1 “We started Purple about 10 years ago — 10 years ago exactly,” Larry Kurofsky told me a few weeks ago about the well-known restaurant with branches in Seattle, Kirkland, Bellevue and Woodinville.
After graduate school, Larry and his wife Tabitha started a restaurant together in Las Vegas. After selling it, they considered moving back to L.A., where Larry is from, but made a vacation stop in Seattle. Of course, they “really liked it, got an apartment in Bellevue and did a little research.” That resulted in the first Purple in Woodinville. Diners familiar with the current venues, large restaurants with big furniture and grand architecture, may be surprised to learn that the original was a nine-table neighborhood place where Tabitha waited tables and Larry worked the bar.
It was “really fun” and a “great community” says Larry.
Purple is part of Larry’s Heavy Restaurant Group, which includes Barrio on Capitol Hill and Lot #3 in Bellevue. An event space will open in the fall.
The company has been visible in the Jewish community, too. In addition to carrying wine from Israel at Purple, they have hosted a few J-Pro events, been an AJC Seattle Jewish Film Festival sponsor, and were named best wine bar by this newspaper last year.
Larry is not a chef, as many assume.
“My role is conceptual,” he says, adding that if he “cooked in front of our chefs, they would laugh.”
He and Tabitha — who have two kids, Ethan, 12 and Olivia, 10 — enjoy trying other restaurants and named Walrus and Carpenter in Ballard and Lecosho in downtown Seattle as two current favorites. They enjoy travel and hope there will a trip to Italy in their future.
There is nothing like the restaurant biz to keep you busier than you want to be, but Larry says he tries to maintain a work- and home-life equilibrium.
“I try to balance my time,” and be “as hands-on as I can,” at work, he says, and credits “a good staff and management team” for helping things run smoothly.
While he loves the Northwest, Larry sometimes misses the California sun and the large extended family that he grew up celebrating the holidays with. But “it’s been great being up here for 10 years and having the growth that we’ve had,” he says.
“I feel really fortunate,” he adds. “It’s a lot of fun, it’s a people business.”
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While one local restaurant institution grows, another says goodbye as Karen Binder retires from the Madison Park Café.
The restaurant, which started as a breakfast and lunch place before taking on fine evening dining, has been part of locals’ lives for 32 years.
“It’s been a really good life,” says Karen. “I’ve been really lucky” to have such variety. “I bake, I cook, I sweep the courtyard,” and both her children “have grown up at the café.
“The chronology of my life has been marked by time at the café,” and years catering local simchas, she says.
That chronology takes her on a new road as she travels to Hawaii to greet her first grandchild, due next month, courtesy of daughter Sarah Medwell Redican.
Sarah taught at the Seattle Jewish Community School for four years. Students knew her as Morah Meddy and they all “had their Bar and Bat Mitzvahs last year. I had the busiest year of my life,” Karen quips. Entrenched in the Jewish community, she estimates she’s catered “probably over 1,000” B’nai Mitzvah receptions.
Karen’s son Jake, a recent USC grad, was among a group of young L.A. entrepreneurs featured recently in Forbes magazine.)
Her kids are “the first great thing I’ve ever done,” she says. “The second great thing is the restaurant.”
The active Congregation Beth Shalom member caters that synagogue’s annual breakfast fundraiser. She was a sponsor of the Seattle Jewish Film Festival from its inception, and if you attended the recent multi-congregation Homeless to Renter (H2R) fundraiser, you might have tasted her smoked salmon appetizer. She’s taught cooking classes for JConnect and participated in Hillel’s recent kugel-off with her “sweet noodle kugel from my Hungarian mother-in-law.”
In the meanwhile, B’nai Mitzvah parents, don’t panic. Karen will still offer catering and is reachable at her e-mail address (email@example.com) and, for a while, at the restaurant phone number, 206-324-2626.
Karen is thrilled that after some remodeling, the restaurant will reopen as Café Parco under the ownership of Celinda Norton, formerly of 94 Stewart in downtown Seattle.