You know you’re in Fremont when there’s a bearded dude on a porch playing a banjo, but wearing a vintage beige suit. You might not know you’re in Fremont when standing outside Eric Donnelly’s new restaurant RockCreek, until you step inside. Then you realize that this place is more like that suited-up banjo player than you first thought: a little bit country with a boatload of style.
The space at 4300 Fremont Ave N consists of a main dining space, bar, and an upstairs loft with a separate private dining area. There are also two patios, one off the front deck and another nook off the loft. Each main area will seat up to about 30. In the restaurant world, 90 seats translates into a lot of diners every night.
Donnelly, a Seattle native, most recently coming off his post as head chef at Toulouse Petit, has an affinity for the outdoors that shows in the decor—Montana landscape photographs and a fishing trip vibe. Exposed worn wood, river rock, a burlap ceiling, and mason jar–like fixtures bring all these elements together. He’s shooting for a July 25 opening date, but with that said, there are still inspections to pass, staff to train, and the small matter of cleaning up all that sawdust.
Here are five reasons why we're excited about RockCreek, starting with the man himself.
Eric Donnelly is not only adorable, he’s super freaking smart when it comes to the kitchen. Not that physical appearance makes any difference when it comes to cooking, but it doesn’t hurt when a chef is easy on the eyes. Especially when there’s an open kitchen. But I digress—Donnelly is a master of big flavors and spice. When he says spicy, he means it. “My food is typically very seasoned and very bold. It’s not dainty,” he says. With ownership of his own joint and menu, he’s excited to be able to cook via inspiration and be an educator to his staff about seafood in general. Here he is instructing us on how to debone a fish.
This sentence: “A familiar fish in an exotic preparation, an exotic fish in a familiar preparation.” You won’t find the neatly arranged good old piece of fish, rice pilaf, and broccoli on a plate at this seafood house. Donnelly's global approach folds in international flavors and unexpected dishes. He mentioned bringing a rainbow of aspects from Peruvian to Asian and Provençal Vietnamese to Moroccan cultures. What types of proteins are we talking here? Anything from crimson snapper from Bali, mackerel from Baja, Lake Victoria perch, and geoduck, of course all based on season and availability. He also plans to have a few roasted and braised meat options and pasta dishes.
Oyster shooters that are all dressed up. Of course no seafood driven-menu in the Northwest would be complete without oysters in some form. Along with baked and raw preps, Donnelly plans on a selection of fancy oyster shooters. This won’t be just the classic bloody Mary shooter. Imagine a mezcal pairing with a hot habanero salsa or salty-rimmed shots—an entertaining, but elegant way to clear the palate and commence a meal.
A refreshing take on the standards. The wine list will be heavily focused on the lighter shade. Donnelly wants to broaden the scope with global white varietals like Bordeaux and albarinos. And light-bodied reds that'll do the trick, too. The bar program he says will, “lean towards crafty cocktails, without mustache and monocle.” Thank you, Mr. Donnelly, that’s a novel thought. And lastly, we have brunch, but Donnelly wants to "get away from the eggs and bacon routine, and get into more wild mushroom tartines and bacon oyster Benedicts on brioche." Hell yes.
Refurbished. Recycled. Reclaimed. You name it. A good part of the wood and metal works incorporated into the construction of RockCreek are from old warehouses and buildings. In the downstairs bathroom you can’t help but notice a blue-teal patchworked wall. It’s wainscoting from a torn-down church in Greenwood. The lining under the bar top is old siding from a barn out of Graham, Washington. And the private dining room upstairs in the loft area will be partitioned off by a newly constructed “barn-style” door, but the handle will be a clutch from an old tractor.
To start out dinner hours will be from 4 to midnight seven days a week. And brunch Saturday and Sunday (after a week or two) from 9 to 2pm. Keep up with progress here on Facebook.