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.
Fans of its above-it-all Broadway balcony lament —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.
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.
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.
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.
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.