In 2011, it only felt like CHS was breaking news from the Capitol Hill food and drink economy on a daily basis. In the end, we posted just under 200 stories about the comings and goings in the Hill’s bar and restaurant scene. Below is a look back at an incredible year for growth in these segments of the entertainment industry on Capitol Hill.
We’ve highlighted the top stories of the year from our point of view — we’re biased by pageviews, to be brutally honest — but please let us know what else we should have included. You’ll see a few of the same stories championed by the Seattle foodie media’s reviews of 2011 here but we’re just as interested in the diversity of the economy and the reality that it’s not all about craft cocktails, press releases and happy hours.
You can also check out more of our Year in Review — 2011’s 30 most-commented posts
- Canon re-writes the book on Capitol Hill cocktails — Not all, sure, but a lot of it *is* about craft cocktails. Jamie Boudreau’s museum of mixology provided plenty of opportunities for creative headlines and gushing reviews when it opened its doors for the first time in August. In just four months, its instantaneous success defined a busy year in Capitol Hill drinking. Notices of proposed gentrification notwithstanding, Canon will likely continue to define the changing drink scene on the Hill.
- A coffee giants punts (sort of) — The year started with one of our neighborhood’s most massive food+drink players shifting its game as Starbucks returned its brand to the independent-styled cafes it spent the previous year opening on the Hill. Some said it signaled a failure. Others noted the product testing has moved forward with design elements and offerings like beer and wine being transitioned into SBUX cafes around the world.
- Another Thai restaurant on Broadway — One of our most-read posts of the year had nothing to do with foodies or craft cocktails. When Artid Siam closed in September, it very easily could have gone unnoticed. We noticed.
- Capitol Hill clubs get their paperwork in order — Turns out, Neighbours has been a restaurant all these years. CHS reported on a mini-trend around Pike/Pine and Broadway as long-time clubs faced deeper scrutiny on the city permitting front.
- Online Coffee goes bust (but Online Cafe is born) — A symbol of both the change in technology and the challenges of keeping a small business running for years, Online Coffee’s Internet cafes failed in 2011. It wasn’t all bad news. Former Onliners rallied together to open Online Cafe on E Olive Way.
- Travelers finds a new home — Longtime E Pine restaurant/shop/spiritual center Travelers has lived under the threat of being replaced by a new tenant for years now. In 2011, it started the process of doing something about it by opening a new restaurant in Beacon Hill. Word is that it also offers delicious food but that south Seattle crowds are pretty light.
- A grande dame of the scene passes — The Rosebud died in 2011 after more than 18 years of service on E Pike. The space will soon be home to St. John’s in 2012.
- B&O died but then un-died — Like a zombie that you love, B&O Espresso un-announced its closure following a decision to shut down with the end of 2011 as a development is set to move forward that will demolish its longtime E Olive Way home.
- Varro concept implodes — Something just seemed off from the beginning. Whatever it was, the Italian-themed lounge lasted only a few months on 12th Ave before throwing in the towel and, presumably, kissing a healthy chunk of investment money goodbye. The Dolce Vita-themed mural will live on when D’Ambrosio Gelato opens in early 2012.
- Altura triumphs on north Broadway — If winning over critics is all it takes to succeed, Altura got off to a great start following its June opening. The food and experience — especially at the counter of the open kitchen — is consistently raved about. Will the restaurant be able to build on the so-far amazing reviews to survive on Broadway’s north end? There’s a story for 2012.
- 4 projects debut in one week — Altura was also part of a story that says so much about 2011 in food and drink on Capitol Hill. In the final week of September, four significant projects made their debut — Altura, Bako, Momiji and Oola Distillery all premiered.
- Capitol Hill food+drink stretches down 12th — You can call it the Central District but Ba Bar feels like a Capitol Hill joint. The new focus for Eric Banh provides an all-day, all-night Vietnamese “street food” experience that has stretched the Hill’s food and drink economy south to Jefferson.
- Seattle Portland-envy brings street food zones — As Seattle’s king of cool, of course Capitol Hill was at the center of planning around new street food zones being created around the city. But as the legislation was finally shaped, the zones have become more of a downtown thing.
- Filling in Pike/Pine — The transition of “underperforming” spaces into new players continued in 2011. Chino’s brings new life where Oasis Cafe held on in a changing E Pike.
- New clubs ready game plans — Setting up a theme for 2012, two high-concept nightclubs set about planning their ventures in 2011. The ambitious folks behind the Po Dog empire are teaming up with some Hill all-stars to open the Social in early 2012 on E Olive Way. Meanwhile, the backers of Q are also making 2012 debut plans for their ambitious Broadway project.
- RIP The Chapel — CHS liked drinking at The Chapel. It felt like you were in a movie. The film came to an abrupt close this summer when the bar announced it would be closing after eight years on Melrose. Coming in 2012, The Pine Box.
- A star is born at 14th and Union — You mean there was a Capitol Hill food and drink scene before Skillet Diner? Another Capitol Hill project with the power to render critics ahistorical, Skillet succeeded in nearly every aspect in 2011. We visited Josh Henderson before the accolades started flying to see how his first fixed-place venture was shaping up way back in March. As you can see, he had Skillet well in hand.
- Capitol Hill’s burger king — In this neighborhood, Marcus Lalario is an important dude. The HG Lodge owner and Molly Moon’s etc. investor has helped define the current era of Capitol Hill entertainment industry. He opened a burger joint in 2011. Go figure.
- Seattle U gets a college bar — How did those Seattle U kids do it? Before summer 2011, the school lacked an appropriate campus-adjacent place to get boozed up before/after/during finals. No longer. Meet The Chieftain.
- Peace on 17th Ave East — The Volunteer Park Cafe–Volunteer Park Neighbors saga came to a merciful close. The cafe business lives on — with limits — and neighbors, we’re sure, are again the best of friends.
- Spinasse gets a little brother — A recent Capitol Hill foodie darling, Spinasse got bigger in 2011 and was joined by its new little friend. Welcome, Artusi
- Capitol Hill-made spirits — First out of the gate may have been Sun Liquor’s new digs, but Oola rocked the first product. Congrats to all the Hill’s craft distillers.
- Pike/Pine filling down — More signs of Pike/Pine optimization? The Unicorn announced plans to expand down.
- What this neighborhood needs is a bear bar — 14th Ave made space for a dedicated bear bar as the crew from Diesel set up shop.
- Your next hot spot: E Olive Way — With CC’s moving in, Tommy Gun opening up, Bleu Bistro’s Grotto grotto-ing and Montana, the Social, and Crumble & Flake not far behind, CHS will likely be trying to think of funny headlines that incorporate E Olive Way throughout 2012.