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Capitol Hill food+drink | Monsoon digs in for expansion on changing 19th Ave E

Making room at Monsoon (Image: CHS)

Making room at Monsoon (Image: CHS)

CHS has written about the changes coming to 19th Ave E as a new mixed-use building with big name Capitol Hill food and drink tenants makes its final preparations before opening — and holds a party to celebrate. But it’s a change that did *not* happen that has opened the door for another new project on the street.

“It’s amazing how the world turns around,” Monsoon’s Eric Banh tells CHS. “We almost became homeless in 2007. We survived. And now we’re growing. A little bit.”

Eric and Sophie (Image: Monsoon)

Eric and Sophie (Image: Monsoon)

Eric Banh and his sister Sophie announced this week a major expansion of their much-loved neighborhood restaurant that has operated on 19th Ave E since 1999. In work typical of the indefatigable Banhs, Monsoon will remain open through the construction project that will basically double the capacity of the restaurant and is expected to take around seven months to complete.

“Construction begins on Tuesday, October 15 with the restaurant expanding to the south by adding 30 dining room seats plus a bar that seats eight,” the announcement of the construction project reads. “The best part is that the construction will all be done next door, in what will be the extension of the restaurant, leaving service uninterrupted until the new side is complete and the two spaces are ready to merge.”

The expansion is designed by The Architecture Department who created plans for the original transition of Monsoon from the former Craig’s cafe space that stood at the site.

Used to be Craig's...

Used to be Craig’s…

Before...

Then…

Now...

Now… next?

The changes come as 19th Ave E’s string of restaurants including Monsoon, Vios and Kingfish Cafe will soon be joined by the new commercial tenants of the nearly complete 19th and Mercer building. But even with Linda Derschang joining the street, Banh said it was time for changes at Monsoon.

“My sister and myself — we’re there every day,” Banh said. “I want to see something that will make me happy.” Banh said the expansion will also include a complete overhaul and modernization of the kitchen.

“Any restaurant, to survive, needs to change,” Banh said.

Cocktails and oysters will join the Monsoon line-up (Image: Monsoon)

Cocktails and oysters will join the Monsoon line-up (Image: Monsoon)

In addition to a bigger Monsoon, Banh is hoping for a brighter, livelier space that is still at home on this quieter side of Capitol Hill. Like his Monsoon East (2008) and Ba Bar (2011), the new Monsoon will finally have room for a full bar under the purview of bar manager Jon Christiansen. Expect an upgraded appetizer and bar menu to accompany, honed, Banh said, by the experiences he has had making the other restaurants into top-notch cocktail and dinner venues. The revamped kitchen will also have the resources needed to support an oyster bar, Banh promises.

The investment in the expanded Monsoon will not be trivial. In order to make room for the new wing, an ivy-covered hillside to the south of the restaurant will need to be excavated adding some $50,000 to the nearly $400,000 budgeted for the project.

Six years ago, Monsoon was getting ready to leave 19th Ave E as one of the early chapters in the story of Capitol Hill’s latest waves of redevelopment played out. Monsoon’s landlords were considering a four-story, 52-unit apartment building with 2,000 square feet of retail for the spot where the Vietnamese restaurant stands. Fortunately for the Banhs, the project couldn’t have had worse timing. The global economic slowdown put the development on ice and gave Monsoon an indefinite reprieve. Today, Eric says the property’s tenants which include a dentist, a chiropractor and CHS advertiser Wise Patient along with Monsoon appear to be providing enough of a base for the local property owners to have reconsidered the development plan.

The added cost of the excavation and the investment in Monsoon staying on 19th Ave E has “intangible” value, Banh said.

“This is where we started in Seattle,” he said. “This is where Sophie and I built our names.”

Monsoon is located at 615 19th Ave E. You can learn more at monsoonrestaurants.com.

Capitol Hill food+drink notes

  • Free chow and music thanks to Eric Banh’s new neighbors at 19th & Mercer this weekend.
  • Seattle Met talked with bar manager Christiansen in 2012: “If somebody comes in and asks for a vodka soda I’m like, ‘good lord, did you see how hard I worked on this?'”
  • By the way, we’ve seen other long-time restaurants make upgrades as their neighborhoods grow. Here’s how old-timer Coastal Kitchen went about it.
  • Capitol Hill nightlife business owners including Lost Lake’s Dave Meinert, Mike Meckling and the Neumos folks, Travis Rosenthal of Tango and Rumba, Shelley Brothers of the Wild Rose, Curtis Bigelow of the Lobby Bar and James Weimann and Deming Maclise of Poquitos and Von Trapp’s threw their collective weight behind Ed Murray last week.
  • We’ve talked about the Ballard-Capitol Hill overlaps from time to time — Li’l Woody’s is just one recent example — but what about U Village? Saw Eltana is readying to open on the mega shopping campus.
  • One of the players in the drama around the end of Grey Gallery on 11th Ave is apparently getting into the nightclub business — off Hill. Liquor license application for a Kremwork nightclub at 1809 Minor lists former Grey landlord Nicole Stone among ownership.
  • Fresh off finally opening the long delayed The Old Sage on 12th Ave, McCracken & Tough have shuttered their Belltown restaurant The Coterie Room and are transitioning it into an events space and retail venture.
  • Start your prognostication on what’s next for the Comet. Musician Ian Hill tells CHS he’s hoping to keep it as it is — once the sound system is restored. Meanwhile, there’s a benefit for the out-of-work Comet employees Wednesday night.
  • Possibly lost in the Comet news, the Electric Tea Garden venue is also slated to shutter — development is coming.
  • Capitol Hill also said goodbye to the weird and wonderful Uncle Elizabeth’s Cafe.
  • The final night for Bauhaus at Melrose and Pine looked much like any other. The cafe re-opens in its new home inside the old Capitol Club in November.IMG_1790
  • Seattle Mag on Cafe Pettirosso: “There’s a pleasant everyday appeal to the place, and unlike so much nearby, it’s never mobbed by partiers and club-goers.”
  • Predictably, this roster of Seattle bar taxidermy is Capitol Hill heavy.
  • The first in Alex Negranza’s An Evening With dinner events went down Sunday night. Last we heard, he’d sold all but two tickets. Here’s what it looked like behind the scenes where they were “hella using vac-pots” in the cocktail department:

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calhoun
8 years ago

Monsoon is a terrific restaurant with creative and tasty dishes. I just wish it was a little less expensive.

walksdogs
walksdogs
8 years ago

Calhoun, I agree. For what you get it is over-priced. Granted, it is tasty food. I have chosen to boycott, and encourage friends to do the same.

James
James
8 years ago
Reply to  walksdogs

It’s really not that expensive considering the locale, the style, the food served etc. The priciest item on the lunch lunch is about $13. Sure, it might be cheaper somewhere else, but encouraging a boycott seems a bit unfair?

4zappa
4zappa
8 years ago
Reply to  walksdogs

Why would anyone encourage their friends to boycott a great restaurant because they feel it is overpriced? You have no idea what their costs are. If you don’t want to pay, then just don’t go for God’s sake. Boycott bigots and jerks, not good, hardworking talented people.

calhoun
8 years ago
Reply to  walksdogs

Yes, a “boycott” is a dumb idea and unfair to this fine business. But I can’t afford to go there very often. An average dinner, with perhaps a glass of wine, is in the $50 range.

Glenn
Glenn
8 years ago

I would not be surprised to see some lower priced menu items once the new addition is in place. Larger restaurant with more seats offers economies of scale, and the new bar seating will offer happy hour opportunities, small bites, etc. Not to mention the effect of having another vibrant restaurant right across the street, greater competition and increased opportunity.

JTContinental
JTContinental
8 years ago

Great news on the Monsoon expansion; it’s uncomfortably tight in there at the moment.

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[…] change on 19th Ave E, if you missed it last week — Monsoon is about to double in size, add a cocktail bar, be an even more amazing neighborhood restaurant. Meanwhile, CHS had to miss […]

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[…] The injection of so much food and drink love, energy and money into 19th and Mercer will bring more changes to this quieter side of Capitol Hill. On the edge of the single family homes around Miller Community Center, Stevens Elementary and Volunteer Park, the street’s longtime food and drink businesses seem likely to get a boost from the new energy. The Kingfish Cafe across the street from Tallulah’s was packed as usual Wednesday night. Meanwhile, Monsoon has begun an ambitious construction project to double it size. […]

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[…] Brother and sister Capitol Hill food and drink veterans Eric and Sophie Bahn opted to spend as much expanding their 19th Ave E Vietnamese favorite as it would have cost to open a new restaurant. The new Monsoon — nearly double in size and […]