Last week, the marquee of the Lusty Lady urged "HURRY WE'RE CLOTHE-ING." The final day to peep at the well-loved Seattle institution will be Saturday, June 12. Rampant nudity on the internet was instrumental in the Lusty Lady's demise (though the internet does not provide a living, breathing, dancing-just-for-you Lady on the other side of a pane of glass for a quarter). Then there's gentrification: First Avenue isn't for sailors and hustlers and pawnshops and peepers anymore. Among rampant upscalings, the new Seattle Art Museum and its restaurant, TASTE, sit across from the Lusty now, and the fresh Four Seasons Hotel (providing luxury at $365 a night) is adjacent.
Sandwiched between the Lusty Lady and the Four Seasons is Fonté Cafe & Wine Bar. Fonté has the feel of an upscale chain with its pearl-toned leather banquettes and contemporary sleekness, but it's the sole retail outlet of Fonté Coffee, roasting in Georgetown for almost 20 years. Owner and Seattle native Paul Odom appreciates the instant recognition his famous neighbor gives him: "If you say the Four Seasons, people are like, 'I don't know where that is.' If you say the Lusty Lady, they say, 'I know EXACTLY WHERE THAT IS.'" He's reticent about what the loss of the Lusty Lady means overall; he just hopes the marquee stays. He wants the slogans ("pretty darn funny") to continue, though who exactly would create them and how they'd be funny in context isn't clear. As for the show itself? "I've never been inside," Odom says.
At Fonté, patrons choose wines from around the world for $6 to $30 a glass, from a list initially selected by former Herbfarm sommelier Tysan Dutta, who's since moved on. Jason Wilson of Crush designed the original menu, but he's been supplanted by New York chef Mark Strausman. The emphasis foodwise is on the new garde manger, where the making of charcuterie, cheese, and antipasto platters is exposed for viewing pleasure (no pane of glass involved). Using a New York consultant defies the current fetish for all things local, as does Fonté's sourcing of cured meats from Salumeria Biellese of Manhattan. Biellese is family owned—but then so is Salumi, about 10 blocks away. Odom says he loves Salumi, but that the recipes are "Seattleized," whereas he calls Biellese more traditionally European; he also cites the ubiquity of Salumi, saying he's gone elsewhere "to be different." Meanwhile, Fonté has just been certified green; the carbon footprint of shipping is not part of this particular certification.
At one of Fonté's window tables last week, a well-heeled couple discussed matters of lust while sipping wine. "I've had several threesomes," the lady said. Then they spoke of the existence of certain explicit photos. Steps away, the other side of the Lusty Lady marquee read "THANKS FOR THE MAMMARIES."
Fonté Cafe & Wine Bar, 1321 First Ave, 777-6193