A Capitol Hill-born story of thali, chai, and good karma is coming to an end on Beacon Hill. Travelers, some seven years after it was pushed off E Pine, is shutting down its kitchen.
“We built our restaurant around ‘thali’, and we are proud of what we achieved,” a message from owners Allen Kornmesser and Leon Reed about the closure reads. “When we started serving thali on weekends, cooking in the back of our spice shop and import store on Capitol Hill, nobody else in Seattle was doing it.”
Seattle Eater reported the coming closure this week and says diners will miss the “vegetable-filled thali platters: small stainless steel bowls filled with combinations of butter dal, smoky mashed eggplant, fried okra, and other Indian specialties.”
Born in 1998, Travelers left Capitol Hill in 2011 amid health issues and what they said were landlord problems after Capitol Hill real estate investor and developer Ron Amundson purchased the building home to the restaurant and shop. In their goodbye message, Kornmesser and Reed don’t mince words about their Capitol Hill exit:
Those of you who have followed our journey know that we were forced from our Capitol Hill location by a collapsing economy (right after we invested everything we had to expand the business), and a notoriously unscrupulous real estate developer who purchased the building we were in and proceeded to try to drive us out. (It’s a long story.) We sought refuge on Beacon Hill, opening the Thali House in this beautiful little restaurant space in a charming old house with a lovely patio. For a while we were operating at both locations. Shortly after that we went bankrupt.
“The cost to close the business, lose the income, and move out, meant we were broke. We filed for bankruptcy, and eventually got through that, thanks to the support of our new Beacon Hill neighbors (our landlords and lawyer, in particular),” they write. “We kept the restaurant going and began the process of recovering economically, but within a year, chef-owner Allen Kornmesser was diagnosed with stage four cancer and we faced a whole new battle.”
Amundson disputed the account and tells us that he never raised the rent as the restaurant continued on month to month and that Kornmesser and Reed decided when to leave.
While the exit of Travelers rightly belongs in the listing of sad exits that your favorite Capitol Hill long timers include in their arguments over when — exactly — the death of the neighborhood occurred, what replaced Travelers has also grown into a neighborhood favorite. Now the home of Gamma Ray Games and the Raygun Lounge, the thali and incense have been replaced by LGBTQ friendly game nights, pinball, and dragon dice.
Travelers, meanwhile, will live on as a tea company brewing and distributing Masala Chai, the announcement says, but the days of vegetarian thali will end with one last weekend of service before closing June 2nd.
Travelers Thali House is located at 2524 Beacon Ave S. You can learn more at travelersthalihouse.com.
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