Capitol Hill never really knew Sitka and Spruce at its most audacious when a talented young chef brought James Beard–worthy quality to an Eastlake strip mall. At the end of the year and after a decade at the center of the much celebrated Melrose Market mix of retail, food, and drink, Matt Dillon will close Sitka and Spruce and bring the Capitol Hill chapters of the well-respected restaurant’s lifetime to a close.
Dillon turned to a great philosopher in his goodbye letter to the restaurant’s fans:
I wrestled with finding the right words to describe how I came to this decision, in fact, this note was to go out last week. But there are way too many emotions involved for me to navigate and express in this format, with true honesty, why I have come to this conclusion. But to quote Winnie the Pooh, “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”
Dillon says Sitka and Spruce will continue service through the end of the year with a planned New Year’s Eve last night of service after 14 years of Sitka and Spruce.
Born in Eastlake and a harbinger of the “________ & __________” era of dining in Seattle, Dillon’s restaurant helped define the locavore focused Melrose Market when it debuted there in 2010. Melrose developer Liz Dunn nabbed her anchor tenant for 1531 Melrose in March 2009, when Dillon agreed to relocate his critically acclaimed Sitka and Spruce from Eastlake to the market. Sitka managed to avoid the drama its counterbalance in the project went through. Today, Terra Plata appears all the stronger for it and will apparently outlast its contemporary.
The shuttering comes after a decade in Melrose, a typical period for restaurant leases, and also follows the sale of the market to new investors. Earlier this year, the iconic Capitol Hill property was sold to Regency Centers, a Florida-based real estate investment trust, for $15.5 million. Many feared the worst for the preservation and locavore focused retail development but tenants CHS spoke with said they had hopes the new owners would provide new energy to the development.
They might, indeed. But, first, to start out 2020, they are going to need to find a replacement for the restaurant that helped define the project’s first decade.
Dillon, meanwhile, still has connections to the neighborhood. His Upper Bar Ferd’nand is still at the center of Dunn’s 11th Ave Chophouse Row development after debuting there in late 2015. Along the way, he has also been part of other Capitol Hill food and drink stories including his efforts in the kitchen to help Linda Derschang rescue Oddfellows in the cafe’s early days.
Dillon has not responded to CHS inquiries about the planned closure. But his letter included a poignant signoff.
“Sitka & Spruce will always be alive in her energy,” Dillon, who now keeps a busy farm on Vashon in addition to managing his remaining food and drink ventures, writes. “We will always participate in the relationship and conversation between our beautiful place in the world and everyone and everything that makes it turn and makes it whole. But at this mesmerizing juncture of our world, continuing Sitka’s relationship in Seattle, does not make me a better father, partner, activist, employer or friend.”
BECOME A 'PAY WHAT YOU CAN' CHS SUBSCRIBER TODAY: Support local journalism dedicated to your neighborhood. SUBSCRIBE HERE. Join to become a subscriber at $1/$5/$10 a month to help CHS provide community news with NO PAYWALL. You can also sign up for a one-time annual payment.