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A rare Capitol Hill casualty, Zhu Dang to shutter on E Olive Way

(Image: CHS)

(Image: CHS)

Despite warnings of saturation, the booming food and drink economy on Capitol Hill has produced relatively few casualties. But they do happen. This weekend, the neighborhood will say goodbye to one of its new ventures as Zhu Dang serves its final meals after one year of business on E Olive Way.

“Our decision to call it quits after just one year was based on a lot of factors, but mostly financial,” owner Steve Cheng tells CHS. “We gave it a shot, and weren’t able to execute.”

Zhu Dang — pronounced “Zoo Don” for Pig Party, Cheng said, a kind of fantasy progressive political party that he just liked the sound of — opened on E Olive Way last December serving “updated Chinese food with a Northwest vibe” in the space left empty by another short-lived venture — the doomed The Social nightclub and EVO Tapas restaurant.

Cheng and his wife co-owner Meghann Seiler are luckier than the folks behind the Social who exited the street under a cloud of litigation and disputes over unpaid rent. “We had very understanding landlords and were able to break our lease with no penalties,” Cheng tells CHS.

According to King County records, the building is owned by the Cheng family who purchased the property in 2013 for $3.35 million.

A search for a new tenant is now underway.

“Tomorrow, Saturday November 7, will be the last day of business for Zhu Dang,” Cheng said in a statement sent Friday to CHS. “I feel incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to open (what I hope was) a compelling and unique restaurant. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get the numbers to make sense, so we’re cutting our losses early. I want to sincerely thank all of our customers for their support over the past year. And I’m extremely grateful to my staff, who worked so hard and taught me so much. Please join us for dinner one last time tonight and tomorrow!”

Cheng asked CHS to wait to report the decision until the first-time owners had a chance to tell the restaurant’s staff about the closure.

Zhu Dang’s closure is one of only a small handful of casualties among the most recent waves of openings across Capitol Hill — 100 through the start of 2014… we haven’t yet tallied the openings of 2015. What takeaways can we draw from the shuttering?

First, Cheng said the closure has nothing to do with Seattle’s minimum wage schedule which will bring a new $12 floor to small businesses in the city that don’t offer medical benefits or tips. So, no lumping it in with the zPizza closure.

Other recent Capitol Hill closures have been followed relatively by new openings — Kedai Makan took over where Spaghetti Western shuttered, Mighty-O is cleaning up where High 5 Pie bailed. Naka slipped in where Le Zinc le exited. Even the tragic exit of decidedly not-new Charlie’s will have a new player lined up in its place in no time.

The Zhu Dang closure might be most reminiscent of another upper-scale Chinese venture on Capitol. Like the space home to the ill-fated Bako that opened in part of the overhauled Jade Pagoda building on Broadway before shuttering and clearing the decks for Bait Shop from Linda Derschang, the best next use for the big E Olive Way venue might be to turn it over to one of the established Capitol Hill players who can afford to create a giant barstaurant — or three little teeny ones.

“Ultimately, we weren’t the right restaurant for this space,” Cheng told CHS. “I still love E Olive Way, and I think that this space still has huge potential.”

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26 thoughts on “A rare Capitol Hill casualty, Zhu Dang to shutter on E Olive Way

  1. What’s the deal with the bar across the street? The one that used to be online coffee, that went though a huge remodel, that opened for like 2 days before it closed…what’s the deal?

    • Andrew’s busy schedule of trolling social media has not allowed him to open Good Citizen for anything other than private events. I used to be waiting for it to open; now I’m not. There are plenty of places to get an expensive cocktail nearby.

  2. Alternately: I’ve been there 3-4 times, once during an INSANELY busy point near a holiday, and have never really had a problem with service there.

    That sucks – I liked that place. :(

  3. Just curious – so the building is owned by a Cheng family that is not the family of the restaurant owner named Cheng?

  4. “We had very understanding landlords and were able to break our lease with no penalties,” Cheng tells CHS.
    According to King County records, the building is owned by the Cheng family who purchased the property in 2013 for $3.35 million.”


  5. Hey jseattle, I noticed a key lockbox that I didn’t remember seeing on the door at 22 Doors the other day, which made me wonder if there’s some activity happening.

  6. The food was really over the top and heavy handed. it was just too much and the service was weird, awkward and sloooow. Drinks were like 14 dollars or some shit.

    • actually, if you check their website, there isn’t a single drink over $12; average price being $10. definitely not dive-bar, cheap-beer happy hour prices but i don’t think that’s what they were going for.

      i have to agree with comments that what they were trying to do didn’t fit with that part of the hill. i personally thought the food was a really good, considered, take on chinese. but i don’t think the two-block radius of residents was quite ready for it (in general).

  7. I have to wonder how much the lack of parking, and all the nearby construction, played a part in this restaurant’s failure. The would have had to rely mainly on local customers, and obviously there weren’t enough of them. I also think the space itself might be part of the problem….it’s kind of sandwiched in between two much taller buildings, and is not very visible unless you are right in front of it.

  8. the place is off the beaten path of restaurants. The hood is changing. Until businesses figure out where they can fit and make a go of it, I’m afraid we’ll see a lot of this.

  9. I ate at ZD a handful of times, and ordered takeout a few more. I always enjoyed everything that came out of the kitchen, service was fine. But the space is huge, and I don’t think there are many restaurants on capitol hill that are primarily restaurants that have that much space.

    I will miss it. Though, now we have Lionhead, and that food is fantastic.

    It will be interesting to see what takes over the space. and speaking of space take overs, and cursed spaces… I saw workmen at the cursed space on 10th and Miller.

  10. This place was awful. It was extremely overpriced and not good. Even their edamame was bad. How do you mess up edamame?!

  11. Loved it the first time I went. Was there alone for a quick meal and they delivered something tasty. The woman next to me at the bar had just gotten dumped and broke down crying on her friends’ shoulders. The owner/manager/somebody was behind the bar and poured everyone shots on the house.

    Second time was on a dinner date. The main entree we ordered was too weird and not very good, and the bill was crazy high.