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April 28, 2009 at 3:30 PM

Big names in biz collaborate at Ballard’s Bastille Cafe & Bar

For months, people have been talking about the transformation of yet another historic Ballard building (sold last year) and the French restaurant set to open in it — after a couple of Seattle restaurant entrepreneurs shelled out $3.62 million to seal the deal. Now, with contractors hard at it, a liquor license application in the works and an opening date slated for “early summer,” it’s high time somebody dished the details. Here goes:

Bastille Cafe & Bar, built in the husk of the old Obermaier Machine Works building at 5307 Ballard Avenue, is set to be this year’s Major Restaurant Opening. Owners are Caffe Fiore’s Deming Maclise and James Weimann. Weimann started small when he opened Fremont’s Triangle Lounge (in 1992), with El Camino quick on its heels. He’s since had a hand in bringing us Mexican eats in Queen Anne (Peso’s), Thai food in Wallingford (May Restaurant and Lounge) and Italian fare in West Seattle (Talarico’s).

To run the kitchen, oversee the brasserie-style menu and act as operations manager of Bastille, the business partners have brought on chef Shannon Galusha — late of Veil, and later still of 727 Pine:

Shannon Galusha (photo by Bruce Carroll)

“A couple of people have asked me, `Why a cafe?’ after the things you’ve been doing the past few years,” says Galusha. “There’s nothing wrong with cooking good food. In the past, my food has been refined and progressive, but that doesn’t define quality by any means. I have no problem cooking a cheeseburger.”

Or, in the case of Bastille, a lamb-burger and frites, bien sur. After all, the chef’s very French credits include stints at Pike Place Market’s Campagne, Yountville’s French Laundry and Paris’ Rue Balzac. Nor does Galusha have a problem preparing such classics as wine-braised short ribs with pot au feu vegetables, or poulet roti — set to be a house specialty and available at a take-out window. Yes: take-out window. You’ll also be taking-out baguette sandwiches and sorbet — among other French classics offered daily (and sold, if things go accordingly, during Ballard Sunday Farmers Market hours.)

Galusha’s on the look-out for “a tremendous amount” of kitchen staff as we speak, seeing as the restaurant will seat 55 in the dining room, 60 in the Bastille bar (set to house a 45-foot custom zinc-top bar), and another 50 for Back Bar — built as an “independent libation destination” (think: Sambar, only bigger), offering late night-eats every day. (And did I mention a heated outdoor patio, set to seat 40?)

He has made one important hire: Jason Stoneburner, known for his tenure (and fine work) at Union and star-turn at How to Cook a Wolf. “I’ve very excited to be working with him again,” says Galusha, who shared kitchen space with his new sous-chef at Campagne and “any time I popped in to help out Ethan.”

And speaking of Campagne, guess who’s coming to dinner — and helping design the wine list, aiding with the behind-the-scenes operating systems and interviewing and training the front-of-the-house staff? Peter Lewis: Campagne’s Francophiliphic founder, former owner, freelance writer and soon-to-be-published novelist, whose first novel (working title, “Down to the Dregs”) is a murder-mystery set in Napa Valley and Burgundy. Why’s he on board? “Because the project is fabulous, the owners are terrific and the timing was perfect”:

Peter Lewis, yukking it up in the kitchen at Cafe Campagne (Seattle Times photo: Mike Siegel)

“Deming and James went to France last November to search for beautiful furnishings and fixtures with which to fill the space,” says Lewis. “And they came back with a treasure-trove of gorgeous objects: an old clock, Paris Metro tile, light fixtures. The restaurant is going to be stunning.” What’s more, he says, “The menu is a classic: traditional French bistro fare mixed with something you don’t often see — little dishes that you typically find at the foodstalls of outdoor markets in Paris or the French countryside, things like falafel and slices of pissaladiere.” Once Bastille opens, Lewis says, “I’ll be around to make sure that guests have a wonderful time.”

Meanwhile, Galusha’s having a wonderful time in Ballard. “I’ve been here every day since December,” he says, “helping to build their vision of the design” — which includes 5000-square feet of rooftop garden space constructed with the help of Colin McCrate of Seattle Urban Farm Company:

Gardener Colin McCrate, of Seattle Urban Farm in 2008 (Seattle Times photo: Mike Siegel)

To start, they’re putting in 18 raised beds, though the roof has the capacity to double in size, garden-wise. “It’ll start out with a lot of herbs, full-sun items like arugula and basil, and hopefully all the lettuce we’ll be using in the restaurant,” Galusha says. Planting begins next week.

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