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Capitol Hill food+drink | Renee Erickson sets sail on Capitol Hill project — Bar Melusine, Bateau, and General Porpoise

Erickson doing some shucking (Images: The Whale Wins)

Erickson doing some shucking (Images: The Whale Wins)

One of the biggest names in Pacific Northwest restaurants will open her first Capitol Hill project inside a massive Pike/Pine preservation incentive-powered development.

Renee Erickson, an all-star chef who has grown her fleet of restaurants, a food truck and catering business, and, now, a cookbook into a Seattle-based food+drink brand, is behind a new venture lined up for the Broadstone Capitol Hill development under construction — and preserving the facades of two auto row-era buildings — on E Union between 10th and 11th.

A representative for the food and drink project declined to speak on the record with CHS about the new 4,500 square-foot Erickson venue. UPDATE 1/13/15: A press release about the new project — actually, two separate concepts — has been added, below.

Broadstone Capitol Hill will feature a whopping 250 residential units and more than 12,000 square feet of commercial space. The Ankrom Moisan-designed project will climb to seven stories in the two main portions of the new buildings above the facades of the former Davis Hoffman building and the old headquarters of Madison Park Greetings.

An artist rendering of how the old Madison Park Greetings building Erickson's project will call home is being integrated with new construction

An artist rendering of how the old Madison Park Greetings building Erickson’s project will call home is being integrated with new construction (Rendering by Ankrom Moisan)

Workers had to disassemble the Davis Hoffman facade and rebuild it brick by brick after it was discovered the existing masonry work could not be preserved. The building is being planned to open in two phases starting this spring. Lease rates were asked at $38 per square foot. A parking garage for more than 100 vehicles is being built below the development.

Rendering by Ankrom Moisan

Rendering by Ankrom Moisan

Erickson’s new venture will share the E Union side of the giant project with another restaurant planned to be a new Thai offering for the neighborhood weighing in at 3,200 square feet. The new Thai restaurant will nestle into the former facade of the Davis Hoffman building at 10th and Union while Erickson’s new home will share Madison Park Greetings building’s old bricks on Union at 11th.

The name of Erickson’s project is currently listed as “General Porpoise” — the same as her catering business — but it’s not clear if that brand will be used on the new project. Erickson’s existing restaurants and bars all share a nautical theme starting with her Boat Street Cafe and including the The Walrus and the Carpenter, The Whale Wins, Barnacle, and the Narwhal food truck.

We will have to wait to learn more about Erickson’s direction for the new venture. Her latest project was the release of her first cookbook in fall 2014. “I know when I first got Boat Street I didn’t have a clue what I was doing,” Erickson said discussing the book last year. “So I was 25 and really just really had no idea what I was doing. I loved the restaurant and I loved cooking but I wasn’t good at it. I really didn’t have a sense of identity at that point…I would have never imagined where I would have ended up, I just thought I was doing something that was fun and creative.”


Rendering by Ankrom Moisan

A James Beard-nominated chef, Erickson’s projects are known for seasonal themes and Pacific Northwest flavors. Last year, Erickson told Food & Wine her imaginary next project would be “a floating oyster barge in Puget Sound.”

Heliotrope Architects — you can see their work on the design for Wallingford’s The Whale Wins here — is attached to provide design work for Erickson’s new Capitol Hill venue. The base construction budget is listed with the city as $850,000.

The Broadstone building is being planned for a phased opening starting in March and concluding in July 2015. By then, the open marketplace and office development Chophouse Row and its collection of restaurants, cafes, bakeries, and farm to table ice cream and dairy will be open around the corner on 11th Ave. In the meanwhile, the Central Agency Building and its centerpiece, the new home for Hill longtimer Larkhave opened on E Seneca just a block to the south.

Whatever comes next on E Union, be prepared for it to take the shape Erickson wants. “I don’t pay attention to the trends much,” Erickson said in one recent interview. “It feels like once it’s a trend it is almost dead. If people love what they are doing it really doesn’t matter if it’s a trend or not.”

UPDATE 1/13/15: Here’s an early announcement on the project:

Renee Erickson and partners to open new restaurants on Capitol Hill

The Sea Creatures family (The Walrus and the Carpenter, The Whale Wins, Barnacle, and Narwhal) is expanding. Erickson, and partners Jeremy Price and Chad Dale, are opening two new restaurants on Capitol Hill.

On the corner of 11th and Union, will be a lively and approachable restaurant with a focus on the flavors of the French Atlantic. Expect the best from Pacific Northwest beaches, waters, and fields, prepared lovingly alongside wines by the glass and bottle, beer, and smart cocktails. And, yes, there will be oysters!

Count on a beautiful, warm, light filled space, seating 50 guests between its bar and tables. Erickson explains:

“Our goal is to bring our favorite foods and experiences from Normandy and Brittany to our home…a friendly place for really great food. Simple.”

Next-door, mid-block, accommodating 40 guests, will be a Parisian-style café. Slightly more refined than its neighbor, this restaurant’s centerpiece will be its dry aging room. Erickson:

“We are developing a cattle program on our farm on Whidbey Island. Ultimately we will be dry aging our own beef and controlling everything from breed, to diet, to finishing, to butchery, to aging. We are really excited!”

While both restaurants will have their own personalities, kitchens, chefs, and staff, they will share the trademark characteristics of any Sea Creature entity: casual accessibility, simplicity, and delicious food.

As for names?

“We are still working on that. They’ve got to be right. We plan to announce them in the coming months…along with something unexpected…”

Stay tuned for details.

UPDATE x2: The names? Bar Melusine, Bateau, and General Porpoise Coffee and Doughnuts

Capitol Hill food+drink notes

  • 2015 Capitol Hill openings are already happening. Tuesday, the second Baby New Year of 2015 on the Hill will debut with a soft opening on 14th Ave. Welcome Nue. “We’ll be open at 4pm-11 on Jan 6th and running soft dinners and bar service all the way up to our Grand Opening on Sat,” the new place announced via Facebook. CHS wrote here about Chris Cvetkovich’s modernist take on global street food.
  • So, who was the first in 2015? Chavez and its Duranguense flavors opened for business Saturday on 12th Ave.

    More images from the opening here

    More images from the opening here

  • You can also vote for the 2014 "rookies" of the year -- results to-date are an interesting mix

    You can also vote for the 2014 “rookies” of the year — results to-date are an interesting mix

    With nearly 30 new venues joining the scene, 2014 was another boom year for Capitol Hill food and drink. And it wasn’t just the new folks thriving. Check out our CHS Year in Review 2014 for a recap of the hot and heavy action.

What else did you miss in Capitol Hill food and drink over the holidays?

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