Dammit. Another one has bitten the dust. On March 24, just five months after opening, ‘Table closed its doors for good—cutting off the city from what may have been its best veggie burger.
I first tried ‘Table, the casual Denny Regrade veggie burger spot from Ma’ono chef Mark Fuller and industry vet Doug Kawasaki, back when they opened in November. That burger was a revelation: so flavorful, so unexpected—a great burger, not just great for being a veggie burger. We wrote about the restaurant, plus Fuller’s new Supreme pizza joint, in our April issue. And next week, when our May issue hits newsstands, you’ll find a roundup of the city’s best plant-based burgers. ‘Table is on that list—it was still open when we went to print—but you’ll have to head elsewhere now for a great vegetarian burger.
Was a fast-casual veggie burger place just too progressive for Seattle? Is this another case of the area around South Lake Union making it damn near impossible for restaurants to succeed? Or were customers just not that jazzed? (Yelp and media reviews all but disprove this last point immediately.)
According to Kawasaki, it was a sort of perfect storm that led to ‘Table’s closure. He says it’s not like he didn’t really try to make this work: He enlisted friends as investors, quit his job with John Howie (a job he loved) to go all in, liquidated his retirement, even sold a house to come up with funding for this passion project. But the project was “behind the eight ball” from the beginning, he says, due to an unforeseen (and out of their control) issue with the landlord and building that set them back from an August opening to November. A lunchtime restaurant like ‘Table, where each check is relatively small, needs a lot of turnover to be successful. But the numbers remained flat from January—notoriously restaurants’ most difficult time of year, as diners recover from holiday binging—through March. “Sometimes you do everything right and plan everything accordingly and still get blown off the mountain,” he says.
He remains proud of what he and friend Fuller accomplished there, but also is quick to say that it’s still too fresh to know what he’ll do next. “I pushed all my chips into the middle and it didn’t work out,” Kawasaki says. “I just need to take a vacation and figure out what’s next. I need to lick my wounds a little.”
And that burger? I asked if we may be able to talk Fuller into adding it to the menu at Ma’ono, either the West Seattle original or, perhaps more appropriately, alongside the fried chicken sandwiches at the U Village outpost. After all, a lot of R&D went into coming up with the perfect patty—a combo of fried mushrooms, eggplant, barley, quinoa and cashews—and it would be a shame to let that recipe go to waste. Kawasaki laughed and said that may happen down the line, but that it wasn’t exactly an easy recipe to execute. It was a $9 burger for good reason: each ingredient was cooked individually, then hand-ground, hand-formed into patties, baked and finished on a $10,000 chrome griddle. C’mon Fuller, do it for us.