All of the Fancy Toast

Bastille's Permanent Closure Makes Way for Counter-Service Sabine

Los Angeles hotspots like Sqirl and Gjusta inspire the bistro's next chapter.

By Allecia Vermillion October 22, 2020

The space awaits final touches, but Bastille's ornate dining room transitions surprisingly well to coffee and counter service.

In 2009, Bastille opened on Ballard Avenue to a level of breathless anticipation that was still a new phenomenon when it came to restaurants. Now, the owners of the reliably great bistro say they are retiring Bastille for good. James Weimann and Deming Maclise will turn the space into Sabine Cafe Bar and Market in the front part of the huge space, with a setup more geared toward our current reality, and the one that will one day replace our ongoing state of corona-focused existence.

Bastille closed its doors when the shutdown happened in March and hadn’t reopened since. “When you’re talking about takeout, we just couldn’t see the translation for people,” says co-owner Deming Maclise of the decidedly plated menu of moules frites and onion soup gratinee. Back in spring, a rapid-fire pivot to a more portable genre “was seeming not very genuine.”

Sabine will be a mostly daytime counter-service spot that combines Maclise’s coffee bona fides with a menu of seemingly simple plates (toasts, bowls, sandwiches) that benefit from a ton of thoughtful, housemade details. “We need more of those kinds of places,” says Maclise. He makes fairly regular visits to LA (at least, pre-pandemic) and often ends up at considered counter service places like Sqirl and Gjusta. “They really have this format down.”

The initial plan was to turn the menu over to Jason Stoneburner, but the company’s partner chef had enough to do overseeing the company’s other spots—Seaplane in Kenmore, his eponymous restaurant across Ballard Avenue, and newcomer Sunny Hill, which Stoneburner co-owns as an outside venture. Given Maclise's LA love, it’s not terribly surprising the chef who wowed him and his partners arrived via Southern California.

Jacob Dunkelberger started his career in places like Spinasse and Portage Bay Cafe, but was most recently chef at the Middle Eastern–toned Jaffa in Los Angeles. He applies similar notes (and lots of fermented ones) to the menu at Sabine. Morning cinnamon rolls might be rolled in cardamom and pistachio and iced with coconut milk jam; lunchtime bowls will layer crispy rice and herb pesto over lacto-fermented shaved root vegetables. A breakfast sandwich turns brisket pastrami into a spread, a la bacon jam, paired with a fried egg and spicy greens. Why yes, there will be many a fancy toast on house-baked bread, but Maclise is in particular awe of Dunkelberger’s malawach, a layered Yemenite Jewish flatbread.

Weimann and Maclise have reimagined Bastille’s main dining room, so customers can order at the counter for takeaway, or settle in at one of the two patios or in the dining room. Come dinner, Sabine will put out roasted chickens with spreads like zhoug or whipped garlic, and serve a focused cocktail list. A market section will sell jars of chili crisp and other pantry items. Coffee beans most definitely included.

As the shiny La Marzocco can attest, coffee is also at the forefront here. Maclise also owns Caffe Fiore—and, as of this year, Caffe Vita. With the lease expiring on Fiore's Ballard location, he's making its pandemic shutdown permanent and relocating that coffee firepower around the block into Sabine. Here, the blue wainscoted counter will dispense oat milk nitro lattes and golden milk, alongside traditional espresso and cold brew.

Ornate as Bastille’s dining room was, it transitions with surprising grace to this counter setup, with help from a new sidewalk-facing window. Maclise hired Sabine's general manager, Kathryn Meyer, more than a decade ago at Caffe Fiore at Queen Anne; she returned to Seattle after working in Las Vegas’s hospitality industry. The day Meyer expressed interest in running Sabine, says Maclise, “Was the day I knew for sure we'd do it, because she was going to make it amazing."

Sabine, named for Maclise’s eldest daughter, plans to open on Wednesday, October 28; the website should soon go live for updates. Down the road, says Maclise, the back bar will reopen with a new, separate identity. For now though, he’s happy to give Ballard Avenue a much-needed daytime spot. “Bastille has had its day and now this is what we want to do for the foreseeable future."

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