Breaking Capitol Hill Mexican restaurant news: One closes, two open, one gone forever

There’s a small, Sayulita-like wave of change in the Mexican restaurant scene on Capitol Hill this Wednesday including the closure of one long-time venue that struggled to make a new home on Broadway and the (probable!) debut of a new player in the scene. Updates on those two and notes about a few other of the Hill’s community of Mexican food and drink providers, below.

Shuttered (Image: CHS)

Fans of its above-it-all Broadway balcony lament — La Puerta has closed its, um, doors.

Attempts to contact the Castro family have thus far been unsuccessful but CHS talked to Tina Castro in spring 2011 about the family-style restaurant’s move after 20 years in Pike/Pine to the Broadway Market shopping center above QFC:

It is prime time for happy hour on a recent weekday and the enthusiastically decorated Mexican restaurant has only a scattering of customers. Castro says this is a typical daily scene for her business which has been struggling to make ends meet. With what Castro says is poor visibility from the street view and an overall unstable customer base, especially with the rise of so many new Mexican restaurants in the area, Castro sadly reports that business as been tough over the past few years. In an attempt to keep the restaurant afloat, Castro said she has been forced to cut her kitchen and wait staff down to a minimum and sell many of her possessions including a house in her hometown of Guadalajara. Still unable to generate enough income to meet her monthly lease and utilities bill, Castro says she expects that La Puerta will soon be no more. Even so, she commutes daily to Capitol Hill from her home in Mukilteo to keep La Puerta open.

A bright spot at Fogon (Images: CHS)

You’ll now find Quinn’s in the spot La Puerta used to call home on E Pike. Castro told CHS in 2011 that she was given two months notice to move when new owners purchased the building in 2007. She and her husband chose the Broadway Market’s second floor restaurant space despite facing what they said was a near doubling in rent. We speculated in 2011 about La Puerta’s ability to hang on as new investors moved in to take over management of the shopping center.

Today, with work underway to overhaul the building and transform the retail tenant mix, La Puerta has shut down. Without confirmation from the owners or the building’s management, we can only speculate about why the decision to close down came this summer after six years of struggle in the space. We do know that the closure appears to be planned well in advance. The state has already discontinued La Puerta’s liquor license, a process that sometimes can play out months after a business has shuttered.

We’ve asked the management company for more information and if they can tell us about future plans for the upstairs space. We’ll update if we hear back.

Galerias gone
While we’re talking sad stories of Mexican restaurants on Broadway, Seattle Police tell us the investigation into the $800,000 arson that destroyed Galerias last November remains an open case with no updates and no arrests. Owner Ramiro Rubio has not responded to repeated attempts at contact from CHS. The liquor license for the longtime Broadway favorite finally was discontinued recently and the building’s landlord tells us work will soon be underway to repair the restaurant as the search for a new tenant begins.

Fogon Cocina Mexicana
On E Pine, the liquor license continuity is intact. Fogon is ready to debut. Noel Cortez , Jose Ambriz and Jesus Magaña’s “Cuisine of Mexico” is ready to open any minute now barring any last minute complications with inspections. It may have debuted Tuesday night for all we know. A visit Tuesday afternoon found Cortez putting the finishing touches on the space transformed after former tenant Kiki’s exit and allowing CHS a few teaser photographs.

A tortilla grill station in the middle of the Fogon action? Yes

We talked to the partners behind Fogon and its related Mi Tierra family of Eastside Mexican eateries on CHS in May.

“[Mi Tierra] is more like Mexican restaurants that you might see in the suburbs,” Cortez said. “Going on Capitol Hill, we’re not going to try to change a lot but maybe refine it a little more.” He expects to put the 10 years of experience —- and recipes — from Mi Tierra to work at Fogon but with smaller, simpler preparations. And, yes, great margaritas.

“We know the clientele is it a bit different and we need to step up our game a little bit,” Cortez said.

Stop by E Pine and Belmont tonight to see if they’re open tonight if you’re feeling adventurous. Meanwhile, Broadway should also get a new place to enjoy tacos and the like soon. Work for the new Ooba Tooba  remains underway is open (we’re told via Facebook!) next to Rite Aid.

Obligatory Tacos Chukis mention
Because I so often neglect to mention it in Capitol Hill Mexican food round-ups until somebody points it out: Tacos Chukis. That is all. 

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44 thoughts on “Breaking Capitol Hill Mexican restaurant news: One closes, two open, one gone forever

  1. Well… there is the International district, a short bike ride away, which has a ton of Asian food.
    And we have lots of great Ethiopian food just south in the CD.
    And there are a few Indian places (Mirch is decent, Chutneys is gawdawful-inedible)

    But ya, it would be nice if a few of these were sprinkled inside the Capitol Hill area. So I second your grrr for more variety. :-)

  2. Are you kidding me there is a copious amounts of Asian food on broadway, you can’t get away from it. For years I wanted a burger place after Jack In The Box became a lost do to the Light Rail. Finally Woody’s came along just as I was leaving Seattle, after 6+ years on the Hill.

  3. Figure it out! Chinese options on the Hill include Chungee’s on 12th and Regent Bakery at 14th and E Pine. Seriously though, Regent Bakery has a ridiculously huge menu of solid chinese food.

  4. Well, there’s always Chungee’s, which is perfectly fine.

    Any mention of Taco Chukis always makes me smile, I love that place. Cheap and delicious.

    I’m not sure Capitol Hill needs any suburban Mexican food, but I will give Fogon a try.

  5. Baseskizl:

    Yes, there are lots of Asian restaurants on the Hill: Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese teriyaki, Indian, even Nepalese, but I’m guessing the commentor is referring to your basic good, old-fashioned Szechuan-style Chinese restaurant. The recently opened Lucky 8 across from Skillet is about as close as we have for the moment, but since we lost Jade Pagoda several years ago, there’s definitely been a gap in terms of that particular regional cuisine around here.

  6. Regent’s Bakery & Cafe at 14th & Pine is actually a Chinese restaurant. It’s pretty okay if you’re desperate for Chinese food. They are open really late on weekends.

  7. I long for the day someone from San Diego decides to move up here and start a Mexican restaurant because a) fuck mission-style burritos and b) nobody in this town knows how to make a hard-shell taco (hint: the shells don’t come in a box in the grocery store) or a chile relleno.

  8. @Chef Thunder and only two on that list are close to American (NYC) style. One of them looks like it opens at 4pm some of us like lunch.

    I see all these spots opening up on the hill and it’s never Chinese food if it is it’s some sort of fusion place. It’s the only food I miss having close by here though I have to head for another neighborhood. Oh well I will stick to Japanese, Mexican and Subway.

  9. VSB, the Fogon guys, if you click through to our post from May, live up here. I don’t know if they’ll accomplish their goals but they intend to be exactly the opposite of what you are preemptively complaining about.

  10. Regent Bakery is decent. I think Red Lantern in the ID is pretty good. Spicy Talk Bistro in Redmond is excellent. You have to kiss alot of pigs here to find good Chinese like east coast. Not very good options unfortunately.

  11. Curious, does one restaurant ever open on the hill without some cheap ass commenting on how we’re getting another overpriced, inauthentic eatery? Is it just me or are people in Seattle THAT cheap? I’ve lived in cities all over the country and Seattle has some of the most reasonable prices I’ve ever seen. If all you’re going to do is bitch about the shitty expensive restaurants, do us all a favor and eat at home.

  12. If you’re jonesing for decent Chinese for for lunch, go check out 7 Stars Pepper at Jackson & 12th. They have a ridiculously huge menu including a gigantic assortment of lunch options. Some of their stuff is great and some is just OK– do don’t write them off if you try something not-great right away. No, they’re not on CapHill, but they’re pretty close. And if you’re driving– they have parking underneath, too, so you don’t have to hunt around like other places over in the ID.

  13. A former Californian myself I also miss the mexican food. Having said that, the hill’s food has vastly improved in the seven years I’ve been up here.

  14. Prices are way too high at Ooba Tooba. $6.50 for bean & cheese burrito?!?!?

    RE: California Mexican food vs. Seattle — I agree the chips and hard shell corn are bad up here. The fillings are great though. Try the taco truck down by the stadium / theater sometime — it is epic!

  15. Me too. Hey jseattle, can you see if you can get a status update from the owners? Last I heard they were going to try to re-located somewhere nearby (maybe near Seattle U I thought).

  16. am going to miss Puerta. When they had to move out of their location on Pike it was a sin and a shame — they scaled down their menu and took the Steak Puerta off, which was a big f’ing steak roasted and seasoned like a carne asada. Tasty stuff. We liked going to their new location, as charmless as it was, but we knew something was up the last time we went — no soccer or telenovela on the TV monitors. I thought they were about to close, and they did.

    Forget chinese food. What we need is a cheap greek place up here now. The Gyro World was good but not quite right if you wanted moussaka or something besides a gyro. The Byzantium (if I have that right) doesn’t make it either.

  17. You’re thinking of The Byzantion, which is delicious but not cheap. There’s a gyro place up on 15th near the 7-11 (Gyro Cafe, I think?) but I haven’t been there so not sure what they serve besides presumably gyros.

    And I too, love Tacos Chukis but often forget about them because they’re tucked up in the back end of the building.

  18. You clearly are very educated on the brand new restaurant that opened yesterday…

    please tell me more about what your favorite and least-favorite dishes are.

  19. You only have 2 options for good Mexican food on Capitol Hill. Upscale/modern: Barrio
    Authentic street style: Tacos Chukis
    Every other ‘mexican’ restaurant on the hill is garbage.

    Oh and fuck Californian mexican food. The best authentic mexican food in the states is in the Yakima valley.

  20. I love it when I read such absolute statements about what’s good/authentic and what’s not. Commenting on restaurants is so subjective and depends on a multitude of factors…your past experience with that kind of cuisine, the cost factor, who you are dining with, your server’s personality, and even the mood you happen to be in that day.

    In my opinion, it’s best to avoid such definitive comments about a place…when you do, it comes across as arrogant and condescending.

  21. Everybody who prates about the authenticity of Mexican food in whatever area they came from or live in now should be forced to eat a big bowl of menudo with tripas, with your grandmother standing by to refill the bowl when it gets low. You want authenticity? It’s as real as it gets.

  22. Every time some NYC trash complains about Seattle not having good Chinese food all I hear is, “Whaaa. I want shitty Chinese food.”

    There is nothing special about NYC Chinese food that you can’t get at a hell-hole like Louie’s or Yen Wor; greasy Americanized trash.

  23. Pingback: ¿Como se dice ‘Autopro’? Mezcaleria Oaxaca Capitol Hill | CHS Capitol Hill Seattle