Downtown’s Alexis Hotel was once home to one of Seattle’s most respected restaurants, The Painted Table. Launched in 1992, it was the first eatery to nab a four-star review from The Seattle Times; the restaurant closed in 2002.
The stately, bi-level space off the lobby has largely sat empty, save for special events, while the hotel’s main restaurant, the Bookstore Bar and Cafe, has been the focus of dining at the Alexis.
Since October, though, chef Eric Rivera has been at the helm of the Bookstore, plotting and innovating, and he has big plans to revive the old Painted Table space. Rivera, whose resume includes a stint at Tallulah’s, work with the Huxley Wallace Collective, and some years at Chicago’s famed Alinea, sees numerous opportunities to experiment.
“I figured, let’s reintroduce people to the space and show them what we can do with the food, and take it from there,” Rivera says. “Apart from banquets and catering, most days of the week, the room just sits there. I see this empty space and I think, ‘Let’s do something with this.’”
Rivera has dubbed the area the Author’s Corner, and he’s rolled out a brunch tasting menu called Afternoon Delight. The 14- to 16-course affair evokes afternoon tea traditions and involves hyper seasonal dishes paired with tea and cocktails; it’s currently available on Saturdays and Sundays.
He’s also concocting a multi-course dinner called The Local, which will comprise nine courses that celebrate Washington State history through regionally-sourced ingredients. The first Local dinner launches May 9, followed by dinners May 19 and 26.
Rivera is currently treating the space as a pop-up venue, so don’t expect a full-fledged restaurant any time soon. Seats at the meals he’s planning are available via a ticketing system, and he’s limiting each event to just a handful of tables, at least to start.
But he sees endless opportunities to experiment. “Just because you have a new idea doesn’t mean you necessarily have to open a new restaurant. So that’s how I look at this space,” he says.
More changes may come, including gradual revamps to add decor and open up the wall separating the dining room from the kitchen. And there’s potential for using the adjacent patio, and perhaps even the empty former dive bar beneath the Author’s Corner dining room.
Rivera sees it all as a chance to capture the attention of Seattleites who are consistently presented with more and more great options when it comes to dining out. “Diners have higher expectations,” he says, “and we can’t rest on our laurels.”