From Monte Cristo to the new Joule to Elemental pizzeria, this past week was a rapid-fire staccato of restaurant openings. On Sunday, Renee Erickson quietly put out word on Facebook that her third restaurant, The Whale Wins, was joining the club. The restaurant is open Wednesday through Sunday, which means the staff gets a two-day reprieve before stuff gets real.
Sunday night, Erickson and chef de cuisine Marie Rutherford were busy tending to platters of wood-roasted vegetables, and executing a menu divided between "Pantry" and "Oven" sections. Many plates—like the braised pork with winesap apples, onions and mustard, or white runner beans, tahini, pickled peppers, and braised greens on toast—come in smaller and larger versions to facilitate sharing. Other dishes include a whole roasted trout with lemons and walnut sauce, a salad of roasted radicchio, hazelnuts and breadcrumbs in a buttermilk poppyseed vinaigrette, and a plate of house pickles. This is Renee Erickson's restaurant, after all.
The space, which shares an entrance with Joule in the Fremont Collective, is awash in white, gray, and a few hits of pool blue. It definitely feels related to her first two establishments, Boat Street Cafe and The Walrus and the Carpenter, but has its own, slightly sleeker, identity. Windows and gooseneck lights line an interior wall, giving the impression that your table is outdoors and dock-adjacent, while stacks of wood service both the ambiance and the oven. But the room's most memorable feature is the message that hangs from the ceiling. Giant white letters, illuminated with light bulbs face downward towards the dining room, spelling out "Hello" in two different directions.
The message was inspired by artist Jeffry Mitchell, a close friend of Erickson's who usually starts conversations with the phrase "hello, hello!" The chef said she thought about simply spelling out the restaurant's name, but ended up paying lighted tribute to her friend's signature greeting instead. (His show just opened at the Henry Art Gallery, by the way).
Right now the restaurant has a basic landing-page website that will soon have more info, but The Whale Wins is located in the Fremont Collective, 3506 Stone Way N. Hours are 11-10, Wednesday through Saturday, and 11-9 on Sunday. It's open all day, but does a limited menu between 2 and 5.