The shops and restaurants at the new triangular shaped Melrose Market in Capitol Hill have been slowly opening their doors. It started with two retail neighbors in Ballard opening new locations inside this Melrose Avenue marketplace in the Pike-Pine corridor. Sonic Boom Records and Velouria clothing boutique (which happens to be one of my favorite clothing stores) both set up shop in December.
Then a flower shop, Marigold & Mint, opened amid the construction at the beginning of April. And by the end of the same month, two new neighbors appeared: the independent butcher Rain Shadow Meats along with cheesemongress Sheri Lavigne’s new shop Calf & Kid.
Rain Shadow Meats is owned by Russ Flint, recently sous chef of the Boat Street Cafe. His counter has already become a popular destination for cooks looking to buy high quality local meats from a small neighborhood butcher. In addition to cuts of meat, Flint sells cured and other prepared meats. We picked up some lamb crépinette, bratwurst, and country-style pork terrine on our visit this weekend. Flint has other products still curing, including pancetta and salami.
Across the way inside is Calf & Kid, where Lavigne is selling artisan cheeses that are near impossible to find elsewhere in Seattle. Hers is only the second place where I’ve spotted the elusive Kurtwood Farms Dinah, a cheese named after one cow on Vashon Island. And burrata, a luxuriously creamy mozzarella popular now on restaurant menus, is hard to come by retail. We were torn between this and burricotta, a similar cheese made with ricotta instead of cream inside. Fortunately, Lavigne plans to have both available regularly.
Marigold & Mint adds a spot of color to the construction still going on inside Melrose Market. Katherine Anderson offers unusual organic flowers and edibles. She has been selling her flowers wholesale from her Snoqualmie Valley farm for a couple years now, and this is her first retail location.
Local meat, artisan cheese, organic edible plants, music, and clothing – these alone should be enough to entice anyone serious about food and shopping to hightail their way over to Capitol Hill. But then there are the restaurants, the first of which opened last week. Matthew Dillon closed his tiny Eastlake strip-mall restaurant, Sitka & Spruce, at the end of last year, and finally reopened it in a stunning new space inside the Melrose Market.
Huge windows topped by gauzy curtains look onto a quiet (for Capitol Hill) dogwood-flowering street, and flood natural light inside during the evening service. High stools look out and tables sit behind, but the focus of the restaurant is on the huge communal table in the center of it all. The table merges seamlessly into the kitchen prep and plating station and ends at a beautiful wood oven, where Matt and his staff are focused on getting plates out, which they did with speed on Saturday.
We were prepared for a leisurely pace more akin to the Eastlake location, but our meal went quickly. We ordered from the paper menus in front of us – sadly, the handwritten chalkboard menu is gone. The highlight for us was the beautiful Juan de Fuca spot prawns with couscous, slow cooked greens, and crispy nan e lavash. Hearth-cooked chicken was an alternate option that we simply wouldn’t have had room for after the other dishes we ordered: potted King salmon, preserved smelt, hand-sliced Serrano with pickled porcini, and garlicky poached chorizo.
Although the new location accommodates 15 more than the original 24 seat restaurant, the wait for a table is still long, at least during these initial days. Fortunately, they now take reservations, something I always lamented wasn’t possible at the previous location.
While the restaurant is only open for dinner at the moment, this will change on June 15, when they switch to a breakfast, lunch, and dinner schedule seven days a week. Brunch will be offered on weekends, and if it’s anything like The Corson Building’s brunch or the brunch I miss dearly from Eastlake, I suspect I will be driving over to Capitol Hill a little more often on weekend mornings.
More is planned for the Melrose Market. Homegrown Sandwiches is opening their second location there this month; the Homegrown sign is already anchored outside. And rumor has it that the owners of Ballard’s Bastille will eventually open a Mexican restaurant there.
Is Melrose Market our city’s answer to San Francisco’s Ferry Building? Although the shops are fewer, the merchants here have equal emphasis on quality product at the small scale. This little corner of Seattle is certain to become a destination for both locals and tourists alike.
Sitka & Spruce
1531 Melrose Avenue E #6, Seattle