One of the longer running mysteries of Capitol Hill food+drink lore is moving toward a legendary new chapter. CHS has learned that an ambitious project combining the talents of a group of Capitol Hill cafe all-stars is now being planned to fill a 15th Ave E storefront that has been empty for nearly two years.
“Ethan and I have yet to sign a lease but are extremely excited about the possibility of being in the neighborhood,” Heather Earnhardt tells CHS of the project that is coming together with a plan to take over the former home of a gift and knick knack store that shuttered on 15th Ave E in early 2010.
Earnhardt is the baker who helped build Volunteer Park Cafe into one of the most popular breakfast spots in the city.
The Ethan in the equation is Ethan Stowell of Anchovies & Olives and a roster of Seattle eateries from Capitol Hill to Belltown to Queen Anne.
How he fits into the new project, exactly, isn’t yet clear — he declined comment until the deal is done. But we do know that the Earnhardt is planning to open the Wandering Goose in the space sometime this spring offering breakfast, lunch and baking and cooking classes. Stowell’s component, we’re told, would fill out the rest of the day, providing dinner and heartier lunch opportunities. Without specifics about what format his new restaurant might take, this report from summer might offer some clues as Stowell discussed his Grub Brothers Productions effort to build a series of “fast food” restaurants across the city with “five concepts: fried chicken; fish and chips; burgers and hot dogs; sandwiches; and pizza, both delivery and by the slice.” Given some past plans for the 15th Ave E location, we’re going to bet on pizza.
For those of you who clicked that last link, you’re now up to speed on the earlier chapters of the legend as CHS reported on 2010 plans for Caffe Vita to open a new cafe and pizza shop on the eastern Capitol Hill commercial strip. By the summer of 2011, it was clear those plans weren’t going anywhere.
Vita remains in the equation at the Wandering Goose, however. Mike McConnell still holds the lease on the space and will sublet it to the new entity. He is also listed as part of the corporation behind the venture. Coffee and pie baroness Dani Cone rounds out the Wandering Goose all-star team partners.
But at the helm of the Wandering Goose — in those early morning baker’s hours, at least — will be Earnhardt. It’s been only two months since we reported on the Volunteer Park Cafe co-founder’s decision to depart the 17th and Galer restaurant.
Earnhardt sent the following statement about her decision to leave VPC and the launch of the Wandering Goose:
I had an amazing six years of my life working at VPC. Ericka and I got to build the business together from the ground up and had so much fun doing so. I grew to know the neighborhood (my first apartment in Seattle was on 17th & john 15 years ago…) and fell in love with the Capitol Hill families. Things were great at VPC but I realized that there was still more that I wanted to do. I wanted to give it a go on my own and explore some new things. So I took some time personally to be with family and prepare and now am ready to move forward. My goal is to do well by the neighborhood, this community, and all of those who have been such an amazing support these past years.
As for her former partner Ericka Burke, Volunteer Park Cafe is celebrating its fifth anniversary Wednesday night. “It’s been a pretty great five years,” Burke said in a press release promoting the celebration. “I really love how the cafe has grown and look forward to many more years in the neighborhood.”
With those five year of experience behind her and an $80,000 plus buildout for the new restaurant space ahead, Earnhardt is ready to establish the Wandering Goose’s place in the neighborhood, too.
“I have an incredible group of people behind me that support and believe in me,” Earnhardt said of the new venture. “Sometimes you just know in your heart when the time is right, and you just go for it.”