The Culinary Prescience of Soon-to-Shutter Chez Shea

It’s still a romantic place for dinner, but the Pike Place Market restaurant foreshadowed several Seattle dining trends.

By Allecia Vermillion April 19, 2012

The romantic market aerie’s last night will be Saturday, April 28.

Earlier this week, broke the news Pike Place Market institution Chez Shea will close, its alluringly secret upstairs location now destined to be the new home of Bainbridge’s Storyville Coffee Company.

While the restaurant, a candlelit aerie behind the demilune windows in the creaky rafters of Pike Place Market, is a regular entry on lists of the most romantic spots in Seattle, it’s not always on the radar of more recent transplants (myself included) and buzz-based diners. But one benefit of working here is having the formidable dining brain that is Seattle Met critic Kathryn Robinson just down the hall, available for questions like “aside from its primo location, what did Chez Shea contribute to Seattle?”

Robinson remembers the restaurant as an early adopter of prix-fixe dining in Seattle, with four courses running $28 back in 1988. Prescient founder Sandy Shea also foreshadowed the coming era of market-to-table culinary innovation, and the sidekick next-door bar (that would be the now-defunct Shea’s Lounge).

Over the years quality flickered, Shea sold, and the restaurant that still bore her name settled into its reputation as a solid, if not newsmaking, destination—but always a sure bet for romance. Last year’s remodel joining the restaurant with the lounge somehow even managed to heighten that. That tucked-away market atmosphere (and some destination-worthy food) can still be had at neighboring Matt’s in the Market. Meanwhile, Chez Shea is taking reservations through April 28, the restaurant’s last night in business.

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