Linda is coming to Broadway


Linda’s Tavern, originally uploaded by butter_fry.

The quest to transform the north end of Broadway into a dining and drinking destination is about to get a major boost. CHS has learned that Linda Derschang — these days, the queen of the Hill’s food + drink economy — has acquired the space that has been home to modern Cantonese restaurant Bako and is planning her next venture for the location.

Derschang declined to comment on her incoming “Tools & Tackle” project saying more information would be available soon but Bako founder Keeman Wong confirmed to CHS that his restaurant served its final meal Thursday night.

“There were just so many restaurants that all opened at the same time,” Wong said. “We didn’t even know about Altura across the street [opening the same night].” CHS documented that September 2011 week in Capitol Hill restaurant openings here — Bako, Altura, Momiji and Oola Distillery each took a bow. An impressive wave has continued.


Former Bako, future Linda’s joint (Image: CHS)

Derschang’s arrival on Broadway is a neighborhood first for a woman who has been driving the nightlife industry on the Hill for nearly two decades. No details on the project have yet made it our way but Linda will be starting with the relatively expensive buildout Bako leaves behind in a building with a colorful drinking history.

We wrote about the Redside Partners (site) overhaul of the former Jade Pagoda here in 2010. Wong described the space he was creating as modern — “Not Jestons but not red lanterns, either” — and said he has spent more trying to make the design as sustainable and as green as possible while preserving much of the old building — including a section of the Pagoda’s dome ceiling and a brick wall he had to haggle with the city over due to rules around energy conservation.

A first night at Bako, fall 2011 (Image: CHS)

For Derschang, the new venture will give her outposts encircling the Hill starting with the E Pine base of Linda’s, ranging up the Hill to Pike/Pine’s Oddfellows, farther, then, to 15th Ave E’s Smith and completing the loop on north Broadway where she will neighbor Poppy, the aforementioned Altura, Olivar, Joe Bar, DeLuxe, Rom Mai Thai and Aoki. Meanwhile, demolition is slated to begin this week on 19th Ave E of the old craft shop what will make way for the development home to one more piece of the growing LInda empire. Talullah’s is destined to be part of the four-story mixed-use project at 19th and E Mercer:

Tallulah’s is planned as a restaurant and bar cut from similar cloth to Derschang’s Smith and Oddfellows but with a lighter, brighter take and more of a focus on the simple, rustic food the sister locations have specialized in. It will start as a dinner and brunch restaurant — no lunch — with plans to be open seven days a week in the eastern reaches of Capitol Hill’s leafier, quieter and more wow there are a lot of kids in here-ier end of things. Tallulah’s will have around 75 seats and what is being described as an enormous patio.

Ghost of the Jade Pagoda — inside prior to the 2010 overhaul of the building (Image: Redside Partners)

We’d expect a similar recipe on Broadway but who knows what surprises are in store. The new project, after all, will be the first In Derschang’s empire to share an entryway with a “high energy” workout studio.

The area around north Broadway continues to transform. The massive Joule apartment building now dominates the neighborhood while the older 700 Broadway building was snapped up for a tidy $20.25 million earlier this year illustrating the financial enthusiasm for the area. The push continues to extend the streetcar through the neighborhood to a northern Aloha terminus.

For Bako, Wong hasn’t been the only restaurant rookie to struggle in the ongoing waves of new food and drink ventures coming to the Hill. Wong said he feels like much of Bako worked and that his decision to close now was based on opportunity. But episodes like this marked the restaurant’s short history. It closes just short of its first anniversary. No word on whether Tom Douglas was a potential bidder for the space.

“I really loved being in Capitol Hill and I met a lot of great people,” Wong said. “I’m keeping my options open. I really enjoyed working with a lot of the folks that I worked with on this project.”

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27 thoughts on “Linda is coming to Broadway

  1. I wanted to like it a lot but it just wasn’t good. He had a lot of support and a lot of people wanting to see it turn around but it never did. Even with the chef turnovers it just never pulled out of its disappointing opening week.

  2. Sorry to hear about Bako. Never did get a chance to try it out. FYI new folks going into the former Elite. Just signed the lease papers this week….name unknown. But 2 are owners of..a bar in Sodo.

  3. I’ve been waiting for Bako to close for months now and something better take its place. They went through more than one chef – more like they went through a chef (and some line staff) at least once a month. Keeman was a horrible manager – he spent half his time holed up in the the back office. The food was mediocre – when you can’t even get your dumpling soup correct, you shouldn’t be in the business of operating a Chinese restaurant – or at least not operating one charging those prices.

    The straw that broke the camel’s back was when the let go of their bar staff – Guy & Sean – and the classic cocktails they served – were the only thing drawing in anybody to that place.

  4. This end of Broadway is pretty good at supporting higher end joints (e.g. Poppy, Altura, Olivar). Bako could have made it if they rose even a bit above mediocre. I didn’t want to believe the bad reviews but one visit was enough to convince me. Poor service and blah food at good service and good food prices does not make for success. Wish they turned it around but next best is to close it down.

  5. I never got to try it out either, but the lackluster reviews (reinforced in some of these comments) kept me away. If I’m going to spend $$$ on dinner, I want to be reasonably confident that I’m going to get food worthy of the money and Altura, Poppy, Olivar, etc. were all ranked higher and more consistently.

    That said, it’s always sad to see a new business fold so quickly.

  6. Me too! For some unfathomable reason, it seemed to get a bad rap on Yelp and other sites…and that had alot to do with its failure to succeed. My condolences to Mr Wong….hope he resurfaces somewhere else on Capitol Hill.

  7. It’s too bad Linda isn’t taking over that place across the street which had a serious fire about one year ago, and has sat blackened and derelict ever since. It’s a real eyesore for the otherwise stellar north Broadway area.

    Jseattle: How about an update on what’s happening with that space? Was it ever determined that arson was the cause? If so, any leads on the suspect? Is there some kind of litigation going on which is preventing its revelopment?

  8. Maybe I was at Bako on an off night for the bar, too, because I had two of the worst drinks of my life there. The worst Jack Rose I’ve ever had (and I’m pretty sure they made it with Rose’s instead of an actual lime) and a dirty martini that tasted like cheap men’s cologne. I had heard it was a good watering hole if not a great place for food but that was definitely not my experience.

  9. Unfortunately I feel no remorse sadness or love loss at the closure of BAKO. I left a job of 2 years to work there and dedicated and committed myself to give my All for a successful opening and for ongoing business. I was fired 5 days before Christmas because I defended the restaurant in comments that I made online in SeattleWeekly.com due to a very negative food review by Hannah Raskin.

    I have never worked for a person who was so concerned on a daily basis about the comments that were posted on sites like Yelp and Urban Spoon. I was even asked once by the owner to vote for ourselves { BAKO } and encourage other employees to vote for BAKO to inflate our “LIKE” percentage ON LINE…but yet when I defended the restaurant I was terminated and then was informed that my unemployment claim was going to be appealed by the owner.

    I was awarded my pittance of unemployment anyway because the state found the termination to be wrongful.

    Lastly hearing that some employees were overpaid for months after I left because he paid them in cash for their charge tips and then paid them again on their paychecks for the same tips I found really hilarious…Maybe a sign of someone that shouldn’t be running a restaurant at all. Karma is real…Please make a note of it ~

    Ida Slapter

  10. I only ate at Bako once, but my experience was good. I’m sorry they couldn’t be successful, but I did see some signs of ineptitude througout our experience there.

    The exciting thing, however, is that maybe Linda will take advantage of the patio courtyard that is still behind this location. When I had dinner at Bako, the owner confirmed that it was there, but that “he didn’t think people would want to walk by the kitchen to sit outdoors.” How foolish! Seattlites will always sit outside! That patio could be an incredible asset to any restaurant. It’s a hidden little gem.

  11. I really liked Bako, I thought the food and cocktails were excellent. That said, I could tell from early on that Mr. Wong was a lousy manager. His staff never seemed to be properly trained (it took 20 minutes to get water and a menu once) and he only focused on superficial details, and was too quick to blame the food for any problems. I ate there many, many times, and the food was never the problem.

  12. I’m hoping that Linda will hire some people of color at any of her two new prospective restaurants. As an POC who frequents her bars, I feel that there are rarely any other non-white people working in her restaurants (at least FOH). And I can say with certainty that I have NEVER seen a Black, Mexican, or Asian male working at any of her four establishments across the city. If you are going to monopolize, you should make it a point to diversify– at least pick up a token.

  13. Well I can say with certainty that you’ve had your eyes shut most of the times you’ve gone into Linda’s. I frequent Linda’s quite often and know for a fact that there is at least an African American male that works in the kitchen, a Hispanic female barttender, and a (I’m guessing here) Middle eastern male bartender/barback. If you’re going to get up on your very important Internet soapbox, at least have some validity to what you’re bitching about.

    And hell yes, Linda! I’m really excited to see what the new place is like. That area is desperate for a cozy, late night bar.

  14. Hoping said he has never seen a “Black, Mexican, or Asian male” working front-of-house at one of Linda’s places.

    Maggie, you retort that he “must have had [his] eyes shut” during most of his visits because he failed to notice…..the Black back-of-house guy, the “Hispanic” female bartender, and the Middle-Eastern bartender/barback.

    Hello?

  15. Pau Hana was nothing short of dreadful. Next to go will be Skelly upstairs.

    Maybe it’s time to re-think the use of that space – a dozen eateries have died in that structure. How about using the whole building for a little grocery and deli?

  16. It is sad to hear that Bako has closed, it’s always sad to hear someone fail when they put in as much as it takes to start a restaurant. The cocktails and stories at the bar will be missed, but the good news is that Sean is currently working at Tommy Gun and creating delicious cocktails.