Meanwhile, some are slated to reopen, and some have already been replaced — and new restaurant openings continue at an unprecedented pace.
The Seattle restaurant scene is undeniably in a state of flux, and the first three surprising closures below give a taste of that. But once again, many more new places have opened since our last list of closures back in mid-May. (Here’s a recent list of 40 new restaurants in Seattle and on the Eastside, and 16 more from mid-June, plus 10 bars, and, oh, eight more.) If the bottom’s going to fall out of the Seattle restaurant boom, it’s not happening yet — a number of the places listed below cite plans to relocate, and several of the vacated spaces have already been filled (with rumors of more replacements afoot). And once again, none of these closures have been attributed to the minimum wage.
Vestal, Cantine and Poulet Galore in South Lake Union have all closed, with the same notice posted for each via the Huxley Wallace restaurant group website: “Despite an amazing staff and effort we weren’t able to make these concepts work in this location. We want to thank all who’ve joined us this past year.” The group’s Josh Henderson spoke to me earlier this spring about the difficulties of operating restaurants in Amazonland, saying, “It’s Monday through Friday, it’s lunch and maybe a little bit of happy hour.” He noted that the area around Vestal, Cantine and Poulet Galore had yet to fill in, and said opening all three last year was “probably two years early” for the location on Westlake near Mercer. He was also unhappily surprised to find that diners from elsewhere in the city weren’t traveling to visit the critically praised, upscale Vestal. Mentioning “the pressures of Amazon,” he’d at that point closed Vestal; then he reopened it, changed from a high-end chef’s counter to counter service. Apparently, the switch was not enough. As he presciently put it back in April, “It’s deeper than pivoting. It’s asking yourself hard questions. [You] look in the mirror and say, ‘Is this [expletive]ing working?’ Bank accounts don’t lie; butts in seats don’t lie.” Huxley Wallace continues to operate Kiki Ramen and a Great State Burger outlet nearby, as well as several other restaurants.
Kraken Congee in Pioneer Square has closed, but as Eater Seattle reports, owner Tim Love (who became involved after the place appeared on the CNBC show “Restaurant Startup,” of which he was a co-host) says that it will relocate. The closure sounds contentious: Kraken staffer Jesse Smith told Eater “that they have no intention of ever relocating… Those guys have never worked a day [in] that restaurant and without [chef Garrett Doherty] Kraken cannot be reborn. Them lying about it on [Facebook] is really shady and unfair to the fans of Garrett’s food.”
Salted Sea in Columbia City is closed, but according to a Facebook post, it’s only “temporarily due to a kitchen management change.” That same post — from July 29 — says they’ll be announcing a reopening date soon.
The People’s Pub in Ballard is gone after 17 years, and with it, a bit more of dear old Ballard’s heart and soul. The owner told Crosscut that if it were as busy normally as it was at the end, with people coming to say goodbye, he wouldn’t be closing — apparently newer, more glamorous spots draw the crowds now. The egalitarian, utilitarian beauty of the People’s Pub, along with its deep-fried pickles, will be sorely missed.
Purr is no more on Capitol Hill, after 12 resplendent years, but the good news to go along with this sad fact is twofold: 1.) According to Seattle Gay Scene, Purr will reopen in the former Montlake Ale House space (which will for sure be the gayest scene Montlake’s ever seen), and 2.) QUEER/BAR will take over the Purr spot, where it “intends to foster an inclusive gathering space for the LGBTQIA community and strives to have a team, ownership, and clientele reflect the diversity of the city, while retaining Capitol Hill’s foothold of being the premiere arts and queer neighborhood.” Yes!
Verjus on Bainbridge Island has closed, but owners Brendan and Heidi McGill report that they’ve “simply outgrown the space and are on the lookout for a commissary kitchen… [to] make even more of the juices and healthy house-made items Verjus’ patrons have come to love.” But! They’ll be at the Bainbridge Island farmers market starting this Saturday, and Brendan’s other restaurants — Hitchcock, the two Hitchcock Delis, Cafe Hitchcock and Bruciato — carry on.
Blue C Sushi in Fremont is no longer, with the company professing it is “excited to announce” that the space has been “transformed into our retail, special event and catering location.” Eight other locations in Washington and California remain open.
Sun Liquor on Pike on Capitol Hill has fallen by the wayside so that the company may, according to a statement, “focus on the manufacturing and production side” of the operation. But never fear: The lovely little original Sun Liquor Lounge not far away on Summit is still making excellent cocktails, tiki and otherwise, and still has its great monkeys-with-fireworks mural.
Chantanee Thai in Bellevue has closed — after 20 years, the family running it decided to sell, saying, “We would like to thank all of our customers over the years from the bottom of our hearts.” Those who still want to dine with them may visit their other place, Pen Thai in Bothell.
Campfire BBQ on lower Queen Anne is on an indefinite hiatus because “Master of Meats” Stefan Giles sustained a back injury. Get well soon and hurry back, Campfire! Barbecue expert Leslie Kelly has us all excited for your meat!
Manu’s Bodegita, the teeny Capitol Hill spot along the sidewalk on Madison, is no more, but owner Manu Alfau said on Facebook that it was in order to refocus “our efforts and manpower on our two Pioneer Square restaurants” — Manu’s Bodega and Manu’s Tacos, which are still going strong. Nor will the space stay vacant long: Westman’s Bagels and Coffee, from Monica Dimas and Molly Westman, will be there soon (and Seattle sure could use some good bagels).
Melt is no longer inside Bar Sue on Capitol Hill, but Tacos de la Noche has already replaced it — and the Melt owners have already opened another place, burger spot Happy Grillmore in the Central District.