Josh Henderson's Vestal is everything that's happening right now in South Lake Union dining—actually it's everything that's happening in Seattle. New construction and wood-fired hearth cooking. A 20 percent service charge. The city in flux outside the enormous windows: Sit on one side of a two-top and you're looking at a tire center; from the vantage of the other chair, an Amazon's logo glows from the enormous office building across the courtyard.
Also, unfortunately, an ambitious concept being rolled back in favor of something more accessible.
The restaurant sent word today it has closed and and will retool as more of a cafe, trading dishes like lievito e pepe or salmon skin chicharrones for "robust lunch and happy hour menus focusing on classic American cuisine inspired by the wood burning hearth," as the release puts it. This also means counter service, 30-minute lunches that let nearby Amazon workers get back to their desks, and entrees in the $10 to $15 range. The hearth in the open kitchen will now yield wood-fired sandwiches, alongside chopped salads and seasonal fresh pastas. The pivot is not unlike the shift over at Kiki Ramen, Henderson's new ramen shop that previously served high-concept tacos as Bar Noroeste.
Henderson had billed Vestal as a place where he could cook his own style of food, after building a rep as a comfort food maestro in his Skillet Days. He wrote on Facebook today that this restaurant was some of the best work his company has done, but "the neighborhood was telling us differently." Restaurants on the Amazon campus seem to be their own dining microclimate.
Vestal will do a pair of farewell dinners on March 24 and 25. I'm curious what will happen with the very talented chef de cuisine Andrew Iacono, whose resume includes Alinea and other well-regarded Chicago spots like El Ideas and 42 Grams. Whatever his plans are, I hope they still involve Seattle.
Look for this new iteration of Vestal to open in late April; brunch will arrive this summer.