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Lark's John Sundstrom On Finding a Home for his New Restaurant, Bar, and Sandwich Shop

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Lark's John Sundstrom spent about a year looking for the right location for a second restaurant. He wrapped the production of his IACP award-winning cookbook LARK - Cooking Against the Grain in 2012 and was ready to start the search for a space to house a new eatery. "The book was my project for a year-and-a-half, Sundstrom tells Eater. "It was time to start thinking about what would come next."

After touring buildings that were, "enticing," including Thomas Street Market in Lower Queen Anne and the Stone34 building on Stone Way, the chef and his business partners, GM Kelly Ronan and his wife JM Enos, decided to open not one but three new concepts under the same roof less than a few blocks away from Lark in Capitol Hill.

Last week, Eater reported on Sundstrom's new projects in the Central Agency Building. The space will house his forthcoming 40-seat restaurant, 50-seat raw and cocktail bar, and sandwich shop. A Central District resident, the chef decided that keeping the new ventures nearby was a priority.

The team toured several "mixed use cookie-cutter places on the Hill," he says, but "none were that exciting, because there tends to be less love. They want maximum rent and they're happy with a Subway or a dry cleaner."

"We heard about (the space) and initiated a conversation back in the fall," Sundstrom says. "The more we got to look at, the more excited we became. It's a much more unique approach going into an old building that's been redone."

"When we came into the Lark space 10 years ago we knew there was some great potential," Sundstrom says. "We cleaned out the junk and uncovered a charming little building with lots of history and character." He has the same vision for his new projects in the almost 100-year-old Central Agency. With tall ceilings, big beams, and lots of wood, he calls the space, "part of the Seattle experience."

The chef plans to open the main dining room and mezzanine first, followed by the sandwich spot in the lobby serving Vita coffee, breakfast, and lunch grab-and-go sandwiches along with good beer, wine, and cheese. A few stand-up eating areas will be close to the counter. If the cafe is well received, Sundstrom says he's considering opening additional shops in other locations, "if the opportunity opens up."

"Most chefs have lots of ideas and things you want to act on, and it's just a matter of timing," Sundstrom says. "I feel like the time is right and the growth is back. We don't want to just be hanging out. We're very happy with Lark, and have a loyal following, but it's time to do more."

Currently, Sundstrom is finalizing names for each of the spaces and has begun the permitting process. He's heard that the city is slow right now with infrastructure permits, but if there are no major delays he's planning a late July opening.
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