Daniel’s Broiler Not Leaving Lake Union, But Who Is Daniel Anyway?

Daniels Broiler, situated on the shores of Lake Union, has been a Seattle landmark of fine dining for what seems like forever. With its sweeping views of Lake Union, Queen Anne and Gasworks Park in addition to its incredible menu of USDA prime steaks and chops, all prepared impeccably, Daniel’s has always been the go-to venue for holiday and celebratory meals, fine craft cocktails and some of the best steaks you’ll ever enjoy.

Recently, people have been up in arms as rumors swirled regarding the possible closing of Daniel’s Lake Union location, due to Vulcan Real Estate’s plans to redevelop the pier on which it sits. Those fears were somewhat put to rest this week when the Seattle Times reported that Daniel’s on Lake Union will not close, but will merely move to a nearby location, still along the shores of South Lake Union. It seems fabulous steaks and sweeping Lake Union vistas will remain on Daniel’s menu for years to come, and we’ll drink to that!

Over the years, Daniel’s Broiler has become a local fine dining legend in the Seattle area, synonymous with delicious, high-end meals, superb craft cocktails, incredible views and live music, outstanding service and a seemingly never ending parade of Seattle’s most interesting and beautiful people to be found on any given night, enjoying a bite or a sip. However, many of us who have grown up in the Seattle area, (particularly those of us under a certain age) know very little of the famed steakhouse’s origins.

Daniel’s has been owned and operated by The Schwartz Brothers Restaurant group since 1981, and has changed very little since its beginnings at the Leschi Marina in 1980, but it’s true roots go much deeper than that. Daniel’s Broiler was started by a man named, well, Daniel, believe it or not. Daniel Jack Sandal, to be specific.

Daniel Sandal, a born and bred Seattleite, grew up in The Emerald City’s Wallingford neighborhood, graduated from the now closed Lincoln High School, and got his start in the food industry at the World-Famous Pike Place Market. Daniel’s Grandfather, Dan Zido, founded “Dan’s Better Meats” in Pike Place Market in 1910, and it was there, (in a space at the market that is now known as the home of Italian favorite, Il Bistro) that Daniel began his love affair with meat, as a third-generation butcher.

Eventually the butcher shop moved upstairs in the market, to where you will now find “Don and Joe’s Meats” (unsurprisingly, Don and Joe are related to Dan, and have kept the family tradition of quality cuts alive in Pike Place). Dan took over the family business when his father retired and decided to expand their wholesale business drastically, with their meats soon being featured at Seattle’s finest restaurant, including Canlis, The Fairmont Olympic Hotel, The Space Needle and plenty more. He also started a daily-delivered, fresh-ground meat patty service for local favorite burger joint, Dick’s Drive-In, helping to make those burgers we all know and love so darn scrumptious.

In the Early 1970’s, Dan began his foray into the restaurant world as a restaurateur himself, co-founding Benjamin’s with partner Arnold Shain. The success of Benjamin’s fueled Dan and Arnold to continue on in the restaurant game, with the opening of The Gasworks Restaurant, but eventually, they parted ways as partners.

In 1980, at the ripe, young age of 40, Daniel decided it was time to start his own place, a place for steaks and chops so terrific, people would fall in love, and that they did. The vision for the original Daniels Broiler was to be Dan’s own take on the fine dining he had grown up with in Seattle, drawing heavy inspiration from places like Canlis, but staying true to the steakhouse theme with top quality steaks and chops consistently available and prepared perfectly.

Daniel’s was a sort of experiment for Dan, as he had only ever opened and operated restaurants with partners prior to Daniel’s Broiler. He was once quoted as saying “I wanted to see if I could do it, I did it on my own so I didn’t have to deal with other’s dreams and problems and wouldn’t be at anyone else’s mercy.” And do it, he did. Daniel’s Broiler became a success from the very beginning, in its original home, located on the glistening shores of Lake Washington in the Leschi Marina.  At the time, this was a convenient location for Mercer Island and Bellevue residents, until they closed the I-90 entrance and exit on the east side of the tunnels when the second bridge was built.  Today, the original Daniel’s location serves the Mount Baker, Leschi, Madrona, Washington Park, Madison Park and Denny Blaine neighborhoods and a slew of long-time customers. 

Since being purchased by the Schwartz Brothers in late 1981, they have made very few changes to Dan Sandal’s original concept for the restaurant. The Schwartz Brothers did expand the Daniel’s brand to include locations in Bellevue (opening in 1989) and the location we all know and love, on the shores of Lake Union (since 1999), where Dan and Arnold’s first venture, Benjamin’s, once lived.

Dan Sandal passed away in 2012, but left behind a much loved and delicious legacy in Daniel’s Broiler. While many people find success in the Seattle restaurant scene, few reach the iconic status of Daniel’s Broiler, nor do they stand the test of time, untarnished and as beloved as ever the way Daniel’s has.

Daniel’s Broiler has been a Seattle staple for over 35 years, in 3 different locations, and it doesn’t appear that that will be changing anytime soon. While the Lake Union location may be moved slightly to make way for the inevitable growth and changes of a bustling city, it’s good to know it won’t be going far.

Lake Union Restaurant Spotlight: Chandler’s Crabhouse

Chandler’s Crabhouse celebrated its 25th anniversary as a Lake Union restaurant in Chandler’s Cove late this last year. It’s one of the Schwartz Brothers Restaurants (started in 1973).

“Our original concept was to offer a market of East Coast and Seattle seafood, but that evolved to a West Coast focus after we discovered that’s what our customers wanted,” says General Manager Robert Onstad.

Since their earlier days, the staff and management at Chandler’s Crabhouse has endeavored to source responsibly and sustainably with as much of its seafood and other ingredients as possible. The problem? They haven’t been talking about it!

Chandler’s Crabhouse is making an extra effort to not only spread the word about their longtime best practices in sourcing their ingredients; they are also going the extra mile. Most recently, the restaurant has been going through the arduous process of becoming certified through Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Eco-Certification & Seafood Watch program.

“We try to buy everything as local as we can,” Robert says. “If it’s not local, we’re making sure it’s sustainably sourced … Of course, we’re at the mercy and honesty of the people growing and harvesting the food, and it takes effort and research but it’s worth it.”

Additionally, Chandler’s has partnered with Seattle Central Community College’s culinary department to find more ways to source sustainable ingredients.

“We’re going to do everything we can to participate in how people make their buying decisions, to help meet their needs and what they want to see,” Onstad said. “People want to know where their food comes from … We don’t do it because it’s trendy, we do it because it’s what you’re supposed to do.”

The menu at Chandler’s changes seasonally, of course. They are famous for their Dungeness Crab (which is also a sustainable product at the Lake Union restaurant) from the Strait of Juan de Fuca. “We buy more than any other restaurant in the city,” Robert says. They also have several varieties of fresh oysters available throughout the year. Another favorite, and signature dish at Chandler’s Crabhouse is the Whisky Crab Soup. Their chowder is made Northwest-style, with both surf and razor clams. The Crab Rockefeller, made with Dungeness crab legs, creamed spinach, bacon and hollandaise sauce is a popular item as well.

While Chandler’s prides itself on it’s classic menu (for both seafood and items sourced from the land), they are going to be introducing more unique items in the near future.

For six years running, Chandler’s has received a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence for their wine list, which is heavy on the Northwest side. Their wines are largely from small production wineries, and the restaurant actually has a winemaker on staff whose wine they sell in-house. “We’re really committed to local,” Robert says. Chandler’s has over 200 bottles on their list, with around 30 white, red and sparkling options by-the-glass.

On the beer side of things, they have eight or nine rotating draft beers, continuing their commitment to local brands as well as a few national favorites. The cocktail menu changes seasonally, for a fresh new specialty in spirits to enjoy, alongside the Lake Union restaurant’s full bar. There are also a couple of ciders available for those inclined (or those looking for a gluten-free option).

“We have menu items that are gluten free, vegan, and vegetarian,” Onstad said. “We want our customers to see that we understand those needs and take them seriously.”

Chandler’s Crabhouse is open for lunch Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. until 3 p.m., and for dinner Sunday through Thursday from 4 – 9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 4 – 10 p.m. Happy Hour is seven nights a week (in the lounge only) from 3 p.m. until close, with wines by the glass and appetizer specials and $1 off draft and bottled beers. There is also a weekend brunch from 11:30 a.m. until 3 p.m. on Saturday and from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. on Sunday.

Featured photo of Chandler’s Raw Bar display, courtesy Chandler’s Crabhouse.