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Matsu, from the owners of Momiji and Umi Sake House, is now open

A new sushi restaurant called Matsu is now open in Pioneer Square in the former home of Girin, the high-end Korean steakhouse that closed June 1. The new restaurant comes from the owners of two other popular Japanese restaurants, Umi Sake House and Momiji. Matsu serves dinner and happy hour every day except Sunday, with options ranging from omakase (a chef’s choice meal) to a raw bar to sushi rolls and sashimi. The new restaurant has retained Girin’s popular Korean fried chicken wings on the menu.

Matsu (501 Stadium Place S) serves a wide variety of dishes largely centered around seafood: raw oysters with ponzu, yellowtail sashimi with yuzu ponzu, ahi tuna poke, Cajun tuna tataki, seafood gyoza, Alaskan king crab soup, fried calamari, and a long list of sushi and sashimi options. There’s also an array of rolls, most of which involve seafood but also a few non-fish vegetarian options. Yakisoba and udon noodles round things out.

The drinks menu consists of sake, original cocktails, local and Japanese beer, and wines from France, Italy, and the Northwest. Matsu has largely kept Girin’s outstanding design, with its high ceilings and polished wood, adding a few touches like lanterns and wall panels.

Matsu has big shoes to fill in the space. Girin was a James Beard Award semifinalist in the Best New Restaurant category. It was one of the country’s only producers of makgeolli, the cloudy Korean rice beer. Girin long held its own among the area’s best Korean restaurants, noted for its modern twists on classic dishes like the kalguksu with squid ink noodles and japchae with Dungeness crab. The restaurant also made a slew of excellent kimchi iterations.

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But Rebecca and Nathan Lockwood from acclaimed Altura are going to take over the space this fall

There’s about to be a major dining shakeup on Capitol Hill. After 11 years serving up fantastic seasonal fare with global influences, including an array of thalis and herbs sourced from an onsite garden, popular neighborhood stalwart Poppy will close on August 4. The restaurant’s James Beard-award winning chef Jerry Traunfeld announced that he’s taking a step back from the business and moving to Palm Springs later this year with his husband, Stephen.

“Closing Poppy and leaving our beloved Seattle community was not an easy decision,” said Traunfeld through a press release, offering gratitude to the restaurant’s employees and loyal customers. “We felt like this was the time to appreciate the run we’ve had with Poppy and end on a good note. Now is the time for us to say goodbye to our Poppy family and explore what’s next.” The last Thali Tuesday will be today, and happy hour will end Thursday.

For over a decade, Poppy drew raves and delighted customers on Broadway with Northwest ingredients weaved into Indian cuisine, including Tandoori chicken with cilantro slaw and paneer with maitake mushrooms, all bolstered by marvelous soups, spices, vegetables, and naan. During late-night happy hour, the “naanwiches” and clever cocktails made a lasting impression, and the modern Danish-style decor helped create one of Seattle’s most iconic dining rooms.

Traunfeld is leaving the space in good hands, though. Chefs Rebecca and Nathan Lockwood — owners of the acclaimed Italian restaurant Altura across the street — purchased the spot and are going to open up a new place called Carrello this fall. According to Seattle Met, the Lockwoods’ project will be more rustic and have larger main pasta dishes than Altura, along with food carts that will carry Italian snacks (think salumi and antipasti).

Meanwhile, Traunfeld’s other restaurant on Capitol Hill, Sichuan spot Lionhead, will continue to operate, according to a rep.

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San Kai will feature omakase from former Kisaku owner Ryuichi Nakano

Sushi lovers in Edmonds are about to get a treat. San Kai — a new restaurant from star sushi chef Ryuichi Nakano — is planning to open up downtown on Fourth Avenue North in late September or early October. San Kai co-owner Shubert Ho tells Eater Seattle that the new place will feature a seasonal omakase experience in an intimate setting, with seating for 30 and natural wood accents. “It’ll be good for date night, but families are welcome too,” Ho says, adding that the permit process is going smoothly so far.

Chef Nakano is well known in the Seattle area for Tangletown’s Kisaku, a popular spot for excellent omakase at a reasonable price (it appears on Eater Seattle’s list of best sushi restaurants). After selling Kisaku last October, Nakano eyed Edmonds for his next project and met Ho through a mutual acquaintance. The pairing should prove to be an effective one, since Ho and his business partner Andrew Leckie have plenty of experience in the neighborhood, opening well-received spots such as Bar Dojo and the seafood-focused Market.

Edmonds is also well known for its excellent Asian food, although many of the best restaurants in the area focus on noodles, hot pot, dim sum, or Korean fried chicken. The addition of a destination sushi spot to the mix will surely be welcome.

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Beast and Cleaver will sling meat pies and sausages, with ingredients from local farms

Good news for Ballard carnivores. A new whole animal butcher shop and kitchen called Beast and Cleaver is in the works on 80th Street, right across the street from Cafe Munir. Owner Kevin Smith — a London native who has worked for the swanky, acclaimed steakhouse The Butcher’s Table — promises that the spot will have plenty of pates, sausages, and terrines, as well as premium cuts of meat from local farms. He aims to open the shop by October, depending on how construction goes.

Like other hybrid butcher shops like The Shambles and The Ruby Brink, expect Beast and Cleaver to serve meals and drinks, albeit in a limited capacity at first. Smith tells Eater Seattle he plans to have a lunch menu on weekends, then host a 10-12 seat dinner on Saturday night to showcase the shop’s best cuts. That will likely include several small courses with fermented foods, vegetables, wine, and beer. Says Smith, “I want it to be a family run neighborhood butcher shop with as many local and sustainable products as possible.”

Those who follow Smith on Instagram can get a preview of what may be to come at the new place, including a beef, oyster and ale pies, and a krumkake, lamb tartare, black walnuts and pickled apple concoction.

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OutWest will close after service on Sunday, July 21

OutWest, West Seattle’s only LGBTQ+ bar, will close after service on Sunday, July 21. The bar has been in business for eight years, building a strong following for its karaoke nights, poker games, drag performances, professional sports viewings, and other theme nights.

OutWest owner Bob Lunke told the West Seattle Blog that several factors led to the decision to close, including rising operating costs and increased competition. Lunke noted the building’s owners also have “other plans” for the site, though those plans aren’t yet specified.

Before the bar (5401 California Avenue SW) shuts down, there are a few events planned to close things out in style. This Saturday, July 20, there’s a “Last Dance” party starting at 9 p.m., with the promise of “blow out specials” and “more surprises to come.” Then, on Sunday, the last day in business, there will be discounted booze to help clear the shelves.

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The opening will mark the third Tavolàta for the restaurateur, who also operates locations in Belltown and Capitol Hill

Prominent Seattle restaurateur Ethan Stowell, whose restaurant group owns more than a dozen spots throughout the city, will soon add another to the portfolio. Stowell will open a Tavolàta Italian restaurant late this year inside a new building downtown, expanding on a popular format that was born in Belltown. Stowell also operates a Tavolàta on Capitol Hill.

The upcoming restaurant will be located in a new building at Second and University called 2+U, from developer Skanska. Tavolàta will sit in the building’s “Urban Village,” a collection of restaurants, arts, entertainment, and retail spots.

Tavolàta will cover 2,232 square feet, including a full bar, private dining areas, and outdoor seating. The menu will be similar to the Belltown original, with handmade pastas, fresh vegetables, pizzas, and hearty proteins, along with Northwest and Italian wines and a cocktail list using seasonal ingredients.

Ethan Stowell Restaurants opened its first Tavolàta in Belltown in 2007, adding the Capitol Hill location in 2016. The restaurant marked Stowell’s first foray into the modern Italian food that’s now become somewhat of a signature. Both existing restaurants have large communal tables at their center; “tavolàta” means “table” in Italian, after all. The new downtown version will likely include this aspect as well.

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Roquette opens with twists on classic drinks

Say bonjour to Roquette. The highly anticipated new Belltown bar with a French theme from acclaimed bartender Erik Hakkinen quietly opened to the public last week next to Local 360 on First Avenue, with a handful of cocktails and wines on the menu. Currently, patrons can sip on concoctions such as a Francofied version of a mai tai made with cognac, rum, and pineapple, a Citadelle gin negroni, and an apple brandy old fashioned.

A more robust cocktail list will come soon, along with small bites that should include seafood tins, chicharron, and a fancy version of beef jerky. Also on the horizon: happy hour highballs and some non-alcoholic options infused with CBD.

The new spot was inspired by Hakkinen’s time spent in Paris when he was in his 20s, although the decor skews more tropical (in the spirit of overseas French territories), with palm tree murals on the walls, moody lighting, and snug booths. It also follows an increasing trend in the neighborhood toward more upscale boozy experiences: Ben Paris and Aerlume opened up this year, and Bathtub Gin and Co. still holds down the speakeasy fort. Good news for downtown bar hoppers getting fatigued with the beer and dive vibe.

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Galaxy Rune serves cheeseburgers, pulled pork, and chili cheese hotdogs, all free of real meat

Claiming to specialize in “vegan food for non-vegans,” Galaxy Rune serves a fast food menu of burgers, hot dogs, and pulled pork — all free of actual meat. The new Fremont restaurant makes almost all of its fake meat in house, along with its burger buns and ice cream.

Owner Joshua Garner had tried unsuccessfully to crowdfund his new restaurant (3601 Fremont Ave N) via Kickstarter, but managed to get the business off the ground anyway. Garner, who named the restaurant after his daughters Ithilien Galaxy and Ophelia Rune, makes the vegan meat products from a range of ingredients: vital wheat gluten, tofu, textured vegetable protein, flours (soy, garbanzo bean, corn, etc.), beans (black, navy, white), nuts (cashew, walnut, peanut), fungi (nutritional yeast, bakers yeast, various mushrooms), and yogurt bacteria.

Garner claims it’s all much better than the insanely popular vegan burger patties on the market right now, the Impossible Burger — which he calls “small, spongy, and lacking in flavor,” and the Beyond Burger, which “is like cat food that improves a little when cooked.” Instead, he says his homemade “beef” burger looks, tastes, and chews like real meat.

Menu options range from a bacon cheeseburger to chili cheese fries to a pulled pork sandwich. There’s also a Dole pineapple whip and shakes on the sweeter side of things. A few gluten free options are also available.

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The new menu will be available starting July 21

Ballard denizens are about to get a delightfully wacky new brunch. Sawyer — the inventive and eclectic spot from rock star chef Mitch Mayers that opened last summer — is about to add the meal to its repertoire on July 21. As those familiar with the restaurant might expect, the brunch menu (available on Sundays, from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.) puts some playful spins on classic dishes, whether it’s American diner food, Mexican, or Asian cuisine. That means offerings such as cinnamon roll monkey bread with cream cheese frosting, cherry upside down pancakes with sprinkles, scones with foie butter, breakfast nachos, and udon noodles with pastrami, shrimp, gai lon, and scrambled eggs.

There will also be a host of creative cocktails, including the Champion of Breakfasts (bourbon with hot coffee and fernet whipped cream) and bloody mary options in gin and sake forms. For those looking for something a little less boozy, the Tea and Tonic with plum rose oolong and citrus peel might be more their speed.

Sawyer — a 2019 James Beard Award semifinalist for Best New Restaurant — has earned plenty of critical kudos for its familiar-yet-fun food with a heavy Pacific Northwest influence and a well-designed space that was once a sawmill. But in an increasingly-crowded Ballard restaurant scene, getting to the brunch crowd seems essential, especially since nearby Bitterroot BBQ, Bastille Cafe and Bar, Stoneburner, and the popular Thai spot Pestle Rock all open early on the weekends. Maybe Mayers’s quirky dishes and drinks can stand out from the pack.

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Palomino in Bellevue has closed, but Restaurants Unlimited’s other Seattle spots remain open for now

One restaurant group with a big Seattle imprint looks to be in dire financial straits. Restaurants Unlimited Inc. — which has headquarters in the city and operates 35 restaurants across six states, including the popular Henry’s Tavern, Palomino, and Cutters Crabhouse in Seattle — filed for bankruptcy on Sunday. According to Bloomberg, the company cited minimum wage hikes in three states (Washington, Oregon, and California), two recent openings that did not fare well, and a general trend away from casual dining among the factors behind its decision. Though Palomino in Bellevue recently closed, the other Seattle-based restaurants will remain open for now. “We will continue to evaluate the performance of all of our restaurants in the normal course of business,” a rep for Restaurants Unlimited tells Eater Seattle. “However, there are no immediate plans for any additional store closings in Seattle.”

While never among the most trendiest restaurants in the city, Henry’s Tavern, Palomino (which has a location downtown), and Cutters all have prime real estate, with the Occidental Avenue Henry’s a popular spot to grab a drink before games at CenturyLink Field and T-Mobile Park (the chain expanded to South Lake Union and Bellevue in recent years). Restaurants Unlimited also runs the waterside seafood spot Maggie Bluffs overlooking Elliott Bay, as well as the gastropub Stanford’s Restaurant and Bar in Northgate, and maintains a strong presence in Portland.

The bankruptcy filing is one way the group hopes to keep its remaining restaurants in business while it works through its money issues. After a failed attempt to sell the company in 2016 fell through, Restaurants Unlimited reportedly has just $150,000 cash on hand and is behind on payments to landlords and vendors. It employs 1,885 part-timers, 168 full-time restaurant staff, and 50 salaried employees at its Seattle headquarters.

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