Quarantine wine kept the Bistro going through the pandemic shut down

Friday, June 19, 2020

North City Bistro owners, Ray and Sharon Bloom.
They are dedicated owners who miss greeting and serving their customers.

North City Bistro owners say“We have an astounding community!”

By Donna Hawkey

Ray and Sharon Bloom have been reaping the benefits of loyal customers for almost seven years, and that continues through a pandemic, too. They are two “devout foodies” who just want to “create awesome, quality food,” says Sharon. They are also huge music fans, so they have combined that love by offering live music - pre -COVID - five days a week. “We were often packed,” says Ray.

Quarantine case sales turned the dining room into a warehouse

When they had to shut down their business in March, at first they panicked, but then came up with a win-win solution with their promotion of “quarantine wine” cases to their customers. And it’s been a huge success with repeat buyers.

They offer fine wines at a greatly discounted price, and that helps pay the rent and keep the lights on. You can still purchase these cases today.

The wine sales helped keep their wine supplier in business, too. “We were their largest customer during the pandemic. We are very grateful for this relationship, and to all our outstanding customers,” says Ray.

Dining at the Bistro pre-COVID-19. When Ray first saw North City Bistro,
he thought it was “charming and had potential,” and that urged him to consider buying it,
something that totally surprised his wife, Sharon! But the two foodies took a chance.
And now they have many happy and charmed customers!

But that is not enough to keep the business alive, and they know their customers have been missing them and visa-versa. With their small and intimate restaurant, opening again with only 25% capacity and the six-foot requirement for social distancing is just not workable. 

So they have started offering about 60-70% of their menu, and craft cocktails, as take-out options on Wednesday through Friday from 4:00pm to 7:00pm. And they are adding Saturday for a couple of weeks, to see how it goes. “No scallops or scampi,” says Ray. It has to meet their standard for take-out food portability.

Here is a link to the website and the menu is HERE.

Sharon doing curbside delivery so you can take home delicious meals quickly and safely.

Ray has a grin in his eyes when he talks about their Bistro. Sharon shows the same enthusiasm as she describes her passion for food that is of high quality and of her joy in offering new innovative dishes. But, she says, “We always try to keep certain popular items on the menu, like the crab cakes and steak bites.”

Customers are happy to see food available again. Take-out customer Kathleen Stamm said "We just finished our leisurely small-plate, multi course dinner. It was Superb … from beginning to end … "

The couple boasts of their staff, calling them “just amazing,” and feel they are their “Bistro family.” They all work together on menu creation and help each other in resolving problems, or kinks in the system. You can understand why Ray and Sharon are successful, but they go beyond this and offer live music too, hosting some of the most talented local and national Jazz, Blues, Brazilian, and Latin musicians and songwriters. 

Lee Oskar and Friends played regularly at North City Bistro and it’s their favorite place to play.
Lee is a world renowned harmonica player who was a founding member of the group War.
The Bistro pays musicians better than standard fees so they earn more. 

“Music venues are dwindling around the Shoreline and Seattle areas, and that is disconcerting,” says Ray. Since Grinders and Tula’s closed, there are fewer opportunities for musicians to work. And now with COVID-19, many musicians do not have a way to earn a living, and that concerns them a lot.

Some musicians are streaming from their living rooms with a small entry fee, and patrons are leaving them large tips, so that helps. But it’s tough times for sure, that requires ‘out of the box’ thinking, explains Ray.

Seeing the City of Shoreline north end growing, they did start thinking about new ideas because North City Bistro is located nearby the building of several new, large apartment complexes on or near 15th Ave NE. Ray expects they will mostly be occupied by millennial workers, so he and Sharon went ahead and planned to open an additional venue close by. to be called RoseLee’s.

One of their customer’s favorite meals are their fish n’ chips.
They only use fisherman fresh cod, and a small amount of coconut adds a nice crunch.

“We are very concerned now of course,” gulps Sharon, as she discusses signing the lease right before the pandemic hit. “We have to remain flexible,” says Ray, and they both plan to remain optimistic. 

RoseLee’s, when it opens, will be oriented toward a healthy menu of comfort food with slow-roasted proteins and vegetarian and vegan dishes, that they feel will entice both current and future residents.

Now though, everything feels so unpredictable, and while they are grateful to have received a Personal Protection Program (PPP) loan from the Small Business Administration (SBA), Ray says he is concerned that they could be required to pay back thousands of loan dollars. 

This is due to changing SBA requirements that have created a moving target of confusion and too much extra work for a small business owner. Ray sighs, “The SBA has not done such a great job in making sure this money does what it is supposed to, and that is, to support small businesses and not to break them.”

Sharon has a passion for food that is of high quality
and takes joy in offering new innovative dishes

North City Bistro is intertwined within their hearts, and their values as a community partner reach beyond Shoreline into Lake Forest Park (LFP), too. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, they had to cancel a May 12th Lake Forest Park Rotary benefit that included LFP resident and jazz musician Ken Kassover and a special stand-up comedy performance by Mayor Jeff Johnson! Hopefully, that one can be rescheduled in the future as they expected a sold-out crowd.

Sharon and Ray are owners who work hard but make it look easy. They always greet their customers with a warm smile and offerings that bring joy through good food and lively music. Ray is proud of his craft cocktails, too, and offers them at reasonable prices. He says he uses the best and freshest ingredients and that he has learned the art of blending flavor combinations to make a perfect tasting drink. And he has transferred these flavor blending skills over to cooking. 

2015 Jazz Walk line to enter the Bistro to hear Bill Anschell Trio
Photo by Steven H. Robinson

They are brainstorming ideas with other community members to continue some form of the popular and annual August Shoreline Jazz Walk. But so far, too many safe social distancing obstacles are in the way. However, they are working on a potential virtual festival! Details to come soon.

Treat yourself and check out North City Bistro’s website to order take-out food, cases of "quarantine wine," spirits and craft cocktails!

North City Bistro 1520 NE 177th St, Shoreline 98155. Phone 206-365-4447


Anonymous,  June 19, 2020 at 11:47 PM  

I was - and am - confused by the headline. In skimming through the story, it seems that they're still open. Also, with today's news that King County has progressed to "phase 2," I think that means they can now seat at 50% capacity, so hopefully that means they can offer dine-in seating.

Unknown June 20, 2020 at 7:23 AM  

Always a stop when I visit the area. My best to Sharon and Ray during this crazy time. I look forward to my next meal and good company at the North City Bistro!!

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