After 41 years, Dilettante leaving Capitol Hill

Cakes and Tortes at the Dilettante

The original Dilettante in the 400 block of Broadway E

The original Dilettante in the 400 block of Broadway E

How crappy is this Inauguration Day on Capitol Hill? Even chocolate can’t help you.

The ownership of Broadway’s Dilettante Mocha Café announced Friday afternoon that by the end of January, the “Chocolate Martini Bar” will serve its final desserts in the neighborhood where the company was born:

It is with a heavy heart that we must announce our impending closure. We are sorry to say that we will be closing our doors at the end of business hours on Sunday, January 29th, 2017. We have been proud to be a part of the vibrant Capitol Hill community for 41 great years, sharing our love of espresso, good food, strong drinks, and all things chocolate and dessert. Words cannot express our appreciation for all the memories throughout the years. Thank you!!

A call to the Broadway at Mercer cafe confirmed the closure plans and that the company was planning to keep its other cafes open. A manager told CHS that he was grateful Dilettante’s ownership gave employees a few weeks before closing.

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Dana Davenport (Image: Dilettante)

Longtime fans of chocolate cake will also be grateful to have time for one last visit. The company started in 1976 with a cafe called simply “The Dilettante” in the 400 block of Broadway where Pizzeria Ottantotto does its wood-fired thing today.

The company provides an entertaining history of the company on its website:

1976: A New Chocolate Enterprise
Inspired by the hand-written notebooks of his Grandfather Earl and Great Uncle Julius, Dana Davenport opens the original Dilettante Chocolates location (then named, “The Dilettante”) in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. With training from his Father Jerome and Uncle Irving, he focuses on chocolate truffles, fine pastries, and coffee service. He also perfects his Ephemere® Chocolate Sauce, creating the foundation for Seattle’s first mocha experience.

In 2006, the founders sold the company to Seattle Gourmet Foods. By May of 2008 the original location was shuttered and Dilettante’s new owner Kathy Taylor took her Ephemere sauce down the street that fall to be part of the newly opened Brix building.

Dilettante had grown to seven cafes in the Seattle area but Broadway remained its only chocolate martini bar. It also sells chocolates and chocolate sauces under the Dilettante brand.

UPDATE 1/23/17: A company representative tells CHS the closure came as Dilettante was focusing its businesses.

“We’ve got this great chocolate brand. We have these cafes around the Seattle area, we’d like to have more of them. And then we have… a martini bar,” Dilettante’s Dan Graham said Monday.

Graham said that factors like Seattle labor costs were secondary.

“There’s no question that the changing labor rates have a huge impact to the kind of service that you can provide to guests,” Graham said “But I wouldn’t point to the labor wage as being the decider on Broadway.”

Instead, Graham said the company’s “Mocha Cafe” concept fits more snugly into its longterm goals and business model.

“It’s a slightly different concept than our mocha cafes,” Graham said. “It’s been part of the fabric of Capitol Hill for a very long time. It sort of evolved into a full service cafe and martini bar.”

Graham said part of the next steps for the company is deciding what to do with the Broadway space. Dilettante’s parent company purchased the premier commercial condo unit in the Brix building for $1.2 million in 2007, according to King County records. It is a turnkey restaurant setup that the company could put on the market or decide to lease.

As for Dilettante possibly returning to the Hill someday with a Mocha Cafe, Graham said you never know.

Some staff, meanwhile have the opportunity to join the company’s other locations, while others will join what Graham said seems like a strong food and drink service job market. The company also wanted to give employees and longtime patrons as much forewarning as possible.

“We didn’t want to just shut the doors,” Graham said. “It will be something that is missed.”

The closure adds another hole to Broadway’s commercial fabric after Charlie’s closed — again — earlier this month and the American Apparel at Broadway and John will shut down after its parent corporation’s bankruptcy meltdown.

lunch photography -dilettante (10)

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27 thoughts on “After 41 years, Dilettante leaving Capitol Hill

  1. As I recall, the 1976 location was on Denny, where the Downtown Dog Lounge is now. They moved to Broadway in the early 1980’s. I’ll miss walking by the Broadway store and resisting temptation (most of the time).

    • I have a different memory. I moved to Belmont East in ’77 and remember walking my mother up to the small store near Peter’s clothing store, and that would have been before I met my now wife in late ’78. Being a grandchild of Polish immigrants, I was charmed by Dana Davenport’s story of his own forebears and visited the store many times.

      The store I remember being where the Dog Lounge is now was the Seattle Dessert Company, which moved there in the early-mid ’80s from an East Miller and 10th East location (we bought cake from that store for our movers when we bought a house a block away in ’82).

  2. Wasn’t the one in the current dog lounge location called Famous Pacific Dessert company rather than Dilettante?
    They were the ‘Life is uncertain, eat dessert first’ place.

    • Having worked there I can say with certainty its because the head management listed in the article have no idea how to run a restaurant and refused to listen to anyone. They had a selection of very talented people working there that were passionate and had restaurant experience. Instead of utilizing this, they underpaid and over-worked their staff frequently belittling and yelling at them. With staff turnover at over 150% they were hemoraging money in training and staff costs.

  3. To be replaced by…..let me guess……yet another bar or dry cleaners. Yes, Capitol Hill is lacking in both of those for sure :)

  4. Sad. Broadway is a terrible street for shopping. The 80’s were its best years: Keegs, Del-Teet, Bailey Coy Books, Rex’s, Lion O’Reilly’s, the Broadway restaurant, Dilettante, Confectionary, the Broadway Theatres, Bartell, even Taco Time and Jack in the Box were nice to have around.

    • Yes yes yes. Downhill for decades now. It hurts every time I walk by that drugstore with a movie marquee. And what was that about a light rail stop helping neighborhood businesses?

    • Light rail may help Pike/Pine businesses, but it’s been tough to get anyone to head up to the northern parts of Broadway for a long time.

    • The light rail may actually hurt actual retail (non-food related) because the downtown core is 2 1/2 minutes away by rail. How do you compete with that?

  5. It must be difficult for a place to survive when they serve mainly desserts. I tried it once for dinner and it was mediocre at best. They might have done better if they had morphed into more of a traditional restaurant, while still offering their delicious cakes, chocolates, etc.

  6. Taco bell walk up window!
    And safeway on the corner

    Ice cream in the teriyaki spot

    (i can’t even eat this food anymore, but loved it as a kid)

    b&o gone;(

    The Vajra better stay put!

    • Henry’s Off Broadway, Steve’s newspaper stand, Fred Meyer, OFC with a parking lot, Ben & Jerry’s, or was it Haagen Daz?, Baskin Robbins. The old Starbuck’s was much nicer than the current one. Vivace arrived in 88 or 89. For baby boomers there was Opus too. Boy, I” missing the 80’s.

  7. All That Jazz. Pink Zone. Retro Viva. The Russian piroshki place. Eggscetera. Andy’s. The Turkish kebab guy inside the convenience store that used to be just south of the Broadway Market. The Internet Cafe. Gravity Bar.

    • The Elite. The Jade Pagoda. Macheesmo Mouse. The Gap. Galerias (the first one). Siam. Judy Fu’s Snappy Dragon. The Malaysian takeaway in the Broadway Market, next to The Gap. Was there a Hallmark? Noah’s Bagels. Twice Sold Tales on John.

      I loved those piroshkis.

  8. On a cold rainy day in 2014 as we huddled outside under a tent across the street trying to make progress on our presales, the Dilettante manager came out and gave us all free hot chocolate because he knew we were struggling that day. I’ll never forget the little gesture.

  9. Fred Myer with huge parking lot, Radio Shack,The Hallmark Store and Ernie Steele’s.

    The brix retail spaces are individually owned by the retail businesses.

    Dont know if they can sub lease or if she will have to sell. Brix condo rules are pretty strict on what can go in the retail spaces