Capitol Hill food+drink | Challenged by construction, boosted by events and private parties, Zoe leaving restaurant biz

Zoe opened on Capitol Hill in February 2012 (Image: CHS)

Zoe opened on Capitol Hill in February 2012 (Image: CHS)

6884291377_e6cd0d5e47_bA mix of success with their growing events business and challenges to fine dining in the relentless development and construction zone that is Capitol Hill have convinced longtime Seattle food and drink veterans Heather and Scott Staples to transform 14th and Union’s Restaurant Zoe.

There is time for one last romantic dinner in Zoe as a full-fledged restaurant space — but after Valentine’s Day, it’s all about events.

“Fine dining has always been a bit of a challenge and a labor of love,” Heather Staples tells CHS. “Coupled with the construction challenges, it made it easier.”

Staples tells CHS that bookings at Staples Restaurant Group’s existing event space at Sole Repair — behind their Quinn’s Pub at 10th and Pike — have remained strong and present a new opportunity for the Staples as they transition yet again through 20 years of business in Seattle.

“I’ve had to really become an activist,” Staples said. “I feel like the city has really mismanaged the construction zone. We were just completely overwhelmed.”

“20 years we’ve been here, this is the toughest time,” she said.

But Staples says the change is as much about the strong business around events and weddings and a better fit for how Capitol Hill has changed since Zoe moved from Belltown and reopened on the Hill in February 2012. Zoe will also host pop-ups and cooking classes in the restaurant space.

In the bigger picture, Zoe’s end as a full-bore restaurant comes as the Capitol Hill food+drink boom seems to be continuing — with plenty of new openings planned — but with a flavor that is more pizza than flatbread. As for event spaces, they can take a place as a bit of food and drink purgatory in between an active space and shuttered, dark windows. Some, like the space left behind as Lark nestled into is lovely new home in the Central Agency Building, are mostly quiet, others like Sole Repair feel as busy as their neighboring bars and restaurants. Meanwhile, a growing contingent of spaces including one right next to Zoe at Oola Distillery or the Melrose Market Studios set out to be event spaces from the beginning in efforts to serve a pop-up, party, and private event-filled world. Meanwhile, especially around the holidays, the “Closed for Private Event” signs at your favorite hangout can be a ubiquitous bummer around Capitol Hill.

For the Staples, their businesses have grown to more than 100 employees around Capitol Hill, and the Uneeda and Feed Co. burger locations. Heather Staples says they continue to be concerned about the environment for businesses like theirs as construction continues and the changing minimum wage rises.

“We’ve owned restaurants in an interesting time,” she said, adding that she is happy to have in-house consulting for elements like social media from her daughter, the now 16-year-old Zoe.

“We’ve told our children this is a business,” Staples said of her namesake children Zoe and Quinn. “What happens to the businesses isn’t about you guys.”

Zoe, Heather Staples said, spent last summer working at Zoe but is more interested in art than the restaurant business. Quinn? He might want to talk with his mom about the development waves that have from time to time turned the family businesses into construction zones. After having seen more than a few restaurant buildouts, Quinn likes to build things.

Zoe is located at 1318 E Union. To reserve one last dinner and keep track of what’s next, check out restaurantzoe.com.

"Table for three now available. You, your date and a mail box. Call now for reservations!," Rosenthal writes. (Image: Tango)

“Table for three now available. You, your date and a mail box. Call now for reservations!,” Rosenthal writes. (Image: Tango)

Capitol Hill food+drink notes

  • No response from SDOT yet but Tango owner Travis Rosenthal passes along this photo of the interesting placement chosen for this postal box outside his Pike and Boren restaurant. Unsurprisingly, Rosenthal isn’t in love with the appearance of the new feature outside his popular date spot just in time for Valentine’s Day.IMG_5445
  • Now open: Revolution Wine on E Pike with wines by the bottle or by the glass.
  • Coming in March: Dino’s Tomato Pie at E Olive Way and Denny.
  • Shuttered: Volunteer Park Cafe and Chop Shop sibling Canal Market down in Portage Bay.“It was a business decision. Ericka wants to focus on VPC and Chop, and spend time with her young son,” we’re told.
  • Happy fifth birthday to Pel Meni Dumpling Tzar. To celebrate, new things at its new 12th Ave location:
    The Capitol Hill location will debut new hand-crafted, small-batch dumplings and new specialty cocktails next week, with an introductory $12 tasting pairing offered on the half hour from 7-10 pm next Thursday, February 11 and Friday, February 12.
  • The unholy pairing of the booze guys from Rhein Haus and the Linda Derchang Group is out with another special brew:
    Derschang Group Beverage Director Myles Burroughs and Rhein Haus Bar Manager Ryan Minch are excited to announce the second release of their Perfect Strangers beer label. Perfect Strangers No. 2 Red Kolsch will be available beginning Friday, February 5th at Rhein Haus, Linda’s Tavern, Smith, and King’s Hardware, while supplies last. No. 2 Red Kolsch was brewed at Double Mountain Brewery in Hood River, Oregon alongside head brewer Kyle Larsen. Together, the team conceptualized a globally inspired hop forward red ale – the result, No. 2 Red Kolsch.
  • Speaking of Linda, Linda’s Tavern turns 22 on 2/22:LindasTavern_22AnniversaryParty_Feb22
  • Kukai Ramen is now Kizuki Ramen and Izakaya. Make a note of it. The chain opened on E Pine in April 2015.
  • Hot dog cart health alert!

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7 thoughts on “Capitol Hill food+drink | Challenged by construction, boosted by events and private parties, Zoe leaving restaurant biz

  1. I don’t understand the Zoe owners blaming their decision to close on “construction.” That immediate area has not been much affected by active development….the only thing I can think of is the old Piecora’s property, which was demolished and has been a vacant lot for some time. I suspect there are other reasons for the closure….perhaps the $15/hr minimum wage?

    • i had the same thought, @bob. to me, it seems quinn’s would have suffered more from construction than zoe. i suspect the lack of business has to do with where they are at. i went a couple of times when they first opened and the food was good. but when i think of places to go out my mind never thinks, “what’s over their near chop suey?”

      though i guess skillet does enough good business to negate that theory (but imho, i feel it’s more hype that keeps people going there than actual good food).

    • I live right by Zoe, and that corner has had minimal direct construction impact – although the rampant construction on 14th to the south of Union has impacted street parking. But there is a lot in the Chloe building right across the street.

      In general, that’s a poor corner for a high-end restaurant. The last vestiges of Capitol Hill’s less polished past are still there (including some dangerously cracked sidewalk on 14th between Union/Madison), and if you don’t already know where it is, Zoe’s signage does not identify it very well. I can’t see why their target clientele may not be dropping by.

    • @zeeblebop – Skillet is always packed because it’s a more affordable price point than Zoe, and the type of food is a better match for the Chop Suey or Bar Sue crowd. When Zoe first opened I went over there to check it out, but one look at the menu/prices and I walked far, far away. It’s not designed to be a neighborhood place.

  2. We went a few times over the course of its life on Capitol Hill, and the lack of interest in running the restaurant definitely started to shine through, and we eventually dropped it out of rotation. In addition to the out-of-the-way location, the revamped Capitol Hill menu never got on par with the Belltown version of the restaurant.