I first heard about The VUDE sometime late last year. Tucked away in the middle of a no man’s-land between Seattle Center and Westlake Avenue, The VUDE (Velvet Underground Dining Experience) brings Seattle’s gastro geniuses out of their element and into a quiet, tucked-away oasis – one evening at a time. The space itself seems understated at first. The simple doorway on 9th Avenue North boats no more of a tell-tale than the opening to the Secret Garden. Inside, however, is where the story is told. A larger-than-life photo of Evita Peron, a butcher’s guide to beef meat cuts, and (explained later) a historic photo of Argentina’s ‘Hand of God’ moment don the walls. Participant’s nametags are sprinkled through simple baskets of fresh flowers and arrays of wine glasses waiting to be filled.
The VUDE’s mastermind – Jon Staenberg – is the string that ties each evening together. A Olympian at reading people and making connections, Staenberg is a social ambassador. He blends the flaneuse with the poet. The blogger with the socialite. The fisherman with the politician. One must wonder how many times the seating are mixed and changed, as the outcome (at least the evening I attended) was nothing short of masterful.