Done with Broadway Alley, Villa Escondida — ‘the Mexican diner that Seattle’s been dreaming of’ — vows to reopen

(Image: Villa Escondida)

(Image: Villa Escondida)

(Image: Villa Escondida)

(Image: Villa Escondida)

Seattle Central College alum Jose Perez has shuttered his first restaurant venture as Villa Escondida is on a search for a new home — preferably on or near Capitol Hill, we’re told.

Word spread over the weekend of the affordable Mexican eatery’s preparations to shut down inside the Broadway Alley retail complex. A few fans had one last opportunity to eat at the restaurant Saturday night.

In a Facebook post, the restaurant’s management chalked the closure up to a “contract disagreement.” The restaurant had recently been unsuccessful in winning a beer and wine license for the location.

CHS covered Broadway Alley’s unusual mixed-use history here in 2012. It continues to house several Capitol Hill businesses including the much-loved and expanded Tacos Chukis.

CHS reported on Perez’s first restaurant venture last spring as Villa took over after Mexican sandwich shop Torteria Barriga Llena also pulled out of the Alley. The family connections to Capitol Hill’s Mexican food scene run deep:

“I always wanted to do it but never had the opportunity,” said Perez. His cousin,Misael Dominguez, has previous experience opening up businesses and is kicking in financial support. “He’s the one, I guess, that is teaching me all the stuff.” Dominguez, when we spoke with him last, was opening La Cocina Oaxaquena at Melrose and Pine last spring. Dominguez managed Ballard’s La Carta de Oaxaca back when the restaurant first grew into prominence. Roberto Dominguez, the managing partner of La Carta de Oaxaca and Mezcaleria Oaxaca on Queen Anne, just opened the beautiful the beautiful and mezcale-stuffed Mezcaleria Oaxaca Capitol Hill on E Pine.

The recipe of affordable Mexican food and breakfast options seemed to be catching on. Earlier this month, the Seattle Times named Villa Escondida to its roster of “best new cheap eats for 2015.” “This is the Mexican diner that Seattle’s been dreaming of,” the Times wrote in a sentence now likely filling you with deep levels of regret. Hopefully that regret won’t last long.

Keep an eye on the Villa Escondida Facebook page for updates about a new location.

Chop Suey re-born

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(Image: CHS)

Earlier this month as many mourned what they believed to be the impending death of Capitol Hill music venue Chop Suey, CHS reported on the progress being made by new owners Brianna Rettig, Brian Houck, and Erin Carnes to overhaul and reopen the venue.

Due to contractual restrictions, people involved in the deal weren’t able to speak on the record. We’re happy to share that Stranger music writer Dave Segal has finally confirmed the details of Chop Suey’s rebirth with the new owners:

Will Chop Suey maintain its current booking agenda, with a focus on local and underground rock, hip-hop, and electronic, or do you intend to change direction and add other genres to the mix?
We’re all about rock ‘n’ roll, but honestly, we just want to give local artists a home and national acts the best sound in Seattle.

Segal also reports that much-loved talent buyer Jodi Ecklund will continue to be part of the new venue when it re-opens this spring.

A partner in the new venture tells CHS the Chop Suey name will live on as part of a larger project around the venue.

Carnes, the co-owner of The Escondite, a live music venue and burger joint in downtown LA, and her musician business partner Rettig are set to begin an overhaul to both the interior and the exterior of the 1937-built building at 14th and Madison. The 2002-born Chop Suey business was on the market for just under $100,000 this summer as the Japanese company that owned Chop Suey decided to bring its investment to an end. In 2009, the club was purchased by the same ownership as K’s Dream, a live music venue in Tokyo.

One performer with knowledge of the new set-up told CHS music and performance will remain part of the new club’s offerings but that the way events are booked and promoted is set to transition to a “for rent” format that leaves elements like marketing and ticketing to the acts to handle. But the partner CHS spoke to Monday morning tells us that format will not be the plan and that the club is sticking with Ecklund.

So, what else will join the live music components at the new project? In Los Angeles, the Escondite is known for its burgers. Though, with a name like Chop Suey, other food formats come to mind.

The news joins a long list of Capitol Hill changes met with an initial wave of sometimes justifiable sadness at the pace of “new” hitting the neighborhood, followed by sometimes confounding and mitigating developments like new owners, new plans to return, and/or new formats featuring the beloved fixtures.

What they’re saying about the Elysian-Anheuser-Busch InBev deal: why they sold, the ‘Loser’ joke, what’s next

"Elysian in the mirror" (Image: jillbertini via Flickr)

“Elysian in the mirror” (Image: jillbertini via Flickr)

Friday was a busy day for CHS. The news that Capitol Hill-born Elysian Brewing was selling out to Anheuser-Busch InBev brought the fourth highest daily total of readers to CHS ever. (Our roster of biggest news days ever is at the bottom of this post.) We barely had a chance to read what others were saying about the deal. Here’s a look at the soul searching and insights we’ve found about the deal. Let us know what we missed.

Elysian + AB InBev notes

  • In case you missed a few of our later updates, tweets from two Elysian employees didn’t paint a happy picture around the circumstances of the deal’s announcement Friday:

  • The Washington Beer Blog knew the deal was coming — and knew it would come with some big questions — Is Elysian Brewing evil now that it’s part of Anheuser-Busch?
    Dick said something that I think is very important. “We hope people will continue to judge Elysian by what’s in the bottle.” There is no doubt Dick understood that people would freak out, but he really does hope people can see past the business end of things and just continue to enjoy Elysian beers. Continue reading

New at the Broadway Farmers Market: Central Seattle’s own Malus Ginger Beer

996496_596024903762173_281111596_nFour years ago, a ginger beer maker got her start on what has become a collection of Seattle food and drink venues with a table at the Broadway Farmers Market. Later this year, Rachel Marshall will open a Rachel’s Ginger Beer on Capitol Hill inside the 12th Ave Arts complex.

Sunday, a new creator of the spicy drink tells CHS he is making his debut at the market and joining Rachel’s which has continued to keep its place at the weekly event. Here’s John Struble on his Malus Ginger Beer:

Malus Fermented Ginger Beer debuts at the Broadway Farmer’s Market on January 25 and will return every other Sunday thereafter. Crafted with a strong regard for herbal history, Malus Ginger Beer is Seattle’s only fermented non-alcoholic ginger beer. Malus’s process of fermentation is what separates its ginger beer from our admired fellow producers, Timber City and RGB. The craft of fermentation, more closely related to the production of beer, wine, and kombucha, is the linchpin of Malus’s methodology. Malus uses organic ingredients, including Northwest wildflower honey.

ad-04The Central District resident touts his drink as the only non-alcoholic fermented ginger beer in Seattle. The beer lists only four simple ingredients: water, ginger, honey, and lemon. (UPDATE: Struble let us know he believes his is the only non-alcoholic fermented ginger beer being made in Seattle. We’ve clarified above.)

Struble says he plans to carry Malus beyond ginger. “Malus has unearthed a centuries old recipe that promises to taste unlike any other root beer,” he writes, “with healthful ingredients that epitomize Malus’s herbalist tradition and stout opposition to the heavily medicated culture created by the American Medical Association.”

In addition to the Sunday markets (11a to 3p at Seattle Central, Broadway at Pine), you can also find Malus at Bannister, Café Presse, Central Co-op, Chuck’s Hop Shop, E. Smith Mercantile, and Revolver Bar.

You can learn more at malus-seattle.com.

Anheuser-Busch acquires Elysian Brewing Company — including E Pike brewery

"Brewmaster" (Image: Jeanine Anderson via Flickr)

“Brewmaster” (Image: Jeanine Anderson via Flickr)

Helpers at an Elysian trimming party last year (Image: Elysian)

Helpers at an Elysian trimming party last year (Image: Elysian)

Anheuser-Busch, the US wing of a global brewing giant, announced Friday morning it has acquired Elysian Brewing including the Seattle-based company’s E Pike brewery and pub.

Opened in 1996, Elysian’s Capitol Hill pub and brewery was the company’s first location. The brewery was founded by Dick Cantwell, Joe Bisacca and David Buhler.

The E Pike Elysian celebrated its 15th anniversary in 2011 with with 15 favorite beers. At the time, Cantwell provided some history about this much-loved brewery:

It took us about two years to plan, write the business plan, raise the money, etc. We opened a week late and $3000 over budget. I had been brewing at Big Time–we brought a lot of their old staff over–and before that at Pike Place–Fal, their head brewer rode his motorcycle inside the day we opened. I also worked at a place on lower Queen Anne–Duwamps Cafe, before that. We opened with one of our beers–The Wise ESB–a little fruity because of a warm fermentation–and filled out the taps with beers from every brewery that any of us had had anything to do with in the past. We raced Pike to brew first, since they were opening their new place in the Market South Arcade. After a year-plus of going neck and neck, we beat them by an hour.

Elysian has not yet announced any financial details of the transaction or planned changes for its E Pike facility. In 2011, Anheuser-Busch acquired Chicago’s Goose Island and its approximately 130,000 to 150,000 annual barrel capacity for $38.8 million. In 2014, it bought New York’s Blue Point for somewhere between $18 million to $24 million. Blue Point’s 60,000 barrel capacity is in the same ballpark as Elysian’s annual output.

Elysian is currently distributed in at least 10 states and has collaborated with large brewing companies like New Belgium in the past.

“Throughout our journey we’ve been focused on brewing a portfolio of both classic and groundbreaking beers and supporting innovation and camaraderie in the beer industry through collaboration and experimentation,” Cantwell is quoted as saying in the Anheuser-Busch announcement. “By joining with Anheuser-Busch we’ll be able to take the next steps to bring that energy and commitment to a larger audience.” Continue reading

Soul sisters did it their way for 18 years at Capitol Hill’s original Kingfish Cafe

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Laurie, left, and Leslie (Image: Alex Garland for CHS)

Eighteen years ago, twin sisters Laurie and Leslie Coaston were sitting on the corner of 19th and Mercer, counting off cars as they passed by. The single digit count was making the sisters seriously doubt their decision to open a soul food restaurant in the backcountry of Capitol Hill.

“This was a bad idea,” Leslie remembered saying. “There is nobody out here.”

Luckily, having good street visibility was never necessary for the Kingfish Cafe. On opening day in 1997, a line was forming around the block. It’s similar to the nightly — and brunch-ly scenes — happening in the final days of the 19th and Mercer Kingfish. “We’re going out like we came in,” said Laurie while taking her first breather after a slammed Wednesday lunch.

The Kingfish will close its doors for good at 19th and Mercer on Sunday afternoon, ending a long chapter in the commercial life of 19th Ave E. Since the sisters made the announcement last week, lines have wound up the block with customers hoping to experience the Kingfish one last time. The outpouring of grief and goodwill came as somewhat of a shock to the Coastons.

“Some people said they saw the news that we were closing and they cried,” Leslie said, looking bewildered. “I just hope we can hold it together on Sunday.” Continue reading

Capitol Hill food+drink | Sports bar Kessler’s will ‘touchdown’ on E Olive Way

Coming later this year to E Olive Way, Kessler's hopes to give Seattle sports fans more to cheer about (Image: CHS)

Coming later this year to E Olive Way, Kessler’s hopes to give Seattle sports fans more to cheer about (Image: CHS)

What’s the busiest area for Capitol Hill food and drink? E Olive Way is in full Beast Mode with a rumble of changes to start 2015. More on the roster of new moves, below.

One new player on the street has hopes the city’s Super Bowl enthusiasm carries on.

Tracy Ward tells CHS she will find inspiration in her “Dad’s Dad’s bar” in opening a new Capitol Hill sports bar — Kessler’s — later this year just in time for March Madness on E Olive Way.

“Owning a bar is something I have always wanted to do,” Ward said. “I am a total sports nut so it will be a sports bar, although late night will also be huge!”

Kessler’s will take over the former Tommy Gun after owner Erin Nestor sold the watering hole after four years so she can focus on a new project on E Madison. Continue reading

Goodbye to 15th Ave E’s eclectic Cafe Abodegas

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(Image: CHS)

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(Image: Cafe Abodegas)

A small, entirely eclectic cafe in one of the most space-challenged food and drink venues on 15th Ave E quietly closed to start 2015. It shut its doors a couple weeks back but we didn’t want Cafe ABoDegas and its funky capitalization to leave without saying goodbye.

Here’s a note posted by the cafe’s owners announcing the closure of the 15th Ave and downtown locations:

We’re so very sorry to let everyone know that Uriah and I have made the final decision to close our doors. We tried super hard to make it work and we unfortunately could not. We love every single one of our customers and want you to know you will be in our hearts forever. Good bye and good luck to all of you.

The 15th at Denny cafe in the street level commercial component of the Group Health Capitol Hill campus opened on Capitol Hill in 2013. Owner Jazmine Knaggs explained the name represented a triumvirate of ideas:

  • Abode — to evoke the feelings of home and shout out to the homeys in Sandpoint, Idaho where Knaggs and ABoDegas partner Uriah DuPerault hail from
  • Bodega — to evoke a sense of the corner market
  • Degas — to evoke the French impressionist

Abodegas, old timers, will recall, replaced Insomniax Cafe — another name dear to CHS’s obsessive heart. Meanwhile, the most exciting thing to ever happen in the cafe space remains this briefcase full of pot found there in 2011.

Goodbye, Abodegas.

CHS Pics | Lining up in the rainy deluge to say goodbye to the Kingfish Cafe

(Image: CHS)

(Image: CHS)

Meanwhile on Melrose... (Image: @amykatehorn via Twitter)

Meanwhile on Melrose… (Image: @amykatehorn via Twitter)

With one more week to go until the Kingfish Cafe marks its final Sunday brunch on Capitol Hill, the gods unleashed their wet anger on Seattle, sending down a saturating deluge from 19th and Mercer to Melrose… and beyond. A line 40 to 50 people deep waiting for the cafe’s 10 AM opening Sunday withstood the early brunt of the slightly unexpected downpour.

UPDATE: Kingfish has announced an update for its hours of business on its final weekend at 19th and Mercer:

Please note the hours for our last days of operation;
Thurs January 22, dinner 5 pm until 9 30 pm
Fri January 23, dinner (only) 5 pm until 10 30 pm
Sat January 24th brunch 10 am until 2 pm
Sat January 24th dinner 5 pm until 10 30pm
Sun January 25 dinner (only) 4 pm until 9 30 pm
No reservatios and expect longer than usual waits.
Thank you and we look forward to seeing you.

Meanwhile, this storm drain near the Starbucks Roastery at Melrose and Pike couldn’t take the pressure. No reports of damage, yet, from inside the $30+ million facility. SPU says the water came from overflowing storm drains in the area, not a water main break.

Power has remained on through the area this morning as fans await the noontime broadcast of the hometown broadcast of the Seahawks conference championship game. Overnight, a power outage hit some areas of the Hill leaving microwave clocks flashing but most sleepers blissfully unaware.

The National Weather Service predicts the high winds and stormy conditions will “ease” through the day. Of course, the NWS also was responsible for this particular component of today’s forecast: “Chance of precipitation is 80%”

More pics and etc. below. Continue reading

Goodbye to the Chop Suey as we know it

The Chop Suey as we know it is ready to shut down after one final weekend and a couple epilogeous nights. The situation makes for a difficult obituary — CHS has reported that the E Madison venue is being prepared to live on under new owners with backgrounds in music and the LA club scene.

Erin Carnes, the co-owner of The Escondite, a live music venue and burger joint in downtown LA, and her musician business partner Brianna Rettig are set to begin an overhaul to both the interior and the exterior of the 1937-built building at 14th and Madison. The 2002-born Chop Suey business was on the market for just under $100,000 this summer as the Japanese company that owned Chop Suey decided to bring its investment to an end. In 2009, the club was purchased by the same ownership as K’s Dream, a live music venue in Tokyo. The business partners have declined to comment on the record but said to expect details soon. One performer with knowledge of the new set-up said music and performance will remain part of the new club’s offerings but that the way events are booked and promoted is set to transition to a “for rent” format that leaves elements like marketing and ticketing to the acts to handle. UPDATE: CHS has been told this format is NOT part of the new plan. Continue reading

Look for new barkeeps on E Olive Way as Tommy Gun owner makes deal to focus on new project in old Philly Fevre space

(Image: CHS)

(Image: CHS)

E Olive Way’s Tommy Gun will close this weekend after nearly four years of business as owner Erin Nestor says she is putting her full focus on a new project near her E Madison watering hole, The BottleNeck Lounge.

Nestor announced the last day of business at Tommy Gun in an email to CHS Friday afternoon:

Thanks to everyone who supported Tommy Gun over the last 4 years but as we know, all good things must come to an end, and our end is this Saturday, January 17th.

Please join us for our final celebration tomorrow night. We’re hosting an epic happy hour from 5pm to close featuring $4 drafts and wells and $5 Moscow Mules.

We’d like to thank everyone for supporting the bar – we’ve had a blast and will remember our time on Olive Way fondly. Cheers to some of the best bartenders in Seattle for lending their talents to this endeavor! Thank you….

Netstor’s new project will be called Two Doors Down and will replace the shuttered Philadelphia Fevre later this year.

Nestor has been working on a deal with new owners to take over the Tommy Gun space on E Olive Way. A new venture called Kessler’s from James and Tracy Ward appears to have sealed the deal. We haven’t yet heard back from the Wards on any changes they plan for the venue.

Nestor’s deal to sell the bar comes as Tommy Gun was approaching its fourth birthday. It opened in spring of 2011. Nestor told us part of the inspiration for Tommy Gun was the coming Broadway light rail station.  “I lived in Chicago during my ‘roaring twenties’ and loved the city’s unabashed embrace of neighborhood bars and taverns – particularly those located steps from the entrance to the El,” Nestor wrote. “One of the primary reasons I’ve chosen this location is its close proximity to the Capitol Hill Light Rail Station.”

Capitol Hill Station (CHS coverage) and the rest of the U-Link extension is slated to be open and ready for service by early 2016.

Meanwhile, there are at least a couple more boozy changes coming to E Olive Way. Here’s one to look forward to: Liberty’s Andrew Friedman says his new Good Citizen is finally almost ready to open in the former home of Online Coffee. It’s one of 28 (and counting) new places to look forward to on Capitol Hill in 2015.

What’s next for the Kingfish… Cafes

(Image: CHS)

(Image: CHS)

That didn’t take long. Tuesday night, as CHS broke the news that Capitol Hill’s Kingfish Cafe was abruptly closing this month after 18 years at 19th and Mercer, we told you the Coaston sisters had an idea for something new but weren’t quite ready to reveal their plans. Wednesday night, Laurie and Leslie Coaston told KING TV that they plan to open up a small chain of takeout joints in neighborhoods across Seattle:

“We’re going to be opening small to-go places,” said Laurie. “We hope to open about five or so in the city.” A series of Kingfish Cafe’s are planned for neighborhoods around Seattle, though no formal plans were discussed. By opening several smaller establishments, the owners said a variety of costs will go down. Meanwhile, the food will stay the same.

As we reported, the sisters say the planned January 25th closure of the original Kingfish is a happy occasion for them and not a matter of a financial issue forcing them out of business. But the Coastons did tell KING the decision to change formats came because of the rising cost of rent and doing business at 19th and Mercer.

In the meantime, we’re told the building’s owner is seeking a new tenant for the space.

UPDATE: Kingfish has announced an update for its hours of business on its final weekend at 19th and Mercer:

Please note the hours for our last days of operation;
Thurs January 22, dinner 5 pm until 9 30 pm
Fri January 23, dinner (only) 5 pm until 10 30 pm
Sat January 24th brunch 10 am until 2 pm
Sat January 24th dinner 5 pm until 10 30pm
Sun January 25 dinner (only) 4 pm until 9 30 pm
No reservatios and expect longer than usual waits.
Thank you and we look forward to seeing you.

You can watch the KING report, below. Continue reading

Capitol Hill’s legendary Kingfish Cafe to close

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(Images: CHS)

Just short of its eighteenth anniversary at the corner of 19th and Mercer, The Kingfish Cafe will close its doors next week. But try not to be too sad.

UPDATE 1/15/15: What’s next for the Kingfish… Cafes

“There are good things ahead,” Leslie Coaston told CHS Tuesday night, confirming the out-of-the-blue and shocking announcement about the closure posted to Facebook and spreading like wildfire through the Capitol Hill and soul food loving social network:

Our parents have always said to use your imaginations and create a legacy. We have made our mark and some would even call us a neighborhood fixture. We have been serving up soul on the hill for nearly 20 years. We first opened The Kingfish Café in April of 1997 and shared with you our family recipes and stories. We never imagined that you would embrace us and welcome us into your hearts in the way that you have. It has been an amazing journey but all journeys must come to an end. Continue reading

29 Capitol Hill bars and restaurants to look forward to in 2015 — UPDATE

It's so... big. Stout ready to pour you a tall one at 11th and Pine in 2015 (Image: Stout)

It’s so… big. Stout ready to pour you a tall one at 11th and Pine in 2015 (Image: Stout)

With two new restaurants (welcome Chavez and Nueopening in the first days of the year, 2015 is poised to continue the food+drink boom that has seen 100 (or so!) bars and restaurants open on Capitol Hill in the last three years. Below is our roster of openings you can look forward to through the year. It’s an incredible set of new projects — and the most amazing part is there are more ideas and ventures that we haven’t even heard a peep about yet.

  1. Slab Sandwiches + Pie — Now! — Part of the new extended Lark family in the Central Agency Building, Slab is set for a Tuesday, January 13th debut: Continue reading

Vita family mourns passing of Andrew McConnell

Andrew McConnell

Andrew McConnell

Friends and family will remember Andrew McConnell in ceremonies and services Tuesday. The son of Caffe Vita founder Mike McConnell died last week at the age of 27.

“Andrew was a passionate soul who loved deeply, forgave freely and accepted others without judgment,” the obituary for McConnell reads. “He loved music and he loved to dance. His heart was just too sweet; he felt too much for this world. Andrew was loved by many; from Seattle to New York City where his infectious smile lit up many kitchens, working as a Master Pizzaiolo with a popular following.”

The Andrew Michael McConnell Memorial Fund has been created “to provide hope, support and treatment for heroin addiction and recovery in the Seattle community.” Continue reading