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Renee Erickson, tipping, cows — Bar Melusine, Bateau, and General Porpoise now open on Union


Erickson at work (Images: CHS)

Erickson at work (Images: CHS)

Yes, it’s the place with the $66 ribeye — “butchered in house, sold by weight, served á la carte, with your choice of butter–nori bonito, brown butter and preserved lemon, bone marrow, or anchovy” — leading the way in changing how Capitol Hill’s restaurants compensate their employees.

This week, Renee Erickson’s full E Union triumvirate is open for business on the backside of Pike/Pine. Bar Melusine, Bateau, and General Porpoise Coffee and Doughnuts are beautiful. They are also pioneering a new way to compensate employees after Erickson’s fleet of Seattle restaurants including Walrus and the Carpenter, Barnacle, and the Whale Wins raised wages to $15 an hour and replaced traditional tipping with a service charge. The move has made Erickson and her partners in the Sea Creatures restaurant company popular lunch companions as others prepare to make big changes in the way they do business in Seattle.

“We’ve been meeting with people about how to handle service charges,” Erickson business partner Jeremy Price tells CHS. “I expect in January when the wage goes to $12 we’ll see more.”

"Broadstone Infinity.... preserving Capitol Hill history" (Image: Broadstone Infinity)

“Broadstone Infinity…. preserving Capitol Hill history” (Image: Broadstone Infinity)

HkE92YN-600x450-600x450In 2016, even small business with fewer than 500 employees will need to raise the minimum to $12 if they don’t provide medical benefits and/or employees don’t receive at least $1.50/hour in tips. It’s going to be a busy few weeks before the new year for many players in Capitol Hill food and drink.

The service charge at Bar Melusine, Bateau, and General Porpoise comes in at 20%. “100% of this charge is paid to employees,” the menus explain. “55% of this charge is paid to employees ‘directly serving the customer.'” And, if you’d like to leave a tip, you still can, of course. Bring cash.

Another group of restaurants with a Capitol Hill base is also beginning to implement innovative health benefits. Poquitos and Rhein Haus employees who have been with the company for at least 12 consecutive months will be eligible for a new paid parental leave policy in the event of a birth or adoption:

Employees will be eligible to receive 100% of their current salary for up to six weeks of paid leave. Salaries for tipped employees will be calculated based on their hourly wage plus 75% of their average reported tips over the past three months. The restaurant will also offer six weeks of leave to secondary caregivers, offering the same benefit as the primary caregiver for the first three weeks and 70% of wages for the remaining three weeks. In recognition of the variety of parental arrangements that occur, the distinction of primary vs. secondary caregiver is self-reported by the staff member.

The new benefits are being made available to 83 full-time and 69 part-time employees.

Another model is being deployed on the north end of Broadway where restaurant veteran Jerry Traunfeld is running his new Sichuan-flavored restaurant Lionhead with no tips — and no service charge. “Our menu pricing allows us to pay an equitable wage to all our employees. You pay only what you see (plus tax),” Traunfeld told Seattle Met.

Meanwhile at Sea Creatures, Erickson, Price, and partner Chad Dale aren’t only pioneering on employee compensation — the new trio of venues are part of a new frontier for Pike/Pine food and drink spreading into the streets south of the E Pike core. While Lark lead the way opening its new, multi-concept home inside the Central Agency building last year. Bar Melusine, Bateau, and General Porpoise now stand at the center of the millions of dollars of investment underway on the street.

Across E Union, part bike shop, part training facility, part cafe Metier Racing and Coffee is set to open while next door the old Auto Battery and Po Dog are being transformed into Portland import Sizzle Pie. Sushi restaurant Gokan by Musashi opened on the street this summer while General Porpoise neighbor Soi opened as the 19th Thai restaurant in Central Seattle by our count. One of the biggest investments will soon follow — they’re already brewing at E Union and Broadway’s “a brewery, not a brewpub” Optimism Brewing but not quite ready to serve. Add a giant new child care center around the corner and a few more ambitious food+drink neighbors and Pike/Pine’s transformation from cheap drinks and giant burritos to craft cocktails, oyster happy hours, and big ass steak dinners is complete.IMG_0047


IMG_0100The new Erickson projects also demonstrate how business owners are trying to best, most efficiently utilize the massive commercial spaces being created in Capitol Hill’s development wave. Erickson’s creations take up a combined 4,500 square feet in the Broadstone Infinity development that infamously inspired a re-working of the development incentives included in the Pike/Pine Conservation District. The Ankrom Moisan-designed project climbs 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.

Frequent Sea Creatures collaborator Heliotrope Architects designed the triplet food and drink components. They connect together along E Union on the southern side of the building at 11th Ave. Bar Melusine is an icy bright and glistening raw bar, while Bateau is a Francophilic steak restaurant with a view of giant cow carcasses hung from orange meat hooks. General Porpoise is a filled-doughnut cafe with a hot pink espresso machine. All are, as you would expect, gorgeous. Even the dead cow window.

General Porpoise Doughnuts
“Years ago I had a delicious filled doughnut at St. JOHN in London and I’ve since been obsessed,” exclaims Erickson…
  • 7 AM to 3 PM, Daily
  • 4 roasters’ beans are on deck–De Lâ Paz out of San Francisco, Dapper & Wise from Portland, Heart from Portland, and Toby’s Estate from Brooklyn.
  • 4-6 Doughnut flavors will be offered daily. The starting line-up includes vanilla bean custard, chocolate marshmallow, peanut butter and grape jelly, apple jam, and lemon curd.
  • The treats are $3.50 a pop — you can get 18 of them for the price of the ribeye.
  • “Sparkling wine will also be available, of course.”
  • Pastry Chef Clare Gordon / GM Jeff Butler
Bar Melusine
Named for the mythical French water spirit, Bar Melusine will be focused on the flavors of Normandy and Brittany…
  • After 10 or so services, Bar Melusine is now ready for its oyster happy hour: Monday to Thursday, 4-6PM. $2 off all cocktails, $4 vermouth cocktails, $1 off beer, $1 off wine by the glass, and $1 off oysters.
  • Open Monday to Saturday, 4 PM to 10 PM
  • Chef Jay Guerrero / GM Yuriko Say / Bar Manager Jermaine Whitehead

In-house butchered and dry aged beef, grass fed and long finished from Sea Creatures’ La Ferme des Anes, will anchor Bateau…

  • Is now accepting reservations via phone or via
  • Open Monday to Saturday, 5:30 to 10PM.
  • “Cuts of the day are advertised in-house only”
  • Chef Taylor Thornhill / GM Jamie Irene / Bar Manager Jermaine Whitehead
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33 thoughts on “Renee Erickson, tipping, cows — Bar Melusine, Bateau, and General Porpoise now open on Union

  1. Now I’m waiting for the inevitable comment from vegetarians about how gross the hanging cow carcasses are. Actually, I have to question how wise it is to feature those as a design feature.

  2. Great, more bourgeoisie advertisers for your blog to glorify. You have clearlly been fully corrupted by them which why you have zero credibility with me. I only read your puff pieces to know where NOT to go these days.

    • The best steak I’ve had in Seattle so far was from a Renee Erickson restaurant, hands down. 80$ for two? Yea pricey, but worth it for sure for a special occasion. I appreciate the article letting people know they are now open.

      Maybe you should just stick to the doughnuts if everything else is too pricey for you.

      • Your doughnut comment is very similar to something Marie Antoinette once said. I could afford to eat at places like this but I choose not to. I choose to spend money wisely and I don’t associate good taste with careless spending. A common mistake for ignorant simpletons.

      • Maybe you should check your “facts” before calling someone is an ignorant simpleton, as Marie Antoinette never said such a thing. Ignorant simpleton, indeed.

      • Looks like I may have touched a very sensitive nerve so I’ll let you get back to the boring, sterile lifestyle you long for. You’ll probably spend yourself off ‘Cap’ Hill soon enough anyways, and trust me you won’t be missed by anyone. Check out SoDoSoPa on your way out.

  3. Filing these under “where to go when my parents are in town”. Definitely too pricey for me to go to any of these more than maybe once for a special occasion. Also, kind of surprising and frustrating that Erickson is offering coffee from four different roasters, none of which are in Seattle. We have awesome roasters here, what gives?

  4. A doughnut is $3.50. If you add 20% to that, now we are at $4.20…I’m guessing there is also sales tax, so we are quickly nearing five bucks for a doughnut? No thanks.

  5. I’m sure this will be really successful, and I wish her all the luck. I just wish that we could see talented chefs actually push themselves outside of their meat & dairy comfort zones. I’m sure a steak slathered in butter tastes amazing, but where’s the innovation in that?

    I hope our restaurant boom starts to see more out-of-the-box restaurants that are driven to create delicious food while being sustainable and responsible.

    Side note: hanging the carcasses is a great idea. Too often people lose sight of where their food comes from.

  6. Kinda of ironic (and emblematic that the gentrification of CH is complete) that this temple to the 1% is located where once were the offices of Capitol Hill Housing, a long-standing community nonprofit dedicated to providing affordable housing for the neighborhood. CHH is fortunate that the timing worked (mostly) for them for their 12th Avenue Arts project where they are now located. But quite easily could have been a much different story for them.

    Enjoy the $4 doughnuts and out of town folks.

  7. Big fan of seven coffee over in ravenna (yeah, you need to ride your bike over). Wonderful latte for $2.85 ! Forget the $5 coffee and doughnuts.

  8. What happened to the idea that as the MW goies up ..”it will put more money in our pockets to spend at our local restaurants” and yeah doughnuts. What did we think was going to happen? Everyone is getting exactly what they demanded. Higher pay, more expensive doughnut.

  9. 3 of us went this a.m. $24.00 for 2 donuts which I didn’t like, 1 latte and 2 hot chocolates. Cute place but VERY overpriced. We will never have a reason to return. The filled donuts at Top Pot are much better. Coffee was so so. Hot chocolate was terrible. 20% tip added to bill and I don’t know why really. We weren’t served at a table, we stood in line and seated ourselves with our drinks. For that we are now required to pay an extra $20%? Only in a rich town will this place be sustainable.

    • It’s really inappropriate, bordering on price-gouging, to levy a service charge when the “service” is that minimal. I hope Renee Erickson will take another look at this and drop the charge for that part of her operation.

  10. I’m tickled by the image of the diners in the restaurant….all 20-30 something year old men, probably engineers living in the the 5 over 1 apartment blocks above that rent for 2k per studio. This image of Modern life has really driven home to me the expensive monotony that now becomes the status quo around these parts.

    • Fortunately there is still plenty of normal and diverse life around– if everyone can tear themselves away from central C.H. and Broadway. It has just taken skyrocketing prices to clue a lot of people in that there is life outside Capitol Hill.

  11. 20% service fee for my 1/2 dozen donuts this morning has made me cranky all day. Build your service change into the price and let’s never talk about this again. Nonetheless– I’m never going back. Nope. Not ever.

    • It hit a nerve with me also. Back to Top Pot. But now I’m going to be checking receipts at all bakeries, coffee stands, etc. And everyone said raising the minimum wage wouldn’t hurt.