Restless restaurateur Jarrett Joslin almost dropped out of the scene when his last upscale venture, the lost and lamented Sapori, turned out not to attract the crowds he wanted in the burgeoning area on the southern end of downtown, lovingly referred to by us pretty people as “SoDo.” (Pronounced so-dough.)
“At that point, a high-end dinner restaurant just wasn’t feasible,” said Joslin, who also has opened Bar 9 and Bent Lounge, both in SoDo (Bar 9 is the old Sapori). “The parking wasn’t so great. There just wasn’t much traffic.”
But now SoDo is supporting Bent, Houston Street Bar and Patio, Embargo, Rick O’Shea’s, Paddy Reds, Durty Murphy’s, and a couple of other clubs. And businesspeople and property owners are eagerly looking forward to late 2008, when the new Omni Hotel near the convention center is slated to open and hopefully draw in vacation and convention patronage. That’s actually the main reason Joslin just opened his Sodo Grill, which he describes as “gourmet fastfood.” He wanted to establish a toehold in the neighborhood to see how the Omni will (or won’t) energize the area.
Sodo Grill will serve up kobe-beef burgers, tenderloin salads, and smoked shrimp sandwiches in a modest but tasteful environment of exposed ceiling and wall tones of off-white, tan, and dark chocolate. The two things Sodo won’t be offering, at least in the near future: dinner service and alcohol. We’re talking zero rye. Not even bottled beer or wine by the glass.
“Right now, we want to keep it simple,” Joslin said. “It’s as much about my wanting the space as it is about my vision for Sodo Grill. If it turns out that there’s a demand for dinner, we’ll do dinner. If customers request alcohol service, we’ll do that. We want to be able to evolve.” Indeed, Joslin is so open to change that, should the Omni attract a year-round roster of tipplers, late-night diners, and imbibers, he might just turn Sodo Grill into Sodo, a full-service downtown bar/restaurant. No wonder I’ve always been so staunchly pro-Darwinism.