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North City Bistro & Wine Shop

Food, beverage, music


North City Bistro is under radar and shouldn't be. It started life 15 years ago as a wine shop in Shoreline, adding a bistro over nine years ago, and live music nights over seven years ago. In January 2014, Ray and Sharon Bloom purchased the business, fine-tuned the menu/kitchen, and increased live music nights to four and sometimes five nights a week.

Ray and Sharon Bloom

For the Blooms, the Bistro is a culmination of their lives over the years. Ray has been a musician all his life and has a passion for building businesses either from scratch or a basic level, then selling. He had a music store in Chelan in the 70s, worked in the Pro Audio industry (recording broadcast and live sound equipment) in the 80s-1997, and owned Silvana Mercantile from 1997 to 2002. From 2004-2015, he worked for a beverage importer. Ray and Sharon met when Sharon started working at the Mercantile. They've traveled extensively, love fine food, wine and spirits, and are huge music fans, loving all genres. "North City Bistro encompasses all our passions," explains Ray.

While working with the importer, Ray would call on the former Bistro owners. "When the spirits law passed, I was their rep and created a craft cocktail menu for them. They were only doing well drinks at the time. I'd gotten interested in spirits and it was a whole new world. But they were ready to retire and it went no further." Ray and Sharon decided to buy the Bistro and take it to the next level. "We wanted to treat it like a real business as opposed to a hobby or doing something just for the love of it," recalls Sharon. "They had music two nights a week and we wanted to increase that. We're up to four and five nights a week now." Before they bought, they came into the Bistro 2-3 times a week to see how it operated and decide what they liked and what they'd change. It also gave them a chance to meet musicians they didn't know.

Interestingly, it's become a place musicians want to play. "In the beginning, some musicians weren't interested in playing here," says Ray. "But there are several reasons that has changed. First, this is a listening room. People come here to hear them; they're not background music. Second, we feed them well. Third, they get whatever they charge at the door. We don't take any ticket money, plus they get tips and CD sales. They decide what they will charge. It's a concert environment even though it's small. The sound is good. They bring their equipment, but it hooks into our sound system. It's a cool venue with great food and drinks." Musicians range from local high school students to Ellis Brothers Jazz Trio, Pearl Django (gypsy jazz), Michael Shrieve's Spellbinder (Michael was the drummer for Santana), and the Greta Matassa Quartet (jazz). Lee Oskar, a Danish harmonica player who helped form the group War, showed up to play with Spellbinder, and is now interested in playing there again. Ray's daughter, Camille Bloom, occasionally plays the room. She tours Europe every year, and was director of Rock School for many years until about a year ago. "Our venue is all ages and we're passionate about that," says Sharon. "We want kids to be exposed to music, all kinds. They'll hear jazz and flamenco, things they might not hear on TV or the radio. Our service bar is in the kitchen, so the entire room is open to everyone."

Greta Matassa Quartet

Retail-wise, they offer between 400 and 500 wines. Their spirits menu offers around 20 tequilas, 12 gins, rums and brandies, and over 100 whiskeys. "We don't offer the typical choices like Jack Daniels, Tanqueray, or Bombay," says Ray. "We have 65 single malts and other good spirits I think people will love. Since they're not as well known, it gives me the opportunity to communicate with our guests. They feel special and we feel like we've connected."

They've expanded the menu with more small plates, entrées and desserts. Every two months, they change out a few entrées and small plates. "We try to stay seasonal, and make everything in-house," says Sharon. Small plates include items like a beet salad, antipasti platter, Moroccan meatballs, roasted Brussel sprouts and butternut squash. Entrées may include pan-seared salmon, cioppino, pesto linguini, lamb shank. Try the blood orange panna cotta or a fruit cobbler for dessert. "We have to give kudos to our staff. We're a bunch of disparate personalities that love each other. They each bring something we need and are amazingly talented. Our three chefs love to travel and they bring back great food and pairing ideas."

Guests may come for music, but are encouraged to eat and drink. Since they insist the musicians take all for the concerts, there needs to be income for the staff. "We really encourage people to make reservations," says Sharon. "We use Brown Paper Tickets for the shows we're sure will sell out, but people need to know that they also need to make dinner reservations for those nights. We need to reserve for various times-we can't have 75 people come in for dinner at 7 p.m. Our website and newsletter let guests know when they need to get tickets through Brown Paper Tickets. We like people to know they may share a table with someone else. When we sell out, we want to make sure as many people as possible can get in." They also keep a wait list, so ask to be on that if they're sold out.

Pan-seared salmon with roasted baby potatoes and kale

"Overall, we're really pleased at how things have gone," says Ray. "We've seen consistent growth. We wanted to offer a nice place for the community, and we continue to grow the level of music we present." Get the North City Bistro on your radar!

 

North City Bistro & Wine Shop
1520 NE 177th St
Shoreline, WA 98155
206-365-4447

northcitybistro.com

 

Gluten-free almond cake with caramel sauce

 

Connie Adams/December 2016


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