The sudden closure of Culture Club last weekend made me realize with a start that I may never again taste that five-cheese mac and cheese, ripe with blooming harmonies and brought bubbling to the table in a cast iron skillet.
It was a sobering realization.
Such is the exponential state of the city’s growth at the moment that most eyes are trained on the restaurants that are opening. (Pretty much all of them by Josh Henderson.) But some restaurant junkies are having a tougher time getting past the fine specimens that have closed (Boat Street Café, Kingfish Café, Sutra, Restaurant Zoe)—some of them with alarming suddenness. Remember when Paseo said goodbye with a note on the door? Or Dot’s, which shuttered suddenly on the heels of a remodel? Likewise Spur, last month, which no one but insiders knew to expect. Beloved businesses all; grief all around.
But wait a minute. Looking over this list, a pattern begins to form. Yes, Renee Erickson closed Boat Street…but then she opened Bateau, in many ways its meaty doppelganger. The vegan stunner Sutra is gone, but Harvest Beat (operated by half of Sutra’s original ownership team) is its virtual clone, and just blocks away. Restaurant Zoe no longer offers regular service, but has morphed instead into a special events venue. Ditto the recently shuttered Vivre on Capitol Hill.
Call it evolution: Restaurants building on their most positive attributes to keep on surviving. Sometimes this necessitates a change at the top, as happened when Paseo reopened under new ownership (cue sound of city falling to knees). Or when, last week, Mama’s Cantina emerged like a Phoenix out of the ashes of Mama’s Mexican Kitchen.
Other times it just means dialing back the vision—as Miles James will be doing when he reopens Dot’s Delicatessen this July as Dot’s Butcher and Deli, in Pike Place Market. As fans will recall, Dot's upped its reach during its former tenure, even changing its name to Dot's Charcuterie and Bistrot. The new joint will be mostly a butcher shop, with a few counter seats and a few deli sandwiches—simpler and smaller, a lot like the the earliest days of the original Dot’s.
Now there’s a contrarian message for a city in mega-growth mode.