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‘Out of left field,’ Lark joins the Capitol Hill pizza boom with 12th Ave plans for Southpaw

Lark’s ownership trio — Sundstrom, J.M. Enos, and Kelly Ronan (Image: CHS)

Lark’s ownership trio — Sundstrom, J.M. Enos, and Kelly Ronan (Image: CHS)

We’ve heard owners explain it with their passion for pizza pies. We’ve heard others talk about profit margins. Whatever it is, CHS’s prophecy of a pizza joint opening every two blocks across Capitol Hill is coming true.

The latest announcement of pizza plans comes from longtime Capitol Hill restauranteur John Sundstrom and business partners Kelly Ronan and JM Enos who are planning to turn the original home of Lark on 12th Ave into wood-fired pizza joint Southpaw:

The name is a nod to all things unorthodox—batting left-handed, a left-handed boxer’s stance, and pizzas that are somewhere in-between Neapolitan and New York style, with familiar toppings as well as some out of left field.

Pizzas will be cooked quickly in a wood-fired oven and toppings will be mostly vegetarian, with a list of optional meat add-ons. In addition to pizza, there will be a garden section of the menu with salads and vegetable sides, as well as rotating cheese and charcuterie offerings. Much of the produce will come from Lark’s rooftop garden, less than half a mile north on 12th Avenue. Desserts will be simple: JM’s famous salted chocolate chip cookies and soft serve in two flavors—one adventurous and one a little more standard, but they’ll always be complementary to one another, for those who prefer the swirl. As for drinks, everything will be on tap—no bottles at all. To start, there will be one red, one white, two beers, one cocktail, and one soda available.

Described as “casual” with counter service and “updated with bright splashes of orange and punchy graphic art,” Southpaw will open this fall in the space where Lark grew up and turned 10 before moving into its new home in the Central Agency building in late 2014. The restaurant had been operating as an events space run by Sundstrom and crew since Lark’s departure. Apparently the pizza potential at 926 12th Ave outweighed the events business that others in the area have reportedly found to be a growing revenue opportunity.

We’ve got questions out to the Lark folks about joining Capitol Hill’s pizza explosion. The CHS advertiser joins an ongoing wave of openings around the Hill focused on the many forms of cheese + sauce + dough. The 2016 pizza boom has been quite impressive:

As great Capitol Hill pizza rush of 2016 plays out, veteran Amante’s upgrades

Capitol Hill’s year in pizza: Pizzeria Ottantotto now open on Broadway

A pizza joint every two blocks: Meltdown Pizza Co. ready to serve its slice of Capitol Hill

Capitol Hill food+drink | First look at Dino’s Tomato Pie

Capitol Hill food+drink | Sizzle Pie and Dark Bar open in Pike/Pine

Old timer Pagliacci adds ‘slice bar’ as great pizza rush of 2016 stretches to North Capitol Hill

Capitol Hill food+drink | Italian Family Pizza makes move from 1st Ave to First Hill

And there is more to come:

Capitol Hill food+drink | Macrina Bakery and Pagliacci Pizza working on a new venture on E Pike

UPDATE 8/11/2016: CHS got a chance to talk with Sundstrom about the new project. While the restaurant veteran said that, yes, pizza allows him and his business partners to run a more streamlined, lower cost business, that’s not all that drew him to join Capitol Hill’s pizza wave.

“My chef brain shies away from the more commercial thing,” Sundstrom said. “At the same time it’s American! We’re also thinking about the Lark customer now, who tends to be older, established. Lark has never really been a place where students will go. We would love to be able to reach younger people.”

The pizzas will be somewhere between New York style and the classic wood-fire variety. Prices at Southpaw will likely be around $5 for a 1/4 pizza, $20 or so for a full pie.

Sundstrom said the simpler business model does help explain the larger wave of openings, though.

He also sees pizza as good vehicle to get involved with the Hill’s nightlife crowds. There will probably be a walk-up slice window in Southpaw’s future.

“We can make this into something that is a little more entry level,” Sundstrom said, “that can still have my stamp when it comes to quality level.”


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