The voyage of West Seattle's Admiral Benbow is sadly coming to an end, Vespolina has a new chef, $15 news and more
West Seattle’s pirate-ship-themed bar and cafe, The Admiral Benbow, is closing down. The Benbow is a Seattle treasure — legend holds the vintage 1950s place was named by the original owner’s daughter, who happened to be reading “Treasure Island” by Robert Louis Stevenson and noticed the Admiral Way address. She reportedly got a new dress and $10 for her idea, and the bar got decked out in the finest ’50s faux-antique-nautical style, creating a surreal atmosphere much like Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean ride, but with drinks.
The latest owners, Allison and Ian Hill, took over the Benbow just under a year ago, and Ian says they tried all they could to make it work. “We saw a landmark, especially a West Seattle landmark,” he says. “We said, ‘This place need to stick around, especially with all the condos going up around here. … Let’s try and save something.'”
But, Hill says, they were the fifth owners since 2000, and a year wasn’t ultimately enough time to rebuild the business. (The previous owner had renamed the restaurant part of the enterprise the Heartland Cafe and, in a goodhearted but misguided tribute to his native Wisconsin, given it a Midwestern theme that served to dilute the Benbow’s seafaring identity.) The rent, he says, is substantial — it’s a 4,500-square-foot space — and now the lease is up and they don’t have the capital to continue.
They’re hoping to be open until March 22, for friends to come bid farewell. Tomorrow, there’s a “big blowout” with bands including Hill’s own Mandolin Hooper and the Shadowland Rats.
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“The way West Seattle is going,” Hill says, “my thought is somebody’s going to sell the building and it’s going to be condos. This is going to be ‘The Fifth Element’ — this is going to be high-rises and flying cars.”
KATIE GALLEGO is the new chef de cuisine at Vespolina, replacing former “Top Chef” contender Carrie Mashaney, who’s on maternity leave for the foreseeable future. Gallego has three years’ experience at Vespolina and its siblings, Spinasse and Artusi; before that, she graduated from Seattle Culinary Academy, and before that, in high school, she worked for Kaspar Donier (of Kaspars Special Events & Catering, formerly the restaurant Kaspar’s) and at PCC.
Vespolina looks challenging for a chef at any level: It started out as Aragona, which failed to thrive, and Spinasse/Artusi/Vespolina executive chef Jason Stratton recently parted ways with the enterprise. But Stratton says, “Katie is a superstar. I can’t think of someone better to helm that ship.” She’s featuring her grandmother Anita’s stuffed artichokes on the menu as of today. Best of luck to her! MORE>>>
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Franchise owners say it’s not fair, while supporters of a living wage for working people say franchises aren’t fair, with Ronald McDonald and his corporate cronies enjoying huge profits while workers increasingly turn to food stamps. This long read on the topic from the New Yorker is worth your time. A ruling on the IFA’s motion is expected by Tuesday. MORE>>>
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