While studying English Literature and Musical Engineering at Columbia College in Chicago, Sam Crannell realized that his professional dream might not work out the way he had planned.
“I realized I wasn’t going to be a writer, and I wasn’t going to be a rock star,” laughed Sam.
Then one day he cooked a meal for his mother and she said to him, “You should do this.”
And so began Sam’s foray into the restaurant landscape of Chicago. While still taking classes, he worked in the kitchen of the Chicago Yacht Club, a fascinating pot of who’s who in city life. Sam observed the activity, the volume, the parties, the food, the windy-city celebrities. He loved the sense of chaos and knew he’d thrive in it. So, he dropped out of Columbia College and signed up for a 2-year culinary program.
He finished in 14 months at the top of his class.
Realizing then that cooking was his true calling, Sam began to think about a concept that would come to be years later in a difficult to define section of Seattle. He began to think about the neighborhood restaurant—its meaning, its role, its importance. He launched a career in Seattle that included the favored gastropub kitchens of Quinn’s, Oddfellow’s and 5 Corner Market Bar & Kitchen.
Then, in 2012, along with his wife Tracey, he opened LloydMartin (named after his two grandfathers) in Queen Anne with a penny-pinching budget and an unapologetically tiny kitchen housing just two plug-in electric cooktops and an oven.
“I used to work for tyrants and brilliantly insane people. Then I decided to become one,” said Sam.
It’s an interesting thought that certainly pushed forward the entrepreneurial spirit of a chef that tells us he has become known as the “black sheep chef of Seattle.” His food however, on the game- and seasonal-focused menu at LloydMartin, can be described more simply and with less drama. His food is all about creating a deeper sense of comfort in a culinary scene that is always trying to go above and beyond the expected; to us, the antithesis of tyrannical and insane, albeit brilliant in its own right.
The menu at LloydMartin is constantly changing, but there are a few dishes that stand out to Crannell as indicative of the restaurant’s ongoing inspired spirit. The Rabbit Ravioli with truffled veloute takes a somewhat exotic game and pairs it with pristine truffles. The Pan Seared Scallops with pumpkin risotto and chestnut fondant shows off a tremendous skill and precision without being pretentious. The Foie Gras Mousse is classic and unassuming and perfectly gorgeous. The Elk Bolognese with Huckleberry Sauce is something for the books, if you happen to catch them during huckleberry season.
“We continue to concentrate on making sure that we’re not cooking above our diners’ heads,” said Sam.
In a city where trends in molecular gastronomy and celebrity chefdom dance with old world tradition and immigrant influence, Chef Sam’s view is relatively simple. The best ingredients. Honest treatment. Period.
The “Snacks” menu is simple, and again, centered on the best ingredients. At $7 a snack, this is a perfect option for quick bites and drinks from their craft cocktail menu. Speaking of cocktails, you will not find Absolut Vodka or Jack Daniel’s in the LloydMartin bar. You will find one of the best bartenders in the city, Tyler Kingdom, hand-picking artisan styles of alcohol which are used in creative plays on old classics such as the Gimlet Picasso.
The restaurant is warm and friendly with wood-paneled walls and dim lights. The small staff of eight is passionate and caring and 100 percent committed to the philosophy of soul cooking. Despite the fact that many Seattle restaurants are dark on Mondays, LloydMartin remains open because, Sam says, his staff is full of heart and totally invested in what they are creating together.
“We’ve always based everything on knowing that the product we are using is absolutely the best we can find. We feel the same way about the people that work here,” said Sam.
LloydMartin was named Best New Restaurant 2012 by Seattle Magazine.
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