By Meghan Hall
Local restaurateur Victor Steinbrueck has worked for several years on the creation of Local Tide, a new fast casual seafood restaurant in the heart of Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood. Steinbrueck had been looking forward to debuting the space and its food this month, but health and safety concerns have meant only take-out is possible. While the physical space will not be open to the public for some time, The Registry caught a glimpse inside the restaurant and the atmosphere it hopes to provide customers.
“It is definitely contemporary. Clean, fresh, not gimmicky,” explained Mike Mora, Co-Founder and Principal at architectural design firm Heliotrope. “We wanted the materials to be evocative of the modern spirit of the Pacific Northwest. We weren’t trying to convey something old fashioned, or like nets on the walls with plastic crabs. It isn’t a seafood shack. There’s meant to be a contemporary look to the design.”
Located within Cedar Speedster, a new heavy-timber, mixed-use building, the 1,000 square foot space is Steinbrueck’s first brick-and-mortar location. The neighborhood is a bit newer for Steinbrueck, who previously had been operating pop-ups in and around Pike Place Market.
“It was a dream to open my own space,” said Steinbrueck. “I never imagined it would be a brand-new space in Fremont and part of this new, cool building.”
Originally, the chef and restaurateur believed he could only afford something in the realm of a deli counter, and was considering staying close to his stomping grounds downtown. Fremont, however, has been a welcome change.
“Pike Place is home to me; my parents own a couple of shops there, and I’m so used to being there,” Steinbrueck said. “But Fremont, on the other hand, is still old Seattle. It has its own community; it is quirky in its own way…It’s been really cool.”
Overall, the design of the restaurant is meant to bring something new to the seafood industry: a business that caters neither a super casual pub nor high-end seafood restaurant, but in-between. The layout of the space is largely defined by an open kitchen on one side, paralleled by banquet seating and tables on the opposite wall. For Steinbrueck, an open kitchen was perhaps the most important requirement. From the bar, customers are able to watch the restaurant’s food prepped and made.
“The kitchen I have always looked at as a living room, and I wanted to bring it into the space,” said Steinbrueck. “That feeling of comfort and interaction between the cook and customers has always been very cool; that was important to me to be able to interact, because there are so many kitchens where you are stuck in the back of house.”
With the layout largely dictated by the size of the space, the project turned its focus to materials. The goal was to make each dollar stretch, and so the most attention was given to the parts of the restaurant customers would interact with most.
“We tried to focus our resources on the things that would make the biggest impact, the things that people touch: the countertops, the materials, the furniture,” said Evan Dobson, Designer at Heliotrope.
Mora added, “We asked, ‘What are the things you have to have?’ Let’s make those things the ones that are compelling; let’s focus our resources on the primary field of vision.”
The bar top and custom benches are made with heavy timber Douglas fir salvaged by Steinbrueck from a lumber yard on the Olympic Peninsula. Other countertops are made of stainless steel, and on the wall is a pass-through window connecting Local Tide to Aslan Brewing. When open, Local Tide will be able to serve food to Aslan Brewing’s guests. A bright neon sign illuminates the back wall. However, Steinbrueck’s favorite feature is the light fixtures. Lining the bar area, they are made of Teak wood and were hand-carved by Steinbrueck’s brother, a local artisan.
“I love how we staged the layers and the elements,” said Dobson. “…You only get one façade with the restaurant, and there’s only one view of it as you’re walking by or approaching it as a customer, so we choreographed what that view is, which I think worked out really well.”
For now, however, that view from the street is all customers will get to see. With public health orders still in effect, Local Tide will need to wait to invite its guests inside. Nevertheless, the restaurant opened at the beginning of the month and is serving take-out from a modified menu. Steinbrueck cannot wait for the day that customers can come inside, but for now, is rolling with the circumstances.
“You don’t have much choice. You have to put your best foot forward with what is in front of you and so it’s been daunting, for sure, but the team has been amazing,” said Steinbrueck. “They’re a big reason I am confident opening my doors.”
That support system is also what allowed Steinbrueck and Local Tide to work successfully through the entire design, entitlements and construction process—something Steinbrueck didn’t even know was feasible at the start.
“I have this awesome network and community of people,” Steinbrueck emphasized. “…I didn’t realize at the time…when I was going through the process, every hurdle that I came across, there was always somebody to reach out to or somebody willing to jump in. That was really neat for me to see.”