In their other Capitol Hill establishments, the Guild Seattle restaurant group traffics in 2am diner breakfast (Lost Lake), $4 pitchers and visits from Bernie Sanders (The Comet), and third-floor dance club action with a side of sophisticated grilled cheese sandwiches downstairs (Grim's). At this point, partners Jason LaJeunesse, David Meinert, and Joey Burgess are pretty much synonymous with all things Pike/Pine.
Ernest Loves Agnes is another matter entirely.
It's an Italian restaurant, complete with sturdy meatballs and a menu of pizzas, pastas, salads and starters with Northwest overtones: squid ink raviolini, wild mushrooms on toast, kale and Mama Lil's peppers on pizza. The group also operates Big Mario's, but those pies are not the fluffy-corniced ones at Ernest Love Agnes. The guys reportedly flew out pizzaiolo Anthony Falco from Roberta's in Brooklyn to develop them. Otherwise it sounds like chef Mac Jarvis (who came over from Lost Lake) and sous chef Tia Hawkley (her resume includes La Spiga) had quite a bit of menu latitude.
After the Guild Seattle partners announced their new venture would be called Ernest Loves Agnes—a nod to Ernest Hemingway's romance with Red Cross nurse Agnes von Kurowsky after being wounded on the Italian front in 1918—popular opinion was fairly split on whether the name was brilliant or stupid. I have to say...the room makes it work.
LaJeunesse and Burgess say they batted around names that spoke to the menu but didn't give off a cliche Italian vibe. Early ideas like "The Italian Front" morphed into "Ernest and Agnes" but Burgess also stood firm: no ampersands.
The space isn't wildly different from the Kingfish days, but it is romantic and decidedly un-Italian; painted in soft green with lots of plants and even more photos by Connie Aramaki (the clusters on the wall were shot at Hemingway's house in Cuba). Papa's later days in Havana could have inspired the languid feel, though that mostly came from LaJeunesse's time frequenting bars in Buenos Aires (where Italian culture also plays a major influence...see, this all hangs together). And per Capitol Hill Seattle blog, the literary overtones even extend to the bathroom.
Early mentions of Ernest Loves Agnes billed it as dimly lit and cocktail focused on one side, a family-appropriate hangout on the other. But really the only difference in the two is one has an open kitchen and more tables, the other a massive bar framed in dark wood and wooden booths. Yes, there the Hemingway daiquiri is absolutely on the menu. Right next to Death in the Afternoon. There are no $4 pitchers.
While this spot had a more grownup vibe than the partners' other spots, one major lesson learned on Pike/Pine are definitely applied here: Brunch is a big deal. Ernest Loves Agnes will be ready to roll this weekend with prosciutto benedicts, Dutch babies, tortilla espanola and more. The restaurant's website has full details on menus, hours, etc.
Ernest Loves Agnes is officially open, though early word is that things get crowded.