Yesterday Ethan Stowell took me on a tour of the Kolstrand building on Ballard Avenue. The brick structure, built in the early 1900s, is owned by some entrepreneurial thirtysomethings who approached both Stowell and Renee Erickson (Boat Street Cafe) about opening restaurants there.

Both restaurateurs said no—the proposed 2,400 square-foot space seemed prohibitively large—but then the friends figured out they could share it and create two restaurants.

Stowell’s Staple and Fancy Mercantile (let’s call it S&FM, shall we?), took the 1,500 square feet at the front of the building. Erickson claimed the 900 sf in the back for an oyster bar she brilliantly named the Walrus and the Carpenter.

Both restaurants hope to open in early July.

Stowell will be the chef at S&FM. He’ll cook there every day it is open. When I ask him whether he’ll worry about his other restaurants (Tavolàta, How to Cook a Wolf, and Anchovies and Olives), he explains that the menus at those restaurants really belong to the chefs who run them. It bums Stowell out that his chefs don’t receive more recognition. How can we attract good cooks to Seattle, he asks (rhetorically), unless restaurateurs step back and give their chefs some limelight? So that’s what he plans to do.

When S&FM servers (look for a lot of familiar faces from Union) seat their guests, they’ll explain that there is a small a la carte menu, but that the restaurant’s specialty is a daily, four-course, chef’s choice menu.

The chef’s choice model affords diner the opportunity to eat foods they normally would not (anchovies, sardines, pig brains). But Stowell says its not just about adventure eating. He hopes that some 75 percent of diners will opt to put themselves in his hands, and this will allow him to order foods that normally couldn’t—he mentions pork shoulder—since he’ll know he can use it in the daily menu.

S&FM will seat 40 people. Walrus and the Carpenter, meanwhile, has squeezed in space for 65, if you count the outdoor patio. Even seeing it under construction, you can tell the oyster bar is going to be a beauty. We’d expect no less from the owner of Boat Street, a charming eatery if ever there was one. You’ll be able to access each of the restaurants by transversing the other. Erickson and Stowell will share the walk-in storage space in the basement. Good thing they’re pals.

The bricky, open feeling at Kolstrand will remind you immediately of what’s going on at the Melrose Building on Capitol Hill: shared spaces with a food-comes-first, collaborative appeal, spare aesthetics, lots of deliciousness all around.

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