Yes, it’s another edition of Seattle restaurant shutdowns — seven, this time. But 20 more restaurants have opened around here since we last checked on openings and closures about a month ago, plus three new bars.
For the last several years, the restaurant industry in Seattle has been booming, despite the increasing costliness of doing business here. A shortage of workers — currently, the industry website Poached lists 800-plus job openings locally — is another pressure point, with many restaurants having to offer starting wages above $15/hour, and then still experiencing trouble finding staff. In an uncertain economy, anything could happen, but for now, the expansion continues.
Here’s a look at the handful of recent closures, including a Capitol Hill pizza casualty, beloved Mama’s in Belltown and a Central District community hub. But first, in the department of good news: Longtime (as in three-plus decades!) vegetarian favorite Silence-Heart-Nest in Fremont isn’t gone after all. “We didn’t actually realize how much the restaurant meant to the community until we announced our closing a few weeks ago, and there was such an outpouring of love,” owner Nayak Polissar says. “That was a big part of the inspiration to keep it going.” His son Bishwas Polissar will be taking over, with a happy reopening planned for the end of September.
Sizzle Pie on Capitol Hill: After three years, Portland-based chain Sizzle Pie is folding, citing “continually rising overhead and operating costs in Seattle.” But Sizzle Pie hasn’t been the most popular pizzeria on Capitol Hill — home to not only longtime favorites like Hot Mama’s, but a notable glut of newcomers in recent years. As Brandon Pettit, proprietor of Dino’s (also in the neighborhood, still serving excellent pie) put it when discussing Seattle’s crazy restaurant boom, “Capitol Hill needed five more pizza places, and it got, like, 10.” That’s a slight overstatement, but Capitol Hill did get at least five new pizza places around 2016 — plus, more recently, Dino’s, as well as a branch of A Pizza Mart and a Zeeks (and a second Pagliacci is on the way). Sizzle Pie would appear to be part of a Capitol Hill pizza economic correction — a culling that has previously claimed Pizzeria 88 and Meltdown Pizza.
Mama’s Cantina in Belltown: Four-plus decades in, beloved Mama’s Mexican Kitchen was in danger of closing back in 2016 when local entrepreneur Marcus Charles stepped in, updating the name and upscaling the menu. At the time, he said in a statement, “Keeping Mama’s open, and in its original location, means a lot to me, the neighborhood and Seattle residents. It’s a piece of Seattle history that cannot be lost on future generations.” So much for that: Mama’s is now closed, and part of the space now houses Charles’ new bar, Cleen Craft, open limited hours on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, serving CBD beverages and cocktails. Charles also owned Belle and Whete across the street, which morphed into Belltown Brewing before closing in 2018.
Saba Ethiopian Cuisine in the Central District: After almost two decades, Saba has closed, but the community is rallying to reopen it with protests and more. According to a Change.org petition, “Save Saba – From Alchemy Real Estate Gentrifying Our Community!!,” the building has been sold, and “a new owner will demolish the building and now has evicted yet another immigrant-owned small business … adding yet further to the gentrification of our community.” The petition calls upon the new owner to relocate the restaurant, whether permanently or temporarily while construction is under way, and the matter was taken up at a meeting of the City Council’s Human Services, Equitable Development and Renter Rights Committee. Stay tuned.
Rooster’s Bar & Grill on Capitol Hill: After four years on Broadway, Tex-Mex restaurant Rooster’s will close at the end of this month, with the business sold and the owners moving on to other endeavors including catering and a mobile operation called Stan’s Fine Foods, according to Capitol Hill Seattle Blog. CHS also has a photo of the letter on the door, in which Rooster’s ownership thanks loyal customers, staff, and, um, us, sort of: “To the famous Seattle Times Food Critics who chose to never write us up, thank you, you were irrelevant and unnecessary.” (The letter is signed, inscrutably, “ATLAS SHRUGGED.”) We sincerely honor their hard work — owning a restaurant in this city is tough. We wish we had the time and resources to write about more of them, but with so many openings in the Seattle area — almost one per day last year — choices must be made. Best to Rooster’s owners and staff at this difficult time.
Other Coast Cafe on Capitol Hill: To the sorrow of the neighborhood’s enjoyers of really good basic sandwiches (like me), the Capitol Hill branch of Other Coast Cafe is no more (sigh). The owners posted a very sweet note on the door expressing gratitude “to some of the best customers in the city” and the staff, who were offered positions at the Ballard or Queen Anne locations. Coming soon in its stead: a bar called La Dive from the team of Kate Opatz (Montana, Nacho Borracho), Ani Custer (from a pop-up entitled Garbage People Love Wine) and chef David Gurwitz (from Spinasse and Lark, so that’s promising, but still: sigh).
Also: The Thaitan in West Seattle is no more, with West Seattle Blog reporting that while a new development will take its place, they plan to reopen at a new location TBD. And Bing’s in Madison Park has closed “abruptly” after 20 years, according to Madison Park Times.