John Sundstrom’s plans for a new restaurant on Capitol Hill just acquired an interesting twist. The James Beard-winning chef is still installing a restaurant in the Central Agency Building at 952 E Seneca. That restaurant will be Lark.
After more than a decade in its 12th Avenue address, Lark will become the centerpiece of a mini constellation of Sundstrom projects in the new building, which is technically an old building being restored to its original state after years of dumpy obscurity. The restaurant’s current home will become an event space.
Let’s pause for a brief moment of sadness that Lark is vacating that beautiful room, where raw wood and exposed rafters and sheer curtains made an ideal backdrop for its chef's refined Northwest plates. I really need to find and befriend people who will be holding parties here so I can get on the invite list.
But it’s hard to remain sad for too long—that rendering of Lark’s new environs is straight-up stunning. The space will be about 25 percent larger than the original, with an actual bar area and 25-foot ceilings. “It has some echoes of what people like about the original Lark,” says Sundstrom. “But grown up a bit.”
Lark’s menu will grow, too, as the small plates served on 12th Avenue will morph into a lineup of snacks, small plates, and entrees.
Sundstrom says that over Lark’s 11 years, he and partners Kelly Ronan and JM Enos came up with a few ideas for other projects that weren’t possible to pull off in the restaurant’s current home. And installing all his ventures in a 1917 warehouse that just received a transformative makeover with enormous windows and tons of vintage character made more sense than opening a sandwich shop across town and forever shuttling between properties.
Lofted over Lark will be a bar called Bitter/Raw, a “space within a space” says Sundstrom. It will be tucked up on the mezzanine, if “tucked” is an appropriate word for an establishment with more than 50 seats and entrances from both the street and downstairs restaurant. As the name implies, the bar will be a house of oysters, crudo, sashimi, and shellfish, plus jamon and prosciutto. Sundstrom asserts these last two are raw by virtue of being cured, which I get in a “time is a flat circle” sort of way.
The bitter component of the bar refers to the lineup of aperitifs and amari. Bitter/Raw will open in the early afternoon, and Sundstrom promises an excellent happy hour.
I of course had to ask about Bitter/Raw’s name, fearing that slashes might become the new ampersand. But there’s some canny graphic strategy happening here. You articulate it as “Bitter and Raw;” the outside signage will say “B/R” which the eye will read as “bar.”
The sandwichy retail area is back on the ground floor and called Slab Sandwich + Pie (lots of punctuation happening in this building). Sundstrom describes it as a place to grab espresso or juice, or a quick sandwich for lunch, or swoop in after work for some slab pie and wine and charcuterie to take to a party…or home to consume on the couch while binge watching the Americans.
Sundstrom’s projects will take up the building’s entire southern end, and he’ll have an event space in the basement. He’s not sharing too many details right now about the timeline for the original Lark space, but his new project(s) will open in the fall.