The London Plane Will Close in December
A restaurant seminal to Pioneer Square’s revival—not to mention our city’s general dining landscape—will say goodbye after a decade. The London Plane’s owners, Yasuaki Saito and Katherine Anderson, announced they will close their restaurant after Christmas Eve.
Of course, the London Plane has always been more than a cafe. Its aspirationally attractive walls contain Anderson's flower shop, a bakery, and a particularly handsome larder. The place carries civic significance as well.
Ten years ago, Anderson and chef Matt Dillon shaped the vision of this space on the Occidental Mall. The industrial-farmhouse aesthetic. The lunchtime menu of artful salads, rich spreads, and perfect pastries was memorable and arresting. But planting a triumphant dining destination in the city’s oldest, oft-maligned neighborhood in 2013? That was straight-up revolutionary.
The London Plane became an avatar of Pioneer Square’s rebirth. It remained an affirming neighborhood anchor, even as some of our most complex civic issues manifested outside its tall glass doors. In 2021, Anderson wrote candidly about the challenges of operating a business that is also on the front lines of the neighborhood’s struggle to support mentally ill and unhoused residents. Not to mention the struggle to survive during the pandemic, especially during the early, shutdown stages when foot traffic in our city center became scarce.
Dillon is still technically a partner, but now Anderson and Saito run the business, every bit as compelling as it was a decade ago. London Plane’s 10-year lease comes to an end soon, they explain in an email newsletter.
“We’ve given it our all and just can’t make it work anymore,” Saito told me. He and Anderson have a few ideas for “forging onward,” he says, but they’re still figuring out feasibility. They still hope someone worthy will materialize to take over the space (which happens to be one of the most attractive dining rooms in town) and continue what they built.
The final day of service is December 24. “It will be so hard to leave an empty space in a neighborhood we care about,” Saito and Anderson wrote in their announcement. They enumerate reasons that are not a surprise: The ongoing struggle of the pandemic—and of staffing. An untenable balance of visitors versus costs. “The stress of negotiating with and helping people in crisis in Pioneer Square were physically and emotionally hard on our staff.”
Saito is also a partner in Post Alley Pizza and Saint Bread. But let’s hope those plans to forge London Plane onward in some fashion materialize into something.
I’m not entirely comfortable saying the London Plane helped revitalize Pioneer Square; our original neighborhood never stopped being vital. I am comfortable saying I will miss this place like hell.