The first business in what many hope will be a wave of equitably developed new ventures in the Central District celebrated its grand opening over the weekend.
Communion R&B — that’s R&B for restaurant and bar — broke out the giant ceremonial scissors and cut the ribbon outside its newly opened home at 24th and Union on the street level of the Liberty Bank Building affordable housing development.
Here’s how veteran Seattle chef Kristi Brown explains the meaning behind her first brick and mortar restaurant:
Communion is a nod, an acknowledgment, an homage to where I come from: Lima beans & ham hocks; the sound of crackling cornbread in a cast iron skillet; boiled or sautéed cabbage (Napa cabbage, savoy cabbage, bok choy); meatloaf; fried chicken and mashed potatoes; sautéed greens and green beans; red beans & rice; spaghetti; pot roast; oyster stew; stuffed clams; fried pork chops; bamboo shoots, tofu and rice (rice and more rice!); grits; pok pok salad; potato salad; baked beans; barbecue; hamburgers. All of these are a treasure trove of food memories that connect me, and my son, to the legacy of my grandmother’s long, beautiful, brown fingers in doughs, forming and making pies, biscuits and dinner rolls. Only to watch her leave the house to play the organ right before preaching a sermon.
The project is a family affair. Brown’s son Damon Bomar is part of the restaurant’s ownership and his Brown Liquor Cocktail Co. will power Communion’s bar program.
Communion debuts in a hugely challenging time for Seattle restaurants as COVID-19 restrictions continue and takeout and delivery have moved to centerstage to help make ends meet. The restaurant has been a long time in coming — a testament to the challenges of equitable development and Brown and Bomar’s determination.
The Liberty Bank Building opened in 2019 as a six-story, 115-unit affordable housing development on the corner once home to the region’s first Black-owned bank. Pacific Communications Consultants. a Minority, Women, and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise-certified management consulting firm, worked with developer Community Roots Housing, Africatown, The Black Community Impact Alliance, and Byrd Barr Place to help local businesses be part of the project.
Earl’s Cuts, displaced by new development across the street at the Midtown project, opened in the Liberty Bank Building last year.
CHS first spoke with Bomar and Brown about the project two years ago this month as Brown described the efforts from the building’s development team to reach out to Black business owners.
“I finally get somebody to come to me, instead of me coming to them,” Brown said at the time. “That’s a big deal. Also the respect factor, not just the industry, but the general public. The restaurant has so much more acclaim.”
Brown was feeling grateful at Saturday’s ribbon cutting. “I just want to say thank you. Thank you for loving me. Thank you for coming back to me. So many times, over and over. Thank you for seeing and hearing me,” the South Seattle Emerald reports Brown said during the brief ceremony.
With the Liberty Bank Building now fully realized from a development, housing, and business perspective, many in the neighborhood are hoping to build on the success with another step forward with Africatown’s development at 23rd and Spring. There, the Africatown Community Land Trust is working to finalize plans for a 7-story project that includes about 130 affordable housing units in a development that won’t just seek to attract Black residents and businesses — it will be owned and developed by Africatown.
For more on the opening and what it means for the area around 23rd and Union, you can watch the Communion ribbon cutting and hear Justin from CHS talk with Converge Media about the grand opening here:
Communion starts daily business this week Wednesday through Sunday, with Brown’s “Seattle Soul” food including “a pho-inspired broth to serve with rib tips, and stuffs cornmeal-crusted fried catfish into a sushi roll; the accompanying watermelon hot sauce is so good you’ll want it by the jar,” Seattle Met writes. Seattle Met says many of the Communion recipes come from Brown’s years of running the That Brown Girl Cooks catering business.
For now, the communal side of Communion will have to wait as the Atelier Drome-designed restaurant and bar can’t yet host in-person customers. The big step forward with Communion’s debut, instead, is happening with takeout and to-go orders.
Communion Restaurant and Bar is now open at 2350 E Union Wednesdays through Saturdays, 3 PM to 9 PM and Sundays, 1 PM to 6 PM. You can check out the menus and order online at communionseattle.com
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