Just how long has the Coastal Kitchen been a fixture on Capitol Hill?
“I’ve known people who have had their first dates here, and now their kids are in college. It’s crazy,” said owner Jeremy Hardy.
It’s been almost 20 years, for those who are counting, and Hardy’s celebrating with a complete remodel. The biggest changes customers might notice: A new marble-topped oyster bar, presenting a mix of complementary tastes and types. Then, there’ll be a new cocktail bar going in across the room (the oyster bar takes the place of the old one), with two wells instead of the single one they’ve made do with for two decades, speeding up drink delivery to the entire room. Look for sidewalk seating too.
Less sexy but also necessary changes include replacing the kitchen floor — “that’s the one thing we got a standing ovation from the staff on…they’re all excited about having a flat kitchen floor” — plus painting the entire building and making other cosmetic fixes. (Maybe our fond review noting dings and scuff marks hit a nerve? The one from 10 years ago?)
Even more noteworthy for me is the Coastal’s new chef, Jason Jones, formerly of Poppy and the now-shuttered Jones Bistro (“fine food without fine dining.”) I’d check out a restaurant on his name alone. The fish-errific focus of the place will remain, as will successful standards like “breakfast for dinner,” but it will shift from quarterly rotating themed menus to three per year, giving staffers more time to research and develop and do their best work. (Besides, Hardy notes, the menus change with the seasons, and Seattle only really has three seasons: Cold, wet, and then two months of summer.)
Why an oyster bar?
“I love oysters. I absolutely love oysters. I’ve loved oysters for decades,” Hardy said before construction began this week.
“I worked for McCormick’s for many years when I was younger, and remember trying to talk Bill McCormick into opening small neighborhood oyster houses. He hated the idea, said you couldn’t make money at it.” (Oops.)
“When you taste a brilliant oyster that’s well-shucked and briny, and the meat of the oyster is nice and firm, it’s absolutely sublime… I’ve sailed my whole life, it has that kind of freshness.”
Here’s the schedule:
The place will stay open for construction now through the afternoon of Sept. 23. (Dine there during that time, and for every meal you’ll get $5 credit on a “Punch List” card that you can use to eat at the remodeled restaurant. (Get the construction joke? C’mon, this is from one of the men who brought you the Beeliner Diner).
From 3 p.m. Sept. 23 through the week of Oct. 8, the Coastal will be closed. The exact date for the grand reopening will be set by Oct. 5.
The Coastal remodel is enough to keep Hardy busy through 2012; the next plan is to open new branches of Mioposto, his pizza joint across from a fabulous Mount Baker park. “The beautiful thing is, it doesn’t require 100,000 people. you can do it in smaller neighborhoods of 18,000, we could do one on Mercer Island — I could never do a Coastal Kitchen on Mercer Island, because it wouldn’t support it. All over town there are great neighborhoods it could go in.”
Speaking of timing, it’s also hard to believe it’s been three years since the split between Hardy and longtime “Chow Foods” business partner Peter Levy. But thats amicable (really) divorce is going pretty well too. “You get to follow your own instincts…” Hardy said. “Peter is a great guy and a really good operator, but with two people your vision is a bit split or shared…For me, (this way) is more fun. I’m more engaged in the restaurant business than I’ve ever been.”
Photo of the Coastal Kitchen storefront, pre-remodel, courtesy of Jeremy Hardy