Several new (and a few familiar faces) have bought some neighborhood restaurants. Does this mean your favorite pasta or polenta dish is off the menu? We asked the new owners what plans they have for their new digs.

Bistro Shirlee

Renee Erickson’s restaurant group bought nine restaurants last year including Saint Helens Cafe in the Laurelhurst-Bryant area, which the star chef just rebooted into a French bistro, naming it after her mother. Familiar French fare is featured: chicken-liver mousse, Parisian gnocchi, steak frites and roasted chicken with potato pave. Fans of Erickson’s cuisine will notice some of her oldies but goodies. The pork chop made famous from her Boat Street Cafe days is here, and the burger is the same grass-fed, dry-aged beef showcased at her fancy Bateau steakhouse on Capitol Hill. (Seattle Times food writers anointed Bateau one of the city’s best burgers.) The Bateau version is $22 without fries. The Shirlee burger (with aioli, onion jam and Emmental cheese on brioche) comes with fries and goes for $18.

Agua Verde Café

Travis Rosenthal, who owns Rumba, Tango and Sand Point Grill, has purchased this popular Portage Bay hangout by the kayak and paddle boat rentals. His Rumba bar crew is designing a tropical drink menu (margarita, Paloma and rum punch, etc.) for a new 13-seat bar scheduled to open next week inside the cafe. Also, by the end of May, a new outdoor seating area just 10 feet from the water, called the Marina Cantina, will be able to seat about 75 to 100 customers. Marina Cantina, located east of the cafe, will serve cocktails on tap from another bar outside, and tacos and quesadillas from a food truck that Rosenthal has purchased.

The Slip

Katy Ballard, the owner of Vovina cocktail bar by the Kirkland Marina, needs to stroll just 180 feet south to get to this burger joint, which she bought in January. She gave The Slip a face-lift, relocating the bar by the front window for the vista. The new space seats about two dozen, but the prime real estate is the 35-seat patio, many with views of the water or the Marina Park pavilion. Burgers remain the focus, though she has put in a fryer and now everything goes: root-vegetable chips, pickle fries, Cotija corn and fried green tomatoes. Fish and chips and pulled-pork sandwiches have been added. The new cocktail menu features beachy, summer tipples to go with that marina vibe.


Alex Bae, former owner of Sushi Hana in Lynnwood, has purchased this Japanese restaurant on Broadway East and has plans this month to do an ambitious ramen lineup of shio, miso and tonkotsu to compete with all the ramen hot spots around Capitol Hill. To take advantage of the grill he inherited as part of the restaurant deal, Bae will do yakitori. But his first priority: Hire more kitchen help because Bae wants to keep the existing menu of sushi, donburi (rice bowls) and udon soup as well.


James Beard-award winner Maria Hines sold her Fremont restaurant to her chef Thomas Litrenta, who plans to keep the southern Italian concept. Don’t expect many changes on the Sicilian-themed menu since Litrenta  already had a lot of autonomy over the food even when Agrodolce was under Hines. Litrenta, though, is moving away from Hines’ focus on organic food to a more farm-to-table approach, so expect a hyperlocal menu down to the flour sourced from Walla Walla. He will continue to focus on handmade pasta, though those dishes will now be offered in small or large portions. The seasonal menu will change every month. The popular caramelized broccoli (similar to a Caesar but with toasted almonds, chili flakes, anchovy vinaigrette) and the much loved polenta fries will always be on the menu, he vowed.


Serafina and Cicchetti

Executive chef Christian Chandler has taken over for the late Susan Kaufman. According to a spokeswoman, Kaufman’s succession plans included giving Chandler “first right of refusal to purchase the remaining shares of the company, which he did in January 2019.” Chandler started at Serafina as a sauté cook in 2004 and then worked around other kitchens including stints at RN74 and Lecosho before returning in 2013 to oversee the culinary program at this Eastlake institution. To answer what will likely be the most important question for Serafina devotees — the popular rabbit cavatelli and the Agnolotti dal Plin duck confit dish will remain on the menu. He’s keeping the rustic Italian cuisine in place for Serafina and its sibling spot Cicchetti will remain Mediterranean-themed. The popular summer courtyard (seats about 60) is getting a makeover with new patio furniture.

Belltown Pizza

Veteran barman Brian Lee of Canon and Tavern Law, Belltown Pizza bartender Billy Karwacki and Bellevue restaurateur Mark Kao have taken over this New-York style pizza joint. Lee plans to feature a more seasonal cocktail list. On the food front, expect to see more sandwiches, though the pizza menu won’t change.

The Upstairs Bar and The Works Kitchen at GameWorks

ExWorks Capital assumes ownership of this Los Angeles-based video-game chain and has given the food-and-drink menu a major overhaul. The top floor of the 20,000-square-foot facility in downtown now has a craft cocktail bar, currently called “The Home Bar” but which will soon be renamed “The Upstairs Bar” to avoid confusion with its downstairs bar, which is more of a sports bar in the mold of Buffalo Wild Wings, with around 20 flat screens and projectors. You got all that? This change comes after the corporate office relaunched the food program at its restaurant The Works Kitchen, featuring wings, burgers, pizzas, pretzels and milkshakes.


On a related note, this great nonprofit that trains thousands of homeless and disadvantaged people for kitchen and other restaurant-related jobs reopened last Wednesday after an extensive remodel in April. A new lunch menu was launched as well, including a Seattle Dog and a jerk-spiced braised-pork sandwich.