It’s been a long time coming, but that long-dormant building on the Northeast corner of Bank Road and Vashon Highway is about to come back to life. The Ruby Brink bar-butcher shop-restaurant will host its grand opening Saturday, May 4.
The Ruby Brink is a collaboration among three seasoned hospitality professionals. Lauren Garaventa, whole animal butcher and co-host with chef Rustle Beihn of the Meat and Noodle pop-up soup restaurant on Vashon, have joined forces with Jake Heil, most recently seen behind the bar at May Kitchen + Bar and hailing from Portland’s Multnomah Whiskey Library as its general manager.
Nearly three years ago, Heil said, their business plan convinced Breffni McGough to buy the 90-year-old building at the town’s center, and they signed the lease immediately.
“The building had been empty for a year,” said Garaventa, “and it felt sad.” According to Heil, “We wanted to give this corner new life and create a space that refreshed it.”
The updated interior design is casually elegant, including a long bar, considerable restaurant and bar seating and a butcher shop.
“The design was easy,” said Heil. “Then we had a bad contractor experience that cost us serious time and money.”
It was the kind of devastating occurrence that might have sent other entrepreneurs running for the hills, but the trio didn’t give up.
“It took us months to recover,” says Garaventa, “but we applied budget cuts and creativity, and found a good contractor in Drew Meade to make it happen.”
They also had help from their financial partners, fans of their work and loyal customers who invested faith and dollars to make sure The Ruby Brink would open.
“Our partners are folks who want a new place to hang out on Vashon,” said Heil, noting The Ruby Brink will be casual, family friendly and open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to midnight.
Excitement for the opening appears to be growing — and extending beyond Vashon’s boundaries. Last week, Seattle food writer Megan Hill predicted the restaurant “has the potential to draw visitors from around the region as a dining destination.”
Each of the principals involved comes to the enterprise with a reputation for excellence, not just in food and cocktails but also in creating an experience for their customers.
“It’s about the level of care we put into what we do,” Heil says. “We’ve all dedicated our careers to creating an outstanding experience for people.”
All three claim their reward comes in the “human connection; having people walk away feeling really good.”
Introduced by mutual friends, Garaventa, Heil and Beihn discovered they shared mutual values and that they each wanted to build a restaurant based on what’s available locally.
“The restaurant menu will change often because it’s seasonal,” Garaventa said.
They also value “clean meat.” This is Garaventa’s territory. She is a whole animal butcher. That means she will only offer well-raised animals that are slaughtered respectfully.
“I can tell when an animal was butchered in distress,” she said.
Consequently, meat sold at The Ruby Brink will come from organic farms in Washington state. Currently, their beef will come from places such as Heritage Meats in Moses Lake, though she is working with several farms.
“I hope to source meat from Vashon farms soon, but any meat we sell in the restaurant has to come from farms with FDA certification,” she added.
Potential Vashon suppliers are still working on that. Other menu ingredients will come from island farms. Garaventa noted that she believes meat is healthy in small amounts and when it’s of high quality, but she said The Ruby Brink will also offer vegetarian and vegan entrees.
“We want The Ruby Brink to be accessible to all,” said Heil.
It’s possible for one person to get food and drink for $25. Prices would be considered mid-range with bar snacks starting at $4; sides and salads range from $10 to $14 and entrees from $16 to $20. They will eventually add fresh fish from local providers.
“We’re opening this place for ourselves and for the island we call home,” Heil said.
“We want to do something special for our community,” Garaventa added.
“Lesser known and adventurous spirits” at the bar promise a unique cocktail experience that will mix old and new combinations, according to Heil. The trio says they chose bar supplies to support small and local businesses. The décor hearkens back to an old world sensibility with dark woods, stone surfaces and ambient lighting. They note they care about things like sound, seating and other details that assure their patrons’ comfort.
That attention to detail extended to how they named the place. In the process of poring over Vashon history books, they found a little known story about a young girl — Ruby Brink — who attended Lisabeula School before the island was electrified. She was left to watch the hot cocoa on the school’s kerosene stove while her teacher prepared for a parents’ meeting in another room. Ruby kept the cocoa from boiling over, but the stove flared up and flames began licking the building’s cedar walls. Ruby called to her teacher, and Mrs. Thompson sent everyone outside, all still unaware the school was on fire. When the teacher rang the bell for help, the community thought it was the recess bell, and firefighters arrived too late to save the building. The last sentence in the story is what Garaventa says captured the team’s imagination: “Only the teacher and a few disgruntled taxpayers wept as the schoolhouse burned. The children bore up under the loss remarkably well.”
So, Garaventa, Beihn and Heil named their store The Ruby Brink only after obtaining information from Ruby’s descendants to use her name. The choice, they say, was pure whimsy.
“This place is a bar where you can have lunch and dinner,” said Heil. “And, it’s a bar with a butcher shop,” adds Garaventa. And, they hope, The Ruby Brink will soon join the ranks of islanders’ favorite hangouts.
— Susan McCabe is a freelance writer and principal of Hannah, Ink editorial services on Vashon.