Growing up around his family’s fruit orchards in Wenatchee, WA, Seattle chef-on-the-rise David Nichols and his brother, Ian, used to run across the rough floors of apple packing houses, not unlike the worn concrete flooring at their new Green Lake restaurant Eight Row. Ingredients from that very farm would later find their way into David’s dishes when Eight Row opened last summer, from the pork and venison sausage with apple butter to the bison tartare with pickled Rainier cherries. But the thoughtful interior of the American farm-to-table restaurant really brought everything together and made the echoes of those houses resonate, one major reason it was Eater’s 2019 Design of the Year,
Local design firm White Space helped the two Nichols brother realize their vision, making sure their story was told through the aesthetics. Among those countrified touches are the floral decorations behind the bar and the taps made out of sharp old pruners, along with natural wood tabletops and cherry-colored tones throughout the dining room. Along the walls are jars of pickled produce, and walnuts soaking in grain alcohol. Plant life fills the space, and the windows let in plenty of light.
“We wanted people to feel this almost fundamental, unadorned, honest quality,” says Ian Nichols, who manages the business side of the restaurant. “There is nothing too shiny. And yet it feels so well-built and strong.”
Eight Row stands out for simplicity and brightness, in contrast with some of the more industrial restaurant spaces popping up around the city in recent years. And even more appealing to diners, perhaps? A pleasantly quiet dining room where noise doesn’t echo off hard lines. That was an intentional — but organic — part of the construction process, which included upholstering furniture and fitting special tiles along the walls reminiscent of molding. Those elements, along with the plentiful plants from a West Seattle nursery, help dampen sound.
It all works in harmony with the food and drinks menu, both of which rotate seasonally. Currently, there’s a burrata and beets, served with pomegranate, steelhead roe and brewer’s yeast, a carrot cavatelli with duck confit and hazelnut gremolata, and a popular fried eggplant dish, with turnips, cumin crème and chili de árbol honey. All light and rich with color, just like the surroundings.
But Eight Row’s story goes deeper, developing into more than a restaurant. Chef Nichols has made it a community gathering space for those, like him, who are in recovery. On November 4, he and manager Kate Willman launched a Seattle chapter of Ben’s Friends, a nonprofit organization founded three years ago by acclaimed South Carolina restaurateurs Mickey Bakst and Steve Palmer, who lost close friend and chef Ben Murray following a struggle with alcoholism. The group has since grown to 11 chapters across the country, and the Seattle Ben’s Friends group meets every Monday at 10 a.m. at Eight Row.
It only make sense for Nichols’s restaurant to become a safe space in that capacity. From the start, it was built for others to feel warm and welcome.