Robin Leventhal hasn’t had it easy at Crave on Capitol Hill — which opened five years ago and closes after lunch tomorrow. Eight months after Crave’s debut, the chef was diagnosed with cancer and underwent chemotherapy. Today, at 42, she feels both healthy and fortunate — thanks to ongoing care for Hodgkins disease and non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
At only 720-square-feet, her tiny restaurant at 1621 12th Avenue allowed her to employ 20 “kids” to serve breakfast, lunch and dinner daily, and eke out a living. She says it wasn’t easy. “The building’s old. It needs some love and has some serious issues,” Leventhal told me this morning. Nevertheless, when the Capitol Hill Arts Center (from whom she’d been sub-letting) moved out of the building last summer, she hoped to negotiate a lease with the landlord for more space. With such a small footprint to work in, “I can’t make what I needed to happen, happen.”
What she needed was to secure a Class H liquor license to generate income. She also had her sights set on the building’s basement (for a prep kitchen), plus additional dining room space (she’d hoped to triple Crave’s 29-seat capacity). But after three months of negotiations, the end result was: “Get outta here” — literally. She was given 30-days notice and told she’d must vacate the premises by Halloween.
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With her restaurant’s closure at hand, Leventhal says she’s now looking at this sudden turn of events as a gift-horse. “I need less stress in my life. I’m looking forward to taking a break — and to being more creative,” said the ceramicist-turned-chef. “Life is a journey,” she adds. One that will soon have her “embracing new directions” and cruising and schmoozing on a tour to New Zealand as a guest-chef for Holland America.
And maybe, if things go her way, we’ll find her somewhere down the line, working out of her own commercial kitchen, making mac ‘n cheese, goat cheese gnocchi and cranberry-almond granola to sell retail at local markets. “That’s my goal,” she said. In the meantime you can find her saying goodbye on Friday from noon till 9 p.m. at Crave, where she’s having a “clean out the cupboards and kick the kegs party,” she said. To which I say, “Goodbye, good luck and L’chayim!”