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Freedom! Capitol Hill is getting a ‘self pour’ wine and beer bar

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Wine entrepreneur David Clawson is back in the States and ready to lead a revolution of freedom in the wine and beer biz while putting an important Capitol Hill cafe space back into motion. He may have been “Brexited,” as he puts it, but his new battle in Seattle on the north end of Broadway will be about “self pour” and the freedom to explore beyond the class system of fine wine.

“We are flipping all that on its head,” Clawson tells CHS. “Why not let the customers try an amazing range of variety and wines.”

In coming days, construction will begin to overhaul the former Starbucks indie-flavored Roy Street Coffee into a new cafe by day, wine and beer bar by night venture.

Clawson is still working on a name for the project but he knows what will be at the center of it — self pour.

It will be an experiment — the cafe will be the first in the region to venture into what Clawson said is a popular and successful UK and European trend — in wine and beer democracy.

“You’ll go in, get a card, and use the machines — like a credit card — selected, dispense different pour sizes. Hit the button, off you go,” Clawson explains.

“It’s giving them freedom to try a huge range — likely more than 100 wines and beers by the glass, more heavy on the wine. And letting people do what they want.”

This being the United States and Seattle, Clawson has ready answers for any cluck clucking. Recent changes in state laws make the whole thing even more clearly legal and in line with regulations — though Clawson says much of it could have probably been done under previous rules. Still, it’s a new approach that authorities will be dealing with for the first time. And it has a rebel spirit — it would be illegal in Oregon, Clawson points out.

As for the other obvious question, there is also an answer for preventing “over service” and over indulgence. The credit system on the cafe’s cards ensure that the law is followed. After 10 ounces of wine or 24 ounces of beer, the card must be reactivated so staff will be able to assess whether a customer is in proper shape for another round. Poor pours and worse choices? Those are up to the customer. We do not recommend you try the 7-11 “suicide” approach when playing with the spigots.

The North Broadway project is part of a recent tradition of business innovation rippling through Capitol Hill bars and breweries. Optimism Brewing famously opened in 2015 as a no cash venue. We have a “wine on tap” wine bar — Footprint on E Madison. And the natural wine trend will be represented soon on E Pike at La Dive.

Meanwhile, if the coming beer taps and islands of wine dispensers sounds a little Amazon Go, CHS has led you astray. Clawson is planning a fully-staffed cafe and bar with baristas pulling shots and a menu of daytime breakfasts and lunches, and nighttime bites to accompany the booze.

The new cafe and bar will replace the Starbucks-backed Roy Street as the project shuttered in April after a decade on Broadway. Roy Street debuted in 2009 as part of a pair of new Capitol Hill cafes that looked, felt, and in some ways operated like the independent cafes the new joints were designed to mimic. “As part of Starbucks standard course of business, we continually evaluate our business to ensure a healthy store portfolio,” the company told CHS earlier this year. “After careful consideration, we’ve made the difficult decision to close the store on Roy Street.”

Clawson said he wants to keep Roy Street’s place as a community gathering spot intact with room for meetings and gatherings by day and events at night.

Self pour, for him, is clearly about an entrepreneurial opportunity and a passion for craft beer and, especially, wine. If you’re looking for a model, Clawson tells us about the 15 years he spent in London where he helped to create The Remedy Wine Bar & Kitchen, “a relaxed, intimate, and friendly slightly geeky wine bar.” His return to his hometown of Seattle included a search for a new project and a new place to do business. He looked across the city including across Capitol Hill. Pike/Pine didn’t feel right, he said. North Broadway with a collection of unique restaurants, a quieter bar scene, and, probably most importantly, an amazingly large and amazingly available cafe space fit the bill.

While he is still working on the name, Strata Architects is setting about a redesign of Roy Street that will continue the space’s more intimate warrens and separation while creating a “lightened up,” more modern approach. Work will probably stretch into spring with a planned opening, perhaps, by March or April.

As he learned in densely packed London, the best customers will live nearby. Clawson says his focus for the new cafe and bar will be to  create a “local community feel, a local destination.”

“It’s the local populace we care about,” Clawson said.

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36 days ago
Lisa and I were just talking about what might end up in this space.
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A Dragon-Themed Pub Will Replace a Robot-Themed Pub on Broadway

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The Seattle izakaya version of Godzilla vs Moguera. by Rich Smith
Clockwise, the seals on the dragon represent Makoto Kimotos family crest, the Suika watermelon, Dragon Ball Z (a pun on Rondo), and Tamari Bar
Clockwise from the top, the seals on the dragon represent Makoto Kimoto's family crest, the Suika watermelon, Dragon Ball Z (a sort of pun on "Rondo"), and Tamari Bar Mokoto Kimoto

By the end of the year, Capitol Hill will boast yet another izakaya from Makoto Kimoto, the owner of Suika and Tamari Bar, two playful Japanese pubs situated practically across the street from one another on Pine.

Rondo Japanese Kitchen will be a 50-seat lunch and early-dinner spot serving up noodle dishes, teishoku, donburi, and a bunch of drinking snacks. In an interview, Kimoto said he's also considering eventually catering small batches of extremely Instagramable bento boxes.

But for now he's just focusing on opening up Rondo, which will fill the space most recently occupied by Junkichi Robata Izakaya at 224 Broadway E. Last month, Capitol Hill Seattle Blog reported that the restaurant, which featured a cool "customer service robot," shuttered unexpectedly.

I'm not sure why that happened, but I do know Kimoto and general manager Kan Terao are now in there redecorating the place. You can follow their progress on Instagram.

For both the menu and decor, Kimoto says he's taking some inspiration from the tale of Urashima Tarō.

The story begins when Urashima, a young fisherman, saves a turtle. To repay the favor, the turtle whisks him away to an underwater Dragon Palace. After spending several evenings earnestly romancing Princess Otohime, he swims back up to the surface with a box he's not supposed to open—a souvenir of the love he shared with the princess. Back on land, Urashima realizes that 100 years have passed, and when he opens the box—because of course he opens the box—smoke billows out of it and transforms him into an old man.

In Japanese, “ron” means dragon and “do” means palace, so "Rondo" refers to the Dragon Palace in the story. (Kimoto also says he loves dragons in general, which makes sense, because dragons rule.) In honor of the mythical beast, Kimoto says he wants to use dry ice in certain food and drink presentations, and he wants to put cold-smoked dishes on the menu.

Because the dragon in the story is a water protector, the cocktail menu will offer bubbly drinks, including sparkling sake, chūhai, and Sapporo beer. They'll also make some cocktails with a brand new Suntory Whisky Toki Highball machine, which creates superfine, ultra-powerful, champagne-like bubbles. This izakaya won't have a bar, though, so all the drinks will come from the kitchen.

Kimoto typically adorns his restaurants with artifacts of Japanese pop culture from the 1980s. Rondo will be the same but different. "Our goal is to surprise customers with the food, but also with the service and the environment," Kimoto said. "I just want to make a place where people walk in and say 'oh wow' look at all this!"

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52 days ago
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Bauhaus and its ‘strong coffee’ will return to Capitol Hill with Harvard Ave E cafe

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After finding its footing in Ballard, Bauhaus ready for Capitol Hill return (Image: Bauhaus)

Older and wiser, a legendary name in Capitol Hill coffee is preparing to return to the neighborhood.

Bauhaus, one of the earliest purveyors of Capitol Hill cafe coffee culture, is set to return to its birth neighborhood with a new project that will open in coming weeks on Harvard Ave E.

Smita Patel says she and significant other, Bauhaus founder Joel Radin will open the new Bauhaus in the 500-block Harvard Ave E cafe location recently left empty with the departure of Down Pour Coffee.

Patel tells CHS the new location will test a new concept for Bauhaus of a smaller cafe with a focus beyond coffee that will include beer, wine, and a bottle shop.

Bauhaus’s “last night” at Melrose and Pine in 2013 (Image: CHS)

The Harvard Ave E location was a challenge for the previous owners who expanded from Redmond but told CHS that business below the Rubix Apartments was terrible from the first day.

Bauhaus now returns to Capitol Hill after settling down and establishing a new base in Ballard in the wake of the abrupt closure of its “temporary” E Pine cafe in late 2015, a move that also killed any plans of a return to it original location at Melrose and Pine. Months later, CHS would report on Radin’s financial troubles and personal bankruptcy that accompanied the sad news of Bauhaus’s demise.

Debuting in 1993 at the corner of Melrose and Pine and known for its “strong coffee” and book-lined walls, Bauhaus was loved for its library-like feel, plentiful tables, and long hours — 6 AM to 1 AM.

Bauhaus and its block of neighboring small businesses on E Pine at Melrose eventually became part of one of the first in a wave of nostalgia demolishing real estate deals that ushered in a decade of construction on relatively massive mixed-use developments boosted taller by Pike/Pine’s preservation incentives. In April 2012, CHS reported on the acquisition of Bauhaus’s block that would displace the 1993-born cafe and other shops like Wall of Sound, Edie’s Shoes and Le Frock.

With a plan to eventually return to the corner, Bauhaus moved up Pine to the former Capitol Club location and settled in for what many hoped would be a temporary stay until construction was completed on the development at Melrose and Pine. But, instead, that Bauhaus saw its final days on Capitol Hill.

The coffee shop found new life in Ballard, however. Now organized under Patel’s ownership, the Bauhaus family includes the NW Market St. cafe, the Midwest-spirited bar Petoskey’s in Fremont, and Ballard’s Hog Island Hoagie sandwiches. Patel says she has managed to also keep her “day job” as an orthodontist as the businesses have grown.

Now, she says, she is ready for an important step Bauhaus has been preparing for ever since it left E Pine.

Bauhaus Capitol Hill will is set to open before the end of the month at 515 Harvard Ave E. You can learn more at bauhausstrong.coffee.


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79 days ago
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Capitol Hill’s D’ La Santa and its grande margaritas set for 10th Ave E expansion

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Growing up in Guadalajara, Angelica Villasenor was the only one of her seven siblings who hated to cook. When Villasenor’s father opened a Mexican restaurant in Kent and asked her and her siblings to help out, she secured a bartending position and let her siblings take care of the cooking roles. Now, her Capitol Hill restaurant D’ La Santa is getting ready to begin its third year of business with an expansion plan that will put that bartending experience to good use.

D’ La Santa is getting ready to add a new caddy-cornered bar and six-table patio to its 10th Ave E location. Along with the bar comes an addition of authentic Mexican cocktails and new food items including handmade traditional and green tortillas made with Poblano peppers.

“Finally we have a restaurant that tastes like Mexico,” Villasenor said.

During the decade Villasenor’s father’s restaurant grew, so did Villasenor’s love for cooking. Eventually in 2016 Villasenor considered opening a restaurant of her own in the city, but she didn’t have the money, a location or professional training as a chef. Now, after opening two years ago next month, Villasenor’s authentic Mexican restaurant D’ La Santa in Capitol Hill is expanding.


SUBSCRIBE TO CHS:  APPRECIATE OUR BREAKING NEWS? SUBSCRIBE HERE TODAY. Subscribers like you help pay for the writers and photographers who provide CHS's daily coverage and help us to swing into action on BREAKING NEWS. Join TODAY to become a subscriber at $1/$5/$10 a month to help CHS provide community news with NO PAYWALL. You can also sign up for a one-time annual payment. Why support CHS? More here.

What started off as a modest opening of 25 tables and trial and error has transformed into an oasis of traditional cuisine unmatched by other Mexican restaurants in the area. The culture of Mexico is highlighted in the menu items from various states in Mexico and in the hand-designed Mexican decor.

“I decided to go to Mexico and bring our own culture here,” Villasenor said.

Just as her father’s restaurant was a family affair, most of Villasenor’s family works with her at D’ La Santa. Her brother mans the grill, her husband is in the kitchen, her daughters, nieces and nephews help serve and cook. Every night Villasenor, her staff and her family pushes the tables together for a family meal.

Over these meals has come chatter of opening a second location, but with the bar and patio expansion on the horizon, Villasenor is focused on perfecting her first location before taking on a second.

Villasenor credits her culinary skills to her mother and father. Her father taught her how to run a restaurant, but her skills in the kitchen came from her mother. D’ La Santa is named in tribute to her mother, who still continues to teach and critique Villasenor’s recipes at D’ La Santa.

“This is all because of my mom and my dad,” Villasenor said. “My mom has taught me everything I know in the kitchen.”

The expansion and new bar will mean growing the flavors at D’ La Santa which is already famous for its enormous and delicious margaritas. It will also mean a new, larger revenue opportunity for the business where the tables are already filled every night in a challenged restaurant location that has seen a cycle of projects come and go over the years.

The expansion will also be part of a miniature Capitol Hill trend. Broadway’s La Cocina just debuted its expanded cantina space last weekend.

La Cocina is coming up on its 40th year of business. If D’ La Santa can last that long, Villasenor will also have lots of good stories to tell. Over the past two years, the restaurant has been patronized by an owner of the Seahawks, Macklemore, the chef and staff from the Oscars, and has received rave reviews from the media and, importantly, visiting and neighborhood diners.

Villasenor hopes, with her family at the forefront of her authentic cuisine, that she can surround people with reminders of home through her food, her family and her culture. She also hopes to expand people’s perception of what Mexican cuisine is.

“Mexico is more than beans and rice,” Villasenor said. “We have an incredible gastronomy and people need to know.”

D’ La Santa is located at 2359 10th Ave E. You can learn more on the D’ La Santa Facebook page.

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83 days ago
Sounds like the secret's out on this place, and good for them. :}
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Friday morning SWAT standoff locks down Melrose — UPDATE

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Seattle Police and a SWAT team set off flash bombs and closed down city streets around the Denny Terrace Apartments Friday morning in an apparent standoff with a suspect believed to be in his unit inside the Seattle Housing Authority building.

We’re waiting for more information from SPD about what precipitated the standoff but residents in the area report hearing at least three loud bangs earlier this morning. As of 8:30 AM, Melrose was closed to traffic and pedestrians between Denny and John.

The suspect was reportedly armed according to SPD radio dispatches. UPDATE 8:35 AM: According to police radio updates, the suspect has been found dead inside the unit. Seattle Fire has been called to the 9th floor apartment to respond to the reported death. The scene is still active so please wait for the official all clear from Seattle Police.

This is a breaking news story and has not yet been confirmed by police.

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89 days ago
My dog was not at all pleased by these flashbangs. Good to know what those noises were, but SWAT activity on our block isn't a *great* thing...
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Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - God Computer

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Click here to go see the bonus panel!

Look, if you wanted this to work you shouldn't have evolved apes in the first place, okay?

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89 days ago
embarrassingly concise summary of a whole branch of philosophy tbh
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