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July 1, 2008 6:13 PM

Gone from Matt's in the Market: Matt!

Posted by Nancy Leson

Matt Janke celebrated his 47th birthday on June 27, 2007 with the debut of his Market restaurant's much-anticipated expansion. I had the great good fortune of being there, happily (and anonymously) celebrating with him, and later reporting the event in my column.

Today I stopped into Matt's for lunch and got what I came for: a fabulous pan-fried catfish sandwich and confirmation that the news I'd just heard -- that Matt's business-partner Dan Bugge now owned the restaurant and Matt was no longer in the house -- was, indeed, true.

"We just found out [he was leaving] last week," said longtime daytime bartender Robbie McGrath, one of the best pourmen in the city, who also works Monday nights across the steet at Place Pigalle. The quiet departure, said Robbie -- who made it clear he thinks the world of his former boss -- had been in the works for some time. When I asked about Matt's plans, he told me he didn't know, mentioning Matt's three-week-old baby and saying something about "family in Eastern Washington," suggesting that perhaps a move was in store.

A new posting on the Matt's in the Market website is circumspect. It states only that: "Matt's has a new business partner and owner Dan Bugge" -- a partnership I noted in my review last August. And that "Dan has been with the world famous Pike Place Fish Co. for the past nine years before joining with Matt Janke to expand the old space in the first half of 2007."

As for Matt, I hope that whatever it is he does next will be as joyful for him as dining at his quintessential Seattle restaurant -- one of the city's shining stars -- has been for me these past 12 years. Comments?

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