cooks than I am anyway.)
HA: What is your ultimate comfort food?
LD: A cheeseburger.
HA: What do you always keep in your fridge?
LD: Wine, hummus, corn tortillas, sauerkraut, some sort of greens, and cheese.
HA: What is your favorite way to relax after a long week?
LD: Hanging out on the sofa with my dog, a glass of wine, Lay’s potato chips, and a book or The New Yorker. Or dinner out with friends! It could go either way.
HA: What is the biggest joy and challenge of running your own business?
LD: The biggest joy is all about the people—both the guests and my team. I’ve met so many amazing people over the years. And I also love the freedom of being an owner, but that does mean there’s a lot of responsibility, obviously.
Staying relevant is a big challenge in the bar and restaurant business. There are always new places opening, which means we really need to do our best to keep people coming back. And having the right team is so important and critical to creating the right kind of culture.
HA: How has this changed over time, specifically in the recent handful of years?
LD: Because I’ve been doing this for more than three decades, I’m trying to be less hands-on. It’s hard to let go of some of the control, but you have to build a team you can trust.
HA: What’s on your playlist right now?
LD: Father John Misty, Nina Simone, Francois Hardy, Solange, Belle & Sebastian, The Specials, Nick Cave, a little classical, and some Indian devotional music.
HA: What are your favorite Food52 recipes?
LD: The Warm Squash and Chickpea Salad with Tahini is a favorite. Also the Charred Broccoli and Lentil Salad. There really are so many great salad recipes I’ve used from Food52.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
What part of Linda’s home draws you in the most? Let us know below!