Little Saigon’s Tamarind Tree restaurant is coming to Capitol Hill in the former R Place building in 2023.
“Our hope is to serve our Vietnamese foods in the culture we adopted to and the culture that gave us so much opportunities to reach our dreams.” said Tam Nguyen, owner of the popular Vietnamese restaurant that has been part of the International District for nearly 20 years.
CHS previously spoke with Nguyen early this year about his interest in expanding to Capitol Hill. King County property records show the former E Pine home of R Place finally sold for $2.5 million.
The Nguyen family is going it alone in the major real estate deal. CHS previously reported that Capitol Hill-based tech firm Add3 was eyeing a deal for a new headquarters, and space for a new venue in the former R Place building but CHS learned the company decided to move on over concerns about the cost of seismically retrofitting the 1917-built Bothell Motors garage building. Add3 founder and nightlife entrepreneur Brian Rauschenbach turned his attention instead to E Olive Way where he partnered in a deal to purchase the buildings home to his Captain Black’s as well as the Stumbling Monk, The Doctor’s Office, and the former Glo’s.
The R Place building deal comes together now years following the loss of the gay club’s lease after 37 years of business and queer partying on Capitol Hill. The Comeback, a project from manager Floyd Lovelady, now carries on the R Place heart and soul in SoDo.
In Nguyen, Capitol Hill is adding a business and property owner who has experience going toe to toe with the city over issues like public safety and homelessness as a longtime board member of the influential Friends of Little Sài Gòn group. The group has had Mayor Bruce Harrell’s ear on issues around crime and disorder in the International District and has successfully pushed back on the county and the city over facilities and resources in the neighborhood. The area was the location for the first emphasis effort from Seattle Police as Harrell and Chief Adrian Diaz pursued a ramped-up “hot spot” approach to tamping down street and property crime in the city.
The arrival of Tamarind Tree on the Hill is helping mix together the International District and the Broadway and Pike/Pine core the First Hill Streetcar already connects. And there are plans for another International District original to come to the neighborhood. Pink Gorilla, the longest running retro video game store in the Pacific Northwest, is expanding to Capitol Hill at 613 E Pike.
At Pine and Boylston, Nguyen’s overhaul of the old building is moving forward. City plans show that the third floor of the building will be residential. Nguyen plans to have a couple living units instead of one and is waiting to hear back from the city about the planned tenant improvement to move forward with this new design. The lower floors of the building will host the new Tamarind Tree location and will have a mezzanine. The expansive venue could also provide space for a project similar to Nguyen’s past efforts to create an indoor market with food and clothing.
After the city’s approval of the tenant improvement permits and finding a contractor to work on the improvements, Nguyen hopes to open this new location by the end of 2023.
Nguyen first arrived in the United States as a teenager from a refugee camp in Malaysia in October 1980. He previously lived in Saigon. When he arrived in Seattle, he lived in a small studio on Summit and John with five brothers and didn’t know how to speak any English.
As a teenager, he dreamed of being a part of American culture and hoped to open up a restaurant with his family.
After opening up his first Tamarind Tree location in the International District, Nguyen said he wanted to expand to the neighborhood and share a piece of his culture with the community that welcomed him with open arms.
“It is an honor for us to share our Vietnamese culture to the community where we first arrived and opened its arms without any conditions or boundaries,” Nguyen said.
Tamarind Tree is planned to open at 619 E Pine by the end of 2023. Learn more at tamarindtreerestaurant.com.