Brother and sister restaurateurs Sophie and Eric Banh are marking 20 years of business on 19th Ave E. Their Vietnamese Seattle classic Monsoon will have a “20 Bucks for 20 Years” menu starting this weekend featuring “a handful of dishes that were very popular in the early years” and are still popular today.
We’re going to bet that the drunken chicken made the list.
Surviving two decades on the Hill’s quieter side, Monsoon has grown — literally — along with the neighborhood’s food and drink offerings. In 2014, it doubled its capacity, incorporating a bar, and adding a rooftop patio to the restaurant. “It’s amazing how the world turns around,” Eric Banh told CHS about Monsoon’s survival and expansion. “We almost became homeless in 2007. We survived. And now we’re growing. A little bit.”
In 2007, Monsoon was getting ready to leave 19th Ave E as one of the early chapters in the story of Capitol Hill’s waves of 21st century redevelopment played out. Monsoon’s landlords were considering a four-story, 52-unit apartment building with 2,000 square feet of retail for the property.
The Banhs may have been the only Hill restaurant owners to benefit from the worldwide economic calamity of the late 2000s. The global economic slowdown put the development on ice.
The block has changed, however. New five-story mixed-use apartment building The Shea is now open next door after development plans shifted to a project that would embrace the old Monsoon building, not replace it. The Shea brought a new food and drink neighbor with it as Zeeks Pizza opened its first Capitol Hill location in the ground floor of the building.
The neighborhood now boasts a cluster of food and drink options including Rocket Taco opened in 2018 in the former Kingfish Cafe space. Another new investment in the neighborhood happened last summer as new owner acquired Linda Derschang’s joint for grown-ups Tallulah’s. The combined lure of cookies and ice cream also draws families to Hello Robin, now in its sixth year. And, at 19th and Aloha, Macrina’s arrival in the former Tully’s space has drawn steady daytime traffic since its September 2018 debut. Fuel Coffee is nearby for no-nonsense coffee.
For anybody looking to join the neighborhood, Greek cafe Vios remains on the market and in search of a buyer.
The Banhs’ Saigon Siblings restaurant group, meanwhile, has grown to include an Eastside Monsoon, the Ba Bar restaurants, and 14th and Jefferson’s Central Smoke. Another Banh creation, Baguette Box, is, alas, no longer with us.
At Monsoon, the 20th anniversary party will stretch out over a few days starting Sunday, February 17th with the special $20, three-course menu available through Thursday.
“Way back in 1999, the Banhs introduced Seattle to modern Vietnamese cuisine using local ingredients and Pacific Northwest innovation to create new takes on classic Vietnamese dishes,” the party invite reads. “A lot has changed in 20 years—the restaurant doubled in size by adding a cocktail lounge in 2014, and then the rooftop patio followed that. Meanwhile, Monsoon Bellevue had already been serving the Eastside since 2008, and the first Ba Bar opened shortly after that (now with three locations). Central Smoke is the most recent sibling, opening in 2018 in Seattle’s Central District. A lot can happen in 20 years from humble beginnings!,” they write.
Monsoon is located at 615 19th Ave E. You can learn more at monsoonrestaurants.com/seattle/.
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