Respected New American restaurant Babirusa, which closed its inventive Eastlake home last year only to reappear in Belltown this spring, is closing again. In an email blast to mailing list subscribers early this morning, owner Rene Gutierrez said the restaurant had “been hit with numerous hurdles” that it couldn’t recover from, including the May departure of long-time head chef Charles Walpole due to health concerns. The restaurant’s final service will be September 27.
Seattle’s rising rents and housing crisis allegedly play a role in this story, too. “Babirusa’s current dynamic kitchen duo Chef Ryan Miller and Chef de Cuisine Geneva Melby received notice that their rent in Seattle was increasing by 40% and can no longer sustain living in the city,” Gutierrez said in the email. “These major factors compounded with others, make the decision to close Babirusa necessary. We did the best we could, fought as hard as we were able — but, with the way things are in Seattle right now, it is impossible to go on.”
Walpole and Gutierrez’s partnership began way back in 2011 with tasting menu-focused Blind Pig Bistro, and spanned multiple openings, remodels, and closings, with Blind Pig shutting down in 2016. But when Babirusa moved to Belltown, it brought a piece of Blind Pig Bistro with it in the form of six-course tasting menus, whose eclectic seasonal offerings might bounce from smoked clams to snap peas and fermented strawberries to quail.
This is a sad end for a Seattle dining icon, one that showed serious promise in its new space. Eater has reached out to Babirusa for further comment and will update the post if more information becomes available.