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From Kushi Bar to Babirusa, the transformation begins.

Image: Babirusa

When Charles Walpole and René Gutierrez closed Babirusa in Eastlake last December, they were already on the hunt for a new location. Someplace with character and charm. Well, the that placed turned out to be the old Kushibar space on Second Ave in Belltown. 
 
After nearly two months of giving the restaurant (which is considerably larger than Babirusa's former digs) a refresh, the duo will be running a series of dinners leading up to its official opening in March. (Better pray to the Seattle licensing gods that all goes to plan.)
 
First up: a whole pig roast at Navy Strength, where whiskey-based tiki cocktails will be paired with an all-you-can-eat dinner. There will be, of course, pig—yes, crispy pig skin too—kohlrabi slaw with chili vinegar, miso-baked beans, braised collard greens, beet salad with apple, and smoked potato salad. The roast happens this Sunday, February 18 at 5pm. There are a few tickets left; nab them for $45 per person. If tickets sell out, there will be some walk-ins welcome; be sure to bring cash and get your name on the walk-in list by emailing blindpig.babirusa@gmail.com.
 
Then, a trio of Debut Dinners from February 23–25, in which chef Walpole is throwing down seven-plus courses alongside Ryan Miller, former executive chef at Damn the Weather, who'll be joining the Babirusa crew permanently. On the menu: oysters with Szechuan peppercorn mignonette, sea urchin, arctic char with maple dashi, charcoal-grilled foie gras, Wagyu beef along with marrow, anchovy, and potato, plus more. Call 206-329-2744 or email for questions on costs and to reserve your spot.

The Debut Dinners are also a hint as to what diners can expect at Babirusa 2.0 in Belltown. In its new location and reincarnation, Babirusa will combine its small plates bar concept with the tasting menus of Blind Pig Bistro, its sibling restaurant that closed in 2016. Those tasting menus, crafted by Walpole, will be omakase style. In other words, leave it to the chef. And overall the menu here will be bigger and more flexible. "You want to have the tasting menu at the bar? You can do that," said Gutierrez.

Come March, the dining room at 2319 Second Ave will open with big booths, seating for private parties, a full bar, and raw bar—a vestige left from Kushibar's fresh fish case. When the weather warms, the patio should add more room for big groups at picnic tables.

After they find their legs during lunch and dinner, Babirusa will add brunch to the mix.

Meanwhile, see yourself to Babirusa's GoFundMe page (it ends March 3) where you can contribute to the restaurant's upstart costs while scoring some perks from custom tees to custom cocktails you'll craft for the menu to spots at Babirusa's invite-only opening party.

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Navy Strength

$$ Global 2505 Second Ave

This cocktail bar sibling to No Anchor and Rob Roy puts a modern spin on tiki, via sleek midcentury decor and a drink list that mixes classics (zombies, mai ...