Renee Erickson Will Transform Saint Helens into Bistro Shirlee

The new iteration of her Laurelhurst restaurant is a tribute to Erickson's mom, and a return to the space's French bistro and wine bar roots.

By Allecia Vermillion April 1, 2019

Shirlee Erickson long ago earned the nickname "the Squirrel," hence Bistro Shirlee's new logo.

Image: Sea Creatures

When Renee Erickson's Sea Creatures restaurant group acquired a passel of restaurants from Josh Henderson, Erickson and business partner Jeremy Price hinted some changes might be in store to bring their new establishments more firmly into the Sea Creatures fold. The biggest shift so far begins today: Saint Helens is closed for a short remodel. In late April, the Laurelhurst cafe perched on the Burke-Gilman trail will reopen as Bistro Shirlee. The name's a nod to Erickson's mom.

The restaurant will have "a renewed focus on French bistro and wine bar fare, the original intention at Saint Helens Cafe," according to an email from Price. A local, seasonal, and sustainable ethos will rule the menu, along with classics like steak au poivre, roast chicken, Parisian gnocchi, tartare, frites, duck confit, and housemade charcuterie. The double-cut pork chop from Erickson's original Boat Street Cafe will resurface here, and some Saint Helens favorites continue on with subtle makeovers. The burger will sport a patty of dry-aged, grass-fed and grass-finished beef from sibling steak house Bateau, and an order of fish and chips will earn you some IPA-battered cod fillets. The wine list gets bigger, too.

Renee Erickson has long credited her mom, Shirlee, for her love of cooking. During the chef's childhood, the elder Erickson tended a large garden and put up jars of summer fruit and other "edible memories" of the garden in a closet beneath the basement stairs in their Woodinville home. When Erickson purchased Boat Street Cafe at age 24, a recently retired Shirlee helped out with everything from bookkeeping to baking. In the email announcing this change, Erickson credits her mom with being "the one to keep things tidy and flowing smoothly in my life."

Hopefully those words also apply to the quick interior refresh. Erickson and Price promise Bistro Shirlee will be open once again (serving brunch and dinner) in time for sunny weather, so diners can make use of the broad patio that overlooks the Burke-Gilman trail. 

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