Have you tried Dingey’s Puget Sound Cuisine at the Olympia Farmers Market? Join them for breakfast or lunch and support this local gem. From cheesy crab melts, salmon benedict, and fish and chips, Dingey’s has been cooking up a menu for seafood lovers since 2002. We interviewed owner Dan Ricklick to learn more about this family establishment. Enjoy our conversation below!
Dingey's Cuisine was started by your mom, Teresa. Can you tell me how that came to be?
The family previously owned The Prime Connection in Lacey, WA. We sold the business in 2000, and we all agreed that we would take a break. She called me the following year in 2001 and said, 'You need to see this! Come meet me at the Market!" The restaurant that previously occupied this location was Sandy's Kitchen. They had a limited menu, most notably salmon burgers. Mom told me she wanted me to buy the kitchen, but I had just accepted a job elsewhere. My boys were young then, and I wanted a stable job with benefits. When I asked her if she was ready to retire, she said, 'Not yet,' I told her that she should buy it. She practically whipped out her checkbook right there. She and my dad were very excited about it.
Mom bought it, and April 2002 was the beginning of their first season. They adjusted the menu and added crabcakes and various seafood. I was opening with them but did not start working at the Market full-time until 2008 when Mom was diagnosed with cancer. I did all the inventory. Mom loved to keep the books. She continued to come down and take orders and see all the people. At that time, Dad would bring his toys down to the Market—some might remember the remote-control crab he would drive around the front of the restaurant. He was the entertainer.
We have four generations of my family who have worked in the restaurant, my parents, me, my kids, and now my grandson.
Why was Teresa first attracted to the restaurant?
We've always been in the restaurant industry. My parents met working at my dad's parent's restaurant in Montana. He washed dishes, and she was a hostess. The family sold that restaurant in 1978 and opened the Prime Connection in Lacey shortly after. That's where I had my first experience washing dishes and bussing tables. The restaurant business is in my blood. It's always been about hospitality. I like to feed people, but I also entertain and try to make them feel good at the same time. And that's one thing we do out front here. I always tell the crew it's like being on stage when you're here. People are watching you. I always turn around and tell people, "Are you enjoying the show?"
Where does the name "Dingey" come from?
Dingey was Mom's nickname. Nobody knows where it came from, but it was also her nickname back in Montana. Dad called her "Ding," and she was known as Dingey by all of her friends. After Mom passed, I questioned what I would do with the restaurant. I considered renaming it, and I had all sorts of ideas. My grandfather always told me, "If it's not broken, don't fix it." I decided to keep the name Dingey, and we transitioned from Dingey Northwest Cuisine to Dingey Puget Sound Cuisine. I get called Dingey every once in a while, but the name was originally Mom's.
Is there anything that makes your seafood cuisine stand out?
Decent quality product and production. I keep the price down to a family-friendly price. We still offer kids meals. Seafood is not easy because everyone has one or two family members who won't eat it. But the Market's benefit is that there are eight restaurants. I like to see when there's a whole group of people sitting at the table outside my restaurant. It could be a family of six, and I've served two. The others might have some noodles, a burrito, or a bowl of paella. Everyone is happy, and that is what is special about the Market.
How has the menu changed over the years?
Crab cakes were always popular since the beginning. But in 2019, we had to stop making them due to the cost of crab and the amount of labor that went into them. The crab melt sandwich returned this year for the first time since then. The crab cake benedict was the most popular brunch item, so I had to have a replacement. Now we offer a maple-cured salmon benedict.
What menu item is the most popular?
The fish and chips!
Are there any menu items that more people should try?
Our Manhattan Clam Chowder is excellent. I also make a New England cream-based chowder that is gluten-free and bacon-free. The Manhattan is a tomato-based chowder. We sell gallons of New England chowder daily but less Manhattan chowder.
Do you use any products from other farmers market vendors?
We buy Rhubarb from Ojeda Farm to make Rhubarb-Strawberry lemonade. The lettuce is from Mak's Garden. I will purchase bell peppers from Sullivan's Homestead when they are in season.
Do you have a favorite product made by another OFM vendor?
I was raised on Stewart's Meats jerky! But they're all so good. I enjoy the Mediterranean Flavors hummus too. I remember when the Market was at the old location, and I was standing for 20 minutes in line at Stewart's to purchase jerky. The woman in front of me got up to the counter and asked for seven pounds of jerky. The person working said they only had six. I pleaded that she buy five and save a pound for me. I was lucky enough that she did.