Capitol Hill food+drink | Nightlife veteran building Broadway’s Herb and Bitter with his own two hands

(Image: King County)

(Image: King County)

Buried beneath layers of drywall and all those mirrors, you might not have noticed that the old Broadway home of Than Brothers is a classic, 1923-built masonry storefront. But Jesus Escobar noticed. He is working away this summer to unbury that past and prepare the space for a new Capitol Hill food and drink venture that he’ll build with his own two hands.

Herb and Bitter Public House will bring a new paired bar and restaurant project to north Broadway from a longtime Seattle food, nightlife, and style entrepreneur.

“I want this to be recognized for what it is — unique food and unique drinks,” Escobar tells CHS while admitting that he is still working out the bits and pieces that will make the investment click as he pushes for an end-of-2014 opening. How Herb and Bitter’s bits and pieces fit together is still being worked out by the jack of all trades Escobar.

“It’s a work in progress just like the space,” he said.



At its base, Escobar says, will be amaros and aperitifs. He is building Herb and Bitter around “clear spirits based on herbals, plants, seeds” and simple “three ingredient” cocktails. The food menu will have “more of a tapas” take on things that moves beyond traditional Spanish-style small plates to more adventurous pairings for the flavorful liqueurs.

The veteran nightclub and restaurant owner got his start with downtown’s dearly departed Noc Noc and progressed up the food and drink ladder with 2012’s opening of Rocco’s in Belltown. The even more eclectic ideas behind Herb and Bitter represents a kind of full maturation.

“I want this to be more intelligent, more sophisticated,” Escobar said comparing the new concept with his earliest days of cheap beer and well drinks at the Noc Noc. “I did that already for 12 years a the Noc Noc. Unfortunately it had to go,” he said.

Also entirely unlike the Noc Noc: Herb and Bitter will be family friendly until 9 PM when the kiddies need to head home.

Its new neighbors will be spiritual retailer The Vajra — which just marked its 25th year on Broadway — and a coming-soon new home for Madrona’s Kismet Salon. Escobar, by the way, also has his own hairstyling business in Belltown’s Stylus Salon.

Inside the former Broadway pho joint — Than Brothers moved across the street as a second-generation tenant in new construction earlier this year — Escobar works as general contractor and food and drink entrepreneur. Everything but a few of the most difficult elements of the buildout will be done by his hands. He is aiming “more for an architectural, beginning of last century” look, “exposing brick walls and beams” while adding a tin ceiling. Escobar said he hopes to create a sophisticated but comfortable “public house” on north Broadway. Part of the furnishings will come from spirits he plans to purchase by the barrel. Waste not, want not.

He’ll also unveil a hidden-away feature of the space that had been covered up over the years. If next summer is as sunny as this go around, Herb and Bitter’s nearly 1,000 square-foot patio on the back alley will prove popular. Escobar is thinking of creating the space as a kind of greenhouse or adding a retractable roof.

His love for the old building is part of what brought the food and drink veteran to Capitol Hill, he says. It’s also what kept him out of Pike/Pine, an area one might have expected the former proprietor of the Noc Noc to have landed at some point.

“I tried to get in on the Comet,” Escobar said. “It’s all such a meat market.”

Herb and Bitter is planned to open by the end of 2014 at 515 Broadway E. There is no web site or Facebook page yet so follow CHS for updates.

 Capitol Hill food+drink notes

  • Seattle Met shares an updated opening target (September-ish) and details on the four concepts that will go into the coming soon Trove project on E Pike from Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi. We borrowed these four phrases from the Met describing Trove’s components:
    1) “Yang’s love of making noodles”
    2) “gathering together to transform a giant platter of raw meat”
    3) “a focus on international beers in bottles and cans”
    4) “good news for drunks and people who eat ice cream for lunch”
  • This is the time of year when we get lots of notes about smaller restaurants possibly going out of business. It’s vacation season. Your favorite little joint — like 15th Ave’s Bamboo, for example — will be back.
  • 52+ food trucks, restaurants, etc. participating in this weekend’s Street Food Festival at Cal Anderson Park.
  • The Stranger reviews Marron.
  • You can go “glamping” with Capitol Hill ice cream queen Molly Moon Neitzel in Carnation as part of a fundraiser for the Girl Scouts. Well *you* can’t, I guess — women only, apparently.
  • Which Seattle micro-distilleries make their own spirits — and which “source it. Here.
  • Happy birthday, Vito’s
  • Canterbury, you’ve changed:

    The "smoked sturgeon benediction" at The Canterbury -- now serving brunch Saturdays and Sundays, 11-2 (Image: Canterbury)

    The “smoked sturgeon benediction” at The Canterbury — now serving brunch Saturdays and Sundays, 11-2 (Image: Canterbury)

  • You live, and often work, on Capitol Hill. Is there a place drag queens like to hang out?
    It used to be the Grill on Broadway. It was kind of the place that every drag queen, and every homo this side of the Mississippi, would always swing in. But unfortunately that got ran into the ground so we don’t have that place anymore. Wanna know where you can run into everyone? Rancho Bravo! It’s the funniest thing. Everybody who’s anybody. Before a show, after a show, late night, drunk, after work, whatnot. You can run into everyone at Rancho Bravo!
  • Are dirty rap lyrics appropriate in a restaurant setting? Discuss. Also, Seattle restaurants are too loud for yet another magazine writer.
  • New sushi coming to Capitol HillYuzu by Musashi
  • Capitol Hill food writer arrested, charged for DUI on Federal Ave E.
  • Tallulah’s: The Movie


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17 thoughts on “Capitol Hill food+drink | Nightlife veteran building Broadway’s Herb and Bitter with his own two hands

  1. Wonderful! I was pondering the fate of the building and The Vajra after the Than Brothers move . I’m pleased it is being repurposed and the patio sounds great.

    • Same here! I was worried the building was going away, since TWO tenants left and tiny only one remained.

  2. This sounds very exciting. Glad that it will be family friendly in the early evening. Any word on what is going in at 611 (the old Galerias)

  3. Did Escobar buy the building? Quite a risk these days building out in a glorious one-story brick building on the Hill. If he doesn’t own it, here’s hoping the present ownership holds on to it for a while longer. Good luck to him (and the Vajra).

  4. Hopefully it’s not TOO sophisticated and intelligent. I’d like a bit more Deluxe/Bait Shop than Poppy/Altura around N Broadway. But I’m really glad to hear something’s going in there. The “X and X” naming scheme strikes again, though….

  5. Sorry to be a Debbie Downer, but it will be interesting to see if *something* can make a go of it on Broadway since most everything eventually dies since the rents are so high that nothing can last.

    • Rents are not the issue – neighborhood support is the problem. Capitol Hill doesn’t really support a lot of businesses well any more.

      • Interested to see your list of Broadway “deaths, Joseph. What places are you thinking of that haven’t (quickly) been replaced?

      • Why won’t you answer my question?

        Why is it that you believe that replacement means that you have healthy businesses?

        I’ve been in the area for coming up on 21 years and there are precious few businesses that are here today that were here 21 years ago. Besides Pastiche, the shoe repair guys in Broadway Market and the banks there’s really few businesses that have not changed out multiple times. That indicates to me that there is something that is causing these businesses to either not succeed where they are to fold or leave.

      • A large percentage of restaurants (and businesses) fail, given long enough of a timeline.

        You are blaming rents, but the fact that others replace the previous tenants say that rents aren’t outrageous; instead, they don’t do the projected business volume required to stay in business.

        One problem could be parking, or a lack thereof. While people here are constantly saying, “Remove parking, add more parklets, remove street parking,” businesses general can’t rely on locals only for support. In the linked article about Vajra:

        “But just five years ago, The Vajra was almost shattered during development on Broadway.

        “It nearly killed us,” said Savage. “There was scaffolding, there wasn’t street parking, it was really a dead-zone down here,” said Savage.”

  6. As an old patron of the Noc-Noc, I am super excited see what Jesus has in store for us. And walking distance from my place, I am only afraid what this is going to mean for my liver.

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