Last summer, CHS reported on some uncertainty and change around one of Capitol Hill’s more unique venues. The Highline was closing its kitchen and some funky stuff was maybe possibly going on around its lease. Come winter, things are back to, um, normal at Broadway’s only vegan dive bar live music venue. The kitchen is back open. The Highline seems secure in its location — for now, anyway. We talked to owner Dylan Desmond about Highline’s return to Capitol HIll’s food and drink scene and the vegan spirit of his operation. We also are giving the whole thing the glossy food+drink pictorial treatment just like the fancy magazines. There is, however, some bad news: This is a particularly cruel post because you’ll have to wait until next week to visit the Highline for a sandwich — the kitchen is only open on Mondays and Tuesdays. There is also some good news: The bar is open. More on that and the rest, below.
There’s been a strong and happy reaction to the announcement that you were restarting your kitchen — how has it been going and what’s next?
DD: The kitchen is running stronger than ever! We’re working with the chefs Jon Hurt and Jesse Garner, who both have years of culinary experience with an emphasis in vegan cuisine. To top that off, I see their hearts rooting into every recipe they’re concocting and every plate their putting out, which makes me believe we’ve found the perfect match for the direction Highline always pointed towards. I may have eaten more food at Highline than any other person on earth, but I’m not alone in saying the recipes and execution of each dish is much above the level we were operating on before. We’ve very much improved, and I couldn’t be more excited about it.
Can you give us a better sense of why you had the hiatus in the first place and the stuff that came up last year about the lease etc? Everything cool with the Highline?
DD: Everything is cool with Highline and there are no issues with our lease. We’re here to stay and we’re dreadfully stubborn, have no worries about that. There was a misprint on our property management’s website which sparked a nasty rumor we’re still dealing with, even though it’s long since been edited.
The kitchen initially shut down because we were having such low turnouts for food. Consecutive days would pass where we’d hit 1/8th-1/4 the par we needed to financially break even for the kitchen. We were basically pouring money down the drain, which is obviously toxic for a business. We were lucky to have the venue side operating, which was supporting it. It was a very hard call to make, maybe the hardest one in my life. However, in the time we’ve taken off there’s been a lot of planning towards reopening it so that it can sustain itself. We’ve gotten a lot of support from customers and friends who want to see it succeed, which means the world to us. There’s been great turnouts during the hours we’re serving food and I’ve yet to see anyone leave without expressing their excitement.
Can you tell us more about why Highline is vegan in the first place? Are you surprised there aren’t more fully vegan dedicated venues on the Hill?
DD: I’m not surprised we’re [one of] the only ones doing this sort of thing, it’s quite a niche market. The people involved behind the inner workings at Highline have always been vegans and there’s a soul of sorts that attached itself. Going against that would be sacrificing personal beliefs and settling for less. The way I see it, fuck that.
For me personally, I grew up in houses that acted like music venues and it was mandatory that before a show we’d cook a large meal for the bands/guests. The food was always vegan to accommodate everyone, not to mention it was generally cooked by vegans. Further, show’s doubled as parties, much like that of a barroom. In my mind there is inseparable strings weaving music, art, food and drinks together. These things pass on heart, which creates culture, connects those of like-minds and enrich’s life as a whole. Who would want to tangle those threads?
How long until you ramp up to having kitchen open more nights?
DD: No set plans for this yet. For the time being, we’re hoping we can establish a strong core that sustains itself on Mondays and Tuesdays before adding more time into the fold. There will be some special events, like one with renowned vegan comedian Jamie Kilstein on April 26th in which we’ll open up early for a dinner service. Other than that, our plan is to keep hammering out Mondays and Tuesdays until the need is apparent to expand more.
The Highline is located at 210 Broadway E and opens at 6 PM daily. Food is served 4 to 8 PM on Mondays and Tuesday. You can learn more at highlineseattle.com.