Good wine with an environmentally conscious emphasis. Local seafood. An old school illustration of Ken Griffey, Jr. on the wall. These are just some of the elements that Vinnie’s Raw Bar, the highly anticipated new Belltown spot from Seattle cocktail power couple Chris Elford and Anu Apte-Elford, hopes will draw people in when it officially opens on June 14.
“Vinnie is scratching a few itches for us,” says Elford, who explains that the new bar — housed in a nook on Second Avenue, right next to the husband-and-wife team’s award-winning cocktail haven Navy Strength — will focus on their affinity for natural wine (in general, this means that the bottles are from producers that don’t use pesticides or other unnatural interventions in the winemaking process, but more detailed definitions can get complicated). There will also be a menu of about 16-20 dishes that highlight Pacific Northwest seafood, including an octopus terrine as part of a “seacuterie” plate, steamed mussels with hot sauce, a caviar sandwich with smoked mayo, and a seafood tower “for those who can’t decide,” says Elford.
It’s that ethos of playfulness and warmth that the Elfords aim to convey with the new spot, formerly occupied by Navy Strength Coffee and Juice Bar, which closed in December. The bar is small — with seating for about 30 — but the beachy light colors of the decor and glassware, the open kitchen, and the layout of the stools and tables, make it feel more spacious. There will also be some outdoor seating as the summer months roll in, plus limited seating for those under 21.
Meanwhile, sommelier Bryn Hagman — who worked at New York City’s acclaimed restaurants Chez Ma Tante and The Dutch — developed a wine list that will try to be as inclusive as possible, with mostly wines by the glass and no bottles over $75 (even for the “baller stuff,” says Elford). Hagman put a glossary to help people navigate the different types of natural wines (which she calls “wines with integrity”), and will list the options by varietal first, so there’s an initial familiarity when ordering. “Part of our goal is to demystify wines to the uninitiated,” says Elford. “We didn’t include tasting notes because sometimes they can be overwrought despite their subjectivity.”
For those in more of a cocktail mood, expect some inventive concoctions from the Elfords that continue the sustainability theme. The Belltown Negroni features locally distilled Letterpress Amaro Amorino and Copperworks gin, with a sweet vermouth made from leftover wine. A mezcal cocktail will use cordial made from leftover riesling and spent lime shells, and a scotch highball is made with a green and oolong tea blend and leftover lemons. There will also be no beverage napkins or disposable coasters, and only one drink will use a straw (the mint julep).
While the bar will be only be open from 5pm-10pm Tuesday through Saturday, there will be pop-ups in the space on Sundays and Mondays. Plus, those over 21 who want to head through the swinging blue door to Navy Strength on the other side after hours, will find a seat and a “welcome” cocktail, says Elford.
As for those wondering about the name, it’s a tribute to Apte-Elford’s mom, Vinaya, who worked as a nurse for more than 40 years and, along with Apte-Elford’s dad, Vinu, helped financially support her daughter and son-in-law’s first forays in the Seattle bar scene. The Elfords’ new spot will add to their mini Belltown empire, which currently includes Rob Roy and the James Beard Award-nominated No Anchor, in addition to Navy Strength.
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Vinnie’s was named after Vinaya, @eclectic_anuboogaloo’s mother, who worked as a nurse for over 40 years including in the psych ward at a VA hospital and who along with Vinu (dad) sacrificed greatly to help us get our dream bars open. We are so proud to honor this strong woman by naming our newest little venture after her ❤️