The challenging times of COVID-19 bring the occasional small joys including new reasons to celebrate Capitol Hill’s great walk-ups. The newest addition to the Hill’s counter scene is on E Olive Way beneath The Reef pot shop where La Rue Creperie and Espresso is now serving the neighborhood every Wednesday through Sunday.
“I was working my way just to be a sous chef,” owner Alex Villa tells CHS, “but this opportunity kind of leveled me up.”
Villa says he came up with the idea for La Rue after learning about The Reef’s search for a chef to put its lower level space along E Olive Way into motion with a new concept. Taylor Cheney, who opened E Olive Way walk-up spot Yalla last year hooked Villa up with Reef owner Adam Simon who liked his pitch and was open to taking a chance on the first-time business owner inspired by his work and knowledge gained during travel in Europe. Villa says the fact that he lives next door probably also helped sell Simon on the idea.
Villa says La Rue started with what had become a dusty storage space where Amante’s walk-up pizza window used to be and that he took on the challenge of building out the space including leveling the concrete floor, building the butcher block counter, and designing the look and feel of La Rue. “It’s pretty mom and pop style,” he said, crediting Danae Alexander with helping him gut out the project. “She’s been there throughout,” Villa said.
The shiny new walk-up counter now neighbors The Reef’s new mercantile shop. It also gives this part of Capitol Hill its first dedicated crepe shop since beloved Saley Crepes left its E Olive Way home in 2012.
The duo of Villa and Alexander is now making La Rue’s first weeks of business work as they make up most of the three-person crew holding down 9 AM to 9 PM hours in the new creperie.
The secret to self-leveling concrete, Villa says, is to work fast. But when it comes to the crepes, “It’s definitely the flick of the wrist,” he says. “Gotta have the finesse.”
The current menu favorites include the Fun Guy full of a chef’s mushroom mix including sometimes specially foraged specialties, and Jarlsberg cheese. On the sweet side, you should order the Blacker the Berry with its seasoned ricotta before they sell out. Espresso drink standards and specialties like the French Canadian latte with bourbon-aged maple syrup round out the menu.
For now, Villa says he is focused on getting La Rue off to a good start despite the challenges of COVID-19 and the ongoing restrictions. He hopes to add staff and, eventually, as things get back to normal, Villa says he hopes to build more with La Rue after having seen Capitol Hill’s months of protests and Black Lives Matter demonstrations and finding inspiration.
“Presented with this opportunity, it’s given me some hope for reaching out to the community in the future,” Villa said. “Especially the BIPOC community. Being Latinx, I hope to be able to put people in the position I’ve been put in.”
La Rue is now open below The Reef at 1525 E Olive Way on Wednesdays through Saturdays, 9 AM to 9 PM, and Sundays, 9 AM to 8 PM. You can learn more at @larueseattle.
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