Off Eastlake Avenue in the corner of a blink-and-you'll-miss-it plaza, next to a Subway and a mini mart, a neighborhood bar kept its patrons sated with crisp cocktails and thoughtful-meets-comforting bar food for three years. But like its splendid sibling restaurant Blind Pig Bistro which shuttered last year, Babirusa will also bid farewell to that patch of Eastlake. Its last day of service is December 2.
Chef Charles Walpole, a Culinary Institute of America–trained alum of the original Mistral and Ethan Stowell's Anchovies and Olives (another spot destined for closure), along with front-of-house virtuoso René Gutierrez, a fellow Mistral vet whose resumé includes working under James Beard award-winning Ben Barker of the erstwhile Magnolia Grill, have decided not to renew their lease on Babirusa's space. It's up at the end of the year.
But this isn't the end for the duo. "We want to carry on somewhere else, and keep moving forward, keep working together," assures Gutierrez. What that means remains to be seen. They're on the hunt for a new location and have been looking at several different options, none that stray too far away from Eastlake and their loyal regulars. Some place with a bit more elbow room, some place with soul—"a space that has a little more character," adds Walpole.
Wherever they land, the restaurant may continue along the lines of Babirusa or perhaps a combination of Babirusa and Blind Pig Bistro, but nevertheless stay fairly true to their offerings of seasonal plates and ever on-point bar food and cocktails. Gutierrez says cooking with fire is a possibility at one potential location. We'll have to wait and see until 2018, when the business partners estimate their new spot to open.
For now though, before they go, a swan song to the tune of multicourse dinners on October 21 and 22. Each will be a Blind Pig Bistro popup, seven courses, for $65. On the menu: lamb tartare with smoked tomato, quinoa, and sunflower seeds; poached oysters; ricotta dumplings with chanterelles and rainbow chard; goat shoulder with date mole, coconut, and pumpkin, plus more.
After the December 2 closure, there will be a series of all-out bon voyage dinners December 7–10: seven courses for $75, with a wine pairing option. There's no menu as of yet, but Babirusa's taking reservations for the final hoorahs now. (Call Babirusa at 206-329-2744.)
Stay tuned for updates on Babirusa, Gutierrez, and Walpole as we have them.