As 2020 comes to a close, another major Seattle restaurant says goodbye. In an announcement on social media Tuesday, popular Capitol Hill cafe and bakery the Wandering Goose said it would be closing permanently after eight years, citing economic hardships due to the pandemic as the primary reason behind the decision.
“It’s been a good journey and it’s heartbreaking considering I put everything I had into a place I really (and still do) believe in, but I had to call it,” owner Heather Earnhardt tells Eater Seattle. “I’m not a quitter, but it was an impossible situation with absolutely no help from the government. I applied for as many grants as I could find. I’m a restaurant owner, not a grant writer ... Our local politicians let us down, honestly.”
Opened in 2012 by Earnhardt — an accomplished baker who cofounded Volunteer Park Cafe — with investment from restaurateur Dani Cone and Caffe Vita’s Mike McConnell, the Wandering Goose quickly became a breakfast and brunch favorite in a rapidly-developing neighborhood. With seating in the cozy space limited, locals would often line up early to sample the menu of buttery biscuits, skillet breakfasts, cherry hand pies, buttermilk fried chicken, and several other satisfying Southern-influenced dishes (Earnhardt is originally from North Carolina).
In 2018, Earnhardt moved to the Washington Coast with her husband Zac Young and their kids to run the historic Tokeland Hotel and Restaurant, but the baker still retained ownership in the Wandering Goose and split time between Tokeland and Seattle. Business appeared to still be booming in 2019, but — like every restaurant — COVID measures necessitated drastic adjustments. Throughout 2020, the cafe relied on a takeout window for its selection of breakfast sandwiches and baked goods, and emphasized retail sales during the holidays. Unfortunately, the changes weren’t enough to stay afloat.
Earnhardt says she’s working on two new projects, but wasn’t at liberty to reveal details just yet. She also hints that it’s possible the Wandering Goose could open back up again down the line somewhere in King County, just not in Seattle. In the meantime, she continues to focus on her hotel and restaurant out by the coast.
“We’ve been living in Tokeland almost three years — this is where my heart is now,” she says. “If you loved The Wandering Goose even a little bit, you will fall head over heels in love with Tokeland Hotel, I promise you. It’s magical.”
UPDATED, December 31, 2020, 9:48 a.m.: This article was updated with quotes from owner Heather Earnhardt.