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Capitol Hill food+drink | Sur 16 gets an education in Opening a Seattle Restaurant 101

Sur 16: Under construction (Image: CHS)

Sur 16: Under construction (Image: CHS)

The contrast can’t be ignored. Across the street, Rione XIII hums along, a well-oiled piece in a restaurant-making machine. Up here in the former home of 15th Ave E’s Bagel Deli, the husband and wife team working to create their first restaurant project feel a bit like machines themselves these days.

“Now we’re here morning and night,” Javier Dalzell tells CHS. “It took weeks just to get permits. Contractors are the next challenge. I told my kid to become a plumber or electrician,” Dalzell joked.

IMG_5486But don’t get them wrong. Dalzell and wife Mariana Martos are living their dreams. It’s just taking a little longer to get to the good parts than they anticipated.

As Sur 16 moves toward its opening later this fall, Dalzell and Martos are finally able to start thinking more about grilled fish and puya chiles, fresh squeezed breakfast juices, and the giant chalk menu that will be updated with the current, freshest offerings.

CHS first reported on the plans for Sur 16 in spring as Dalzell described his hopes to create a restaurant flavored by conflict and clashes and harmonies between the Old World and the New World. “Sur 16 will be about natural America — all the recipes are a clash of the culinary techniques from when Spain conquered Mexico,” Dalzell told us then.

He was a little less poetic in our most recent visit as contractors were busy tackling projects inside the transforming deli space. Operating on a first-time budget, Martos and Dalzell have learned quickly to compromise their vision for the buildout and leverage opportunities. The problem — or opportunity — at hand during CHS’s visit last month was what to do with the grid of glue residue left on the ceiling after the removal of some awful paneling. The cheapest, fastest, most nimble choice was to go with it. Martos and Dalzell planned to work it out.

Other components for the old deli have been a blessing. Most remarkable, the Sur 16 space is enormous. It turns out the old bagel business did a healthy amount of wholesale production reportedly for a major Seattle-area based retail chain. Behind the counter and kitchen had been stacks of giant freezers. Those are gone now. In their space, Sur 16 stretches out to hold a bar, an open kitchen, and a full dining room on the second floor of the retail building it calls home.

Excitement is growing — mostly, Martos and Dalzell said. “Some dance teachers in the studio below are excited,” Martos said. Others will hopefully get used to the changes. CHS suggested that Sur 16’s plans for mezcaltinis and watermelon cocktails might be useful before a dance class.

The first-time restaurant owners say they are making progress through the various challenges but that they both think the city could do more to make everything from permitting to business taxes easier to deal with. Even figuring out how to deal with music in the space because of issues over royalties can create a speed bump for time and money.

They’re starting the process of getting help in the venture. When we spoke, a bartender was secured and the process to start hiring people for the restaurant was finally nearing. The couple also have an ace in the hole advantage that even restaurant making machines can’t always boast. Their daughter attends Seattle U and, they hope, she and her friends will need jobs.

Opening Sur 16 has, indeed, been an education.

“Putting together a business should be part of culinary school,” Dalzell said. “You can have best food, best chef, best everything but it’s real easy to throw away your profit.”

Sur 16 will open this fall at 340 15th Ave E. You can learn more at

Capitol Hill food+drink notesIMG_2910 IMG_2913

  • Good news: Cafe opens at 7 AM. Bad news: No more pop-ups!

    Good news: Cafe opens at 7 AM. Bad news: No more pop-ups!

    Another new 15th Ave E venue is ready to debut. The crowd-financed cafe at Nuflours gluten free bakery opens Friday morning. Congrats.

  • ICYMI: Vegan sweets and ice cream on 15th Ave E, too? Makini Howell is making Sugar Plum plans.
  • While we’re talking baked goods, this bakery is popping up every Saturday in the Central District with long-term hopes of a brick and mortar location nearby.
  • The 50 best bars in the world? Canon is number six:
    IF BOTTLES OF BOOZE HAD THE CHOICE, they’d rather live at Canon. Here in this Seattle grog emporium, a bottle of spirit is treated with the high reverence of a prized piece in a museum. Canon’s library displays not only the old and rare but the many – it could be said its 3,300 bottles make up the largest body of distilling heritage ever assembled, if we knew what to compare it with
    1. The Artesian — London
    2. Dead Rabbit — New York
    3. Nightjar — London
    4. Attaboy — New York
    5. Employees Only — New York
    6. Canon — Seattle
    7. Baxter Inn — Sydney
    8. American Bar, Savoy — London
    9. High Five — Tokyo
    10. 28 Hong Kong Street — SingaporeAnd, spoiler… “Boudreau’s planning another.”
  • Breaking news from Thursday: Pike/Pine consolidation as Lost Lake/Comet team acquire’s Grim’s.
  • There’s a campaign afoot to bring back B&O Espressoto Belltown.
  • cheese_fest_web_event_newThe 5th annual Cascadia Cheese Festival is Saturday:
    Saturday, October 11 – 11am to 4pm Central Co-op Celebrate local artisan cheesemakers and their craft at our annual Cascadia Cheese Festival! Join us for cheesemakers, tastings, workshops, a sandwich contest, and pygmy goats!
  • School’s back in session. That means Seattle Central’s One World is serving again.
  • Do you miss Aurafice?
  • Your coffee is about to get a lot more expensive
  • We checked in with Taste of the Caribbean. It’s still going strong on its own after the closure of Waid’s. Check it out. Also, note: You can have Taste delivered.
  • Seattle Restaurant Week is back and the folks behind it added a CHS Community post to let you know about this year’s Capitol Hill roster.
  • Skillet has happy hour.
  • Finally. More details on the second Bar Ferd’nand in this interview with wine dude Marc Papineau:
    We’ll be opening a second Bar Ferd’nand, in Chophouse Row [Capitol Hill] in late autumn/early winter. This second location will have a bigger food menu with a wood-fired oven. In addition to wine, we’ll also serve simple cocktails and cider. We’re also reconfiguring our current space in the Melrose Market. We’re adding a banquette in the retail portion so it will be cozier.
  • How Stateside plans.
  • How Molly Moon plans:10648291_922174587809823_1071669069993050361_o (1)
  • Wow. You read the whole thing! Your reward: We heard Single Shot just might be open the next time you stop by on Summit Ave E.
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8 thoughts on “Capitol Hill food+drink | Sur 16 gets an education in Opening a Seattle Restaurant 101” -- All CHS Comments are held for moderation before publishing

  1. The Lebanese place on 15th next door to Sur 16 has shut down and it appears an Indian restaurant will be moving in. Fingers crossed that it’s good, as with Chutney’s gone, the only Indian places right now are on Broadway.

    • Looking forward to a new Indian place but I did like the Lebanese place. They had good food but seemed to have trouble attracting customers. I’m wondering how much of it was the location / small storefront.

  2. Single Shot indeed had a soft open Thursday night and looked almost-busy on Friday. I’d give them a bit of time to get geared up and the kinks worked out, but if you’ve been itching to try it and you’re tolerant of the usual quirks in a just-open restaurant, have a go.

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