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January 4, 2010 at 11:36 AM

Emmer & Rye finds a home at Julia’s on Queen Anne

Chef Seth Caswell is ringing in the New Year with good news. After setting his sights on neighborhoods from South Lake Union to South of the Market, losing his big investor and readjusting his grand vision of a LEED-certified restaurant, he’s finally found home for the long anticipated restaurant he’s named emmer&rye. You may recognize the address atop Queen Anne Hill as the 100-year-old Victorian that’s presently home to Julia’s.

Caswell takes the reins at 1825 Queen Anne Avenue North from restaurant owners Karsten Betd and Eladio Preciado — who dropped a half million bucks on the place in 2007, turning what was a former law office into their fourth Julia’s restaurant. “The plan is to close Julia’s on January 20 and to reopen as emmer&rye with my staff, food and decor on February 1,” Caswell says. “Initially, emmer&rye will be opening as a 70-seat restaurant serving dinner seven nights and brunch on the weekends (think faro fries with wild mushrooms and poached eggs).” “It’s a short time for the flip, but there in not a lot of physical work to be done, and I hope to accomplish a lot prior to January 20.”

Chef Seth Caswell will be keeping busy on Queen Anne with emmer&rye (photo courtesy Seattle Chefs Collaborative).

As president of Seattle Chefs Collaborative and former chef-exec at Greenwood’s Stumbling Goat Bistro, it will come as no surprise to those who know Caswell’s work that his menu will bear the tagline “seasonally inspired, locally derived” (see sample menu here). In addition to featuring the best of our local farms, waters and artisanal producers, he plans to keep prices affordable, noting, “a table of four can taste everything on the menu for about $25 per person.”

Julia’s second-story offers seating for an additional 100 guests, says Caswell, who intends to use that space “from day one” for private dining, special events, wine tastings and community gatherings of a non-profit nature. His “phase two” plans for the second floor — to be carried out “four to six months down the line” — include creating a true bar (there’s a service bar downstairs where seasonal spirits will be concocted) and an upstairs deck (eight outdoor tables ring the lower level in warm weather). Speaking of spirits, “I hear there is a ghost that lives upstairs,” Caswell says, adding, “the current staff call her Matilda.”

True enough, insisted Karsten Bedt when we spoke this morning. “There is a ghost. She sweeps the floor. Several of our employees have seen her both late at night and early in the morning. She’s a nice ghost, but she scares people.”

Karsten Betd upstairs in the private dining room at Julia’s on Queen Anne. Spooky! (Seattle Times photo by Josh Nash)

That said, it’s not the unpaid janitorial help sweeping Julia’s off Queen Anne, according to Bedt: it’s the economy. “It’s not busy enough up here for Julia’s to maintain the restaurant,” he insists. And rather than close up shop and take a loss on his half-million-dollar investment, he and Preciado felt it was in their best interest to turn the place over to someone whose ideas for a restaurant better suits the neighborhood.

“We’re very excited to work with Seth,” says Bedt. “He’s been trying to open a restaurant and we are here with a restaurant — one that isn’t working that well. That’s one of the advantages of a small business-owner these days: you have to be very flexible, not stuck on a concept that doesn’t work.” After a local restaurant consultant did some matchmaking, says Bedt, they were convinced they’d found the right partner to do their Queen Anne Victorian proud.

“We tasted his menu a couple weeks ago and were absolutely amazed. It’s not over-the-top or indefinable, it’s very down-to-Earth. You can see and taste what you’re eating. It’s not just fancy words on a fancy plate. It’s a concept we absolutely love.”

As for the remaining Julia’s? “It’s been a tough year and a half,” admits Betd, who bought the original Julia’s from his former employer, Julia Miller, in 1993 and has since expanded the brand. “We’ve lost double-digits over previous years. Some weeks are good, some bad, but we’re still here in Seattle and we’re planning to stay here. Hopefully, customers will come back in the new year.”

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