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Capitol Hill food+drink | Tavern Law sibling The Old Sage arrives — a few months older than planned


(Images: Alex Garland for CHS)

(Images: Alex Garland for CHS)

Why did The Old Sageplanned 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 choo choo train might provide a clue.

“That was supposed to be a two-week mural,” Old Sage bar manager Charles Veitch says, making it both clear that the bar’s multi-month delay wasn’t the muralist’s fault — and that the work took well more than two weeks.

“Everything done here has been to exacting standards,” Veitch said. The Old Sage train may not arrive on time — but passengers can apparently expect to be treated to perfect travels along the way.

Veitch has returned to Seattle from New York City to work again with the McCracken Tough partnership on the duo’s fourth addition to the city’s food and drink economy and second on Capitol Hill.

“The Old Sage is a little more of a fun hangout,” Brian McCracken, the co-creator of Tavern Law and part of the partnership behind Seattle’s Spur and The Coterie Room, told CHS earlier this year.

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“This is a bar,” Veitch said Tuesday as the final touches were put in place for a planned Wednesday night opening.

“Look at the room — what do you see?”

What did we see? The 12th Ave space formerly home to a short-lived wine bar has been turned into a smoky den with lots of sturdy tables, a hearth, dark wood and even a selection of books ripe for sticky fingers. Low incandescent light colors the Wilcox Construction project.

The menu includes smoke-infused, humble-cut meats and hearty dishes that the chef duo behind the project said are designed to showcase the food, not the presentation. No prices were listed on the available menus and those available weren’t talking.

“Let’s just say you aren’t going to find any $30 entrees,” Veitch said. It sounds like you can expect a price point between $12 and $20 depending on how much smoky indulgence you bite off.

“A lot of food is going back to the comfort side of things,” Tough told us in January. “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.”

But, as Veitch said, The Old Sage is a bar. Expect plenty of malt-centric beverages to accompany the smoked meats. It’s the first major beer program for the Tavern Law partnership, Veitch, points out. Most of the taps will have local brews, he promised. And, of course, the malted end of things extends to plenty of whiskey on the shelves.

Like some sort of old-timey butchers, staff will don heavy, fatigue green cutting aprons. “We’ve heard everything from butchers to Dexter,” Veitch said of the get-ups.

Given the exacting standards, however, don’t expect any butchery behind the bar. Though all the meats — including the lavender infused pork cheeks — are smoked in house.

The Old Sage is located at 1410 12th Ave and will be open 5 PM to 2 AM daily. You can learn more at

Capitol Hill food + drink notes 

  • All of that action on the now-shuttered Chutney’s building slated for demolition to make way for this new apartment building? It’s not a new restaurant. CHS will have more soon on what’s going on with the building.
  • Meanwhile, there’s also construction activity, finally, inside the burned-out Galerias space on Broadway. After being gutted in a November 2011 fire, the restaurant space has stood empty as the property manager told us plans were coming together to overhaul the building. With permits for a construction project with a $70,000 base budget in place, work has begun.
  • Dick’s Drive-In, rocked by Macklemore, is also making plans for its own block party in September celebrating 60 years of business.
  • Don’t forget — DeLuxe is also celebrating a big anniversary as it marks 50 years on Broadway with extra happy hours and special $1.99 burgers.
  • Fogon turns one this August.
  • Freddy Junior’s (profiled here) and, across Broadway, Moti Mahal (profiled here) are now open.
  • E Olive Way’s Montana is the first business on Capitol Hill to take part of the city’s parklet pilot program. New street seating will join an added Montana patio by the end of August.
  • The stand-up bar outside Ethan Stowell’s Rione XIII was a bitching magnet for frequent walkers along 15th Ave E so there was some rejoicing when it suddenly disappeared and was replaced from a somewhat less obtrusive set of seating. But turns out the stand-up bar isn’t dead — it just moved down the street to Stowell’s other 15th Ave play, Bar Cotto.
  • Spa trend: booze. CHS noted a new application for a liquor license at 15th Ave E’s Wax On.
  • The first ever Capitol Hill-hosting of the Seattle Street Food Festival is August 10th. The organizers are offering locals an opportunity to meet and talk about their plans for the 11th Ave/Cal Anderson even this Thursday at Auto Battery.
  • The Hopvine is mourning the loss of Aaron Derry Kopperl.
  • Aragona, downtown cousin to Spinasse and Artusi, is now hiring.
  • Barring a miracle, Donna Moodie of Marjorie will fall short in her bid to kickstart a new plantain business.
  • Did you catch our feature on Olivar’s five-year anniversary? Contains one of our favorite food+drink portraits… ever.
  • IMG_9419As thousands descended on E Pike for the first night of the 2013 Capitol Hill Block Party, CHS sat at a relatively hot new Capitol Hill bar Friday night only to hear bar staff lamenting the slow night. We’ve heard other reports of a slow weekend from around the food and drink world as some mix of people being scared off by the crowds and locals taking vacations or caving up at home conspired to convince some in the business that CHBP weekend is rough on the revenue side of things. Those same people will also readily acknowledge the festival, in general, is a win for furthering the Hill’s place in Seattle arts, culture and good times. We don’t know what you experienced — CHS kind of enjoyed the 1:1 level of service — but it does dawn on us that more and better messaging might be in order to remind people that Capitol Hill is still open on Block Party weekend. Or, perhaps it’s best to take it easy for a couple days and enjoy the party.
  • And then there’s this.
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24 thoughts on “Capitol Hill food+drink | Tavern Law sibling The Old Sage arrives — a few months older than planned

  1. Really. I happen to know the artist who did this mural and to blame a late opening on them is really immature.

  2. The mural as a whole, not just the muralist is the only thing that paragraph says that caused the delay in opening. Nothing else is mentioned: permits, inspections, whatever. A 5 month delay because of a mural just sounds weird whatever the reason. Its not like it was painted on crumbling 100 year old brick. I’m just making an observation on behalf of “flaky” artists, if I may.

    • you did read this next part, yes?

      “making it both clear that the bar’s multi-month delay wasn’t solely the muralist’s fault”

  3. As a longtime Capitol Hill resident, I get the hell off the Hill during CHBP. Ever since they sold out a couple years back and went all corporate and lame, it’s turned into a total douchefest. An overpriced douchefest I might add. So me and my friends spent out time enjoying the old Seattle vibe that still exists in Georgetown and their great selection of bars.

    • It’s like the CHBP rakes in a lot of money for the promoters (wonder how much?), but many Capitol Hill businesses lose money during those 3 days…..doesn’t seem very fair to me.

    • I hear you! I love hanging out in Georgetown these days too. My husband and I got hassled with snide comments multiple times by B&T-crowd assholes while walking around during CHBP. (We were heading out to go running, which apparently makes us losers!) Last time I stay in town for that weekend….

  4. I’m looking forward to your Chutneys update. I saw vertical wood cladding going up the other day and became confused as to what’s taking place. I stared to ask the guy with caution tape but decided to mind my own business.

  5. You should edit this article. I got the impression the delay in opening was because of the mural too. It was only after seeing these comments and carefully rereading it that I understood what you meant. Obviously it is a concern to the artist himself as well as he feels insulted by the way this was presented.

    • We got more comments about it than most sidewalk cafe setups — but pretty much any sidewalk seating gets bitched about. I think it was a combination of an already tight sidewalk and the height of the bar that got people going more than average. I’ll have to dig up some of the old emails.

  6. “food as art is passe” says a place with Torchon of Foie Gras with donut Peach and Amaranths Salad with inca quinoa on the menu!

    • As I responded to you in email, I agreed with you that “solely” had the wrong implications and removed the word.

      You should give me a call on this (206) 399-5959 — no disrespect intended. As I write, your mural was held up as an example of the craft and high expectations behind The Old Sage project.

  7. Perhaps it was a direct quote from the owners so maybe that’s why it read a little weird? But also when you emphasize in the headline the “late” opening it instantly undermines everyone involved. I don’t know how many people knew what their timeline is/was or cared. It’s very difficult to get a business off the ground. So if it was a direct quote it came off as a little defensive and finger pointing which is understandable. And apparently it put the artist off too, as it looks like you have direct communication going – yay! I just had two cents to throw in because I’ve seen Joey Nix and Sign Savant bang out multiple complex murals (Comet Tavern) in record time and they are really beautifying this town in nice, nin-graffiti ways. Thanks for the forum to vent.

  8. I think what the bar manager meant was that when opening up a bar there are a lot of variables involved when dealing with the opening; ie, permits, products getting there in time, finances, contractor delays, etc. Whatever the case, the place looks awesome and the murals are wonderful! Who really cares if they were delayed, they are open now aren’t they? Try opening up a bar in Washington state, especially Seattle.

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