A mere three years after it was nominated for a James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant in the U.S., Sawyer, the popular bistro in Ballard, will close in October.

Chef and owner Mitch Mayers said on Monday that after years of working 15-hour days, he wants to step away from the kitchen to spend more time with his wife and two children.

“I missed a lot of their childhood. I knew opening a restaurant would be hard and requires a lot of my attention, and things got harder over the past couple of years because of the pandemic,” said Mayers, 35. “My oldest son starts kindergarten next year; these moments are precious. I want to spend more time with my family.”

Mayers, who was also nominated by the James Beard foundation for Best Chef in the Northwest in 2020, moved his family to Woodinville last month and plans to take the rest of the year off before deciding on his next career move.

The restaurant industry is notorious for its long hours and hectic pace, and Mayers joins a list of prominent, highly acclaimed Seattle-area restaurateurs who, in the last few years, have decided to step back from the business of running restaurants and move on with their lives.

In 2021, Maria Hines closed Tilth, her James Beard Award-winning restaurant, to move to Mazama with her wife. Citing a desire to spend more time at his farm on Vashon Island, Matt Dillon, who won a Beard Award for “Best Chef: Northwest” in 2012, closed Sitka & Spruce and Bar Ferdinand in early 2020 right before the pandemic forced restaurant shutdowns everywhere. Another Beard Award winner, Jerry Traunfeld, also closed his restaurant Poppy on Capitol Hill in 2019 to move to Palm Springs.


At Sawyer — especially after all the restaurant awards — Mayers was “constantly on the clock.”

“You constantly have people calling about things going on in the building,” he said. “I was there seven days a week. … I need to prioritize my family a bit.”

In August 2018, Sawyer debuted to much buzz, with long lines of customers who wanted to check out the chef’s playful spins on gas station noshes and lowbrow food such as jojo potatoes, choco tacos and oxtail nachos — or as Mayers calls his menu, “fun and approachable.”

Now, he’s just looking forward to taking a break.

Mayers said he doesn’t plan to open a restaurant in Woodinville but will likely work in the kitchen again. Working closer to 40 hours a week, and “working for someone else sounds pretty good,” Mayers said.

The last day of service at Sawyer will be Oct. 2.