Thursday, January 7, 2010

Impromptu bites the dust

The outdoor Christmas lights are still on, but the restaurant itself is dark and most of the furnishings have been removed. Impromptu is no more.

At the end of 2009 there was a sign on the door stating that the restaurant was closed, but I assumed that was just for the holidays. Now it's clear that was not the case. An announcement on the restaurant's website says it all: "Impromptu Wine Bar Cafe is currently closed. We thank you for your patronage and apologize for any inconvenience this may cause."

The restaurant, located at 4235 E. Madison Street, had mixed reviews since the change in ownership (and executive chef) over a year ago. While many found the food good to excellent, the various restaurant-rating websites also documented some curious service issues (my wife and I experienced one there ourselves, for that matter). In spite of being a very small establishment, it was usually uncrowded even during the height of the summer season, which is a very bad sign for a Madison Park restaurant. Most of the higher-end ones live or die by what they earn during the good weather (in other words, before the Washington Park Tower crowd heads south for the winter).

I am sorry to see the loss of any decent neighborhood eatery. Hopefully, there will soon be a replacement for Impromptu.

Meanwhile, across the street, Cactus! is on a two-week hiatus in order to renovate. As we reported in July, the restaurant is expanding its kitchen into part of the space that was once the Yankee Peddler. This will result in some reconfiguration of the seating area by the entrance. Hopefully Cactus! will be back in operation by January 20 or so. Now there's a restaurant that doesn't have to worry about lack of traffic, summer or winter.


  1. That is too bad, but that is a great space, I am sure someone will pick it up. The right concept and good quality could make a killing there, even in this economy.

    I too had mixed feelings about the restaurant, it was kind of hit and miss. My last meal there was pretty bad, to be honest (this was about 2 months ago), but on the other hand I have had excellent meals there too.

  2. I'm always sorry when I see a small business (the core of the U.S. economy) fail but I guess it's true that you have to give the people what they want. My wife and I never ate at Impromptu (wine bars aren't our "cup of tea") but it would be interesting to see what our neighborhood wants. We have Mad Pizza (pizzas and salads), The Scoop (Burgers & Ice Cream), Park Deli (soup & sandwiches), Madison Park Cafe (French), Thai Ginger (Thailand), Bing's (Burgers and a variety of northwest fair),The Red Onion (micro-waved bar food and potato chips), Cactus(designer Tex-Mex), The Attic (real bar food), McGilvra's Restaurant (more burgers, appetizers, fish and chips, etc.) and Sostanza (high end Italian). I hope I've described these eateries accurately but at least the discussion has begun. What type/style/nationality of a restaurant (assuming the prices are reasonable and the food and service are acceptable would Madison Parkers support? I realize Madison Valley, Leschi and Madrona have a variety of fine restaurants but I'm talking about in "The Park", a short walk away or a two minute car ride.

  3. Hey Will, the Red Onion may not be fine dining, but be clear, they make hand made fresh to-order great pizza. Some say Red Onion pizza may be one of the best kept secrets in the Park. And where can you get a great little pizza for ten bucks?

    They are also know for their hand-sliced to-order, fresh made sandwiches. A great french dip, that I love for six fifty. If you don't like the Ruffles that come with the sandwiches then go for the potato salad. None of their menu items are made using a microwave oven.

    It's a funky old tavern that seriously needs a refresh but the limited menu is still good fresh stuff. Nothing fried and nothing microwaved!

  4. Whoops. Bryan I hope you don't mind me commenting on Anonymous' comment. Great info re the good deals on the ten dollar hand-made pizza and the french dip. Six-fifty? Reminds me of the prices at the old Kelly's in Montlake. I guess I should update my opinions considering it's been about 40 years since I used to hang out at the original Onion. At least they're not serving more burgers; but where's your input on what we need at the old Impromptu space?

  5. Was walking by on the lake side of the old Impromptu space today and noticed the windows were covered in butcher paper. I walked around the corner and saw a fellow standing in the doorway who looked like a workman. "New restaurant going in," I asked? "Yup they're putting a new oven in for a Pizza place," he answered. "Great," I thought, "with MAD, THE RED ONION & THE ATTIC that makes a total of four places to get a pizza in Madison Park." What happened to Hot Dogs, Greek, Seafood, Chinese or Real Bar-B-Que?


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