The beautiful corner space in Pioneer Square once home to Matt Dillon's (equally beautiful) Bar Sajor has a new identity. Dillon is one of a handful of partners behind Copal, a restaurant with decidedly Latin American overtones and a rustically sunny vibe. It's quietly open now at 323 Occidental, serving weekday lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday.
The meat, fish, and vegetables dispatched from the wood-fired oven and grill will now wood oven will skew spicier and decidedly vibrant—grilled Salvadoran cheese, stuffed trout, quesadillas filled with smoked pumpkin, smoked beef tacos. Dillon is particularly excited about a beef dish rubbed in agave syrup, coffee, and coriander, then braised with marrow bones and allspice. It's served with a salsa made with bone marrow—"it's got this pho-like quality," he says.
Dillon's partners in the venture are longtime collaborator Eric Fisher (the guy behind all Dillon's websites, not to mention Copal's colorful new interior) and Chris Rice and Emma Schwartzman, a couple with lengthy restaurant resumes, but who will always be foremost in my heart for Summer Dog, the floating hot dog stand they ran for a few summers on South Lake Union. Chef Taber Turpin ("whom you may or may not remember depending on your level of sobriety when you were there," as the press release puts it) was the guy behind the tiny, superb Taco Gringos on Olive Way. This is starting to sound like a restaurant supergroup.
After Dillon closed Bar Sajor, he was pondering what to do with the space. The idea of tacos or otherwise Latin American fare took root in part, he says, because Sajor's wood-burning grill and oven "works really well with that cuisine." But Schwartzman and Rice are the day-to-day force here; Copal is inspired in part by the couple's many sojourns surfing in Mexico. They're already planning special hours for game days, a morning lineup of fresh juice and smoothies, and a brunch menu that kicks in come 2017. Copal sounds decidedly more casual than its predecessor, with lunchtime counter service and an all-day takeaway menu (dinner is table service per usual).
On the drinks side of things, Copal has the sort of sunny cocktails you might expect—margaritas, palomas—plus house creations making liberal use of Latin American spirits, house agua frescas, and the sort of beers you want to drink when the sun's out (or to at least pretend that it is). The Copal website should soon have more details.