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Capitol Hill food+drink | The Old Sage ready to waft onto 12th Ave

Got a tip? Let it rip.

  • Despite his latest Facebook profile pic, chef Brian McCracken is not blowing smoke.

“The Old Sage is a little more of a fun hangout,” the co-creator of Tavern Law and part of the McCracken Tough partnership behind Seattle’s Spur and The Coterie Room tells CHS about their new bar being planned just a few doors down 12th Ave from the duos original Capitol Hill creation.

Back then, it was a trio. McCracken, Dana Tough and David Nelson brought the speakeasy, craft cocktail zeitgeist to life in flesh and blood at the corner of 12th and Madison in 2009. Bar manager Nelson left the team in 2010 as Tough and McCracken — sorry, McCracken and Tough — would go on to grow the empire and gain a reputation for leading the way and defining Seattle bar and restaurant trends.

If The Old Sage is also representative of the cutting edge for the local food and drink economy, expect a near future focused on source and quality — and plenty of smoked meat.

The new joint will not, however, be a charcuterie nor a butcher nor a smokehouse — though it will have a smoker on site. The kitchen of the former wine cafe is set to undergo a $120,000+ makeover from which will emerge a menu of smoke-infused meats and simple, hearty dishes designed to showcase the food, not the presentation.

“There’s versatility of how things can be smoked, even fish,” Tough says, adding that The Old Sage will move beyond alder to sources like smoking herbs and bamboo to impart specific flavors.

“It’s much more about the flavoring,” he says.

Meats will also veer closer to “humble cuts” than what Tough calls the “novelty cuts” of a more presentation-focused project.

“A lot of food is going back to the comfort side of things,” Tough said of the new zeitgeist wafting about The Old Sage. “How do I say this? Food as art is becoming a little bit passe. With the food specifically we want to be very ingredient focused.”

Expect the bar to also take a focused, pared down approach with an emphasis on whiskeys and “good, malty beers.”

The space is being built to match the “product”-focused, “humble cut” offerings. Expect a warmed-up version of the space with an added hearth stoked with fire to add even a little more smoke to the offering. Incandescent light will help you see your pork cheeks before digging in. The buildout is being handled by Wilcox Construction with a late February, early March target for opening. 

On the business end of things, the duo expect proximity with Tavern Law to have an impact on the bottom line. “We plan to utilize some management key players,” Tough said. “We’ll develop some efficiencies.”

And McCracken Tough will continue planning new things even as The Old Sage is completed.

“Brian and I always working on several different ideas and filing away ideas,” Tough said. “This is a concept driven by the space. We’re opportunists. We saw a place where this fits.”

  • Time is running out for Bill’s off Broadway. CHS told you last year about the plans for the pizza joint and bar to find a new, nearby home to make way for a planned development and preservation project at its home of more than 30 years at Harvard and E Pine. Bill’s owner Don Stevens tells CHS the search continues — and time is running short if Bill’s is going to find an interim home during the building’s construction. His search is a challenging one — restaurant-ready spaces are a hot commodity along Broadway and Pike/Pine. Have a tip of Bill’s? Drop us a line and we can hook you up with Stevens or you can send mail to
  • Broadway’s Five Fish Bistro & a Burger shut down last week citing a lack of business on the busy street. Attn: Bill’s.
  • The Copperworks still is greeted by co-owner Micah Nutt of Capitol Hill (Image: Copperworks Facebook)

    Seattle foodies are rallying around Zoe chef Matt Farrer. The 32-year-old is battling colon cancer. A benefit is planned for January 27 at Canlis.

  • Kedai Makan’s overhaul of the former Tacos Gringos shop is underway with a “mid-January” opening planned.
  • Little Uncle is back from winter travels.
  • Seattle Met has details on the latest offerings from the city’s local distilleries including Capitol Hill’s Oola and Sun Liquor. Add to the Cap Hill connection Copperworks Distilling. The project boasts some proud Capitol Hill ownership despite its waterfront location. You can learn more here.
  • Remember when Anthony Bourdain popped up at Melrose Market last year? You can enjoy the fruits of his labor next month in a viewing party at St. John’s:



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8 years ago

I bet the Broadway Market would make Bill’s a killer deal for their empty restaurant space on the 2nd level.

And Off-Broadway would certainly still apply!

8 years ago

…where apparently all new restaurants on capitol hill must have meat-focused comfort food menus? isn’t anyone interested in making or eating anything else anymore?

Mailman Joe
8 years ago

Yes. You missed it. You should check your mailbox more carefully.

8 years ago

It sure beats the non-stop whinging for lacto-ovo vegan my tummy gets upset easily options.

8 years ago

Somewhere new in the ‘hood to get my meat smoked.


[…] Old Sage — ???: “The kitchen of the former wine cafe is set to undergo a $120,000+ makeover from which will […]


[…] Also on the liquor license end of things, The Old Sage’s paperwork has been approved, State of Washington says. We’ll check in on what the plan is for an opening date for the long-delayed Tavern Law cousin. […]


[…] did The Old Sage — planned and executed by two veterans of the Seattle food and drink scene — miss its planned opening target by five months? The murals of a Seattle pioneer and a smoky […]