It’s been a couple years now since the announcement of Roux. And Matthew Lewis has had it. Enough with the questions: “When are you opening?” “What’s the status with your crawdads?” And, most importantly, “When are you going to pose shirtless for some sort of sexy Seattle chef calendar?” Okay, maybe he's not tired of that last one.
But this time when I asked him when Roux will be open, he said October 26, come hell or high water—unless something hellish or high watery happens. Lewis, originally from New Orleans and known for his food truck Where Ya at Matt, is so ready. And the former Buckaroo Tavern space at 4210 Fremont Ave N has been transformed from dank, dive bar to a bright, classy Creole restaurant.
And here five reasons we're excited about Roux.
Well, first off, it’s about damn time. The anticipation has been killing us. Lewis first announced his plans for Roux back in March 2012. That was before Miley Cyrus went from innocent country bumpkin to dirty dubstep twerker. Way before the government shutdown, and way, way before our world was rocked with news of a French fry restaurant in a mall. As a common occurrence with restaurant projects, Lewis and his team hit a few bumps in the road on their way to Roux. But it’s apparent the Lewis has been putting his heart and soul into the venture, and the time and delays haven’t affected his vision or drive to, as he says, “feed the people.” And he and Mikey Robertshaw, formerly of Local 360 and now Roux's executive chef, are ready to do just that, with a Cajun-inspired menu with local produce and sustainable Louisiana proteins.
Said proteins come in Creole-style “sopping plates.” Let’s chat alligator wings and bayou frog legs for starters. Lewis describes gator wings as the front leg of the smaller gators and likens it to a meaty chicken wing. He’s also currently working on a connection for frog legs from Louisiana, and they’ll be served in a classic prep with white wine, garlic, and tomato along with tasty bread for ultimate soaking capabilities—this is where, says Lewis, the all-important sopping action happens. And as Robertshaw says, “The whole premise of southern dining is family style.” So think sharable-size steaks, Creole shrimp, and finger-licking saucy goodness. The majority of the menu will be share-style small plates, with snacks and entrees to bracket your meal.
“It sure ain’t the Buckaroo.” Which is what Lewis has been hearing from the neighborhood folks stopping in during construction. Gone are the days of motorcycles, dark red walls, cigarettes, and neon Busch signs. And we love a good dive bar—but Roux is a beautiful restaurant replacement. If you need a good visual reference for the scope of the remodel, see the late 90s film classic 10 Things I Hate About You. (A scene with the adorable JGL, David Krumholtz, and Heath Ledger was filmed here.) But now we’ve got red backed leather booths and a mile long banquette in the bar area, lots of exposed refurbished wood, crisp whites, and tawny browns. Light filters through a wall of windows onto a large horseshoe-shaped counter, with the bar on the left and an open kitchen line on the right.
A barman who’s not afraid to admit, on record, that he sings way too much to his cat. Ian Cargill, who has worked at more spots in Seattle than there were bikers at the Buckaroo, is the bar manager with a kitty fetish. His impressive resume includes the likes of Canon, Vessel, Vito’s, Lola, Shorty’s, and Tavern Law. Some might read all this jumping around as a red flag, but Cargill was working as a sub or guest bartender in most cases, waiting to take the bar reins at Roux. And his creations—like a pecan-infused bourbon old-fashioned with chicory syrup—show he's not messing around. Cargill is planning a well rounded bar menu, beer that's "not just hop bombs", wine that has more of an "old-world style", and cocktails that are "classics-plus, or 101-plus"—so your favorite old-school cocktails, with just a little bit of extra flair.
Roux will be open morning, noon, and night. Lewis's insanely popular Where Ya at Matt will still be on the streets, but now if you're in Fremont, the search is over. Roux will be open daily at 8am for beignets and a special house chicory coffee, then move into counter and to-go lunch service with fare similar to the truck: po’ boys, jambalaya, gumbo, and red beans and rice, are all strong possibilities. Then comes dinner and table service at the 80 or so seats, and late night drinks in the bar. And Lewis says his crew plans on resurrecting the Sunday suppers at some point in the near future, including tabletop seafood bakes with a side of southern hospitality.
Keep your eyes on Facebook for updates on the progress of Roux, and cross your fingers that the doors swing open on October 26.
For more on Seattle’s food and drink scene, sign up for Seattle Met’s weekly newsletter Nosh Pit News, subscribe to our RSS Feed, follow us on Twitter @SeattleMet, and visit our Seattle Restaurants page.