There’s a lot going on in The Junction — not just, oh, say, visits from the governor, but also, a thriving business district gearing up for the holidays. In fact, the West Seattle Junction Association just rejoined WSB as a sponsor to launch its “Live Local” campaign (more about that here, and in a WSB shopping-season preview tomorrow). Then, there’s the movement to “Eat Local,” and that’s where today’s story comes in. The photo above shows the ground floor of Harbor Properties‘ Mural, on 42nd SW across from Jefferson Square. That particular space, the northeast quadrant of its first floor, will become the home next year of Fresh Bistro, a new restaurant from the folks behind West Seattle-based caterers Herban Feast. A few months after news of the new restaurant emerged, we met with proprietor BJ Duft at the site recently to get the newest details about what’s in the works — from the food (with a chef from legendary Canlis!) to the hours (good news for night owls) to the innovative plan for takeout:
Duft had just finalized the logo for Fresh Bistro days before we talked – so that day, he was carrying a big copy of it, and shortly afterward, a sign with the logo went up on the north fence at the Mural site. Once Mural is complete early next year, he gets three months to move into the restaurant space and transform it.
Harbor Properties approached him about opening a restaurant in the space, Duft says, even though they apparently had received a flood of inquiries from others — including chains. But he’s 100 percent local. Thought Herban Feast opened its event venue Sodo Park some months back, the company is still based in the Admiral District, and Duft is a West Seattle resident, so: “If I was going to do a restaurant, we’re well-enough known in West Seattle to have pretty good success.”
Besides, he acknowledges, “Neighborhood dining is hot!”
Fresh Bistro’s name is a nod to the kind of food Duft plans to offer — local organic produce, Farmers’ Market type offerings, cheeses, nuts. It’s a niche he doesn’t see many other West Seattle restaurants serving right now — maybe Eats Market Cafe, he allows. But it won’t be “mega-fancy or pricey,” and he says service will be in the Herban Feast catering service tradition, practiced by the dozens of workers who work for HF on-call: “Interactive, fun, non-standoffish .. even at our Sodo event center, we liken it to a giant living room.”
He also plans to offer what he calls gourmet express takeout — in reusable “ecotainers” with deposits — take your food home in the container, bring it back to get your deposit refunded. There will be a separate entrance with its own kitchen-side window so that takeout customers don’t have to navigate a crowd of sit-down diners; they’ll prepay over the phone. (Duft thinks this is likely to appeal to the residents of Mural and other nearby apartments, particularly young singles who might even choose to get Fresh Bistro takeout a few times a week.)
Duft plans to have Fresh Bistro open 7 days a week — lunch Monday-Friday, weekend brunch, dinner till at least 11 pm (good news for hungry West Seattle night owls), plus cooking classes during the day on Sunday. “They’ll feature our chefs, I might teach sometimes, we’ll be partnering with vendors …” Speaking of their chefs, the Fresh Bistro chef and general manager, reporting to Duft’s corporate executive chef Dalis Chea, will be Jeff Taton, best known for his work at Canlis (read about him on the Canlis website).
Though Duft reiterates that priciness is not the point here, the cuisine will be anything but boring — featuring some Herban Feast catering classics, such as their popular crab cakes. Also, a sample menu that he has been handing out lists “sauteed baby fennel salad with crispy garlic and dill-crusted salmon belly,” “mustard and honey-glazed braised short ribs served over a sweet potato puree and topped with lightly sauteed brussel sprout greens,” and “orange and thyme shortbread ice cream sandwich with a roasted pistachio and chocolate gelato.”
Herbs will figure into the cocktails, too – cinnamon basil martinis, for example.
As for the decor – in a nod to the theme of the Mural building, meant as homage to the murals of The Junction (see the West Seattle 101 on WSB story here), Duft plans “some murals of the farms we buy from.” He promises the dining space, seating about 70 total, is “not going to be a big box – there will be vignette areas, intimate and cozy,” with earth tones and natural wood elements. The kitchen will be open; there will be a private room for up to 16 to have lunch or dinner privately, available by reservation. (The rest of Fresh Bistro will accept reservations as well; Duft says you’ll be able to make reservations online.)
And there will be a heated patio — a nice feature considering that if all goes well, Fresh Bistro should be open just in time for summer ’09; Duft is hoping to be serving his first guests there by June 1st.
WSB coverage of West Seattle restaurant news is archived here, newest to oldest; other restaurants known to be in the works for West Seattle include Cafe Revo (opening soon in the former Murphy’s space in the Luna Park district) and Zeeks Pizza (which, as we reported two months ago, is opening next year in the former Corner Inn space in Morgan Junction).