If you live in Madrona, you’ve likely been watching the former Restaurant Bea space at 1423 34th Avenue—the site of four restaurants in five years—evolving into Red Cow. Maybe you even stopped by Ethan Stowell’s newest restaurant this weekend, when he and wife/business partner Angela opened the doors quietly to serve their first plates of steak frites, charcuterie, and simple salads to neighbors, family, and friends. Afterall, it’s a small ‘hood, and this is big news.
And while Stowell’s name has the potential to make this a destination diner, the chef has clearly built this bistro to fit the community: casual food, simple environment, affordable prices.
“Are we doing anything crazy different? No,” Stowell says. “We’re doing what we do. I feel like Madrona is a highly educated neighborhood—they want not just quality food, but they want it at a really good value, too.”
Stowell adds that they “like to bring some details of downtown restaurants to neighborhood restaurants,” a fact you can see in the menu, which ranges from simple roast chicken to lamb tongue—the house specialty, steak frites in a variety of available cuts, falling somewhere in the middle. And since every bistro should double as the neighborhood watering hole, there’s a wide selection of wines and a small but well stocked bar, too.
The dining room itself hasn’t changed a great deal through its many incarnations—it’s a bit of a cozy, unusual space—“unique,” as Stowell calls it—and the décor now is as simple as the menu. Two-tone grey banquettes and zinc-topped tables are offset by the slightest use of color: a grassy green front door, echoed in a wispy curtain across the room. The cement walls of restaurants past remain, though the plan is to cover them in custom-built angled mirrors to give it the illusion of being far bigger than its 1,800 square feet. But the most dramatic construction, visually anyway, is near the kitchen, where the peek-a-boo window was expanded—and edged in ornate, scalloped detailing. Inside the now open kitchen, diners can see chef Thom Koschwanez, a veteran of Stowell’s catering and charity events arm, and his team executing dishes at a butcher-block island workspace, a la Anchovies and Olives.
So will Stowell be the one to break the heavy turnover at 1423 34th Avenue? All signs point to yes. And, in his opinion, it may have more to do with the fact that this isn’t his first rodeo. “The hardest thing in the world is having just one restaurant—it’s the hardest job in the world,” he says. “You can do everything for the business, but that doesn’t mean you should. When you get up to multiple locations, you think of things in a different way, and certain efficiencies—centralized bookkeeping, knowing your rent percentages—come your way.”
Red Cow opens officially tonight at 5 for dinner; regular hours are 5 to 10 Sunday through Thursday and 5 to 11 on Friday and Saturday. If you’ve been waiting patiently for Noyer (Stowell’s four-table fine dining restaurant that sits just behind Red Cow), know that it’ll be open sometime in late spring or early summer, all things going to plan.