Capitol Hill food+drink | New Chinese restaurant venture Zhu Dang putting former Social nightclub space back in motion

Zhu Dang will embrace and extend the kitchen home to the short-lived EVO (Image: CHS)

Zhu Dang will embrace and extend the kitchen home to the short-lived EVO (Image: CHS)

The building is in the neighborhood where he lived for years and he is already a longtime CHS reader. Now a first-time owner just needs to transform a failed Capitol Hill nightclub into Seattle’s next big thing in Chinese restaurants.

“It’s definitely my first project,” Steve Cheng says of Zhu Dang, the restaurant and event space he is building in the former location of The Social nightclub on E Olive Way. “I spent the last 10 years working in kitchens. I’ve been wanting to open a place for a while now. We’re really fortunate we found this building.”

Zhu Dang — Pig Party, Cheng says for a kind of fantasy progressive political party that he just likes the sound of — will “bring updated Chinese food with a Northwest vibe” to the collection of nightspots growing on E Olive Way.

“We want to focus on flavor above tradition, while still remaining true to the Chinese palate,” Cheng said. “Our aim is to create interesting, delicious food with quality ingredients at a reasonable price.”

He also wants to create a place for some really big dinners. Cheng plans to put the former footprint of the 8,000 square-foot Social to work as both a restaurant and an 100-person event space where celebrants can host receptions and parties. The club, which shuttered last year amid struggles with the state liquor board, was also home to a related restaurant venture that ceased operations within months of its opening. In addition to expunging any lingering karma, Cheng plans to expand the existing kitchen greatly and overhaul the entirety of the old club and restaurant space to make a more unified venue. He also plans to make big changes to the outdoor deck that rises above the street and is separated from the activity below. While club planners probably envisioned a swank party deck filled with 24-hour party people, the patio with the building partly empty has most often been filled with campers and junkies. Cheng is looking forward to creating a new outdoor area more connected with the streetscape.

Was The Social (Image: CHS)

Was The Social (Image: CHS)

Inside, Cheng also promised on-tap cocktails and a jazz-influence hip hop soundtrack for your dining pleasure.

For some, the venture might be reminiscent of the ill-fated Bako on Broadway that opened in part of the overhauled Jade Pagoda building before shuttering and clearing the decks for Bait Shop. Perhaps Bako’s failure can be part of Cheng’s success.

“There’s not a lot of Chinese on the Hill,” Cheng said. “This is a good opportunity to put something unique in the neighborhood.”

If not, at least he’ll get to visit his old stomping grounds. Cheng says he lived about two blocks away for several years before moving recently north of the Cut.

Zhu Dang is planned for a late summer opening. There are no sites or Facebook pages yet — we’ll keep you posted. Oh, and by the way, you should pronounce it “Zoo Don” — not “Zoo Dang,” like lead-tongued CHS.

Capitol Hill food+drink notes

  • Nik Virrey has probably poured you a drink or pulled you and espresso on Capitol Hill. His new Matte & Gloss consultancy wants to show bars and restaurants how to do it right.
  • The new Google-powered Zagat on Cone & Steiner:

    Expect to fill your cart with artisan cheeses, fermented foods and produce, along with prepared comfort food meals from Skillet Diner, and more. There’s a station to refill your growlers, and fresh-cut flowers, too. As the staff gets settled in, there are plans to offer tastings and demos. We can’t help wondering if this might just be the first of a series. Stay tuned.

    We can’t help but wonder, too! Because, the C&S crew already said, yes, they’re working on new markets. Wonder away!

  • A familiar face in Capitol Hill food+drink popped up in the application pile to become a legal pot shop owner. Anybody else we should know about it that pile?
  • Looking forward to first Hill restaurant offering a marijuana pairing menu.
  • German pop-up Dackel is back on E Olive Way.
  • Happy 10/20 to Neumos and Moe’s. Long may she wave.
  • Speaking of the 10th and 20th anniversary celebration, Moe’s is rolling prices back to 1994 Tuesday. We’re not sure exactly how much a well whiskey soda cost in 1994 but we assume it was cheaper than it is today. Happy Moe’sday.

  • Lost Lake is supporting Lifelong this month if your food+drink venue would like to get involved.
  • Now at Ba Bar50 cent wings every Tuesday night.
  • Chuck’s Central District is pretty swell. Look inside.
  • Seattle Magazine visits the CD’s Humble Pie. You probably should, too.
  • Best place to watch the game now that Bill’s is on timeout?

    Inside the new Chuck's CD -- so many choice. More images here

    Inside the new Chuck’s CD — so many choice. More images here

This week’s CHS food+drink advertiser directory

39 thoughts on “Capitol Hill food+drink | New Chinese restaurant venture Zhu Dang putting former Social nightclub space back in motion

    • I for one have been complaining about the lack of Chinese food for a while and am welcoming the news. Not every establishment on the Hill has to be a bar, artist collective or music venue you know and having a diverse neighborhood is part of this areas flavor.
      To say nothing of the fairly large Asian-American population on the Hill. Does their culture not count?

    • Replies like this are what give hipsters a bad name. Same thing with when World of Beer opened up.

      Surely you realize how hypocritical you are? Capitol Hill is *FILLED* with a ton of awesome dive bars, unique shops, and other amazing places. But these past few weeks with the Seahawks games? Hell if I could find some great sports bars to actually watch it. There are a couple that set up smaller TVs, but it’s pretty much impossible. World of Beer was the only place that even came close, and they were packed to the gills on Saturday during the game since there were no other options. And hey, they’re actually really good.

      And now you’re complaining about a chinese restaurant opening up? Seriously? As a Jew on Christmas I can confirm that there are zero chinese restaurants in Capitol Hill :-)

      • Check out the Summit Pub, Auto Battery, 95 slide, or the Redwood. Hell, even Fogon has nice TVs and opens up early for Hawks games.

        Maybe you had a better experience at World of Beer than I did. I was there on a Wednesday, not terribly busy, and the service was extremely slow and generally poor all around.

      • World of Beer is boring because it is a chain so it’s essentially just another cheap copy of a business model that exists all over the country. Zhu Dang, however, will be the product of a local guy putting his passion and money back into our neighborhood and city and his profits will probably stay local instead of going to some white dudes in Tampa. Zhu Dang sounds 100% true to the spirit of Capitol Hill to me!

  1. The problem with kids these days are the parents. The fact that parents are absolutely unwilling to teach their children how to behave properly and champion their little s***s when they behave badly is precisely why society is going down the toilet. If you are not teaching your child to be a well behaved, PRODUCTIVE member of society – someone who takes responsibility for their actions and deals with the consequences of one’s choices – you are just foisting another a*****e on the rest of us and there are just too many a******s in this society already.

  2. Regarding Zhu Dang, I don’t live near there, but something tells me the immediate neighbors will not be happy about the expansion of the outdoor deck. That could be very noisy at times. And that space does not seem very amenable to outdoor dining….it is in shade all day, and has a less-than-lovely “view” out over E Olive Way. I can’t imagine that anyone would enjoy dining there.

    • Agreed. I love this comment though, “While club planners probably envisioned a swank party deck filled with 24-hour party people…” – yes, it was suppose to be cool to hang out there with friends. I don’t think Justin ever sat out there, because it was all couches and table seating. There were never party people dancing around, haha! 1) that ramp has to be there for ADA access, 2) there is no place to put the mandatory garbage cans (as next to the stairs belongs to the apartments and 3) the patio is situated at a weird level from the ramp, so not sure how the owner plans to build this out to make it more street friendly. We’ll see though. Evo had great visions, just didn’t pan out. Horrible co-owners, Chris Pardo and the bunch. Bad Social concept, but whatever.

  3. Zhu Dang sounds great to me! Looking forward to going there. Yes we need more Chinese food on the hill… Chungee’s is fun but small, so a bigger place would be awesome.

  4. Hi Everyone,

    I’m the owner of Zhu Dang and just thought I’d join in on the discussion. First off, thanks JSeattle and CHS for the write-up. And thanks to all the commenters, positive and negative. All constructive criticism is highly encouraged, as my number one goal is to make the customer happy (is that what John C meant by emulating Bellevue?) I do want to address a few things.

    First, the noise. I’ve been in contact with the building owners adjacent to me ever since I secured the space. We’ve discussed the noise and the patio, and it is definitely something I want to keep under control. I’m acutely aware of how the neighbors felt about the previous tenant, and want to make sure that I don’t become more nuisance than attraction. Also, I’m doing my best to respect the businesses below my own (Artful Dodger, Evolve, and Side Show). Those guys are awesome!

    Second, I now live in Wallingford. I know, domestic life and all that, but I still very much consider Capitol Hill my hood, and without a doubt the heart of Seattle. Even more specifically, I love E Olive Way. I deeply miss the B&O, but as a self-proclaimed progressive, I try not to dwell on the past, and instead want to concentrate on how we move forward.

    Anyway, thanks for the introduction, JSeattle and CHS! Looking forward to hearing from all of you, and keeping you updated as we progress.

    • Steve,
      Thanks for reading these comments and paying attention. I liked (almost) everything I read until I hit one point that was an immediate red flag to me. OK, now before I even go any farther, I’m sure I’ll be roundly flamed for being an old fart, or racist, or fuddy-duddy, or whatever. So be it. Flame away everybody, I don’t give a shit.

      The “jazz-influence hip hop soundtrack” is the red flag for me. I’ve yet to see any hip-hop oriented establishments that don’t attract a noisy, thuggy (regardless of race), and messy-boisterous crowd. Recall what the crowd was like that infested the social and spilled out on to Olive Way. Lots of wanna-be punky/thuggy types genereally making a mess. I shall avoid disparaging racial or geographic groups. but it wasn’t a pretty vibe. I fear the same ‘tude will grow back with a “jazz-influence hip-hop soundrack”. (or ANY influence hip-hop soundtrack). Isn’t Havana enough of that shit on CapHill already?

      • I’m sure you’ll hear more from others, but let me start with this:

        1. It’s a restaurant

        2. “jazz-influence hip hop soundtrack” = trip hop….portishead, morcheeba, massive attack, air, etc. I find it laughable to even imagine fights breaking out to those tunes.

      • Jim, the “soundtrack” just sounds like background music to me, not the main focus. I really don’t think this is going to be some crazy club. Also, hip hop is a large genre. Generally when I think of jazz influenced hip hop, I think of The Roots, Tribe Called Quest, etc., which is legitimately really good music. I think it’s a great choice, and I’m personally really excited for it! Should be a great vibe.

        • I’ll defer to everyone’s superior music knowledge and glad to hear it. I’m looking forward to good Chinese food on CH again too, it’s pretty lacking now.

          • The jazz influenced hip hop thing was also a red flag, but not for the same reason. That ish is lame and doesn’t provoke anything except nap time. I would gladly welcome and frequent a Chinese restaurant that solely played gangsta rap. Nothing goes better with salt & pepper chicken wings than NWA. Please offer salt & pepper chicken wings.

    • Thanks for your comments, Steve. Regarding possible noise issues for the surrounding buildings, I suggest you talk to the tenants of those apartments, as they might have a different take than the building owners.

      I welcome your restaurant and will certainly give it a try when you are open. But I still don’t understand why you want to use that outdoor patio for seating…it will be shady, noise and fumes from the street below, and hardly a nice view.

  5. Jim, I can’t even begin to address your assumptions about an entire genre of music and the people that listen to it, so instead I’ll address what I think is the only legitimate concern in your statement, and that’s safety. As others have mentioned, this is a restaurant, not a club. The space in back will be used for private events not open to the public. Events such as rehearsal dinners, birthday parties and company gatherings.

    The safety of my employees, my neighbors and my patrons is extremely important to me. That’s why I’m demolishing the ramp that hides the outdoor area, and opening up the visibility to the street. I will not tolerate aggressive/violent behavior in my restaurant.

    • Steve,
      I made no assumptions about an entire genre or the people who listen to it. My observations referred to all the ESTABLISHMENTS I’ve seen and the subset of such fans they’ve attracted (in my limited CapHill observations). Nonetheless, I’m glad to hear my fears are probably unfounded and I look forward to trying your restaurant as soon as you’re open. Thanks for your response.

      • @Jim… Unfounded!
        “any hip-hop oriented establishments” = genre reference
        “noisy, thuggy (regardless of race), and messy-boisterous crowd” = people who listen to it reference
        But whatever, seems like you’ve pulled it together. Wanna get some chinese food with me and talk about classical music and the upstanding citizens who listen to it?

        • Shamwow,

          I referred to ESTABLISHMENTS (that I have seen), not music genre.

          I referred to the crowd THAT INFESTED THE SOCIAL (not all hip-hop fans). (And yes, they *were* thuggy, BTW). The point is the thuggy customers, not the music.

          Anyway, I’m glad my initial concern was unfounded.

  6. When I ate at Chungee’s, I asked the owner about the name of the restaurant… Chinese for “stupid pig…”

    So, another pig-related name for a Chinese restaurant on the hill?

    I guess that makes it a “pig party!”

    • Agreed. If this restaurant gets super popular, it could get rowdy. Have you seen the lines at Din Tai Fung in UVillage and Bellevue? Those dumpling loving bastards are unruly!

      :) :) :)

  7. I live across the street and dream of Chinese food. So yay! Also, jazzy hip hop is trip hop and my FAVORITE. Please have Singapore-style noodles and Shanghai rice cakes. I love your restaurant already.

    • Regent is hit and miss, I think depending on who is cooking. I order the same two things (to go, but have eaten there several times) and every week the same thing can be very different. Some weeks it is really good, some weeks it looks like whoever cooked it could give a shi*. Also, not to go on and on about Regent- they could use a sign bigger than 5 inches that says “Chinese Food”. When you drive or walk by it looks like the name of the building is Regent. Being in marketing, this is absolutely ridiculous and self-destructive.

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