Well…just…wow. Matt Dillon just announced via email that he’s closing Sitka and Spruce, his original and landmark restaurant that somehow managed to be daring and original while presenting Northwest ingredients at their most essential. Dillon didn’t offer an explanation, exactly, but said in his note: “At this mesmerizing juncture of our world, continuing Sitka’s relationship in Seattle does not make me a better father, partner, activist, employer, or friend. And that is the future. To be better.” 

In recent years, the James Beard Award–winning chef has been increasingly focused on the production of food rather than the preparation of it, and struggling with the cultural changes reshaping Seattle, the town where he grew up. Sitka’s menu also shifted considerably after former chef Logan Cox departed to open Homer.

One slight upside: Fans do have time to schedule final meals in Sitka’s charming Melrose Market dining room. The restaurant will close after its final service on New Year’s Eve. Until then, per the email, Sitka will continue as normal, "with some adjustments to our lunch hours."

The restaurant first opened 14 years ago in a tiny strip mall on Eastlake. There was a moment when Dillon considered moving it to Pioneer Square rather than its current handsome digs on Capitol Hill. Instead, he planted Sitka in the fledgling Melrose Market, and chose to open other restaurants in the city's oldest neighborhood. His realm still includes Bar Ferdinand in Chophouse Row, Pioneer Square's London Plane, Copal, and new bar Pacifica, as well as a minority stake in another singular Seattle dining institution, the Corson Building in Georgetown.

In some ways, his decision to close one of Seattle's most lauded restaurants feels like a shock to the inbox, not to mention the soul. But Matt Dillon's business decisions are equal parts economics and conviction, and in some ways I would expect nothing less of one of our city's most iconoclastic chefs. While his hometown has certainly changed, here's hoping he's not done inciting thoughtful food within its limits.