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Wednesday, May 21, 2003 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Taste of the Town / Nancy Leson

JaK's Grill plans to expand to Laurelhurst area

The gang at JaK's Grill is at it again. After making their mark with casual neighborhood steakhouse operations in West Seattle and Issaquah, they're moving into the Laurelhurst area.

Those familiar with 3701 N.E. 45th St. will know it as the former home of many a defunct eatery — among them the Roasted Pepper, Truffles, (Luciano Bardinelli's Seattle-side version of) Italianissimo and Komen's Live Market. Those familiar with JaK's — popular for its moderately priced steaks and chops, hefty burgers, comfortable bar and swell service, might wager that with the coming of the new restaurant (ETA: early July), this site's revolving door will stop revolving. I'd place a hefty bet on it.

JaK's, an acronym for (J)eff (a)nd (K)en's, was founded in 1996 by partners Jeff Page and Ken Hughes. In 2001, Page sold his stake in the small steakhouses to a group of longtime employees. Among them is Dan Baker, presently the bar manager at JaK's in Issaquah (at 14 Front St. N., 425-837-8834), soon to take on the position of general manager at the new venue. Wayne Ketterling, chef/partner at JaK's in West Seattle (at 4548 California Ave. S.W., Seattle; 206-937-7809) is slated to head up the new kitchen.

Mary Robbins, who has been keeping JaK's books from the get-go, speaks for herself and her partners, who she says are thrilled to be part of an "employee-owned" business. As for taking on the burden of a third restaurant, she reasons, "There's strength in numbers. We love what we do — and there's enough of us to do it."

Love, unfortunately, won't be enough to keep the Boat Street Cafe from a July 1 date with the wrecking ball. This dreamy little U-District favorite tucked (nearly) under the University Bridge resides in a former machine shop recreated as a charming French-inspired cafe.

Famously friendly and funky, Boat Street (909 N.E. Boat Street, Seattle; 206-632-4602) is scheduled for demolition to make way for construction of a mixed-use complex. The restaurant will close after dinner service on June 26 and is expected to relocate to an as-yet-undetermined location by early fall, according to owner/chef Renee Erickson, who says she is heartsick about losing her little labor of love.

Though Erickson was offered an opportunity for an on-site restaurant space once construction is completed, she declined.

"The closest thing to what the building's going to look like is the stuff built in Fremont. Boat Street is uniquely strange yet charming, it's low-tech and not 'decorated.' I don't want to be like any other restaurant in a new building. Wherever I go, it's still going to be the Boat Street and it's still going to be my food. Hopefully, I can make the new restaurant as charming as it can be in a different space."

Until June 26, Boat Street Cafe is serving lunch 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays; dinner 5:30 to 10 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays; and brunch 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Reservations are taken at dinner only. Erickson urges Boat Street fans to keep an eye on her Web site (www.boatstreetcafe.com) for updates on her restaurant search.

Nancy Leson can be reached at 206-464-8838 or nleson@seattletimes.com. More columns at www.seattletimes.com/columnists.

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