About Brett Hamil

Brett Hamil is a writer, comedian, cartoonist and host of two political comedy spectacles: The Seattle Process and The Shadow Council, both at Northwest Film Forum. You can follow him on Twitter @BrettHamil.

The Shopaholic’s Closet brings high-end consignment to E Pike

With her new boutique The Shopaholic’s Closet at 1205 E Pike, Audrey Clark hopes to introduce a pop of color to the local femme fashion palette. “I learned a long time ago that greys, blacks, and browns are the basis for Seattle,” she says, “I try to ease ‘em in a little bit—it’s spring!”

Clark’s new store specializes in fashion-forward and high-end apparel on consignment. She’s worked in the fashion industry for years in various capacities from wholesale rep to buyer, and she keeps close tabs on the industry, regularly shopping sample sales in New York and LA with an eye to what will fly in Seattle with our drab regional inclinations. Continue reading

With 5,000 to feed every week, Cherry Street Food Bank seeks new home

After 35 years operating out of their space on 8th Ave and Cherry, the Cherry Street Food Bank is being displaced to make room for a new 30-story condominium tower. They’ve got until March 1, 2019 to vacate, and Northwest Harvest is scrambling to find a new home for their flagship operation which serves an average of 5,000 people a week.

Northwest Harvest CEO Thomas Reynolds considers the Cherry Street Food Bank the “beating heart” of their operations.

“We deliver to others who provide food but Cherry Street is a direct line to our most important stakeholder group: people with lived experience of hunger.” The food bank provides bags of groceries as well as sandwiches and other ready-to-eat meals for people who have no kitchen in which to prepare meals. Continue reading

Citizen-budgeters ponder Capitol Hill improvements at ‘Your Voice, Your Choice’ project meeting


On Thursday night, a small group of Capitol Hill denizens gathered in a fourth floor classroom at Seattle Central College to mull over project ideas submitted to the city’s Your Voice, Your Choice neighborhood grant process. The 20 or so participants split up into two groups, representing north and south, to rate the 42 publicly solicited proposals for District 3, narrowed down from 134-plus.

The projects were assessed by two criteria: need and community benefit.

It was an informal exercise in face-to-face, block-to-block, small-bore civic engagement. The groups briskly discussed each proposal, jotting down their scores. In attendance were Seattle Central professors and students, local apartment dwellers, and planning-savvy wonks like Ryan Packer, senior editor of The Urbanist, whose name tag sticker read, appropriately, “Ryan The Urbanist.” Continue reading

Absolute Tea to bring the wonders of cheese tea to Capitol Hill

Vince Shi sees cheese teas in Capitol Hill’s future. Along with his wife, Kathy, Shi is the future proprietor of Absolute Tea, a shop slated to open in new construction at 1715 12th Ave in late summer.

Shi will serve cheese tea—or zhī shì chá in Mandarin—a drink originating in Taiwan that quickly became all the rage in China and throughout East Asia over the past few years. It consists of a green or black tea topped with a slightly salty froth made of a mixture of cream cheese, milk, and whipped cream. It will be served along with a selection of bubble and traditional teas, matcha, and light snacks.

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Shi’s passion for teas was stirred when he first tried matcha at Cha Cha Matcha in West Seattle. “I fell in love with matcha. It really gives you energy but it’s not so strong compared to coffee. It’s energy throughout the day, not just a short burst.”

Vince and Cathy (their English names—“Easier to remember” says Shi) initially looked into franchising a bubble tea shop, but they were put off by all the prefab powdered ingredients that go into many of their drinks. “We want to provide real stuff—real purees, real teas,” he says.

Shi estimates that they’ll probably open by September after completing the city’s arduous permitting process. The shop will be located on 12th Ave across from Bergman Lock & Key and Scratch Deli, a block from Cal Anderson Park.

More 12th Ave food+drink
Here’s a quick note about a new restaurant coming to a 12th Ave space a few of you have asked us about. Mr. Saigon is the new joint being readied to take over the space formerly home to the University Market and Deli at 12th and Columbia.

Hot Mama’s — the funniest pizza joint on Capitol Hill

There is a preponderance of funny people working behind the counter at Hot Mama’s Pizza. Currently three standup comics sling pie at this Capitol Hill institution. If you stop in at any time day or night, chances are you’ll encounter a local comic tossing dough or dashing out the door on a delivery run.

Robbie Schroeder is patient zero for the Hot Mama’s comic infestation. He’s been working here for twelve years and doing standup for five. A few years ago he brought in fellow joketeller Mike Masilotti (recently moved to California) and it snowballed from there. “They finally said, ‘No more comedians—it’s not funny anymore,’” Schroeder said. Continue reading

Spanning time at Flowers on 15th

Caroline Morton at play behind the counter at the 15th Ave E flower shop

Valentine’s Day is a busy one for Flowers on 15th.

Last year. the line ran out the door and, by the end of it, there wasn’t a single flower or scrap of greenery left in the shop. But nearly every day here is busy — there’s always some occasion in urgent need of floral accompaniment.

If you have spent any time on 15th Ave E between Republican and Mercer, you’ve probably seen owner Alex Soto bustling armfuls of flora into his red truck on his way to another of the day’s many deliveries. When I visited the shop on a sunny Monday morning, Soto was busy loading up flowers for the joint memorial service of former Washington Governor John Spellman and his wife, Lois, who died within days of each other at the age of 91 and 90, respectively.

Before he hurried out the door, Soto shared the best way to understand his business. “Check out our Yelps,” he said, “That’s who we are. We belong to those people. They love us because we listen to them and we do what they want us to do. The only reason people give us money is because they trust us.” Continue reading

Tim Lennon and LANGSTON plot cultural survival in the Central District

Sitting at a conference table in the empty upstairs offices of the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute on an overcast morning, Tim Lennon breaks down the importance of Black cultural institutions for Black artists living in a 70% white city.

“In Seattle, Black folks are constantly having to moderate our stories to fit into white spaces,” he says. “To get really vulnerable, to open up your own experience to an audience built of your own community—there’s less to explain. They get it.”

Lennon’s job, ultimately, is to fill this 102-year-old building with audiences, artists, and teachers who get it. He’s the first executive director of LANGSTON, a non-profit arts organization formed to reinvigorate the historic purpose of Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute as a nexus for Black culture in a neighborhood undergoing rapid gentrification and displacement. Continue reading

Capitol Hill’s Horizon Books evolves into a community space

A week before Horizon Books was slated to vacate its old location on 15th Ave E, when things were looking most grim for the continued survival of this longstanding neighborhood institution, Brandon Letsinger jumped onboard to usher the shop into its new era.

Letsinger has deep roots in local bookselling — his first job out of high school was working at Horizon and his father, Dave Brown, is the proprietor of Recollection Books, which has shared space with Horizon for decades. Letsinger swiftly moved to cut a deal for a new location and began loading boxes into the underground “book bunker” at 1423 10th Ave, down the block from Neumo’s and beneath Super Genius Tattoo. He now runs the day-to-day operations, although owner Don Glover still drops in regularly bearing bags of more books.

“His one rule is he gets to keep bringing in books,” Letsinger says, “He’s probably one of the most prolific book scouts — with one of the best collections — in the western United States.” Continue reading

Addo incubator pops up at 23rd/Madison with everything from Richard’s Burger to Japanese brunch

There’s no existing model for the wide range of culinary experiences Eric Rivera is cooking up at his private dining venue Addo in the former of Crush on 23rd and Madison. He’s making it up as he goes along, and a glance at Addo’s upcoming meal calendar reveals Rivera’s freewheeling, globetrotting approach to pop-up dining: a seven-course family-style seafood dinner ($65), a traditional Japanese brunch ($35), a gourmet homage to Dick’s Drive-In called the “Richard Burger” ($17, includes fries and special sauce). To accurately describe what Rivera is up to, one must resort to the terminology of the tech industry: It’s an incubator, a beta testing laboratory, a gastronomic version of Netflix.

“I’m always trying to work 60 to 90 days out, plugging in awesome ideas that I think will sell—and then some weird ones,” he says, “When I run out of ideas or get stuck with ‘writers block,’ that’s when I reach out to people to collaborate.” Continue reading

Baking for both sides of Capitol Hill’s Gluten Divide: Q&A with Toby Matasar

Toby Matasar is rapidly diversifying her mini-empire of baked goods on Capitol Hill.

A second-generation pastry chef trained in New York and Paris who moved here in 2000, Matasar gained a loyal following running Eats Market Café in West Seattle for a decade. Following the cafe’s 2015 closure, Matasar started a new venture, the Niche Gluten Free Café and Bakery on 12th Ave across from Seattle U, which coincided with her own transition to a paleo diet. In 2017, she bought Crumble & Flake on E Olive Way from acclaimed baker Neil Robertson.

The two daytime eateries are now doing brisk business serving both sides of the gluten divide. Matasar continues to expand and adapt their menus, and she speaks with enthusiasm about her evolving craft and growing clientele. I asked Matasar a few questions about her upcoming plans (French ice cream! Candy!) and the challenges she faces balancing decadence with dietary restrictions.

Is baking a science, an art, or some sort of alchemy? It’s both a science and an art. Those are good words to describe it. There’s definitely a science side to it—you have to be willing to be very technical and the procedures have to be the same every time. There’s definitely an art to it, too, because it’s very visual—you have to know what the bubbles are supposed to look like on your caramel, what the batter should look like. You can’t just look at the picture in a book and expect to get it right if you’re not aware of the ripeness of the fruit or the humidity for certain cakes and cookies and whatnot. Also, a lot of art goes into the techniques for plating, which is the beautiful part because I’m the worst artist. This is my only medium—I can’t draw at all! Continue reading