It's no longer top secret what's moving into the space that will soon be vacated by Carmelita: It's going to be a Mexican restaurant.
Chris Navarra (Prost! pubs, Ridge ), Shannon Wilkinson (Little Water Cantina) and Chris Gerke (Nickerson Street Saloon) are partnering to bring the Phinney neighborhood a casual spot called Vecino (Spainish for "neighbor").
Navarra says the new place will be in line with what LWC does (fresh ingredients, familiar Mexican fare) but tailored specifically to the neighborhood. "The goal is to have something for everybody," he says. "There will be some big tables so you can bring the kids, but it will definitely be a date spot, too."
Navarra says Vecino will be kitchen-focused, but that the bar and overall atmosphere will be just as important. He is already looking forward to drinking margaritas out on the awesome little patio.
Wilkinson will head up the kitchen initially, but has plans to bring in one of his former LWC chefs once the dust settles.
The minor cosmetic changes will happen after Carmelita serves its last dinner September 29. Vecino will likely open in early 2014, if not the first of the year. It will be open for dinner daily and weekend brunch.
Navarra says he has personal interest in the Carmelita space, with Prost! directly across the street and all. Plus, he's lived in the neighborhood for 10 years and loves the idea of investing in his hood.
Not wanting to disappoint the throngs of longtime Carmelita fans, the guys are planning an homage to the vegetarian restaurant by way of a few veggie dishes named after the namesake matriarch.
In the meantime, Navarra and Gerke are busy turning a nearby former vegan shoe store into a tiny eatery called Martino's, which will specialize in smoked meats, sandwiches, wine and beer. Chris Martino, the Nickerson chef, will be heading up the kitchen. It's expected to open in a couple of weeks.