Update, 2/15/17: Nick Coffey told Eater Haven Kitchen and Bar has taken over the former home of Bay Café at 9 Old Post Road, and Ursa Minor will open in Haven’s old space at 210 Lopez Road.
Original story, 2/14/17: A couple months ago, chef Nick Coffey told Eater he was enjoying some much-needed time off after leaving Matt Dillon’s latest restaurant, Ciudad in Georgetown — well, looks like funemployment is over. This week, Coffey unveiled a $25,000 Kickstarter campaign to help him launch Ursa Minor, a hyperlocal restaurant on Lopez Island.
Expect 45 seats in a casual setting “featuring abundant natural light, soothing vistas, and water views.” Coffey is taking over an existing restaurant space but hasn’t said specifically what, just that it’s “in the heart of Lopez Island.” His campaign video says the funds would go toward furnishing and finishing the dining room with new paint, tables, chairs, plates, and glassware.
Does this mean Lopez is about to get its own version of Lummi Island’s Willows Inn? Under the direction of chef Blaine Wetzel, that Washington restaurant has become famous for its hyper-local fare; Eater critic Bill Addison called it “a fine-dining astonishment” and “the truest definition of a destination restaurant in America.”
It may be too much to expect that a first-time restaurateur could reach such lofty goals. But to make it with a high-end concept on an island with a year-round population of just 2,200, Coffey will need to offer something special to attract tourist attention from Seattle (about a 90-minute drive plus a 30-minute ferry ride away on a good day) and beyond.
And the chef, who worked his way up the ranks at Dillon’s estimable Sitka and Spruce and also rocked the tiny kitchen at Cafe Barjot, definitely has ambition. His website already has a sample menu with items like ozette potatoes with squid ink & ramp mayo, as well as a manifesto with lines like, “Outside the kitchen we pick berries, forage mushrooms, and tend gardens to preserve and ferment the best of each season.”
Beyond growing and gathering his own food, Coffey will partner “closely with local farmers, fishermen and foragers to create a cuisine that reflects the San Juan Archipelago,” according to the campaign. Rural Lopez Island probably has as many farms as it does restaurants, and Coffey is obviously planning to utilize local produce to the fullest.
Since its inception, the Kickstarter campaign has already seen new additions to its rewards, which range from a digital collection of Coffey’s favorite recipes ($15) or a tasting menu ($150 not including drinks or gratuity) to a 25-person private meal ($5,000). At press time, $2,345 of $25,000 is on the table with 28 days remaining, and Coffey will need to hit his goal to collect any of it. Stay tuned for updates.