Ah, summer! You can smell the smoke from 10,000 backyard barbecues (wait, unless those are the British Columbia wildfires), so why would you even think of going inside? Well, there are more new restaurants this summer than in the past two years, so what are you waiting for? A fatter wallet? Fat chance. Here's a (partial) survey of what's new ... and what's closed.
Ballard, Fremont, Wallingford
First, while no one was watching, they managed to fix the old Kolstrand Building at the south end of Old Ballard. First tenant is Renee Erickson, of Boat Street Kitchen, whose The Walrus and the Carpenter oyster bar is now open for business, with a very pleasant patio in back overlooking the working boats moored along Shilshole Avenue. It offers several varieties of oysters (shucked ever so slowly) with interesting wines by the glass. Ethan Stowell's "replacement" restaurant for Union, Staple & Fancy Mercantile, occupies the Ballard Avenue side of the structure; opening is planned for Monday.
That bustling Wallingford spot, Cantinetta, is opening a second location in Bellevue with Tomer Shneor at the stove. Former sous chef Emran Chowdhury takes over in Wallingford. (Cantinetta's original chef, Brian Cartenuto, is now cooking at a steakhouse in Mississippi.)
La Mondellina, the Italian kitchen and deli run by the folks who own nearby Mondello and Enza Cucina Sicliana on Queen Anne, will soon become a pizzeria. You'll have to look in the window to see the Neapolitan-style pizza oven being maneuvered into place. It's temporarily closed, with no date for the reopening announced. Dish It Up, the cookware and cooking-class store in Magnolia Village, has plans for a second location in Ballard with twice as many classroom spots, to open in late October.
How to Cook a Wolf has a relatively new chef, Matt Fortner. His predecessor, Ryan Weed, moved to June in Madrona, which has the same owners as Portage back on Queen Anne, literally across the street from How to Cook a Wolf.
Official opening Friday the 13th, in the Ovio-O2-Beato-Enness restaurant graveyard on California Avenue, is Blackboard Bistro. Owner-chef is Jacob Wiegner, who's spent the past couple of years as sous-chef at Capitol Hill's Olivar. Next door, the former chef and co-owner of Harvest Vine, Joseba Jimenez de Jimenez, takes over as culinary director at The Swinery in the wake of Gabriel Claycamp's departure.
Marjorie is back in business, with a charming patio and an equally charming menu, produced by Harvest Vine alum Kylen McCarthy. Best dish: a seared foie gras. The Melrose Project (1531 Melrose) continues to grow. Sitka & Spruce has opened, with another Harvest Vine alum, Taylor Thornhill, and Bastille refugee Nick Coffee in control on nights that owner Matt Dillon is down at The Corson Building in Georgetown. There's a nifty little wine bar called Bar Ferdinand (also a Dillon project), a terrific butcher (Rain Shadow Meats), and an excellent artisan cheese shop, Calf & Kid. Coming soon (construction not yet underway) is Tamara Murphy's venture, Terra Plata, complete with rooftop dining.
Tidbit Bistro is now open at Broadway & Union, a mile and a half south of its original location. La Bete (The Best), the Tyler Moritz-Aleks Dimitrijevic venture in the old Chez Gaudy space on Melrose, will be delayed — hopefully just for a short time. Long lines were out the door at Po Dog earlier this month for a cheese-dog giveaway; there's also a new sports bar, Auto Battery, next door. Big Mario's is now open next to Caffe Vita; same owners and same owners as Via Tribunali, too. But Tribunali is all about Neapolitan pizza; Mario is Noo-Yawk style.
If you're walking along Pine, stop in and say hello to the young lady in the window at Cakespy's new retail outlet. She's Jessie Oleson, cute as a bug's ear, an original writer and talented illustrator who created a national phenomenon with her sweet-natured Cuppy character (a leftover blob of cookie dough) and user-friendly baking recipes.
Belltown, South Lake Union
Armin Moloudzadeh has left Ventana, the gaping, triangular hole of a dining room and bar on First Avenue where he was general manager of a confusing concept (Was it small plates? Shared plates? Full meals?); he joins the bar staff at Tavolata. The signs in the window say to expect a "new" Wasabi Bistro any day now, but they've been up for a couple of months now. Meantime, Japanessa Sushi Cocina (wow! what a frightening metaphor) has opened at First and Union. At Second and Denny, Barracuda is serving up $4 tacos: housemade corn tortillas filled with Mexican street delicacies like lengua (tongue) and menudo (tripe), bravo! The Local Vine, named one of the best wine bars in the country earlier this year, is now closed, moving to the Trace Lofts on Capitol Hill. Their building, the McGuire, is being torn down.
And finally, you could do a lot worse, on these fine summer evenings, than to hit the deck at one South Lake Union's "Big Six" view decks: McCormick & Schmick's Harborside, Daniel's Broiler, Duke's Chowder House, Chandler's, Joey or BlueWater Bistro. Should you find yourself at Joey (a Canadian chain, so you know they'll be polite), don't miss the Supersonic Gin & Tonic, a good, stiff drink enlivened with a refreshing glob of lemon slurpee for $5.
Elsewhere: We note with sadness, meantime, that Avila, on 45th, has closed its doors. So too has Divine, in Roosevelt. And Marcus Martini Heaven, down the stairs in the netherworld of Pioneer Square.