Victor Santiago started working at Broadway’s La Cocina Santiago as a busboy in 1989. By 2001, he had risen the ranks of the Capitol Hill Mexican restaurant and taken over as owner, but not until later this summer will his hopes for the space finally come true.
La Cocina will be taking over the Starbucks next door to make space for a new tequila bar La Cocina’s Cantina. Currently, the restaurant features a small four-foot bar that sits in a little corner but larger drinking experience will soon be just one backdoor away.
“I always dreamed of having my own cantina bar,” Santiago, who grew up in a small mountain town in Mexico, tells CHS.
HAPPY NEW YEAR! YOU'VE BEEN MEANING TO! SUBSCRIBE TO KEEP CHS GOING INTO 2020! We need your help. Support local journalism dedicated to your neighborhood. SUBSCRIBE HERE TODAY. Join to become a subscriber at $1/$5/$10 a month to help CHS provide community news with NO PAYWALL. You can also sign up for a one-time annual payment. Why support CHS? More here.
La Cocina Santiago, which has been serving Capitol Hill patrons since 1980, is known for its margaritas, which Santiago was eager to boast are “famous.” The bar will feature a wide variety of tequilas. Beer and margaritas have always been a great companion to the restaurant’s hefty meals.
Over its decades of business, La Cocina Santiago has been slow to evolve.
“Santiago said he hasn’t made many changes since he’s taken over. The walls are a little brighter, but beyond that, the décor has remained the same,” CHS wrote about the restaurant on its 35th anniversary in 2015.
The restaurant was approached with the opportunity to expand and create a bar in the vacant space before Starbucks took over in the early 1990s, but the owner at the time, David Webster, wasn’t too interested in dealing with it, Santiago said.
In January, Starbucks notified the landlord that they planned to move out, and La Cocina seemed like the obvious fit to fill the space. Santiago quickly approached his landlord and the change was put in motion.
The project’s buildout has taken a little longer than planned but things are now moving forward at a more rapid pace. Santiago decided to put up a large sign letting the neighborhood know about the coming change at the corner. He’s hoping to be ready to open by the end of July.
When it opens, La Cocina’s Cantina will join Añejo Restaurant and Tequila Bar, which opened in April in the former Dilettante space, in supplying Broadway with its margarita needs. We’d also recommend a trip north up Broadway to 10th Ave E where D’ La Santa’s giant margaritas a highlight along with the restaurant’s meaty offerings. Add Rooster’s Tex-Mex offerings near Roy, and visitors to the soon-to-open Mexican consulate will have plenty of options to enjoy the nation’s cuisine.
Meanwhile, don’t expect more changes for the deliberate but long-lived Cocina. We asked Santiago if he was ready for more once the bar opens. “I hope not,” he said.
La Cocina Santiago is located at 432 Broadway E.