It's been a little more than a year since Le Gourmand closed, tugging at the collective heartstrings of fans who considered the classic French restaurant part of their family. Now, it's time to let the cat out of the bag: the landmark Ballard space is officially in the hands of a new owner.
Jen Doak has been working around the clock for the past several months to solidify the deal, which she closed just yesterday. Doak, whose previous works include managing The Tasting Room and picking up some shifts at friend Maria Hines's Agrodolce and Tilth, has snapped up the space in collaboration with Revel chef Mike Whisenhunt. The two are calling the new gastropub Brimmer & Heeltap.
We're describing it as a gastropub, but we both realize there are stereotypes associated with it (comfort food) and we'd like to brighten it up, add a vibrancy not necessarily associated with the term.
A peek at a sample Spring menu includes snacks (chicharron, pickled oyster shooters), plenty of seafood plates (shrimp salad with cannellini beans, smoked tomato and horseradish vinaigrette), vegetables (baked beans with padron pepper, summer squash and caramel sherry glaze), meat (grilled pork shoulder, spicy baked chicken, leg of goat roast) and dessert (milk chocolate tapioca and salty chocolate mousse).
Brimmer & Heeltap is a name Doak has had in her back pocket for some time.
I've been on the search for a space for probably three years. My inspiration all along has been the riff on an English pub. I love that in England, before they go home or after they go home, they're able to go into their little neighborhood bar for a pint, for community, for food. The term 'brimmer' is a glass that's full and 'heeltap' is the last tiny drag in your glass that you can never get out. The concept is everything that happens in between a full glass and an empty glass — you're going to have food, you might talk to your neighbor. And again, the terms are English, so kind of playing on the old English pubs. We don't want to be sleek, we don't want to be modern. We want to be warm, quirky, intentional.
But perhaps the most important question: what's going to happen to Sambar, the quaint little sibling bar attached to Le Gourmand? Short answer: it's going bye-bye. But you'll still be able to enjoy the garden while cocktailing.
Aesthetically, we're going to change it, but structurally we're pulling the bar out of Sambar and we're building a bar on the north wall of the Le Gourmand side. What we would like to do is have some sort of breezeway that connects the two [rooms] versus the hallway. And we want to take out the front door of Sambar so you have to walk in through the front door.
The good news here is that ultimately the bar at B&H will be legit, an anchor of the restaurant. It'll be brimming with beers on tap, house cocktails, wine and even shrubs and iced sweet corn tea.
And structurally, if we can, we'll open up the space so that you can be standing in the old Le Gourmand side and see straight into the garden.
Thus, making the Sambar space an extension of the dining room.
Doak will also be turning a former 400-square foot storage room out back into a private dining room. And most notable, pennies will possibly cover the entire floor. It's an idea she got from Pinterest and, well, she needs 106,000 pennies and so far, she has 60,000. "If I get enough, maybe it'll be a mural or maybe it will be part of the bar. But how cool would it be to make it part of the floor?"
Other points of interest: B&H will be open six days a week, closed Tuesdays; it'll offer happy hour from 3 to 5 pm, dinner from 5 to 10p, and then late night happy hour from 10 to midnight; it's expected to open before the holidays; Doak will be employing the architects behind Little Water Cantina; and Whisenhunt will be cooking at Revel until the end of the month.