Beset with challenges from early on, the South Lake Union brewpub Dexter Brewhouse, formerly known as Mollusk, continues to reinvent itself: As of last night, the restaurant has closed temporarily for unspecified rejiggering. Anyone following along at home may recall that the brewery aspect of the business has retained the Mollusk moniker since its inception, but the restaurant portion — having already lost its adventurous chef and co-owner, Travis Kukull, in a previous shakeup — rebranded in July as Dexter Brewhouse, attempting to please crowds with more standard pub fare.
Dexter Brewhouse will reopen at 5 p.m. on Friday, November 24, and at the very least there will be a new chef at the helm, according to a Facebook post. A note on the doors of the restaurant also hints at the relaunch and the new chef with the lines “You love our beer, now love our new chef.” The restaurant hasn’t released any other details.
The embattled venture was originally born as Gastropod, a tiny yet adventurous kitchen in Sodo, alongside the off-beat nanobrewery Epic Ales. Brewer Cody Morris and chef Travis Kukull relocated to bigger digs in South Lake Union and rebranded as Mollusk in October 2015.
It’s been a tough road since for Mollusk, which has struggled to get customers in the door despite a largely positive critical reception for both the inventive initial food menu and the exciting beer program. Early in 2016, the restaurant dropped its lunch service and cut staff, saying the neighborhood wasn't dense enough to support the midday meal program. A few months later, the business went to a standard tipping model, doing away with an automatic service charge. Then in summer 2016, Kukull departed the kitchen, and Morris oversaw an overhaul of the menu that took it from avant garde to comfort food. Dexter Brewhouse was born this past July. Meanwhile, Kukull has quietly resurfaced and is cooking at White Swan Public House.
The one obvious through-line in the sordid saga is the creative beer produced by Morris under the Mollusk label, which remains top-notch, but the restaurant is clearly struggling. Will this latest iteration finally be the one that sticks?