A new entry in downtown Seattle's burgeoning fast-and-healthy restaurant scene debuted yesterday at 1923 7th Avenue (between Stewart & Virginia) in the Metropolitan Tower at Westlake and Virginia. It's called Sweetgrass Food Co., a long-awaited venture from a first-time restaurant couple, Colleen Kerr and Mike Moon.
Kerr is an executive with Washington State University; Moon is a former business consultant. Their project, which already includes a second store (still under construction in Pioneer Square), is based on the concept of locally-sourced, mostly organic ingredients with minimal processing. Meals are available for sit-down diners as well as grab & go. Most of the dozen or so items are salad bowls assembled to order. Nothing is over $10.
The owners are getting support from a couple of restaurant veterans: concept guru Ken Batali (Chop Shop, Athletic Supply) and Sharon Fillingim (Grub, Le Reve). "We've never opened a restaurant before," Kerr admits, "so we need all the help we can get." The branding company Civilization, on Capitol Hill, provided assistance with concept development, and chef Brian O'Connor (Roux) contributed recipes.
Their project, which already includes a second store (still under construction in Pioneer Square), is based on the concept of locally sourced, mostly organic ingredients with minimal processing.
Moon says he never imagined how much work was involved in remodeling the space, which used to be a jewelry store. "I built the bathrooms, the mezzanine, the stairs, the banquettes." The couple ended up with a 2,400-square-foot space, with downstairs seating for 60 in addition to the 30-seat mezzanine level.
The signature dish is called Five-Color Sweetgrass Rice Pottage, a flavorful variation on Asian congee. "The name sounds like French for soup," Kerr explains. (In the Bible, Esau sells his birthright for "a mess of pottage." In England, there's also a thick lentil stew called pottage.) Sweetgrass's rice pottage is made with long grain brown rice, shiitake mushrooms, greens, adzuki beans, pickled sweet chilies, cilantro, shaved fennel, fresh ginger and scallions.
Another flavorful dish is the Buddha Bowl, consisting of coconut brown rice, quinoa, kale, brussels sprouts, cabbage, avocado, lentils, dressed with a citrus vinaigrette scented with kaffir lime and turmeric. "Everything has to be delicious" is Kerr's motto.
Sweetgrass isn't the only player in fresh and fast category. A few blocks away, in South Lake Union, is Kigo Kitchen, a quick-serve restaurant featuring wok-fired bowls, that's been open almost two years.
Sweetgrass is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays.