The menu full of chicken wings and snacks is just about finalized; the jukebox full of vinyl is on its way. Renee Erickson and her Sea Creatures Restaurant Group will soon open a “classic, Northwest-style bar” with a Southern inflection that honors a late Portland chef dear to Erickson’s heart.
King Leroy will occupy the former home of Kiki Ramen at 2051 Seventh Avenue. Sea Creatures took on the Amazon-adjacent lunch and bar hangout when it acquired a handful of restaurants from Josh Henderson in 2018, a seismic bit of Seattle restaurant news that now feels a lifetime ago.
Kiki’s been dark since March 2020, as Erickson and business partner Jeremy Price debated what to do with the space—ramen didn't really fit the Sea Creatures oeuvre. Then, in late summer of 2020, Portland chef Cameron Addy passed away of sudden cardiac arrest. Erickson first met Addy through her husband, Dan, who sold him oysters first at the Woodsman Tavern, then Ava Gene's. "Everyone wanted to be his friend," Erickson recalls of the tall, eternally funny guy who always saw the best in people. As Portland's broader culinary community mourned, Erickson revisited her own memories: Visits to Addy and his wife, Linda. Calling him in the shutdown's early days to drink wine and catch up while she cooked. "It was so strange to have someone just disappear like that."
Memories of Addy ultimately shaped the plan for the Kiki Ramen space. Erickson called Linda to seek her blessing for a bar inspired by the chef, and named for his Southern-inflected King Leroy popups. "We knew we didn't want this place to be fancy," she says of the bar, which now boasts a darker, more moody palette than in the Kiki Ramen days, and one impressive, impeccably arranged collection of vintage Rainier and Olympia beer memorabilia.
King Leroy will be open from lunch into the evening, with a menu that centers on buckets of whole chicken wings—an Addy favorite. Also: sandwiches of blackened cod or fried bologna, jerky from Erickson's Bateau, and fun stuff to put on crackers, from pimento cheese to smoked oysters. This is definitely the first Erickson project to make its own jalapeno poppers in house.
Essentially the kitchen's using the same caliber of ingredients you'll find at Erickson's other spots to make uber-casual bar food. "These are foods that he loved," she says of her late friend. The banana milkshake on the dessert menu and the ritual of including a Dum Dum with the bill are particular tributes to Addy.
Further reinforcing this place's neo-dive status: Lots of beer, a vinyl jukebox—stocked with 90s nostalgia and much of the Sub Pop canon—and an ample supply of CB's peanuts in the shell. Booths are upholstered in the sort of sparkly vinyl you might see on a bygone boat, and old Showbox posters and alt-weekly covers rep the city in its creative heyday. Erickson picked up a few pieces of chainsaw art near her family's vacation home in Spee-Bi-Dah.
Happily, Kiki Ramen chef Jason Harris is back in the kitchen. Down the hall, Great State received its own makeover to match King Leroy...right down to the sparkly vinyl. Visitors to the bar can also order burgers from Great State while the kitchen's open, and the burger chain's hefty "boss burger" will be on King Leroy's regular menu, too.
Some proceeds from King Leroy’s sales will fund a scholarship in Addy’s name. Erickson and Price are still confirming specifics, especially with the future of Seattle Central College's culinary program still taking shape. Meanwhile, King Leroy is aiming for an early summer debut; keep tabs on the nascent website and Instagram for updates.