The versatile bar, good for an after-work cocktail with a shared plate of food or a dinner date, enjoys quite a bit of popularity on Capitol Hill. After refining one version of the concept with Black Bottle in Belltown and Bellevue, a trio of owners are nearly ready to open another take on the “gastrotavern” with a venture on Capitol Hill.
Chris Linker said his intention for Bar Vacilando at 15th and Harrison is not to open a fancy restaurant, but a bar with really nice food.
“We want people to feel like they can disarm … let time slow down a little bit,” Linker said of restaurant slated to open in mid-May. “It’s more of an analog restaurant than a hyper-digital restaurant.”
The Bar Vacilando owners are not quite ready to reveal how they have changed the former 22 Doors space, but CHS was able to take a peek inside. While no major transformations have taken place, the space has been peeled back to a more raw form. The dropped ceilings are gone, revealing the old building’s original wood slatted ceilings. The bar top has been replaced, but Door 22’s impressive wooden back bar remains. The 2,374-square-foot space is also known for having one of the best patios on the Hill, and Bar Vacilando will continue to put the intimate outdoor space to good use with some small upgrades.
Bar Vacilando’s name is also rooted in the analog. In his 1962 book Travels with Charley, John Steinbeck wrote, “If one is vacilando, he is going somewhere but doesn’t greatly care whether or not he gets there, although he has direction.”
That sense of world travel inspired co-owner Judy Boardman chef Brian Durbin when developing a menu for the new restaurant. Bar Vacilando will offer a mix of the light and indulgent, including slow cooked pork cheek and Tokyo turnip, salt cod croquettes, and king trumpet mushroom salad with watercress and spinach. Most plates will be made to share.
A medium-sized wine list, handcrafted cocktails, and a several local beers on tap will round out the drink offerings.
Linker said he and the other owners were drawn to 15th Ave E because of its neighborhood within a neighborhood quality. “There’s such a strong sense of community and cooperation and familiarity on 15th Ave.”
Opened in 2005, 22 Doors shuttered on New Year’s Eve 2013 after apparently dealing with financial troubles for years. Sandwiched next to Rione XIII and The Wandering Goose and the old-timer Tim’s Barbershop, the space remained vacant for two years. CHS first wrote about the Black Bottle crew coming to the block in November.
Earlier this year, Linker and Black Bottle caused a stir when they joined Seattle restaurant heavyweight Tom Douglas in adding a 2% surcharge to offset the city’s new minimum wage law. Both restaurant groups eventually backed off the plans after backlash. Douglas has since begun the process of eliminating tipping and raising wages at his fleet of restaurants.
Bar Vacilando will be a tipped-based restaurant, at least for now. Linker said he still has concerns about how his company will sustain the increasing minimum wage, though it clearly has not stopped them from expanding. “I think the restaurant model will continue to evolve and what that looks like precisely, I don’t know,” he said.
Bar Vacilando plans to open in May at 405 15th Ave E .