Soon-to-be diners cluster on the sidewalk along Northeast 65th outside JuneBaby, Edouardo Jordan’s popular, mostly no-reservations Southern restaurant in Ravenna. Even early on a weeknight, walking past its entrance can feel like hop-scotching through a crowd unwilling to step aside lest they increase their distance from the host stand and, presumably, their wait time.
One door down, his Lucinda Grain Bar is similarly busy, though the customers huddled by the large window and at the four-seat bar are too busy with their smoked lagers and barley old-fashioneds to mind the close quarters, unflustered by time instead of imprisoned by it until a table frees up at JuneBaby. Jordan conceived of Lucinda last December when the space opened up, affording him a huge commissary kitchen. He turned the street-facing area into a bar that celebrates ancient grains: pastrami on teff ciabatta bread, chicken liver mousse atop cashew-millet crackers, even a genuinely decadent whole grain brownie.
The concept of opening spillover bars isn’t new, but this year we’ve seen an unusual concentration of them from big-deal chefs. Though mostly the result of happenstance, this series of drinking dens possess their own personas, distinct from their mother ships next door.
“I’m really into that idea of a critical mass of restaurants,” says Brendan McGill. His Bar Hitchcock on Bainbridge Island is the third spot in a literal row to bear the Hitchcock name; when the shoe store that flanked the deli to the right closed, he seized the opportunity. Since McGill’s deli has little in the way of seating, customers in search of a sandwich can “walk across the hall and kick it a little bit,” he says, at the attached bar and all-day cafe. Or just head there straightaway to camp out with a laptop and tartine, or nurse a beer and chow down on a half chicken at the minimalist bar. The adjacency also improved matters for his staff, who now access the basement wine cellar via a staircase, rather than a quick run around the block. Ah, the pragmatic perks to absorbing nearby square footage.
Mutsuko Soma wasn’t thinking about opening a bar either. She was still running Kamonegi, receiving national accolades for the soba at her Fremont restaurant, when the cafe two doors down became available. “They moved out [and] I was like, ‘Oh perfect, they have a beautiful patio.’” In May, she opened sake-focused Hannyatou, where her passion for the rice wine shines. Ditto her whimsical way with snacky bar food (Spam and chicken liver mousse, smoked cod liver delivered in a tin, beside fanned saltines). Beyond being a boozy play zone, Hannyatou offered Soma the real estate to build a fermentation shed for various miso experiments; here she ferments breakfast staples like Cocoa Puffs and jalapeno-cheddar bagels. The best part, she says, “I’m not stretching myself too much. It’s easy for me to go back and forth.”
The same is true for diners, when the evening calls for a bar stop before dinner. Though all these newcomers are places where you’re more than happy to stay put. “Sometimes you don’t want to have a big, many-course meal,” says McGill. “Sometimes you want a sherry and a little jamon.”