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June 3, 2013 at 2:14 PM

Blind Pig Bistro expands as strip mall meets culinary style

Eastlake photo by Dean Rutz/The Seattle Times

Eastlake photo by Dean Rutz/The Seattle Times

For years, passerbys did double-takes entering one particular restaurant in the little strip mall on Eastlake Avenue. The 22-seat space at 2238 Eastlake Ave. E. has incongruously housed an unbroken chain of some of Seattle’s best and most reasonably priced fine food, from the original Sitka & Spruce to the much-missed Nettletown to current tenants Blind Pig Bistro. (In what might have started the circle of excellence, before Sitka it was the home of Sophie’s Donuts, sharing space with the interim Boat Street Kitchen.)

Often, casual visitors would see a menu listing dishes like halibut cheeks or salads dressed in ramp-ginger vinaigrette or mackerel with chorizo. Then they would slowly back out and head instead to the right or to the left, for more predictable strip mall fare of Subway sandwiches or teriyaki chicken.

Now, though, the culinary balance is shifting. Blind Pig Bistro owners Charles Walpole and Rene Gutierrez are taking over the Eastlake Teriyaki storefront, renaming it Blind Pig at Eastlake Teriyaki. They’re designing it as a place for more casual and takeout-friendly versions of Blind Pig’s focus on “local ingredients with global techniques,” once described as “a menu by chefs for chefs—fresh, unfussy food cooked just right.”

Look for “sandwiches and soups and salads,” said Gutierrez, who will run the new place.

As Blind Pig’s popularity grew, Gutierrez said, customers worried it would outgrow the small space. They would ask “are you going to pack up and move away?” That wasn’t what they wanted to do. “I’d rather stay in one spot and make it work.” When the teriyaki shop closed, they grabbed the opportunity to expand their offerings and add another 18-20 seats.

Why keep the Eastlake Teriyaki name? As a nod to a place that, though it ultimately failed (Yelp reviewers loved the owner but panned the food and erratic hours), had been serving Seattle diners for 30 years. Ultimately, the Blind Pig owners hope to add a bar to the location, but the takeout-friendly meals will be the focus for now. They hope to open no later than early July, and plan on staying open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Friday.

They’ll keep the Eastlake Teriyaki sign up for now. “It’s a landmark. It’s been here for 30 years and we want people to realize… we can stil go to Eastlake Teriyaki. You won’t be able to get teriyaki now,” Gutierrez said.

It will, though, still be reasonably priced, if not at fast-food levels. And if diners still want to back out after reviews like this, the Subway is still open on the other side.

Comments | Topics: Blind Pig Bistro, Charles Walpole, Rebekah Denn

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