Oasis Capitol Hill opens, sets new record for CHS being early on a story

The Oasis Tea Zone has — finally — expanded to Capitol Hill.

“I’ve been trying to get in to Capitol Hill for over 10 years,” I-Miun Liu tells CHS. “I guess prematurely I said yes.”

The E Pine Oasis bubble tea shop opened this week — two years and two days after CHS first wrote about the project taking shape.

Liu said a regular Oasis customer offered him the space in 2014 and he couldn’t pass it up — even if he wasn’t ready to build.

“To me this was my one chance at Capitol Hill,” he said. “I rode it out for so long.”

At the time, Liu was working to open Eastern Cafe in Chinatown. A cascade of delays put the project far over budget and repeatedly pushed back the Capitol Hill opening.

Though he was concerned about the early proposals, Seattle’s march to a $15 minimum wage wasn’t part of the delay. In 2014, during the infancy of the $15 minimum wage law debate, Liu said an immediate jump to $15 wage would cripple his businesses. “The phase-in helped a lot,” he said. “The time frame has been critical.”

In the end, Liu said the two year pause was worth it, giving him time to come back to Capitol Hill with a stronger footing and more resources to put into designing the space that has transformed what was once a video rental store. The new shop neighbors Fogon, Rudy’s, Stumptown, and Capitol Loans. Across the street is R Place and Suika.

Hours for now are 11 AM to midnight every day — no plans for late night hours here, yet.

The space might be the most elegant and fully designed of the now four Oasis locations. A rocket man art installation, created by Electric Coffin, fills the back wall.

Liu said the shop will expand to Asian-inspired desserts and loose teas in a collaboration with his sister’s Ballard tea shop, Miro Tea.

Liu said his opening day went off without a hitch and the nighttime crowd, including many regulars from the International District location, nearly filled the shop.

“A lot of people who knew that we were about to open were excited to see us,” he said.

Oasis Capitol Hill is located at 606 E Pine. You can lear more at facebook.com/oasiscapitolhill.

Images: Kirkland Rocket Fizz

Images: Kirkland Rocket Fizz

Rocket Fizz Broadway is now open across the street from Capitol Hill Station.

We told you about the soda pop and candy shop earlier this year:

Rocket Fizz Soda Pop and Shops offers one of the largest and craziest selections of glass-bottled soda pops and retro candies for sale in America

Aged five years, Sun Liquor and OOLA are still pioneers of Capitol Hill spirits

Kirby Kallas-Lewis (Image: Alex Garland)

Kirby Kallas-Lewis (Image: Alex Garland)

In 2011, OOLA and Sun Liquor both fired up Capitol Hill’s first legal stills, launching the post-Prohibition era of neighborhood-made spirits. Five years later, the two businesses are growing, but while new coffee and beer production operations continue to open around Capitol Hill, new distilleries have not.

Huge startup expenses, navigating a restrictive legal framework, and high state taxes can be daunting barriers to entry despite the seemingly insatiable demand for craft cocktails and spirits.

“We keep trying to get parity with beer and wine,” said OOLA owner Kirby Kallas-Lewis. “A lot of people do their due diligence and they find out it’s not worth it.”

In 2008, the state legislature relented slightly by passing a craft distillery law, which made small batch distilling a viable business by lowering minimum production requirements. The state went from one distiller to over 100 by 2015. With few mentors in the local industry, Sun Liquor head distiller Erik Chapman said trial by fire was the primary learning tool.

“In five years we have learned so much, and most of it the old fashioned way. Everything from packaging issues, equipment failures, shipping disasters, flooding, you name it.” he said. “There’s no handbook for this business.” Continue reading

Capitol Hill now has a Mystic Kombucha tasting room

The Mystic crew (Images: Alex Garland for CHS)

The Mystic crew (Images: Alex Garland for CHS)

IMG_6807If you are walking down 12th Ave and the sign is out, you know a small pocket of Capitol Hill food and drink community is open for you to stop in, talk with the people making something new to taste, and have a glass of neighborhood kombucha.

Mystic Kombucha quietly opened its new tasting room and kombucha bar a few weeks back. But the goal has been more to create a hangout than a new point of sale.

“By design, I was like, how can we not have a counter here,” founder Carlos da Silva said on a recent “tour” of the puny eight by fourteen foot space along 12th Ave.

Covered in raw cedar and purposefully reminiscent of a sauna, da Silva’s new Mystic showroom isn’t the kind of place you’ll want to settle into with a laptop. Stopping in for a drink means zero separation between staff and customer. You’ll have no choice but to render an opinion of the kombucha creations on tap. Unless you can take the close-up, face-to-face silence. Give it a try.

“How can we create something in this neighborhood where people feel they can connect with each other,” da Silva said of the genesis for creating a purposefully tiny tasting room. There is reportedly five times more room behind the walls, unused except for a small kegerator and a refrigerator.

Mystic got its start on 12th Ave in the kitchen at nearby Scratch Deli. da Silva and Caitlin Matteson grew the scobies and the business and now go throw “a keg a day” at cafes across the city plus “numerous kegs” every Sunday at the Broadway farmers market. In the meantime, a community of kombucha is growing in Central Seattle. Seattle first kombucha brewery, CommuniTea opened its new facility and tap room at 21st and Union earlier this spring.

da Silva said the goals for Mystic on 12th will remain small. Hours for the tasting room will vary. Watch for the a-frame sign to be out and people hanging out in the streetside space. There will be food and drink pop-ups from like-minded producers from time to time and da Silva said he is also hoping to make the space available for small community gatherings.

“We’re not here to sell you kombucha,” he said. “The real goal is to create intimacy and connection between the people who like kombucha and the people who work for mystic.”

Mystic Kombucha is located at 1711 12th Ave. You can learn more at facebook.com/mystickombucha.

Own a piece of Rodeo Donut — or another Capitol Hill food+drink startup, soon — thanks to federal law change

A platform allowing ordinary people to invest in startups launched this month and a Capitol Hill donut operation is among the first companies to have its shares up for sale.

Rodeo Donut opened last year as a popup project inside Cupcake Royale. Since then Rodeo has expanded to Cupcake Royale’s Ballard location and developed a diehard donut following with creations like apple bacon bourbon fritters, and caviar and cream donuts.

Now owners Nicki Kerbs and Jody Hall want to venture further into the donut frontier by opening a brick-and-mortar shop with a focus on “fresh fried buttery brioche donuts, fried chicken and strong whiskey drinks.”

To do it, Rodeo is taking advantage of new crowd investing platform called WeFunder and a federal law change allowing startups to raise capital from non-credited investors (typically defined as those who make less than $200,000 a year). In October, the Securities and Exchange Commission approved rules for crowd investing, first approved in the 2012 JOBS Act.

In other words, you can now buy shares of Rodeo Donut and throw your financial lot in with Seattle’s cowgirl donut slingers. The popup donut shop will also be offering its employees stock options.

“We’ve had so many that have wanted to take us to other cities or other states or wanted to invest,” Hall said. “We like that this kind of levels the playing field.”

The minimum investment is $100. So far Rodeo has raised just over $7,000 towards its $50,000 – $100,000 goal. The Rodeo owners are currently shopping around for their first location. Hall said Capitol Hill would be a “no-brainer,” if they could find the right space.

WeFunder was one of the first companies out of the gate to offer crowd investing, where investments and contracts are all drawn up and exchanged on the site. The company selected Rodeo as one of the first companies to feature on its new platform.

Of course the risks with startup investing are substantial and even more so for those who can’t afford to loose all the money they put in. According to WeFunder, “Startups either win big or go bankrupt. You could lose all your money. Consider them more like socially-good lottery tickets.” Existing crowd fund platforms like Kickstarter allow fundraising, but do not facilitate investing. You can read more about WeFunder investing here.

Meanwhile, Hall is privately fundraising to expand The Goodship, her marijuana edibles company. Since marijuana remains illegal the federal level, you’ll have to wait for WeedFunder to become a reality.

The CHS Crow approves: Corvus and Co. opens on Broadway

Guymon pours a drink on a busy opening night (Images: Alex Garland for CHS)

Guymon pours a drink on a busy opening night (Images: Alex Garland for CHS)

To get an idea about how Corvus and Co., Broadway’s newly opened Levantine-flavored bar/restaurant and Capitol Hill’s second big debut of the week, took shape, ignore the crow for a minute and focus on the owl. Co-owner Izzy Guymon projected an image of the mystical beast onto the plaster that covered the original brick of the longtime Byzantion restaurant the new joint replaced. He then chipped away at it, piece by tiny piece, eventually forming the relief that now looms over the new space.

It’s not about being meticulous — it’s about pounding it out and carving something new. Corvus, which opened officially Monday night on northern Broadway, is hoped to bridge the gap between the pretensions of Capitol Hill’s craft cocktail scene and the real power of community and, well, spirit in its bars and restaurants.

“We’re not a craft bar, we’re not a dive bar, we’re right in between,” Guymon told CHS Monday night. Continue reading

First look: 15th Ave E’s Bar Vacilando

A completely overhauled 15th Ave E restaurant and bar began a new journey last week as Bar Vacilando made its debut.

The new Capitol Hill venue from the Black Bottle family of food and drink takes over after a long period of emptiness for the space formerly home to 22 Doors. Co-owner Chris Linker told CHS earlier this month his intention for Bar Vacilando at 15th and Harrison was not to open a fancy restaurant, but a bar with really nice food. “We want people to feel like they can disarm … let time slow down a little bit,” he told us. “It’s more of an analog restaurant than a hyper-digital restaurant.” Continue reading

CHS Pics | Big turnout as Capitol Hill hosts first ever Seattle Ice Cream Festival


Ice Cream Festival 2016 - 15 of 17
Sunday’s first ever Seattle Ice Cream Festival might be the first when the exaggerated number of people claiming to be interested in a Facebook event may have been close to accurate.

It’s unlikely that 55,000 or even 15,000 attended — but if enthusiasm is any sign, the second festival might be a slightly larger production.

Sunday, a few thousand people stuffed 11th Ave and filled in the open marketplace of Chophouse Row to sample a taste or buy a scoop or three of the frozen treats from some of Capitol Hill and the city’s leading ice cream producers: Sweet Bumpas, Molly Moon, Bluebird, Cupcake Royale, Gelatiamo, Balleywood Creamery, Kurt Farm Shop, Full Tilt, Parfait, Half Pint, Trove, and Pink’s. Songs will be sung of the dozen first year providers who braved the pandemonium. Even neighboring doggie daycare Play on the Hill got in on the act with frozen treats for canine pals. Continue reading

A new life for Old School Frozen Custard on Capitol Hill

CJ and Meg Chaney (Image: F-Stop Seattle courtesy of Old School Frozen Custard)

CJ and Meg Chaney (Image: F-Stop Seattle courtesy of Old School Frozen Custard)

Like another cool character recently back from the dead, you might have some questions after this E Pine resurrection.

Where did you go? What did you see?

Capitol Hill’s Old School Frozen Custard is risen. With a week or so of quiet return to service under their belts, new owners Meg and CJ Chaney plan to bring cookie and software startup savvy to the “unpretentious flavors and big sundaes” of the creamy frozen treat hangout.

“We’re not changing the recipes,” CJ tells CHS. “We’re not touching anything on that side.”

But new things are ahead for Old School. The reboot is actually an acquisition. Meg’s Retro Cookies is taking over the company and now stands around 10 employees strong. CJ says the plan is to increase the presence of cookies and baked goods at the E Pike and 14th Ave shop. Increased cookie production is also on the horizon with baking already happening on site. CJ’s company Smartwhere, meanwhile, isn’t yet part of the Old School plans though we imagine its proximity marketing technology could be useful in alerting passersby to the frozen treats within. In the meantime, expect a lot of connection with followers through social media including new “fan flavors” on the Old School calendar.

The connections for Meg and CJ run deeper than the obvious business opportunity that presented itself with Rick Drouet and his business partners decided to hang up the Old School custard cutting scoop. CJ said Old School was the site of one of the couple’s first dates and they served the custard at their wedding.

CHS rather unceremoniously marked the closure of Old School in March buried in this post about the new “plant-based” ice cream shop Frankie and Jo’s coming to Pike/Pine. The shop opened as part of a small chain of Old Schools in the summer of 2009 back when frozen treats were still a rarity on Capitol Hill.

This Sunday, Capitol Hill will mark its ascendancy to the top of the city’s ice cream throne with the first ever Seattle Ice Cream Festival at Chophouse Row. Here’s the royal lineup: Sweet Bumpas / Molly Moon’s / Bluebird / Cupcake Royale / Gelatiamo / Balleywood Creamery / Kurt Farm Shop / Full Tilt / Parfait / Half Pint / Trove / Pink’s

While Old School won’t be scooping at Chophouse Row this weekend, they’re still ready for a crowd. CJ said he has been most surprised by how many fans the chain developed over the years and how many have been overjoyed to visit the reopened remaining Old School.

“There’s definitely an opportunity here. The amount of love for this IP is amazing,” CJ said, mixing a little software engineer into his new role as a frozen custard shop owner.

Old School Frozen Custard is located at 1316 E Pike. Learn more at facebook.com/OldSchoolFrozenCustard.


Capitol Hill food+drink | Sugar Hill coming to space where Bauhaus shuttered

"The Legendary Bauhaus... " (Image: Douglas Knisely via Flickr)

“The Legendary Bauhaus… ” (Image: Douglas Knisely via Flickr)

It will be a sweet new chapter for the old building where Capitol Hill’s Bauhaus cafe closed suddenly late last year under a cloud of financial troubles for its owner.

Sugar Hill, a new restaurant project from Ayutthaya co-owner Guitar Srisuthiamorn, is currently under construction with plans to open by the end of summer. Sugar Hill will be a bar-focused eatery featuring Thai street-style food.

Srisuthiamorn is partnering with Momiji’s ownership on the new venture. The Sugar Hill buildout will transform both floors of the two-story cafe including the well-loved upstairs balcony. The base construction budget is listed at $100,000.

Ayutthaya, meanwhile, celebrated 30 years of business on E Pike in 2015 and has find a way to thrive in the midst of the booming Pike/Pine food and drink scene.

In 2013, CHS reported on the plan to — temporarily — move Bauhaus to the former Capitol Club building before a planned return to its longtime Melrose and Pine home where a massive development project is being built. Bauhaus owner Joel Radin at the time said he hoped to eventually open something new like a restaurant or bar in the temporary Bauhaus home.

Sugar Hill is planned to open in August.

Capitol Hill food+drink notes

  • 1508003_481977975287260_2256060671533235658_nA former Subway sandwich shop at 22nd and Madison is being transformed into the first in what is hoped to be a wave of expansion for Wallingford-born Tigerly Ox. The Vietnamese eatery from John Tran is currently under construction in the commercial strip outside the 23rd and Madison Safeway. Unlike the Wallingford location, Tran says his E Madison restaurant should have seating for around 15 to 20 patrons. Watch for an opening next month.
  • Are they open yet? Next new places to try out on the Hill should be Broadway’s Corvus and Co. and 15th Ave E’s Bar Vacilando. You’ll have to wait for summer to visit the new Harry’s Fine Foods.
    (Image: Corvus and Co. via Facebook)

    (Image: Corvus and Co. via Facebook)

  • In the Central District: RIP The Barbeque Pit.
  • Loxsmith Bagel pop-up Sunday at La Spiga.
  • Canon’s branded ice cubes make the New York Times: “We are always looking to give our guests a moment of ‘Wow!’”

Capitol Hill food+drink | The Harry’s Fine Foods transformation

The intriguing Harry’s Fine Foods project — as CHS called it back in September 2015 — is rounding into shape for a summer opening inside a transformed convenience store at the corner of Bellevue and Mercer.

“A jewel box” is how the contractors refer to the project which is set to restore the old market’s exterior befitting the building’s history and fill it with finely crafted elements and recovered, restored finishings including the old store’s refrigerator case, fully gutted and recreated for a new life inside the new Harry’s.

“The extra time has allowed us to make some very styled decisions,” Julian Hagood quipped as he gave CHS a cup of coffee and a tour of the under-construction restaurant and the completed apartment the chef/owner calls home upstairs.

Or, really, up-ladder. Metis, the contracting company Hagood turned to after construction on the restaurant bogged down earlier the project, had just removed the 1910-built building’s old staircase approach to the upper level and given the chef a tall ladder in its place. If all stays on the new pace, Harry’s Fine Foods will be open by July or August.

When it does, the neighborhood around Bellevue and Mercer will have a new daytime hangout — to start with. Hagood and partner in crime Alexa Dallas plan to open with a breakfast, brunch, and lunch focus before dipping toes into the dinner and nighttime bar business. With menus honed by the duo’s booming catering business, Harry’s will feature cafe offerings with vegetarian influences and a light, nutritious approach. A patio is being built behind the old store abutting the old house next door and windows are being designed to be opened wide to transform the rebuilt store into an open, airy cafe. The old refrigerator will be put to work with meals to-go and prepared items like parfaits for neighbors to grab and go. There should also be beer and wine for sale.

The project is an ambitious one — even beyond the kitchen. A company run by real estate broker to Seattle’s food and drink stars, Laura Miller, purchased the property in the summer of 2014 for $560,000 according to county records. Miller said the building is the fourth that she’s developed in Seattle — but first on Capitol Hill. To transform it from a market to a restaurant, Miller and Hagood had to navigate the city’s change of use process and make sure the surrounding community supported the new life for the old building. Continue reading