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Chino’s finds buyer, calls it quits as new ‘upscale’ restaurant coming to Pike/Pine

The brown paper is back in the windows at 11th and Pike. Chino’s — a Taiwanese-Mexican mash-up by way of Los Angeles — is gone after a summer of giving it one last go in Pike/Pine.

Owner Walter Lee confirmed the sale to CHS this morning but said he could not comment on the new buyers.

People familiar with the deal tell CHS the new concept will require a full remodeling of the space and will be an upscale restaurant.

Bidding for the rights to the Chino’s space on what is otherwise a booming stretch of E Pike was reportedly hot and heavy. One familiar Pike/Pine name in on the space is particularly unhappy about the way things played out.


“I thought we were getting to know each other, and making good progress,” Jason Lajeunesse tells CHS about his talks with the Lees and hopes of a possible partnership in a new restaurant and bar that also was to include Dave Meinert. “I was looking at this is a potential 20-year relationship.”

Lajeunesse said he and Meinert were far enough along in the process to have spent thousands of dollars on legal fees and architectural plans. The partners are also hard at work pulling together plans for the new 24-hour diner they are opening on 10th Ave in spring 2013. Lajeunesse said he’ll remain on the hunt for a nearby location to open the restaurant/bar venture bumped from the Chino’s space.

At this point, we can offer no clues to who is moving in at 11th and Pike. City records appear to be currently devoid of activity for the address and there haven’t been any actions on the liquor permit end of things as of yet.

It’s been a tough run for the first-time restauranteurs behind Chino’s, Walter and Mari Tiscareño Lee. The husband and wife team opened Chino’s late last fall with a Taiwanese and Mexican menu inspired by Los Angeles and street food. The project quickly revealed some of the challenges the rookies would face competing in Pike/Pine:

“We’re feeling a little lost in the sauce right now,” Mari, 29, said. “We’ve had to start in square one with everything … In all ways, we are out of our league. Look around us. You have Café Vita, Quinn’s, the Unicorn, Poquitos. They’re all very established, with tried and true business models. It can be a little demoralizing being next to them sometimes, especially when you see they’re always packed.”

What followed was a social media-fueled blow-up involving a chatty (soon to be ex-) bartender that put the Lees in the awkward position of publicly admitting they weren’t cutting it and were looking to leave Pike/Pine.

After telling employees that they hoped to find a new location with lower rent to re-start their efforts and that a buyer had made an offer that could lead to a buyout, the Lees were left to try to make the best of it on E Pike. This new deal puts an end to that. Walter Lee tells CHS there are now no plans to re-open Chino’s and that the restaurant is closed for good.

Recent times have been tough for the corner. Before Chino’s, Oasis Cafe closed at the location when it failed to find a buyer.

Meanwhile, there are signs of even more food+drink investment along E Pike. The former Tully’s at Broadway and Pike is already being cleaned out to make way for a new pub. Capitol Cider’s buildout is underway. And we found activity inside another shuttered, central Pike/Pine space. We’ll have more on that soon. Just as soon as we figure out who’s moving in at 11th and Pike.

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songstorm
8 years ago

I feel really badly for the Lees that it didn’t work out. The restaurant business is a tough one and while I liked the Asian/Mexican concept, it didn’t translate into anything strong enough to get me to venture down there (I live on the north end of the Hill). I rather doubt the ‘high end’ concept is going to attract me either, but we’ll see. Best of luck to everyone in the future.

seattlebear
8 years ago

This place always reminded me of the Pakistani place across the street from Jerry Seinfeld. I’m sure they feel better now that they don’t have the pressures of owning the restaurant.

PT
PT
8 years ago

I never liked the name. The word sounds like a derogatory slur although it’s just Spanish for Chinese. My firstvisit there went well with great drinks, but they were a bit pricey when combined with the eclectic ambience of sports on the TV, techno-esque music, and people dressed in nice lounge wear. The menu looked pretty good. I planned on going there again with a friend, but it was closed. The vibe seemed “pre-destination” to me. I was hoping it would survive.

PT
PT
8 years ago

lol
Adios, Chino’s!

Jay
Jay
8 years ago

Sadness, this was my little slice of home in the middle of seattle. really liked coming here. best wishes to the owners

Maddie
8 years ago

It’s always sad to see a business close, but I can’t say I’m totally shocked. I’ve been in twice and the concept seemed a little confused. I couldn’t quite pinpoint what they were going for, so when it came to the “where do we feel like going moment” because Chinos didn’t hit a specific niche, it never came up.

Also, it looked dead empty on Gay Pride weekend which is always a bad sign.

genevieve
8 years ago

you know, in the whole Ba Bar dustup, Evan Martin’s side of the story sounded plausible, but he sure does seem to court drama. Any restaurant owner should be wary of hiring him by now.

Pod
Pod
8 years ago

I really loved the braised pork belly bao and their attempt at Pok Pok’s wings. :(

The Lees were also from UCLA, which is my alma mater.

double :(

Alan Motley
8 years ago

Has there ever been a successful restaurant in that space?

A chino
8 years ago

Agreed. Glad it wasn’t an African/Latin fusion…

Michael Strangeways
8 years ago

ITA. It was a very confusing concept, and not just for the fusion. Was it a restaurant or a bar with snacks?

And, did they do ANY marketing or p/r?

Steve
8 years ago

When I saw the bartender measure out my drink in a jjgger, iI felt like this place was doomed. Mildly decent idea, but terribly executed. A waste.

caphilldenizen
8 years ago

WTF is the problem with a jigger?

josh
8 years ago

What’s the deal with that space? Does the owner just do shortish term leases? It seems like something must be attracting businesses without long-term survival plans to that space.