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Capitol Hill food+drink | Re-inventing a Capitol Hill steakhouse, May anniversaries

This is your Manhattan without Drugs (Image: Manhattan)

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  • One of the most interesting stories of the Capitol Hill food and drink economy over the last three years has been the rise of Laura Olson and Chris Pardo as some of the most active innovators in the scene. In relatively rapid succession, the duo’s Pterodactyl Group has opened Po Dog, Auto Battery, Grim’s, Manhattan Drugs and, now, The Social/EVO Tapas on Capitol Hill. CHS fields rumors on a semi-regular basis of plans for more. For now, however, there will be less.

Olson and Pardo are out at 12th Ave steakhouse concept Manhattan Drugs leaving a man in control of the restaurant who, until now, had been a silent partner in the project funding the restaurant from its beginning. Though, really, remaining Manhattan partner Jin Park remains silent, at least as far as CHS is concerned. We talked to a representative for the investor turned restauranteur to ask about what happened and what’s next at the restaurant — now re-dubbed to a simplified, and focused Manhattan.

“What you’re going to see are very subtle shifts,” Park’s rep told CHS. “We think it should represent a higher focus for fine dining.”

“It’s been known for drinking and fun place to be — that was what Pterodactyl is known so well for,” he said. “There needs to be a higher focus placed on fine dining. There was a bit to be desired on that front.”

That last part is probably an understatement. You can give this brutal review from the Seattle Weekly a read for a taste of what was was amiss at the Drugs-incarnation of the restaurant.

To achieve the goal of producing a higher quality experience, the re-energized Manhattan plans to do more to empower the people running its kitchen to succeed. It’s part of the reason Park is staying out of the spotlight — chef  Khampaeng Panyathong should have a chance to shine.

Meaty issues at play at Manhattan (Image: Manhattan)

The plan, the representative said, is to give the executive chef “complete control” of the menu to allow the chef to be “more inspired” and bring “more fun elements” to the offerings. “The old menu was more represenatitive of what other steakhouses around town had,” the representative said. You can expect more surprises with the new slate.

“The main face is KP,” the rep said of the new Manhattan.

Other parts of the plan are more about making a deeper investment in Manhattan as a fine dining experience. There are plans for a more up-to-date selection of wines and pairings. Manhattan also plans to invest in its staff. “We brought in some new staff with more experience in fine dining establishments,” the rep said.

More experience can cost more. The rep also insists Manhattan’s new ways will maintain the restaurant’s current price points. 

“We just want to make sure that the restaurant and its space can be as succesful as possible,” the rep said. “It fills a niche but at the same time we want to be hitting price points and quality. If those things require a larger investment, so be it but I don’t want to get into that.”

We first reported on the plan for Manhattan Drugs last September. Just before New Year’s, the new joint snuck under the 2011 wire and debuted.

The new Manhattan is very careful not to trash its old self — the rep wouldn’t comment on why these kinds of initiatives weren’t part of the restaurant from the start. 

But the break-up of the partnership was certainly never in the plans. “Things changed as events happened,” the rep said and would not comment further.

Via email, Pardo told CHS only “our vision for the direction of the restaurant differed.”

“We love the space and wish them success in all their endeavors,” Pardo wrote.

Manhattan and Auto Battery are CHS advertisers. 

  • Cure’s new patio seating is ready once the rain goes away. Plus, new happy hour menu.

    (Image: Cure)

    • Our food and drink coverage didn’t become so, what would you call it… comprehensive until 2009. So our source for determining May birthdays is a little shallow. Holler if there are birthday boys and girls we’re missing. In the meantime, Capitol Hill congratulations to Healeo (2009), Porchlight (2009), Highline (2010), Sitka & Spruce(moved to Hill in 2010), Elysian Capitol Hill (1996), Sun Liquor (2006?), Marjorie (2010), The Confectional (2011),Artusi (2011), and Skillet (2011).
    • Off Hill, celebrate 20 years of Cafe Flora.


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    11 years ago

    Walked past Kiki on Pine yesterday. The ‘new management’ sign is off the door and the kitchen equipment was shrink-wrapped.
    Unless the place is getting even fresher coat of paint, I’d say they’re closing up shop…again.

    11 years ago
    11 years ago

    That review was definitely brutal. But not surprising. I’ve found Pterodactyl Group’s places to be way more about the vibe & scene, than about the quality of the food and drink – esp. for the price. Po Dog is a joke – bland, lifeless hot dogs glopped with cheap toppings. Kooky, artisanal hot dogs IS a thing (for ex. San Francisco’s Show Dogs which has roughly similar prices) – but Po Dogs totally fails at it.

    Ditto for most of their joints – far more about the look and the scene, than the actual food & drink. Not surprised they are out of Manhattan Drugs (and that their U-District joint closed). Its what you’d expect for a restaurant group composed of an architect and a Las Vegas refugee.

    Justin Bowers
    Justin Bowers
    11 years ago

    ^ OMG RIGHT!? I thought I was the only pretending Grims French Dip was the best ever. …and ya, there is a funny taste to their Maker’s Mark. Not to mention their Coke tastes more like Pepsi.

    Oh, and don’t even get me started on Po Dog! Finally got a chance to get a Sushi Dog that wasn’t sold out and…boring city!!! In fact, I was also VERY disturbed that the hot chic who served my dog was wearing an “I love weiners” t-shirt. Outrageous.

    And since hatin is so in-style right now, I’d like to continue with my thoughts about MD.

    Capitol Hill fine dining. lol. Was nice to have a place on the hill to get a steak, but $40/$50 steaks? On the hill?Good luck with that. The cookie is good. Know just as much as anybody else about the severed business relationship but sounds pretty retarded. Carry on pretentious Seattleites. Maybe someday somebody will make that Ratatoulie just like mama used to make it, or make a dining establishment more about dining solo for critics.