Zak Melang and Nate Opper have been busy preparing the soaring, stylized dining room, custom-built smokers and fleet of house barbecue sauces at Kickin' Boot Whiskey Kitchen, which opened last week. But, you know, not too busy to also work on a completely different restaurant concept just a block away. The duo, who also own seven Matador locations in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho, are planning a seafood restaurant at 5410 Ballard Ave.
They consider the former Thaiku address "one of the top three locations in Ballard" (the other two being Matador and Kickin' Boot, naturally). When their original talks with the owners fell through, Opper and Melang turned their attention to the restored Henry Whyte warehouse that now houses Kickin' Boot. But shortly after that project got underway, the Thaiku space became available.
The partners had discussed a barbecue restaurant for nearly four years, and the seafood idea had been floating around for two. "We already had the concepts, we were just waiting for the right building," says Opper. The seafood restaurant has a working title of Willy's, a reference to a historical plaque on the front of the building, but Opper and Melang are still casting about (corny fishing pun definitely not intended) for a final name.
Not Willy's will have an oyster bar, live lobster tanks, and various chowders and sandwiches (particulary exciting: the promise of New England-style lobster rolls). Opper says it will be a place where you can lay down serious cash for a spectacular seafood meal, or just stop in for a bowl of chowder and some really good bread. The space will seat about 130, and the guys envision lots of female patrons, drinking white and sparkling wines. Obviously dudes are welcome to partake in the bubbles, too.
Meanwhile, Opper and Melang are readying a Portland restaurant called Southland Whiskey Kitchen. It's very similar to Kickin' Boot, but the space on trendy NW 23rd Avenue wouldn't accommodate the giant neon-lit boot that is fundamental to the Kickin's concept. Meanwhile, the Puget Sound Business Journal's Glenn Drosendahl says Not Willy's should open within about three months. Any good suggestions for a name?