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Slog: 12th Ave bistro Esmeralda bites the dust – UPDATE: Details from Chef Robert

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CHS talked with chef Robert Abergel who owned Esmeralda and operated it with his son. He also was the man behind Topolino’s Pizza and Burrito Express that also took a swing at winning a place in Cap Hill tummies at the same 12th Ave location. Abergel said he has sold the restaurant business — equipment and lease — to a group planning to open a Chinese restaurant at the 12th Ave location. The 40-year veteran said his experience running a restaurant on Capitol Hill for the last five years was generally positive but also challenging.

“It’s a hard area to work because it’s a very transient crowd,” Abergel said. “People are here for short time and then they go. When more than half the people move away, nobody becomes a regular.”

Still, Abergel said, he would have preferred to have kept Esmeralda. “I’m selling it half-heartedly,” he said. “But with my knees and my son going to school, what are you going to do?”

Instead, Abergel will now focus his energy on the Topolino’s Pizza restaurant he still owns in Bellevue and a takeout concept he is starting called Squared Meal.

“Thank you for the patronage,” Abergel said when asked if there’s anything he’d like to tell Capitol Hill as he closes shop. “I’d like them to patronize these new people. The only food I eat out is oriental. There is an art to it and this woman is very, very talented.”

Original Post:
It was only last September when 12th Ave ‘Mediterranean Euro fusion bistro’ Esmeralda first set its neon sign ablaze.

Slog says that pink beacon is extinguished tonight — ‘one meat + 2 sides’ will be replaced by, according to the sign the Slog saw posted in the window at 12th and Denny, ‘GREAT CHINESE FOOD COMING SOON!!’

As for Esmeralda, never went inside after the reinvention of the restaurant space in the neon bistro style and the pizza CHS experienced at the old incarnation (same owners, we believe) was best described as regrettable. Maybe it was a bad night. Urbanspooners liked Esmeralda well enough, though, and the restaurant’s operator has apparently been in the business a long time. Worth a CHS follow-up — only regret is that we’re coming to the story with time only for an epilogue.

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7 thoughts on “Slog: 12th Ave bistro Esmeralda bites the dust – UPDATE: Details from Chef Robert

  1. I’m sad to see Esmeralda go (especially since I never got to go there) but it’ll be good to have “great Chinese” on the Hill. For all the Asian noodle shops and teriyaki joints, I’d settle for even a good Americanized Chinese sit-down place.

  2. Thanks for being somewhat nice about this…no rude comments about calling other ex resaturant owners to see if they want the space…or have you called Robin???

  3. For now the working title is “Chungee’s Drink ‘n Eat”, and will serve Cantonese for take out/ dine in as well as full (but small) bar. My friends Wen and Tom are the new owners, they are great people and are planning to open in January.

  4. Planned to go there, never found the time. Fingers crossed about the Chinese place though, be awesome to have a great one within walking distance!

    To kelseyed — you said take out/dine in, I assume that means no plans to offer delivery?

  5. I also never visited Esmerelda, but I was kinda fond of Topolino’s. The owner (Robert) had more character than any three restauranteurs combined. However, the “meat + 2 sides $2.99” neon sign was beyond off-putting. Still, it’s gotta be tough to get people in the door, and neon can work wonders. It just never worked on me. :-(

  6. I hope the “Great Chinese food” also keeps the idea of quick service plates – similar to Thai Go!, Magic Dragon or Panda Express. *shrug* Not sure that C.H. likes that kind of thing though – M.D. on Broadway shuttered, there is no Panda for miles and Thai Go! changed ownership.