Restaurant News

Introducing Belle Clementine: David Sanford’s Communal Dining Restaurant Opening in Ballard This Fall

"I want it to feel like eating at a friend’s house," says the Corson Building vet.

By Jessica Voelker September 1, 2011

David Sanford will open community-dining destination Belle Clementine this fall.

Photo: belleclementine.com

Belle Clementine was David Sanford’s grandmother—his father’s mother. Belle was a painter, sculptor, and photographer, and later in life she sewed her own spines onto scrap books and once sent a handmade, rubber-stamped birthday card to her grandson.

Sanford has old pictures of Belle in his iPhone photo roll. He showed me a couple of them this morning over Americanos at Volunteer Park Cafe. In one she stands smiling in a natty skirt, socks, and saddle shoes. In another artfully symmetrical shot she and her husband rest their heads on each other’s shoulders. She is beautiful.

She is also a source of inspiration for Sanford, which is why he is naming his forthcoming Ballard restaurant after her.

Sanford leased the space at 5451 Leary Avenue NW in February. Last a sales office for the condo building across the street, the building once belonged to neighborhood furniture institution Olsens, according to Sanford. Matt Hoffman of Dovetail, Inc, the contract company behind Oddfellows, Quinn’s Pub, and the Melrose Market, is helping him convert half of this 100-year-old building into a restaurant (the other half will be leased to an unrelated project).

Sanford’s philosophy on food: “source impeccably, then get out of the way.” (He rhapsodized about a Stokesberry Farm chicken, roasted simply and served alongside local greens). Belle Clementine’s design will be similarly simple, revealing the building’s gorgeous old “guts” and stripping away the rest. Sanford plans to build the long tables (probably three of them) at which he’ll serve family-style meals.

If this all sounds familiar, you may be thinking of the Corson Building in Georgetown. Sanford opened that restaurant alongside chef and owner Matt Dillon and served as a project manager there. While he counts Dillon as another source of creative inspiration, he says his own restaurant’s fare will be less elaborate than that at Corson, and certainly less expensive.

“I want it to feel approachable, like eating at a friend’s house,” said Sanford. A friend’s house where you’re quickly invited back: Guests will be able to sign up for multiple meals over a month or a season, paying in advance so that they can just come by and eat. He compares the multiple-meals approach to that of a CSA (short for Community Supported Agriculture—sign up for one, and a local farm will deliver a crate of seasonal produce to your door each week).

Sanford was frequently in the kitchen at just-shuttered Nettletown in Eastlake, and counts chef Christina Choi as a good friend. He’s been organizing and cooking roving brunches and dinners since 2007, and has collaborated with Dusin Ronspies (Art of the Table), and once hosted a coffee-cupping brunch with barista Bronwyn Serna. Recently, he created an outdoor meal outside the airplane hangar at Magnuson Park for artist Susan Robb’s Long Walk Seattle project. So while Sanford wasn’t yet willing to disclose his collaborators, it’s likely we’ll see some of these people showing up to cook or run cooking classes and other special events out of the space.

Dinners should begin later this fall (there will likely be two seatings a night), with plans for brunch down the road. Sanford has applied for a full liquor license, but there will be no bar in the traditional sense. Instead, a night’s feast may include a pre-dinner cocktail with wine or cider served alongside the meal. The fare on offer will change weekly and depend on what’s fresh at the market. Sanford promised to divulge more details in days to come. Those will be shared here as soon as possible.

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