When it opened on 14th Ave in January, global modernist Nue — by our count — was the 100th new food and drink joint debut we’d covered going back through the Capitol Hill restaurant and bar boom to 2012. Using the same not-exactly-scientific methods and including a small handful of joints in the Central District, we’d venture a guess of 38 new bars, restaurants, and cafes opening around Capitol Hill in 2015. Only slightly offsetting that continued growth were a dozen or so closures — with most of those spaces either already returned to service or with new tenants lined up. And we didn’t even include rebirths and overhauls in the tally. In short, the Capitol Hill food+drink boom continued in 2015. But that’s what we said last year. With dozens of new ventures in motion, there is no other way to put it. Below are the stories, people, and places that made it happen.
+ Our first look at the new Capitol Hill — the year in development
+ CHS Pics | This YEAR in Capitol Hill pictures
+ A Capitol Hill bookseller’s list: best books of 2015
Food+drink: 2014 / 2013 / 2012 / 2011 / 2010
— jseattle (@jseattle) December 2, 2015
Big beer: 2015 started with a double-edged indicator that it would be a big year for brew as global beer giant Anheuser-Busch announced its takeover of E Pike-born Elysian Brewing. Co-founder Dick Cantwell told CHS of his “mixed feelings” over the estimated $60 million deal. Three months after the takeover, he resigned. Meanwhile, the year ended with news of another big beer player settings its sights on Capitol Hill as Redhook announced plans for an E Pike small batch brewery and pub. The punchline? Redhook is owned by the Craft Beer Alliance, a company partly owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev.
Small big beer: With all that big beer money being thrown around, the biggest beer investment in the neighborhood was actually made by a Capitol Hill husband and wife team with a start-up mentality when it comes to brew. Optimism Brewing — a 16,000 square-foot brewery designed by Olson Kundig Architects — opened in November in an overhauled auto row-era showroom at Broadway in Union. Meanwhile, tiny Outer Planet opened on 12th Ave.
RIP Bauhaus: For many, Bauhaus died when it left its birthplace cafe at the corner of Melrose and Pine. The departure was completed for the rest of us in early December when the Bauhaus businesses imploded and its cafes shuttered across the city. The closure ended what many had been hoped would be a story of a neighborhood favorite overcoming the area’s relentless pace of development.
RIP Kingfish Cafe: The early 2015 demise of the Kingfish was an altogether different kind of closure. Less tragedy and more an opportunity for the Coaston sisters to take a well-deserved break, the end for the Kingfish included a victory lap of sorts as long lines wrapped around the block with patrons stopping by to pay their final respects. Ernest Loves Agnes, from the guys behind Lost Lake, the Comet and more, opened in the space in September.
Goodbye, Charlie’s: There was gnashing of teeth and rending of garments in June as CHS broke the news that Charlie’s longtime owner Ken Bauer had given up on finding a buyer and was finally set to retire and shutter the neighborhood favorite. But in a plot twist only the new Capitol Hill could create, word soon came that the old space would, under the banner of a local chain of sports bars, be reborn… as Charlie’s. The new Charlie’s reopened in December.
$15/hour: Concerns about the effects of Seattle’s slow march to a $15 minimum wage are real. But many eyebrows were cocked when the announced closure of the Broadway location for a Zpizza franchise blamed the wage hike. In November, Ian’s Pizza on the Hill — part of a small, Wisconsin-based chain — opened in the space Zpizza left behind. Meanwhile, the city prepares for the 2016 minimum wage bump.
Year of the doughnut: The current state of Capitol Hill: lose a pie shop, gain doughnuts. Mighty-O joined the neighborhood in 2015, General Porpoise was part of Renee Erickson’s school of new ventures, and even the neighborhood cupcake shop got into the act.
Speaking of Renee: Her opening of the three-headed sea creature Bar Melusine+Bateau+General Porpoise helped set a high bar for the best possible outcome for the new mega spaces being created in some of the giant Pike/Pine preservation-powered developments.
Chicken and waffles: 2015 brought two players in the chicken and waffles game to the edges of Capitol Hill. Nate’s Wings and Waffles CD opened in a former Ethiopian restaurant near 12th and Jeff while Marcus Lalario opened his Fat’s Chicken and Waffles in the former Catfish Corner location at MLK and Cherry.
95 Slide shot clock winding down: Meanwhile, Lalario’s Harvard/Pike sports bar is nearing the end of its game.
Chophouse Row is born: Capitol Hill super developer Liz Dunn’s preservation, open marketplace, and office space development made its long awaited debut in 2015 and lived up to all expectations. Farm-to-ice cream cone champion Kurt Timmermeister filled in one 300-square-foot patch of space for his dairy-powered cream and cheese venture, Kurt Farm Shop. The two-leveled Amandine Bakeshop and Empire Espresso teamed up in another while a sibling to Bar Ferd’nand was under construction in a third. But at the center of it all, Volunteer Park Cafe sibling Chop Shop brought Ericka Burke’s 2,000-square-foot, 67-seat vision of Northwest casual to life.
Small players, too: Not every new restaurant around Capitol Hill represented a multi-million dollar investment. Blue Stone brought affordable Korean to E Olive Way while Vaca Loca hoped the promise of its Latin American sandwiches would be enough to make its challenging Broadway Alley location work.
Curious deaths: There were a few casualties in the midst of the latest waves of the Capitol Hill food and drink boom but both deaths came under rather unique circumstances. Zhu Dang shuttered on E Olive Way after only a year of business — but on the way out, the owners noted they were able to break their lease “with no penalties.” CHS would venture a few more might have cashed out under that kind of deal. Meanwhile, 12th Ave steakhouse Manhattan also pulled the plug. You can read about its troubled birth, triumphant revival, and peaceful death here.
Also in 2015…
- Chavez earned the mantle of the first opening of the year.
- The Growl Store brought a new way to enjoy beer to the neighborhood.
- Chop Suey was reborn.
- TNT Espresso left us. Then came back.
- RIP Crazycherry.
- Two bike-centered cafes joined the neighborhood: Metier — “an impressive 12,500 square-foot, multi-level facility on Capitol Hill’s Union Street” — and bike polo-powered Peloton.
- Calf and Kid’s cheesemonger Sheri Lavigne opened her cleverly named cheese bar Culture Club on 12th Ave.
- Vios creator Thomas Soukakos joined the Pike/Pine boom with Omega Ouzeri on 14th Ave.
- Lisa Nakamura opened Gnocchi Bar at 12th and Pine.
- Soi — “the other ambitious restaurant project coming to 10th and Union” — helped spread Pike/Pine south.
- Sur 16 brought New World flavors to 15th Ave E.
- Giant Stout opened at 11th and Pine.
- On Broadway, the old Galerias space finally came back to life with Rooster’s while the street’s cocktail culture continued to mature with the addition of Herb and Bitter. Broadway also gained a Poppy spin-off as Jerry Traunfeld opened Szechuan-flavored Lionhead.
- Speaking of spin-offs, Annapurna reached the surface on Broadway as it opened the Yeti Bar above.
- La Bete/Spaghetti Western shuttered, which left a new home for Kedai Makan, which left a new home for Monica Dimas to create her Tortas Condesa “Mexico City style” sandwich shop. Pfew!
- Rachel Marshall celebrated a homecoming as she opened Rachel’s Ginger Beer Capitol Hill in the 12th Ave Arts building.
- Makini Howell’s Sugar Plum vegan sweet shop got off to a quiet start on 15th Ave E.
- Rancho Bravo’s drive-thru reopened.
- Caffe Vita celebrated 20 years.