It’s official: Seattle’s roving Creole king is going bricks and mortar. Where Ya At Matt owner Matthew Lewis, he of the po’boys, king cake, and other addictive fare, says he has signed a lease at 4201 N Fremont Ave. You might know the address as the dearly departed landmark bar Buckaroo Tavern.
Lewis says the Buckaroo’s storefront exterior reminds him of some of his favorite New Orleans neighborhoods, including the Garden District and Magazine Street. He’s envisioning “a whole New Orleans po’boy shop feel,” complete with a walkup counter and chalkboard menu. He has christened his restaurant Roux, as in the mother sauce that forms the foundation for a lot of Creole cooking. “It’s something that’s always warm,” says Lewis. Sadly, he rejected my suggestion of Here I Am Matt.
The restaurant will do walkup service for breakfast and lunch, and beignets and coffee all day. For dinner and weekend brunch, the 75-seat space will revert to full sit-down service, which Lewis promises will be both impeccable and unstuffy. By day, the menu won’t stray too far from the po’boys, gumbo and grits he serves on the truck. He’s still deciding on exact dinner plans, but says “it’s going to be sexy truck.” To reiterate, “nighttime is going to get real sexy on you.” Sexy, and mostly less than $20.
Lewis hopes the full bar and a late night menu will draw an industry crowd. This flexible day-to-night formula is not unlike Skillet Diner, another popular food truck that made the jump last year to an equally popular restaurant.
Good news for the legions of fans (we can’t help but notice, many of whom are female) who line up for Lewis’s food: The truck isn’t going anywhere. He’s shooting for a late summer open, While he’s been living the truck life, Lewis is no stranger to running a restaurant. Before launching Where Ya At Matt in the summer of 2010, he worked in Seattle restaurants like Toulouse Petit and Restaurant Zoe.
Fremont Avenue is becoming quite the restaurant destination, with Uneeda Burger nearby, as well as the soon-to-expand Hunger. Another restaurant project is reportedly in the works. Lewis will also share the block with Paseo, whose sandwiches inspire just as much heartfelt devotion as Where Ya At Matt’s. “I think we can be friends,” says Lewis. “It will be sandwich row for sure.”
To summarize: He’s got a space, a name, a concept, an architect (Graham Baba), and a highly vocal fan base. And Lewis is quick to credit his customers for making Roux happen: “Without the support I get from my fans, I wouldn’t feel as confident as I do about this restaurant.”