It’s a rare thing.
Rare to be able to find a spot where everyone seems to truly exist in the present moment: Phones put away and eyes looking up at the person across from them, the singer on the stage, or the gourmet meal they can’t wait to devour.
It’s rare to see a room full of people fully engaged with each other and the space they’re in. Not just listening to the live music flowing from the stage, but really hearing it. Not just nodding politely at the person across from them, while internally plotting out tomorrow’s to-do list, but really engaging with them. Not just eating food for the sake of eating, but savoring the goodness that comes from a meal shared with a great group of people.
This captivating environment is exactly what Craig Baker and Chris Peterson, the minds behind Bake’s Place, have created. It’s like their slogan says, “You only have to find us once.” Once you discover their restaurant in downtown Bellevue, tucked away as an oasis hidden from the main restaurant and storefront corridor, you’ll be hooked.
What started out as a speakeasy-style jazz club in Baker’s basement — grown out of a desire for him to share his love of music and its power to bring people together — has transformed into a thriving restaurant consistently being rented out by big companies, and filled up night after night with live music and groups of friends.
“It was kind of informal,” Baker said, of the restaurant’s humble beginnings in 1999. “It was just a little speakeasy. We had a little (indoor) bar, and we had a bar outside, and it was just a lot of fun,” Baker said.
If you’re like me, you hear the word ‘basement,’ and your mind goes straight to a dusty, forgotten space stuffed with musty boxes. But when Baker pulls out photos of the original inception of Bake’s Place, you’d have no idea that you’re looking at a basement. With set tables, a full bar, and beautiful decorations complete with lights strung throughout the outdoor space, it looked more quaint than many restaurants — a result of Baker and his wife’s experience in event planning. And this was no small operation. They could fit about 60 inside and up to 100 outside. They even had a stage set up on the lawn where Baker would host coveted artists to perform for their dedicated crowd.
Eventually, they decided to move to Issaquah in 2003. They took the live music, positive atmosphere, and growing restaurant over to Providence Point, where the good times kept rolling in an event space within an active retirement community.
If there’s one impression you’ll walk away with after a conversation with Baker and Peterson, besides the warmth they exude and their love of music, food, and good company, it’s that they live in a mindset of growth. They’re always looking for the next step, seizing every opportunity to keep Bake’s Place moving forward. Remain stagnant and stuck in the past by playing it safe? Not on their watch.
So, when the Bellevue Downtown Association approached them about picking up and making the move to Bellevue, they said yes. But, of course, only if they could find the right space for the right price. Baker and Peterson both agree that the association delivered on this request. They wouldn’t want Bake’s Place anywhere else. Everything fell into place, Baker said.
When you see the current space, you’ll immediately know why they love it. And you’d have no idea that you’re standing in what used to be an old bank records space. You turn the corner to the hostess desk, and immediately get a glimpse of high-vaulted ceilings hanging over a multilevel space full of seating to accommodate groups of all sizes, a stage with state-of-the-art sound and lighting, large windows, and glass doors that lead to the covered and heated outdoor whiskey bar.
The marriage of a music venue — with an outdoor stage, fire pits, couches, patio games — and an excellent menu with more than 180 selections of whiskey and bourbon is what makes Bake’s Place such a favorite for locals and beyond.
When you go, chow down on entrees like Chilean sea bass or goat cheese gnocchi with an elaborate cocktail, and take advantage of theme nights, when it offers special deals — Mule Mondays, Whiskey Wednesdays, and the Tiki Thursdays are always a hit, Peterson said. What better way to spend a freezing Bellevue winter night than inside, pretending you’re in a tropical paradise?
And, of course, you can expect live music on the weekends. Saturdays are always concert nights, when you’ll need to pay a cover charge to see the show. Just this past October, Bake’s Place had Heart by Heart (a Heart cover band with members from the original group) performing to a full house.
Baker and Peterson are confident people will continue to come back again and again to this rare space they’ve created. Once you find Bake’s Place, whether you’ve come in search of a much-needed glass of wine, a bite to eat, or to see that band you’ve been wanting to check out — you’ll be hooked.