by Stephen Miller, Editor
– The Capitol Hill Times –
The landscape at the top of the Hill is changing. A walk down 15th Avenue East shows a reinvigorated district that has managed to reinvent itself without losing much of the laid-back, communal feel that has set it apart from the rest of the neighborhood. The recent openings of Rione XIII and the Wandering Goose have brought new flavors to the strip and now one of its veterans is looking to bring some change of its own.
Coastal Kitchen, the district’s standard for breakfast, lunch and dinner since 1993, is currently undergoing a remodel and will be open with a new look Saturday.
“We’re building the restaurant I want to go to,” said owner Jeremy Hardy.
As of Tuesday, there is still plenty of work to get the restaurant ready for its reopening. The kitchen had been gutted. The floors, countertops and surfaces were all taped and covered as a crew busily worked to pull the place together. When it is done, Hardy will have the new look he’s waited 20 years for.
“It’s hard to change something that you love and that’s performing well, because there’s always risk,” he said. Since opening, Coastal has remained essentially the same. It has always been the area’s seafood spot and has maintained generally lower prices for plates found elsewhere in the city. But, as Hardy explained, the market has changed since 1993, and the place was ready for a revamp.
“We went from remodeling to opening a new restaurant,” he said. In many ways, Coastal is redefining itself as the neighborhood oyster bar Hardy always wanted. The renovations include an 11-stool marble oyster bar, classy white hex tile and bamboo floors, a sweeping wooden bar along the south wall that used to only hold booths, custom steel mini street lamps and a new refrigeration setup that will ensure the kitchen has some of the freshest fish in stock.
A side room previously tucked away on the elevated level has been opened into the rest of the space, a garage door has been installed to bring in the weather, when applicable, and room has been made for three tables of patio seating. When the plans were revealed to the staff, Hardy said, the piece that received the most appreciation was the decision to re-pour the concrete kitchen floor, which had seen better days in it’s just about 20 years.
Designing a space that successfully accommodates three meal periods is a challenge. Hardy explained that Coastal had previously been too heavily skewed towards breakfast, obvious from the patrons lining up outside about that time on any given weekend morning. In one instance, he remarked overhearing a customer mention that they hadn’t even noticed the restaurant had a bar. The new one is hard to miss, and, when it reopens, Coastal hopes to maintain its breakfast and lunch crowd while better tapping into the evening and night scenes.
“Facility suggests to you how to behave,” Hardy said, and he was noticeably excited, standing in the unfinished room picturing how staff and customers will occupy the new space.
Changes to the menu are minimal, and prices are set to stay the same. Avocado in the Salmon Scram, new 100 percent Dungeness crab cakes and an oatmeal breakfast are some of the alterations. To attain the oyster bar quality he is looking for, Hardy is bringing in a scale to weigh out the four different types of oysters that will be available initially, and also increasing the wine list by upwards of 30 percent while agonizing over finding the best oyster pairings. “The search for the perfect oyster wine is like getting that perfect guitar solo,” said a man with interest in both.
At first glance, it would seem that this renovation came as a response to the new competition brought to the block by Ethan Stowell and Heather Earnhardt. In fact, Hardy said the revamp had been in the works for the past three years, and he welcomes the new restaurants. Each has its own, specific identity that should help to bring more attention to the district as a whole. The important thing, he said, is to stay focused on yourself, not getting distracted by your competition.
“Coastal Kitchen has grit and whimsy. It always had and it always will,” Hardy said.
429 15th Avenue East