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Capitol Hill food+drink | El Portal brings the coffee of Veracruz to 23rd and Madison

Happy Monday. Here’s our weekly helping of Capitol Hill food and drink industry news and notes. Got a tip? Drop us a line.

  • Residents around 23rd and Madison noticed an unfamiliar scent a few Saturdays ago. It was the first day of roasting at El Portal’s new home.

“I only work with what I know,” Ignacio Ventura tells CHS about his new coffee shop and roasting operation in a space that has seen a succession of failed cafes over the years near the busy intersection of Capitol Hill, the Central District and Madison Valley. It’s the second new area coffee venture we’ve reported on in two weeks — we told you about Broadcast Coffee’s new Capitol Hill venture last Monday.

Ventura’s knowledge runs deep in the coffee tradition of the mountains around Veracruz where 90-degree days are matched by cool, damp nights — “Like Seattle,” Ventura said. He has built a business providing wholesale Mexican coffee beans roasted in the Pacific Northwest and provided to supermarkets and a few big accounts like Whole Foods. But Ventura said he was also looking for a way to diversify his business and showcase the beans he acquires from the best fincas in his home region.

“People asked me where they could try my coffee,” he said. He had been looking for a place to create a shop and found out about the 23rd and Madison location via Craigslist. The space was last home to a failed attempt by a local farmers market favorite to make a go of a cafe. Before that, another coffee shop had come and gone. It’s a tough space to get a foothold but Ventura might have the business blend to, if not make it a huge success, definitely draw some notice.

Ventura shows off his roastery’s latest batch (Image: CHS)

In addition to the Mexican beans — known, Ventura says, for their low acidity and “Chocolate notes” — El Portal also features preparations straight from Veracruz like the lechero Mexican latte. The gear is Mexican-made with a roaster Ventura purchased from a home-country manufacturer. Ventura is also serving items from a Lynnwood panaderia where he commutes from every day. He’s had offers from other providers but says he hopes to keep things as traditional and in the spirit of a Mexican coffee house as possible. The El Portal name, he says, refers to the structures of the Veracruz city square where people go to hang out in the cafes and enjoy their local brew. He also sees opportunity in connecting with area restaurants and providing El Portal beans for their coffee and espresso menus.

He plans hours of 6a to 6p every day but Sunday when he currently plans to be open until noon before closing early for some rest.

As for the challenges of the location, Ventura says he is undaunted. “I’m roasting these beans right here. I think people will notice,” he said.

You can learn more on the El Portal Facebook page.


  • Funhouse
  • Addam’s Family
  • Junk Yard
  • The Simpsons
  • Attack from Mars!
  • Medieval Madness
  • Lord of the Rings
  • Fish Tales

Video games:

  • Tron (Original)
  • Donkey Kong
  • Ms. Pac-Man (x2!)
  • Big Buck Hunter: Safari
  • Centipede

Video and Pinball game combo:

  • Baby Pac-Man
    • Important news for Capitol Hill baking types. If you can come up with a cherry pie-whoopie pie hybrid, you just might be a big winner. Oddfellows announced it is holding its third annual Whoopie Pie Bake-off this July. Here are some images from last year’s competition. Meanwhile, we told you last week about the upcoming High 5 cherry pie contest. Here’s a reminder.
    • Also in pie news, High 5 says it will give a late-night window a go later this summer to give a spin at getting a piece of Pike/Pine’s rich nightlife economy. You might recall a similar effort on 12th Ave at Eltana was punted after a few weeks.

    If you’re headed out to drink and dance on Capitol Hill on Friday and Saturdays, soon hot dogs won’t be your only late night snack option! High 5 will be starting a late night pie window friday and saturday nights till 2 am or until we run out of pie, whichever comes first!

    • No whoopie pies involved but happy birthday to another Linda Derschang joint. Smith will celebrate five years next Monday by rolling back its prices to the good-old-days of 2007.
    • We featured this list of eight places on Capitol Hill to enjoy the European Championships but, really, on a weekday, only one has risen to the tourney’s challenge. Well played, as usual, Cafe Presse.
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    • A month of cheese-filled Saturdays at the Broadway Market QFC.
    • Where Seattle Fark people hang out on Capitol Hill.
    • Kate says: “a little self-promotion, but also a fun event – montana is doing weekly sunday bbqs on their patio.  a different chef is cooking a different style of food each week and everything will be less than $10.  starting at 5 pm until the food is gone.”
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      “We stocked up before the privatization of liquor so we can keep our prices low as long as we can…

    • Vegetalian
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    • Eater gets all journalistic and talks withAltura’s front-of-house guy, Guy Kugel: “My very favorite thing would be the gnocchi. But Nathan has a tagliatelle dish with snails that’s amazing.”
    • The Puget Sound Business Journal gets to go out and eat and drink sometimes. It visits with the guys behind Saint John’s.
    • We don’t know what “Seattle’s best green restaurant” means but Terra Plata is in the running, we’re told.
    • How in the hell did you survive the weekend without the Volunteer Park Cafe? She’s scheduled to be back this week after a longer-than-expected closure to get a new hood and some sprucing up.
    • Seattle Gay Scene gets very excited about Q.
    • Meanwhile, SGS also shares this essay from a bartender at Evo. “At any rate, I realized I was no longer up to the challenge that she presented and I pawned her off to another bartender.”

    (Image: Little Uncle)


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    10 years ago

    what are these 90-degree days he speaks of?

    10 years ago

    Mexican style espresso drinks are awesome! Ignacio is a cool dude too, and it’d be great to see the cafe be a success, so go!

    Ignacio B Ventura
    10 years ago

    …and all the neighborhood and the rest of the people for making us feel welcome to the hood, we are happy to be here, we couldn’t choose a better place to start our adventure, than CH…Thanks to all of you