Goodbyes are never easy. The finality of them are always difficult. But to say goodbye is to know that there were memories and emotions there. That the drag of melancholy and bittersweet only feels that way because you felt something. Such is the case with saying goodbye to Madison Park Conservatory as they closed their doors this past weekend.
I first learned of Madison Park Conservatory through my relationship to one of its main proprietors, Bryan Jarr (full disclosure: I've been friends with Bryan since high school). It was through his and Cormac Mahoney's past project in Eastlake, Tako Truk, that I found out about MPC. I remember meeting Bryan for drinks and him telling me about the vision they had for the restaurant, and how during the early days of buildout it was only rubble as they tore it apart to start anew, and when we brought some bottles of wine over to celebrate them on the new venture.
When Madison Park Conservatory opened up in late-2010, it was a revelatory experience. At that first meal, we were able to share it with a dear friend who has since passed away. It was delicious. I still remember her saying 'Isn't this the best Caesar Salad you've ever had?' And that memory will always be with me. I'll remember sitting in the Library Bar upstairs at Madison Park Conservatory with friends to take in the room, the view, the pictures of the staff when they were kids (the photo of a young Cormac with a mullet was particularly enjoyable), and just exhaling. I'll miss those moments.
I'll miss our wine tasting group that met there. I'll remember our bottles of wine littering the shelf by the cookbooks. We were always happy to be able to visit the Library, sit around the table that Cormac made with wood from an old Washington barge, and be around friends and wine. I'll remember the smell of the books when you took them off the shelf. The first taste of the bone marrow tots. The crunch of the fried chicken. The delicate trout. The hedonist mouthful of the MPC burger (you guys missed out on one of the best burgers in Seattle). But it wasn't just the food that I loved about Madison Park Conservatory. It was the devil-may-care attitude that came from the place; the vibe and feel whenever you were in the dining room or bar and just knowing that you could relax and be in good hands.
But much like a memory, Madison Park Conservatory's time was fleeting. As happens with restaurants and life, things sometimes don't work out. With having closed this past weekend, Valentine's Day was their last hurrah to the public. While the accolades that Madison Park Conservatory and Chef Cormac Mahoney received were deserved, maybe the neighborhood didn't deserve Madison Park Conservatory. Sometimes a place can be ahead of its time or the neighbors just don't see the forest from the trees.
While endings are sad, and this is indeed that, the memories that I have of my time at Madison Park Conservatory helped frame my enjoyment of food and what Seattle dining is capable of. I look forward to see what Cormac and Bryan have up their sleeves. Even if it isn't about food, it will surely be memorable.