Heather Earnhardt in the “company truck.” Photo via Facebook.

Thierry Rautureau, Scott Staples, Zephyr Paquette. All prominent names in the local food community, all restaurateurs who launched founders clubs. The idea with these (increasingly common) clubs is members, often everyday diners, contribute small sums then get some kind of kickback. In the case of Staples, a $1000 share in Restaurant Zoe yielded a $1500 credit. The most recent restaurateur to go this route is Heather Earnhardt, whose Wandering Goose is on track for an early June opening at 403 15th Avenue on Capitol Hill.

Earnhardt is a name you likely know from Volunteer Park Cafe, where she maintained a sort of rock star status for her baking. Earnhardt opened the joint alongside Ericka Burke. Burke and Earnhardt parted ways in November, Heather leaving to consult and teach baking classes.

Soon after the opportunity to open her own place arose during conversations with Mike McConnell, he of the Caffe Vita and Via Tribunali empires. McConnell had intended to take over the (very large) property (formerly the store Tilden, and way back, a Piggly Wiggly), but projects in New York and LA proved might time-consuming. That’s when Earnhardt stepped in, agreeing to assume half. Now McConnell’s no longer opening anything there, and Ethan Stowell accounts for the other half of the equation. Here he’ll presumably plant his trattoria.

Not surprisingly, plenty of pastries will come out of the ovens at the Goose. So will breakfast and lunch inspired by Earnhardt’s southern roots: hush puppies, grits and grillades, country ham, pimento cheese. And biscuits, lots of biscuits. Earnhardt has recruited Spencer Heller from VPC to help helm the menu. The price point is lower than at her former cafe, she says.

And dinner? Not on the docket at the moment, but Earnhardt does envision Sunday suppers where guests cook their own meals at the restaurant, then sit down together to enjoy the fruits of their labor.

The cafe will seat 30, a wall of salvaged windows separating the Goose from Stowell’s trattoria (déjà vu, anyone?), and Earnhardt’s artwork decorating the opposite wall. One assumes the barnyard charm that defined VPC will carry over. In the rear is an open kitchen, and above it a mezzanine for office-y stuff. Earnhardt is installing a fire pole (yes, a fire pole) for easy getting around—a prime example of her refreshingly unbuttoned approach to the place.

When the cafe’s not bustling with diners, Earnhardt will host hands-on baking classes, including kid-centric sessions. She seems particularly excited about those. She’s also psyched about the garden she’s planting on the rooftop. The bees have already arrived, in fact.

Back to that founders club. Earnhardt is hosting a kick-off at The Corson Building from 6:30–8pm on May 1. The evening is open to anyone, but RSVP-ing is a must (do so by calling 206-713-2219 or emailing heather at thewanderingoose.com). Earnhardt will reveal perks of the membership, which might include private dinners, gift cards, or personal baking classes—an especially enticing prospect.

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