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Even in challenging times for Capitol Hill restaurants, no time like the present for new Mai’s Kitchen to finally open

Thanks to CHS reader Scot for the picture

For first-time restaurant owner Trang Nguyen, it wasn’t supposed to take more than a year after buying her new space on Capitol Hill to open Mai’s Kitchen.

But the COVID-19 crisis did its best to sabotage the new project after she and co-owner Doanh Dang bought the Semillon French bakery at 11th and Union last summer.

Finally this weekend, Mai’s is ready for business with plans for a soft opening Friday before the new restaurateurs dig in for a new life behind the counter in a neighborhood they hope to grow from.

“On Capitol Hill, everyone is young and open to new ideas,” Nguyen said. “We have the freedom to express ourselves.”

Mai’s freedom of expression will take the form of a fast casual approach to Vietnamese built around a Chipotle-like simplicity — choose your base, choose your protein.

Nguyen says the hope is to grow Mai’s into multiple locations but she hopes people will “taste the home feel” of food they’ve put their hearts and souls — and some of the best available fresh local produce — into.

But first they must navigate the challenging times of restricted capacity and sit-down service for restaurants as takeout and delivery has become hugely important to any food and drink business’s survival.

The duo come into the restaurant industry with experience in the family Vietnamese grocery business and will bring their knowledge and connections into the new restaurant. The menu includes Vietnamese standards — pho, rice plates or vermicelli bowls, and banh mi. Small plates with rolls, wings, salads, and fried buns will also be available. The bakery setup will also keep the baked goods coming with cookies and waffles while snow ices also add to the sweet options.

The Mai’s space has been home to a French bakery since the new construction building it calls home debuted in 2014. It has been a summer of change for the Viva Capitol Hill building — on its east side, Capitol Hill tattoo studio Laughing Buddha moved in earlier this summer.

You can find Mai’s at 1150 11th Ave and can order online for pickup or delivery here.


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4 thoughts on “Even in challenging times for Capitol Hill restaurants, no time like the present for new Mai’s Kitchen to finally open

  1. I’m so happy to hear that everyone in Capitol Hill is young! I mean, I moved here when I was 21, but that was several decades ago now.

    Seriously, though, this young-at-heart CH resident is very excited to try this.

  2. I wonder why you’d buy a French bakery and turn it into Vietnamese resturant, is for the location and lease? I’d have to imagine a lot of the equipment isn’t repurposable, and probably the customers are a bit different.

    • Well the last two French bakeries weren’t super successful – there are great croissants and other baked goods nearby. France occupied Vietnam for some time so there are actually Vietnamese dishes they could make that use some of the pastry making equipment – pate chaud for example.

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