Two restaurant closings; a short history of Mercer Island’s local food scene

March 4, 2020 | by Erin Sirianni

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Photo credit: Bennett’s Bistro / Instagram

Since we began our reporting on Mercer Island’s restaurant scene in 2014, we have covered the openings of about 15 food and restaurant establishments on the island. In the same span of time, at least nine local food establishments closed, and last week, we learned of the closures of two of the island’s most popular dining spots.

Earlier in the week, Island Broiler announced it would be closing its doors after its last day of service on Friday. On Thursday, Bennett’s Bistro announced its immediate closure.

Both closures were unexpected, especially that of Bennett’s Bistro after its long tenure of nearly 15 years serving as something of an anchor tenant of the island’s downtown restaurant and retail scene.

Bennett’s owner Kurt Beecher Dammeier shared the following announcement on the restaurant’s website and Facebook page:

With much regret, Bennett’s has closed as of February 27th.

To my fellow Mercer Island community, I extend my sincerest thanks for inviting us to be a part of your lives and celebrations for nearly 15 years.

To our landlord, thank you for being our friend and supporter.

It has been a great run and the memories will last a lifetime.

Kurt Beecher Dammeier, Proprietor

Island Broiler closed after six years in business. Earlier in the week, Hemmard Thomas (Chef T), owner of the restaurant, posted the following letter to the door of the restaurant:

Dear Friends,

It is with a heavy heart to have to inform you that due to the cost of doing business on the island, we cannot continue to keep the restaurant open. I thank each and everyone of you for your support from the very beginning to my departure and upon my return. Each of you hold a very special place in my heart and I will miss you all. Our last day of business will be Friday February 28th. I will be available to do private events. My contact information is (404) 468-4708 or email @ [email protected] Again thank you for your support.

Sincerely,
Chef T

The announcements were met with broad lament throughout the community, as well as remembrances of favorite dishes and expressions of gratitude.

In response to the Bennett’s Bistro announcement on Facebook, a customer wrote: “A great run, indeed. When restaurant choices were slim on MI, you jumped in and gave us a great place to meet, gather, celebrate, and eat well. Many fond memories at Bennett’s.”

On a Nextdoor.com thread about the closure of Island Broiler, a restaurant regular shared: “Chef T will be missed on the Island. He is an amazing person cooking the best Gumbo you would ever find. He always greeted every one with warmth and smiles. Food to be enjoyed among friends and family. We have enough of the same, will miss his uniqueness and authenticity.”

I chatted with Laurie Givan, Executive Director of the Chamber of Commerce, and she is hopeful that other restauranteurs are already eyeing the spaces.

“Both are prime locations for future restaurants to open,” said Givan. “They are both great spaces ready for a refresh. Both have good parking – Island Broiler has additional parking in the Walgreens parking lot. And they both have outdoor seating. It would be great to see another restaurant open soon on Mercer Island.”

What is your hope for a future restaurant on Mercer Island? Share with us in the comments.

A short history of food establishment openings and closings on Mercer Island

In the past five years, the following food and restaurant establishments have opened on Mercer Island:

  • Homegrown Sustainable Sandwiches (2015)
  • Pagliacci Pizza (2016)
  • New Seasons Market (2016)
  • Tiger Garden Restaurant (2016; formerly Seven Stars Chinese Restaurant & Lounge)
  • Mioposto (2017)
  • Caruccio’s (2017)
  • Riviera Maya (2017)
  • Shawn’s Cafe & Bakery (new ownership in 2017; formerly Franky & Dom’s Cafe)
  • Sano Cafe (2018)
  • Island Treats (2018)
  • Barrels Wine Bar (2018)
  • Pho Em (2018; formerly Phobulous)
  • L’Experience Paris (2019; formerly Convivial Café)
  • Old 76 (2019)
  • Eat Local; now Performance Kitchen (opened 2019; re-branded 2020)

These food and restaurant businesses have closed since 2015:

  • Albertson’s (2015)
  • Han’s Garden (2015)
  • Yo Mercer (2015)
  • Roberto’s Pizza / Dalhousie Square (new ownership in 2015; closed in 2016 after re-branding to Dalhousie Square)
  • El Sombrero (2016)
  • Zaw Artisan Pizza (2016)
  • Freshy’s Seafood Shack (2018)
  • I Luv Pho (2018)
  • Freshy’s Local Market (opened in 2017; closed in 2019)

What’s ahead?

New Seasons Market was recently acquired by Good Food Holdings, a global retailer that owns Metropolitan Market among other West Coast grocery retailers. The New Seasons Market location on Mercer Island will convert to a Metropolitan Market, possibly as soon as May.

La Fête Pâtisserie Française is currently hiring and will likely be opening within the next month or two on Mercer Island. (Stay tuned for more info!)

Eat local! Learn more about Mercer Island’s local restaurants on our website at mymercerisland.com/mercer-island-restaurants/.

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