London plane closes in Pioneer Square

A seminal restaurant to the renaissance of Pioneer Square, not to mention our city’s overall foodie landscape, will say goodbye after a decade. The owners of the London Plane, Yasuaki Saito and Katherine Anderson, have announced that they will close their restaurant after Christmas Eve.

Of course, the London Plane has always been more than just a cafe. Its aspirationally attractive walls contain Anderson’s flower shop, a bakery, and a particularly handsome pantry. The place also has civic significance.

Ten years ago, chef Matt Dillon shaped the vision of this space in the Occidental Mall. The industrial-farmhouse aesthetic. The lunch menu of inventive salads, rich spreads and perfect cakes was memorable and dazzling. But planting a triumphant dining destination in the city’s oldest and oft-maligned neighborhood in 2013? That was directly revolutionary.

The London Plane became an avatar of the Pioneer Square renaissance. It remained an affirming anchor of the neighborhood, even as some of our most complex civic issues manifested itself outside its tall glass doors. In 2021, Anderson wrote candidly about the challenges of operating a business that is also on the front lines of the neighborhood’s fight to support mentally ill and homeless residents. Not to mention the struggle to survive during the pandemic, especially during the early stages of lockdown when foot traffic in our downtown area became sparse.

Dillon is still technically a partner, but now Anderson and Saito run the business, just as convincingly as it was a decade ago. London Plane’s 10-year lease is coming to an end soon, they explain in an email newsletter.

“We’ve given it our all and we can’t make it work anymore,” Saito told me. He and Anderson have some ideas for “moving forward,” he says, but are still trying to determine feasibility. They’re still waiting for someone worthy to materialize to take over the space (which happens to be one of the most attractive dining rooms in the city) and continue what they’ve built.

The last day of service is December 24. “It will be very difficult to leave an empty space in a neighborhood we care about,” Saito and Anderson wrote in their announcement. They list reasons that are not a surprise: the ongoing fight of the pandemic and of staffing. An unsustainable balance between visitors and costs. “The stress of negotiating and helping people in crisis in Pioneer Square was physically and emotionally hard on our staff.”

Saito is also a partner at Post Alley Pizza and Saint Bread. But let’s hope that those plans to forge London Plane going forward somehow come to fruition.

I’m not entirely comfortable saying that the London Plane helped revitalize Pioneer Square; our original neighborhood never ceased to be vital. I feel comfortable saying that I will miss this place like hell.

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