CHS has written about the changes coming to 19th Ave E as a new mixed-use building with big name Capitol Hill food and drink tenants makes its final preparations before opening — and holds a party to celebrate. But it’s a change that did *not* happen that has opened the door for another new project on the street.
“It’s amazing how the world turns around,” Monsoon’s Eric Banh tells CHS. “We almost became homeless in 2007. We survived. And now we’re growing. A little bit.”
Eric Banh and his sister Sophie announced this week a major expansion of their much-loved neighborhood restaurant that has operated on 19th Ave E since 1999. In work typical of the indefatigable Banhs, Monsoon will remain open through the construction project that will basically double the capacity of the restaurant and is expected to take around seven months to complete.
“Construction begins on Tuesday, October 15 with the restaurant expanding to the south by adding 30 dining room seats plus a bar that seats eight,” the announcement of the construction project reads. “The best part is that the construction will all be done next door, in what will be the extension of the restaurant, leaving service uninterrupted until the new side is complete and the two spaces are ready to merge.”
The expansion is designed by The Architecture Department who created plans for the original transition of Monsoon from the former Craig’s cafe space that stood at the site.
The changes come as 19th Ave E’s string of restaurants including Monsoon, Vios and Kingfish Cafe will soon be joined by the new commercial tenants of the nearly complete 19th and Mercer building. But even with Linda Derschang joining the street, Banh said it was time for changes at Monsoon.
“My sister and myself — we’re there every day,” Banh said. “I want to see something that will make me happy.” Banh said the expansion will also include a complete overhaul and modernization of the kitchen.
“Any restaurant, to survive, needs to change,” Banh said.
In addition to a bigger Monsoon, Banh is hoping for a brighter, livelier space that is still at home on this quieter side of Capitol Hill. Like his Monsoon East (2008) and Ba Bar (2011), the new Monsoon will finally have room for a full bar under the purview of bar manager Jon Christiansen. Expect an upgraded appetizer and bar menu to accompany, honed, Banh said, by the experiences he has had making the other restaurants into top-notch cocktail and dinner venues. The revamped kitchen will also have the resources needed to support an oyster bar, Banh promises.
The investment in the expanded Monsoon will not be trivial. In order to make room for the new wing, an ivy-covered hillside to the south of the restaurant will need to be excavated adding some $50,000 to the nearly $400,000 budgeted for the project.
Six years ago, Monsoon was getting ready to leave 19th Ave E as one of the early chapters in the story of Capitol Hill’s latest waves of redevelopment played out. Monsoon’s landlords were considering a four-story, 52-unit apartment building with 2,000 square feet of retail for the spot where the Vietnamese restaurant stands. Fortunately for the Banhs, the project couldn’t have had worse timing. The global economic slowdown put the development on ice and gave Monsoon an indefinite reprieve. Today, Eric says the property’s tenants which include a dentist, a chiropractor and CHS advertiser Wise Patient along with Monsoon appear to be providing enough of a base for the local property owners to have reconsidered the development plan.
The added cost of the excavation and the investment in Monsoon staying on 19th Ave E has “intangible” value, Banh said.
“This is where we started in Seattle,” he said. “This is where Sophie and I built our names.”
Monsoon is located at 615 19th Ave E. You can learn more at monsoonrestaurants.com.
Capitol Hill food+drink notes
- Free chow and music thanks to Eric Banh’s new neighbors at 19th & Mercer this weekend.
- Seattle Met talked with bar manager Christiansen in 2012: “If somebody comes in and asks for a vodka soda I’m like, ‘good lord, did you see how hard I worked on this?’”
- By the way, we’ve seen other long-time restaurants make upgrades as their neighborhoods grow. Here’s how old-timer Coastal Kitchen went about it.
- Capitol Hill nightlife business owners including Lost Lake’s Dave Meinert, Mike Meckling and the Neumos folks, Travis Rosenthal of Tango and Rumba, Shelley Brothers of the Wild Rose, Curtis Bigelow of the Lobby Bar and James Weimann and Deming Maclise of Poquitos and Von Trapp’s threw their collective weight behind Ed Murray last week.
- We’ve talked about the Ballard-Capitol Hill overlaps from time to time – Li’l Woody’s is just one recent example — but what about U Village? Saw Eltana is readying to open on the mega shopping campus.
- One of the players in the drama around the end of Grey Gallery on 11th Ave is apparently getting into the nightclub business — off Hill. Liquor license application for a Kremwork nightclub at 1809 Minor lists former Grey landlord Nicole Stone among ownership.
- Fresh off finally opening the long delayed The Old Sage on 12th Ave, McCracken & Tough have shuttered their Belltown restaurant The Coterie Room and are transitioning it into an events space and retail venture.
- Start your prognostication on what’s next for the Comet. Musician Ian Hill tells CHS he’s hoping to keep it as it is — once the sound system is restored. Meanwhile, there’s a benefit for the out-of-work Comet employees Wednesday night.
- Possibly lost in the Comet news, the Electric Tea Garden venue is also slated to shutter – development is coming.
- Capitol Hill also said goodbye to the weird and wonderful Uncle Elizabeth’s Cafe.
- The final night for Bauhaus at Melrose and Pine looked much like any other. The cafe re-opens in its new home inside the old Capitol Club in November.
- Seattle Mag on Cafe Pettirosso: “There’s a pleasant everyday appeal to the place, and unlike so much nearby, it’s never mobbed by partiers and club-goers.”
- Predictably, this roster of Seattle bar taxidermy is Capitol Hill heavy.
- The first in Alex Negranza’s An Evening With dinner events went down Sunday night. Last we heard, he’d sold all but two tickets. Here’s what it looked like behind the scenes where they were “hella using vac-pots” in the cocktail department:
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