Foreign National, Tavolata Capitol Hill ready to join E Pike food+drink

Foreign National (Images: Barnard and Meyer)

Foreign National (Images: Barnard and Meyer)

Two new additions to the booming Capitol Hill food and drink scene are joining the buzz on E Pike. Foreign National in all its shadowy sultry-ness is set to join next-door sibling Stateside at the base of the Hill while Ethan Stowell’s second Tavolata is planning its opening in a preservation-friendly development at Pike and Summit.

“We’re really surprised and grateful for what seems to be a great deal of interest,” Foreign National’s Eric Johnson tells CHS. “But it’s tiny. And we’re a little bit scared.”

At 28 seats, Johnson said he is hopeful the just-finished, bar addition to Stateside and its crew can withstand the crush of new-seeking foodies sure to show up as soon as Instagram gives the OK. A few nights of “friends and family” this week helped Johnson and front of house guru Seth Hammond prepare. The official opening will come next week. In the meantime, good luck.

It’s a little bit more of a sure thing up the Hill in the still being completed, preservation incentive boosted Dunn Motors building. Ethan and Angela Stowell have done this before. But every new opening brings its excitement and twists and turns. After a few quiet nights this week, the plan is an official opening Monday for the second location for Tavolata, the restaurant family’s “modern Italian” concept born in Belltown:

The 2,600-square-foot restaurant has a modern, industrial feel, softened by the use of salvaged wood and generous windows that wrap around two sides of the space. A long communal table—the tavolàta that gives the restaurant its name—sits at the center of the restaurant. The 16-foot live-edge maple slab was sourced from near Lake Whatcom, north of Seattle, and it can be separated in to two eight-foot tables for smaller groups. There are 12 seats at the bar, with an eight additional seats at a tall counter looking out over the dining room. Along the edges of the space, a combination of booths and banquettes provide seating for another 55 guests. An open kitchen with glossy gray tile complements rough, reclaimed California redwood behind the bar, and custom tables are topped with Douglas fir. Three large sliding windows run along the Pike side and will provide an open-air feeling during summer months. Plans are currently in the works for an outdoor patio on the Summit side with seating for 25 guests.

The menu is based on the Belltown original with “lots of extruded pastas,” “fresh vegetables,” and “a few hearty proteins.”

Back at Stateside, Johnson’s Foreign National is breaking new ground.

“We definitely have discussions all the time about how to stay relevant,” Johnson said in light of the challenges of financing and creating a food and drink business and constant competition in the neighborhood from creative and talented restaurateurs like Stowell. “We’ve had a good one and a half years. But we’ll need it to last longer that.”

Johnson’s expansion appears to be a smart step for Stateside, touted by many as one of the city’s best new restaurants. For one, it creates a new revenue opportunity only steps away. But it also provides an opportunity for Johnson and crew to iterate on the flavors and feel of French Vietnam he brought to Pike when Stateside opened in late 2014. Behind the bar at Foreign National, Hill liquor mixer extraordinaire Adam Fortuna has created a menu of Asian-flavored cocktails like Long Thailand iced tea and the Sorrel Sour.

Johnson calls the accompanying food at Foreign National “snacks.” A small food menu will feature a selection of those “drinking snacks” on a nightly basis. Stateside’s menu, alas, will not be available at the bar. “We’re maxed out on how much ‘Stateside’ food we can make,” Johnson said.

The Foreign National look, meanwhile, will also take Stateside in new directions. Callie Meyer, who designed the light and airy Stateside, has responded with shadows and disco balls next door.

Johnson said he hopes the spirit of the new addition will help keep Stateside moving forward in Seattle’s food and drink scene. “There’s been so much expansion. When you see good places close, you have to wonder about where the threshold is,” Johnson said. “The key for me is to not be satisfied with where we’re at now.”

Foreign National will be open seven days a week from 6 PM to 2 AM at 300 E Pike. You can learn more at facebook.com/foreignnationalbar/. Tavolata Capitol Hill is at 501 E Pike. Check out ethanstowellrestaurants.com for more information.

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9 thoughts on “Foreign National, Tavolata Capitol Hill ready to join E Pike food+drink

  1. I was underwhelmed with Stateside similar to Ba Bar is mediocrity

    I am a big fan of most of stowells places. I love A&O and the orig tavo

  2. I was a fan of Stowell’s but after MKT and London Plane (especially LP, soooo disappointing in price/service/food/predictable decor), I’m on to food trucks for interesting.