Critic's Notebook

Haunted Restaurants? Yeah, Seattle’s Got Those

(These ghosts may not be quite what you’re expecting.)

By Kathryn Robinson June 9, 2014

No, those aren't the ghosts of Aragona. Those people work there.

All three of the restaurants I reviewed for Seattle Met’s June issueAragona, Red Cow, and Bodrum Bistro—have ghosts. 

No, not the white/wispy/creepy kind. The figurative kind, that haunt our associations with spaces formerly occupied by other beloved restaurants. At Bodrum Bistro, one can feel the ghost of the zesty neighborhood Greek taverna, Golden Olive, that once thrived here. At Ethan Stowell’s new Madrona steakhouse, Red Cow, one dines alongside the spirits of the too-soon-departed Restaurant Bea, June, and Cremant.  At Aragona, the new Jason Stratton Spanish food destination at the tag end of Union, there have been occupants aplenty (most recently, Thoa’s)—but the operative energy comes from The Other Place, which restaurant scion Robert Rosellini built here in the ‘80s (and which, one could argue, was the birthplace of Northwest Cuisine.)

These ghosts don’t jump out and yell boo…but that doesn’t mean they’re not scary, particularly for restaurateurs who are trying to build new reputations on clean foundations. (The sparkling new Creole destination Roux comes to mind, carved last year out of the husk of the skanky old Buckaroo Tavern, which owner Matt Lewis demolished down to the slab—right before he demolished the slab.) When a restaurant space racks up former occupants like old lovers, it can pick up a reputation as a restaurant graveyard: Think the space housing the neighborhood Thai café Naam across from Red Cow in Madrona, which over the last two decades has housed Coupage, Drey’s, Sapphire, Plenty, and Supreme. (Did I miss any?)

But when a new enterprise blooms out of the shell of an old favorite, the old can flavor the new in all kinds of evocative ways. One’s memory and associations can predispose a certain expectation, as certainly happened for me when Red Cow was just exactly the French bistro June and Cremant had prepared me to crave. Aragona, for its part, is a clear spiritual successor to The Other Place, given Stratton’s essential regard for Northwest seasonality; read more about that here.  

Then check out Restaurant Marron, which opens this Wednesday in the charming Loveless Building room with the Pushkin murals. Yep, that’s the space once home to Olivar, Bacchus, and the short-lived-but-adorable dessert paradise, Coco La Ti Da.

I wonder which of those ghosts will haunt Marron?





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