Replacing The Saint, Dacha Diner bringing ‘Eastern European cuisine with Jewish fare’ to Capitol Hill

It seems the hot pink building on the corner of E Olive Way and Bellevue is destined for a new paint job. What was formerly The Saint, a Mexican-style bar that was painted a shade called “bougainvillea pink,” has changed ownership and will become the Dacha Diner, a family-operated business striving to give Capitol Hill a taste of east European-style cuisine and Jewish fare.

“Italian food and French food has gotten a lot of play around here,” said Joe Heffernan. “The really humble and hardy food of Eastern Europe — We just saw that it wasn’t really being represented here.”

“It’s as rich a tradition just like anywhere but it’s just not well represented in Seattle,” Heffernan said. “There’s a lot to be found and enjoyed.”

Capitol Hill is a good case in point that more of this type of food is ready to be discovered. Dingfelder’s Delicatassen is now open in walk-up counter mode at 14th and Pine.

CHS talked with The Saint owner Quentin Ertel last week about his decision to sell the restaurant after a decade of business on E Olive Way.

The menu and style of Dacha Diner will be inspired in large part by a trip that Heffernan, along with his partner Ruth Bryan, co-owner Tom Siegel and his wife Tora Hennessey made to East Europe. They travelled through Georgia, Ukraine, Russia and Lithuania. As they traversed each country, they experienced its sights, sounds, smells and tastes.

Joe and Tom are experienced Seattle restaurateurs. Their Independent Pizzeria in Madison Park is considered by many to feature some of the best pies in the city.

The Dacha crew have solid Capitol Hill roots. Heffernan moved to Seattle in 2005 while Tora Hennessey has been living on the Hill since she was 17. Siegel and Hennessey have been living on Capitol Hill on and off or the last 24 years. At Dacha, Heffernan and Siegel will be running the kitchen, and Tora will be general manager as well as be responsible for branding, social media and design. Ruth will take over the front of house at the Independent.

“I’m a New York Jew,” said Siegel, whose ancestors hail from Lithuania. “This is kind of a culmination of my upbringing and all the foods and memories I’ve had growing up.”

Once it’s open, Dacha Diner will be serving breakfast and lunch. The menu, Siegel said, will be diner-like with a focus on eastern Europe cuisine.

“There’s a frugal character to it. The flavors come through with a certain honesty. When it’s done poorly, it’s shameful,” Siegel said. “But when it’s done properly, there’s nothing like it out there.”

Dacha Diner is planned to open by December, according to Heffernan and Siegel. As to what color, hue or shade will replace the “bougainvillea pink” on the walls of building now, they only answer for now was: “To be determined.”

You can learn more and keep track of progress at instagram.com/dachadiner/.

CORRECTION: When first posted, this article mistakenly conflated details of the backgrounds and roles of those involved with Dacha Diner and Independent Pizzeria. We have corrected the errors.

 

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