It's a grand, soaring space, part of the venerable Austin Bell Building in the 2300 block of First Avenue, remodeled by a deep-pockets landlord with a spare-no-expense budget (soothing lemon-yellow walls festooned with custom artwork) to welcome the talented and widely admired Four Seasons chef, Kerry Sear.
Hotel chefs are by the nature of the biz insulated from many of the pressures of public scrutiny, but Sear, from Cascadia's first day, had his finger on the pulse of Belltown: a truly innovative cocktail, the Alpine Martini, and the iconic $1 miniburger. The combination drew happy hour crowds until 2008, when Sear was enticed back into the starched-and-folded Four Seasons fold to take over F&B responsibilities at the new hotel at First & Union.
The property languished only briefly. From Spain came a humble priest, Luis de Lezama, with a mission: to train disadvantaged youth as cooks. In a 20-year-run, he'd done that, starting with a rundown tavern in central Madrid, adding restaurants and hotels around the city and the Spanish countrysde until his Grupo Lezama became a hospitality powerhouse that opened Taberna del Alabardero, a showcase of Spanish gastronomy, in Washington, DC, in 1989, and ten years later in Seattle.
Alas, Belltown proved one leap too far. Not for the management's want of trying, but Seattle's appetite for sophsticated Spanish cuisine and formal service faltered. (Next door, outside a lounge called Sarajevo, a procession of hoodied gents and their miniskirted ladies huddled in long lines.) The Spaniards withdrew last summer, leaving the premises for sale through Conrad Topacio's Vantage Commercial Partners. The terms were $275,000 to take over the business (furniture & fixtures) and assume monthly lease payments of $11,800.
Word on the street is that a buyer has now been found. Some sources had indicated to Cornichon that the Fremont construction & design firm headed by Chad Dale, Evolution Projects, was taking the lead in the negotiations. (Dale is partners with Ethan and Angela Stowell in a venture called Grub Brothers Productions, with a view toward opening a series of informal spots, such as pizza, fish & chips, fried chicken, and burgers.
Evolution is on a hot streak of "adaptive reuse:" the Kolstrand Building, the Ballard Pizza premises, Revel, the Fremont Collective (Joule, Quoin). They're also working on a project to turn the old Egbert's Furniture building, one block south in the 2200 block of First Avenue, into something called the Belltown Collective. But Evolution partner Ira Gerlich tells Cornichon definitively that his firm is not involved.
So what kind of restaurant could possibly fit in the grand, elegant Cascadia/Taberna space? The neighborhood is well-supplied in trattorias and pizzerias: from Rocco's at 2nd and Bell to Belltown Pizza at 1st and Battery, to the still-abuilding Isola Bella in the very same block, the future doesn't look bright for Italian. But we could see a glam fried chicken parlor, craft brews on draught, open late, with wings-n-waffles, donuts-n-drumsticks. There's nothing like it in Belltown. Calling Tom Douglas, are you busy?