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Soju Anju to bring new Korean flavors to Capitol Hill bar food scene

Expect to see more Jinro — the top soju producer — on Capitol Hill (Image: HiteJinro)

With Japanese izakaya a growth industry in Capitol Hill food and drink, the deep fried goodness, and spicy, strong flavors of Korean bar food are ready to join the scene as Soju Anju will leap into the Velocity Dance building on 12th Ave later this year.

“Envision an ’80s theme, a lot of nostalgia if you’re Korean — a subculture that other people can enjoy, too,” Seattle restaurateur and Musashi’s owner Jun Park tells CHS of his plans for the new project set to join Velocity’s building by December.

Soju Anju is simple in translation. Anju — 안주 — is food or snack — but food or snack to be consumed with alcohol. And soju — 소주 — well, that’s the alcohol part. Park says Soju Anju will be fully dedicated to it. Soju will be the only booze on the menu at Soju Anju. And you’ll like it.

Soju Anju is replacing Northeast Chinese play Dao Tai after only a year of business. Park said he had the opportunity to buy the restaurant’s owners out and he seized the opportunity. “I won’t lie and say I’m good at picking a place,” Park said. “I’m just not good at that. Certain things are meant to be.” Park said the Dao Tai space with its upfront bar and restaurant in the back alongside the Velocity studio was a “right place, right time” kind of decision.

The coming Korean bar isn’t the only part of the building changing. Velocity Dance is also working to transform itself — and raise enough money — to continue being a center for the arts on Capitol Hill. There also might be a revival for a part of the building that has missed out on the activity of the neighborhood during the recent years of nearby growth. Efforts to line up a new tenant for the old CHAC — Capitol Hill Arts Center below the building could also bring a new partner to the mix.

Joining the building is the kind of decision Park is now experienced at making after growing his business from the original N 45th St Musashi’s. When CHS last talked with Park, it was 2015 and he was debuting a different take on his sushi ventures as he and partners opened Gokan in new construction on E Union. Gokan never grew into what he hoped and Park says his partners bought him out so he could get back to growing the Musashi brand. With the Gokan money, he debuted a Musashi’s in the San Diego area in 2017.

Doing business in both San Diego and the Pacific Northwest has given Park a unique view of doing business in Seattle. He doesn’t find either environment easy going for small business owners. “In Seattle, it’s labor costs, sure,” he said. “But in San Diego, it’s rent. And minimum wage isn’t that cheap in San Diego.”

“It’s only going to get harder,” he says of the business environment in general in his West Coast cities. But, he admits, the challenges of growing a business are as much as why he keeps going as any profits.

Now with Soju Anju, he’s returning to Capitol Hill with so much enthusiasm, we even forgave him a “Cap Hill” or three.

“I always waned to go back to Cap Hill,” Park said. “It was my dream since I started Gokan. I still wanted my own place to get established here.”

Now, living the dream on 12th Ave, Park said he is overhauling the bar and restaurant space. The front bar will be a busier area focused on drinking and a more “street” approach to the anju. Meanwhile the back restaurant space, Park hopes, will be more lounge-y and a place to hang out with groups and friends.

Soju Anju is planned to open at 1621 12th Ave later this year.

UPDATE: The promise of a Korean-flavored bar experience has inspired a few readers to ask about another Asian spirit-centered project underway on the Hill. With Japanese whiskey at the center of things, The Doctor’s Office bar is coming along quickly on E Olive Way. The new project’s liquor license application is in process — typically a good sign an opening isn’t far off. It replaces, of all things, dearly departed Korean joint, Blue Stone.

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1 year ago

Still miss Blue Stone. It was the exact kind of place the Hill needed more of. Good food, unpretentious, warm owners you could actually get to know. Still bummed out about it.