Like every good origin story, the Shambles’ story started over beers. Co-owners Matthew Brady, a Fremont Brewing Company vet, and Joel Klemenhagen, a longtime beer buyer for Whole Foods’ Roosevelt location, were having a drink at Holy Mountain when both beer nerds talked about wanting to open their own bar. Not a brewery—there’s too much competition in that space. And not somewhere in Capitol Hill or Ballard—see above regarding competition.
So they found a space in Maple Leaf, formerly a candy colored toddler gym near the intersection of Lake City Way and Northeast 80th Avenue, where they could forge ahead with a neighborhood hangout. And now the doors of that dream are almost ready to open.
If this makes it sound like kismet took hold and all has gone smoothly, well, consider the fact that it’s been nearly a year since news originally broke of the plan to open the Shambles. The original plan was for an all-ages restaurant and bar, but seismic issues with the old brick building they’re in limits occupancy to just 50 people—about half what they were hoping. So the plan changed.
When it opens in just a few weeks, the Shambles will be an intimate 21-and-over space with a focus on beer (32 taps, to be exact, from the likes of Cloudburst, Holy Mountain, Fremont Brewing, Lucky Envelope and more), cocktails and, most importantly, charcuterie. The space Brady and Klemenhagen are renting is huge by commercial real estate standards, and the 50-seat restriction means it can’t all be dining room. They’ve converted the rest of it into the sort of spacious kitchen chefs dream of, with special temperature-controlled areas soon to be filled with aging guanciale, hams, smoked kielbasa and so much more.
Brady learned about curing and smoking meats in the year or so he spent on the job at Salt Blade, a local artisan meats producer whose products you can find everywhere from Met Market to Marmite. And while Brady knows a great deal about the charcuterie side of operations, they’ve hired chef Seamus Platt (of Mollusk and Girin) to lead the kitchen.
The menu at the Shambles will focus largely on the house-cured meats and whole-animal butchery—sandwiches during the day and dinner dishes featuring unusual cuts of steak and pork. There will be a small takeout counter near the front door where people can get sliced salami and crusty baguettes to go, though that likely won’t be up and running until late spring (it takes a long time to properly age that salami, after all). The goal, down the line is to get USDA certification so they can sell their meats wholesale as well.
The space is beautiful, thanks to carpenter Josh Randall, who also built the bars at the Burgundain, Toronado and Bottleworks. A large scale, backlit, wood art piece arches over the tap wall, made from the staves of old bourbon barrels Fremont Brewing used for their Kentucky Dark Star beer. The bar top is an estimated 800-year-old fir; much of the wood that decorates the place (and there’s a lot of it) came from an old barn in Chehalis.
Could Maple Leaf be the next destination ‘hood for foodies? Probably not. I want to say yes, to make my own real estate go up, but the sleepy northern neighborhood has a long way to go before it can compete with the likes of even Ravenna, let alone Ballard. But with Barbecue Smith open just weeks ago and now the Shambles moving in—follow on Facebook for soft opening dates before the end of the year—there is at least a little hope.
Maple Leaf, 7777 15th Ave. NE