Capitol Hill’s legendary Kingfish Cafe to close

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(Images: CHS)

Just short of its eighteenth anniversary at the corner of 19th and Mercer, The Kingfish Cafe will close its doors next week. But try not to be too sad.

UPDATE 1/15/15: What’s next for the Kingfish… Cafes

“There are good things ahead,” Leslie Coaston told CHS Tuesday night, confirming the out-of-the-blue and shocking announcement about the closure posted to Facebook and spreading like wildfire through the Capitol Hill and soul food loving social network:

Our parents have always said to use your imaginations and create a legacy. We have made our mark and some would even call us a neighborhood fixture. We have been serving up soul on the hill for nearly 20 years. We first opened The Kingfish Café in April of 1997 and shared with you our family recipes and stories. We never imagined that you would embrace us and welcome us into your hearts in the way that you have. It has been an amazing journey but all journeys must come to an end.

Over the years we have served hundreds of customer, most of which we consider our friends and family. We have spent countless hours at the Kingfish, singing, laughing, and creating unforgettable memories with you and it has been our pleasure. You have seen us at our best, and have stood by us through the rest. But the time has come for us to take down the photographs, gather up the family recipes, dim the lights and close our doors for the last time. On January 25, 2015 we will close The Kingfish Café.

Thank you so much for being a part of our journey

Red Beans and Ricefully Yours,

Laurie and Leslie Coaston

As a woman-owned, Black-owned, Black woman-owned entity, Kingfish was one of a kind. Add the nightly lines due to the stubborn adherence to a no reservations policy, awesome soul food, and enormous slabs of cake, and you get a Capitol Hill legend.

The announced closure joins a handful of popular, black-owned Central Seattle eateries to recently call it quits including Philadelphia Fevre (RIP) and Catfish Corner (RIP).

The change comes just as the long-sleepy 19th Ave E commercial area had woken from its long nap with the arrival of ventures like Linda Dershchang’s California-flavored Tallulah’s and the expansion of fellow longtimer Monsoon. Meanwhile, the Pelican Bay Artists’ Building will soon be home to a new yoga studio after the Washington Ensemble Theater’s move to the 12th Ave Arts project. Kingfish has long been part of an eclectic commercial block including Fuel Coffee, Emerald City Aikido, and Moonjar, a company that makes toys to teach children financial literacy.

Coaston tells CHS that it was up to her and her sister to close the restaurant and not a lease or financial issue. Leslie wasn’t ready to reveal what comes next but there is a new project afoot. Meanwhile, she said she expects the cafe space to live on as a restaurant under new owners after the last day of service at The Kingfish on Sunday, January 25th.

Thanks to Art for the tip.

UPDATE: Kingfish has announced an update for its hours of business on its final weekend at 19th and Mercer:

Please note the hours for our last days of operation;
Thurs January 22, dinner 5 pm until 9 30 pm
Fri January 23, dinner (only) 5 pm until 10 30 pm
Sat January 24th brunch 10 am until 2 pm
Sat January 24th dinner 5 pm until 10 30pm
Sun January 25 dinner (only) 4 pm until 9 30 pm
No reservatios and expect longer than usual waits.
Thank you and we look forward to seeing you.

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15 thoughts on “Capitol Hill’s legendary Kingfish Cafe to close

  1. It’s sad the place is closing, but in a way I’m not surprised. Many years ago I had dinner there on a Saturday night and it was absolutely fantastic.

    A year and a half or so ago, I had brunch on the weekend and we discovered many items were made ahead of time and not even properly reheated. All in all very disappointing.

    If the public isn’t visiting enough to allow for things to be made fresh or for there to be enough staff to ensure it’s properly reheated, maybe it really is time to change or close.

  2. It is surprising. Whenever I have been there (admittedly not very often), the place has been packed. Perhaps the “no reservations” policy, and the resulting uncertainty of snagging a table, kept some people away….?

  3. I love restaurants with a no reservations policy. These policies often disable the ability to be spontaneous. I hate walking into an empty restaurant and not being able to dine because tables are held for customers eventual arrival. I don’t believe this was their problem. Had customer response been an overwhelming desire for reservations at a place – rather than face demise, that is an easy policy to institute. They never seemed to be lacking for business.

    20 years is a great run. Id probably grow tired of the same concept had I ran the same business for that long a time. Sounds like they’re ready to mix it up with a new concept – one I look forward to trying, whatever it may be. But as a Southern transplant, I’ll miss their food.

  4. Well this is a big fat bummer. Best wishes to the Coaston sisters, and I look forward to their next venture.

    And I LOOOOVE restaurants with a strict no reservations policy. Pretty sure that wasn’t keeping customers away.

  5. As usual people jump to the worst conclusions, and fill in the blank with nefarious reasons invented in their own mind, and probably bearing no relation to reality.

    “Coaston tells CHS that >> it was up to her and her sister to close the restaurant and not a lease or financial issue<>there is a new project afoot<<."

    Reading is FUNdamental.

  6. One of my favorite restaurants, and just blocks away to boot, so I’ll definitely miss the Kingfish. Looking forward to their new project.

  7. This is such sad news. I have loved going to the Kingfish over the years, usually as a special occasion, often when European guests visit because they just don’t know that cuisine (and love experiencing it!), and at least once or twice every summer to enjoy the strawberry shortcake. Now THAT is legendary.

    The Kingfish also provided a bit of diversity in a sea of white faces in our restaurant scene. The bar was a great place to just sit with a glass of wine and/or a super-sized piece of cake. Relaxed. Friendly, Delicious. I will greatly miss this place, even if I wasn’t a “regular”—otherwise I’d be too fat to fit in their front door!

    I can’t help but assume that the success of Tallulah’s (which I like) and the changes on 19th had something to do with this decision, but I, too, look forward to whatever comes next from the wonderful, friendly and talented Coaston sisters. I just hope they don’t leave the hood!

    Thanks for great food and memories.

  8. They probably after 20 years want to do something else. That being said Seattle is becoming one of those places that forget the oldies to keep trying to mediocre newbies and you know. In this case I doubt thats really it. They probably just want to do something else.

  9. With only 9 days left, I asked myself whether I should visit one last time, or let my numerous dining experiences there remain a distant memory. I eagerly anticipate their next venture, beautifully caramelized by what they’ve done in the past.

    Yup, that’s some flowery writing.

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  11. I live in Iowa but every time I would visit my brother in Seattle the Kingfish was the top of the list for destinations….just loved their food! I am so relieved that they are still going to be around at smaller venues. Told my brother that by doing the new takeout places, we can sample more of the menu every night of the week without the lines and crowds of the old place although I did love the ambience. Good luck to the sisters in their endeavors!

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