Hints and rumors that Renee Erickson is planning an oyster bar on Capitol Hill have been percolating for a few months. Erickson and her business partners offered up some confirmation this week, but some aspects remain shrouded in mystery.
Here's what we know: Erickson and Jeremy Price and Chad Dale (her partners in the knot of restaurants now known collectively as Sea Creatures) are indeed opening an oyster bar at 11th and Union in a new complex fused, as Capitol Hill complexes often are these days, from the facades of two old brick buildings from the auto row era. Erickson's corner of this project looks, at least from the renderings, ridiculously charming. The site is currently a pit of construction, but Capitol Hill Seattle blog has some technical background on the space and the redevelopment project.
But...surprise! Erickson is actually opening two restaurants here. The first she describes as a "Normandy-style oyster bar," a 50-seat corner space slightly larger than Walrus, where plates convey the flavors of France's Atlantic coast, via our own Pacific Northwest seafood, produce, meats, and oyster beds.
Next door, also facing Union, will be a slightly smaller Parisian-style cafe. "Slightly more refined than its neighbor," is how Price described it in a press email. He and Erickson co-own a plot of land on Whidbey Island (adjacent to partner Chad Dale's farm, naturally) and plan on raising charolais and limousin breeds, both French, both known for great meat. The cows will be raised on grass, says Price; the idea of controlling every stage of their meat production from breed to feed to butchery to dry aging has the partners downright giddy.
Erickson also seems giddy about some other surprise elements in the works. She promises more details soon. But here's something particularly cool: The Sea Creatures folks are working with Hama Hama to develop a Northwest oyster that's exclusive to their restaurants, but raised using methods prevalent in Normandy. These won't be ready when the restaurant opens, says Price. "We want it right more than we want it right away."
Speaking of opening, both places are due this summer. Neither has a name yet, but Price, Erickson, and the Sea Creatures company's three chefs (Marie Rutherford at Whale Wins, Bobby Palmquist from Walrus, and Jay Guerrero from Boat Street) are headed to France shortly for what's sure to be arduous research.
In the past 12 months, this little triangle of Capitol Hill, bounded by Pike, Broadway and Madison (and bisected by Union) has become a congregation of some of the biggest chef names in town. John Sundstrom's beautiful new Lark location (and its attendant bar and sandwich shop) occupy a building just around the corner, while the new Chophouse Row development down the street will house Ericka Burke's new restaurant and takeaway, Sara Naftaly's bakery, Kurt Timmermeister's ice cream and cheese shop, and a bar backed by Matt Dillon.