Jason Wilson never meant to serve “fine dining” type food inside his refurbished 1903 Victorian on E Madison just past 23rd — and well over the Capitol Hill border.
Wilson and wife and business partner, Nicole Wilson, also the team behind Miller’s Guild downtown, don’t live on Capitol Hill but view the neighborhood as a “cultural center point.” Wilson sees the proximity to the Central District, Madison Park and Madison Valley as a positive.
That’s part of why the pair decided on the location at 23rd and Madison a decade ago, rather than farther down Pine and Pike.
“(Pike and Pine weren’t) really blowing up at the time; it was kind of a dead zone,” he said. “At the time, Belltown was the place to be.”
Wilson said he also liked the distinguishing characteristics of a singular building set apart from everything else. The house’s $255,000 price tag probably didn’t hurt.
“It’s worked to our benefit now, but at the time everyone kinda thought we were nuts,” he said.
Nine years later, the evolution of Crush, described as modern American cuisine built with uniquely Northwest ingredients, has been decidedly pointed over the years, melding its relatively off the beaten Capitol Hill path location with daring menu options.
“We wanted it to be a neighborhood bistro,” he said. “But after a lot of accolades and the acclaim it received, people started treating it differently… coming in jackets and ties. Guests perceived it differently than we did. So we started treating it the way they responded to it.”
Wilson said, despite his distance from Capitol Hill’s core Pike/Pine and Broadway dining scene, he watches the greater food and drink neighborhood he is part of and has aligned his pricing with the award winning and buzzworthy Altura. Despite the different styles of cuisine, he said the two restaurants have a similar philosophy.
“We go after the diner who wants an experience,” he said.
Crush offers interesting cuisines such as roasted Hawaiian Mero Sea Bass with beet truffle emulsion; and Montana beef eye with parsley vinaigrette and Black Trumpet bone marrow puree. The restaurant is open Wednesday through Sunday and Wilson said about 10% of the business is walk-ins; the rest are reservations.
After years of being asked to develop individual tasting menus, Crush also borrowed another page from Altura’s book and dropped a la carte as its principal offering in September. Now, customers can choose from 3- 6- or 15-course meals, which cost $64, $82 and $120, respectively. The meals come with “gifts,” like smoked macaroons and special breads.
The tasting menu philosophy will also soon have another new proponent in the area’s fine dining options as Restaurant Marron is slated to join Altura’s neck of the woods later this spring.
“It lets us be more creative; let’s let the entire restaurant be driven by this hyper-creative menu,” Wilson said.
Stepping into the modern interior of the vintage establishment is like entering a wealthy friend’s house, with a large white countertop bar and open kitchen beside a bannistered spiral staircase. Wilson, who earned fame as one of Food & Wines “Best New Chefs” in 2006 and as the James Beard Award winner for “Best Chef Northwest” in 2010, says the goal has always been for the restaurant to feel like a home. He altered the ambience to match the changing perception in 2008, with refined wines and unique accouterments.
He continues to tinker with the old house to make Crush work.
Wilson finally took the “feeling crushed” jokes to heart last September by trimming the seating capacity by 12 to its current 50-52 person limit.
The menu changes every other week, with major conceptual dish alterations between 8 to 12 times each year.
Wilson said he is happy with the business’s success and that its lasting for nearly a decade speaks for itself.
“Crush is nine years old,” he said. “In restaurant years that is 109, it seems like.”
Crush is located at 2319 E Madison. You can learn more at chefjasonwilson.com.
Capitol Hill food+drink notes by jseattle
- Alternate headlines: Capitol Hill’s legendary Piecora’s to close April 15th / Congratulations to the Piecoras on an amazing retirement
- We have good news and bad news about the new Nuflours gluten free bakery moving into the former North Hill Bakery location on 15th Ave E. The good news: The bakery’s ovens are ready to be fired up and the crew is hard at work in the thoroughly scrubbed and prepared kitchen creating their gluten free cookies, cakes, breads and pastries. The bad news: The buildout up front is still in planning stages so you’ll have to wait until at least the summer to stop in and hang out. In the meantime, co-owner Amanda Bedell says all systems are go in the spacious new facility and they’re ready to bake up a storm on 15th Ave E. You can order a cake and stop by to pick it up or wait for Sundays at the Broadway Farmers Market to stop by the table. You can also find their goods at various local cafes including the Nuflours focaccia bread on the sandwiches at Juicebox and pastries across the street at Victrola. Contact and ordering information is here.
- Hill residents Troy and Gay Hakala have confirmed their plans to open a Capitol Hill beer brewery in the Great Western Motors building at Broadway and Union. CHS first reported on the project last December. More to come on the project soon.
- Latest Pike/Pine food+drink trend: the Capitol Hill complex.
- Corretto’s nighttime components will be ready for their debut later this week in the former Panevino on Broadway. Travis Rosenthal says to expect the re-opening of the overhauled space, menu and bar for service Thursday night. The daytime cafe and brunch component is still in the works. Stay tuned.
- Daytime is now more interesting inside The Rhino Room. The new nightspot at 11th and Pine has started featuring plates from West Seattle’s Ma’ono. Service starts at 11 AM and you can get chow up until 10 PM. The Stranger, located upstairs, provides this handy menu picture.
- E Olive Way vinyl bar Revolver is planning to debut later this month in the former home of Dinette.
- Back to Capitol Hill baked goods, check out Hello Robin, Crumble and Flake, and Bakery Nouveau on this list of Seattle bests.
- Popping up the day before Easter at 10th/Pike’s Sole Repair: a chocolate boutique with Chef Andrea Terrenzio from Dolcetta Chocolates.
- Best teriyaki you can buy with money you panhandled on Broadway: Yasuko’s Teriyaki
- Many Capitol Hill food and drink spots are trendy.
- “Bait Shop on Capital Hill has an opening for a General Manager.”
- Google writes about Starbucks teaming with Tom Douglas on Capitol Hill.
- CHS writes about Starbucks teaming with Tom Douglas on Capitol Hill.
- CHS also took a look at Pike/Pine’s booming bar scene and how the neighborhood’s many gay bars are faring with the new neighbors.
- Congratulations to former Capitol Hill coffee guy Tony Konecny on the acquisition of his Tonx service by the ambitious Blue Bottle Coffee.
- Marcus Lalario of Li’l Woody’s and 95 Slide teaming up on chicken and waffles joint Fat’s Wings and Waffles in Rainier Beach.
- Speaking of E Madison… Manager Farzeen Jehan says:
We are indeed expanding our vegan cuisine from the U District to Madison.
Our projected opening date is May 1st. We will still be completely vegan, and source many of our ingredients locally. Our Tofu is from NW tofu, and our veggie meat is made in house with Arayas secret recipe.
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