This week, we thought we’d pay a visit to one of our favorite new lunch haunts, The Bear and The Bee. It’s right in the middle of Belltown, an area of Seattle that borders Pike Place Market, Downtown, and the Waterfront, and is chalk full of wonderful little shops, galleries, and restaurants…a great place to spend a day exploring.
We discovered this new sandwich shop a couple of months ago, and have been devotees ever since. The sandwiches are just pure goodness, full of tasty ingredients from local providers. The combinations lean toward the more creative, such as “The Smashed Potato”, which includes White Cheddar, Gouda, Leeks, Chives, and Fingerling Potatoes, all on an open faced Sourdough….so incredible! It’s lovely to have a place in the area that caters to the local clientele who expect just a bit more out of their usual lunch break.
Marcus Johnson, one of the owners, sat down with us to answer a few questions about running such a great addition to the neighborhood.
Tell us a bit about the shop, and why you decided to open it here in Belltown?
Jessica Gifford and I, after opening a few bars in Belltown, decided the neighborhood could benefit from a small and comfortable sandwich shop that would serve high quality foods and stay open through the Seattle food witching hours (3-5) until 7p.m. We wanted a fresh approach to classics like the Italian sub (The Milan-Torino) or the BLT (we add shaved onion and fresh avocado).
How did you get into the restaurant industry? What made you decide to tackle artisan sandwiches?
I’m a big foodie, but I’m a career barman so my experience with professional food prep is a bit naive to say the least, and I figured if we were to expand into the food scene we had better start small with a solid staff from which I could learn. The Bear and the Bee is hopefully a stepping stone and research tool towards bigger things.
You own several other establishments in the area. Tell us about these, and how you manage to keep balanced while running all at the same time.
We own and operate three bars within a one block radius in Belltown, off 2nd and Blanchard. Bathtub Gin & Co. (built from scratch) is our slightly hidden cocktail bar. The Rabbit Hole (a former Thai restaurant) has become our Cheers of sorts with skeeball, a full kitchen open late, and a couple televisions for the games. Lava Lounge was on the verge of being closed when we decided to buy it, redo the mural, and basically just keep it the way it has been for the past twenty years.
Your ingredients, the bread, the juice, the wine and beer….it’s all so excellent. Where do you find such great purveyors?
The sources for our products are very important to us, even for a tiny little sandwich shop. Besides produce from Frank’s and other vendors in Pike Place Market, and Zoe’s and Grand Central Bakery for meats and breads, we also brought in a local juicing company Healthy Bonez, for our personalized cold pressed juices.
Who are your favorite Seattle chefs? Best places to get a meal in this city?
I just can’t say enough about how lucky we are to have so many great chefs and restaurants in the Seattle area. I wish I had more time (and deeper pockets) to explore and re-visit every chef and their restaurants in town, but a few of my favorites: Renee Erickson; The Whale Wins, Scott Staples; Quinn’s, Jason Wilson; Crush, Maria Hines; Tilth, Matt Dillon; The Corson Building. So many good spots. I also really enjoy the old staple restaurants that locals know and love: Palace Kitchen, Machiavelli, and half the restaurants in the International District.
What is your favorite part about living and working in the Northwest?
I moved to Seattle about 13 years ago and am thoroughly enjoying planting my roots here. I like the direction the city is moving and I see many opportunities in the future. But the people, the water, the culture, and of course the 9 month anticipation of summer keeps me here.
Any new dining trend you’re loving right now? Any you’re so not into?
What I’m really loving right now, is restaurant design. Although the food and service should be number one, I love walking into a well thought out room such as Westward or The London Plane. Trend in the industry that I’m not too fond of? Lazy, uncaring service is always old.
What are some important lessons you’ve learned about running a small business, and being an entrepreneur?
Being a small business owner has taught me many things and I have come to realize that it’s becoming an eternal classroom that fortunately lets me meet new people and pay the mortgage.
We love the look of The Bear and the Bee…tell us a bit about the thought behind it?
I’m glad you enjoy the design of the place. I thought a little wood (maybe a lot), some easy colors, and random art on the walls would sit well with a small open kitchen. And I wanted to make sure we had a front sitting area up against the large floor to ceiling windows looking out at 2nd Ave.
Best sandwich on the menu?
These days I’ve been enjoying The Southpaw. Ham and swiss with some sloppy sweet and sour slaw. So good.
Go check out The Bear and The Bee at 2211 2nd Ave between Blanchard and Bell in Seattle, Wa…. You won’t regret it!
All images curtesy of KettleWerks.