Monday, October 20, 2014

While we were away...

It's been a long time since we last did a blog posting, as regular readers of Madison Park Blogger are no doubt well aware.  We've been in the Great Southwest enjoying some excellent vibes, as well as a lot of hot, dry, and sunny weather.  But now we're back; and it's about time to get everyone updated on what's been happening in the old neighborhood---as well as what's upcoming.

First off, one of the two new restaurants slated to debut in September did manage to get the doors open, as anticipated, in a nicely refurbished space formerly the haunt of Mad Pizza on Madison St.  We're of course speaking of Bella Viet Cafe, which we just saw described by one local food blog as a "pho parlor." Though that's certainly not a derogatory term, it hardly does justice to the wider menu that owner Tani Phan (that's her in the photo above) and her business partner, Elena Vo, have created here in the Park.  As a result of our own personal experience at Bella Viet, bolstered by the positive anecdotal responses of other patrons (as well as excellent reviews on both Urban Spoon and Yelp) this new eatery is clearly an outstanding addition to the neighborhood.  (Did we mention that they do take out?)

The second restaurant that coulda woulda opened in September (but didn't, due to construction delays) is the Beach House Bar & Grill, occupying space vacated by Madison Park Conservatory, near the foot of Madison on 43rd Avenue.  We have it on good authority (that would be co-owner Maria Eng) that this Friday is finally going to be the big opening.  The menu has been posted (you can find it here), and reservations are being accepted by phone (206-294-3842).  We expect to post some photos of the revamped interior space of the Beach House on Thursday, after we get a quick tour.

And speaking of things that were supposed to happen but didn't, the fabled SR-510 "Ramps to Nowhere" were slated to get a visit from the wrecking crews last weekend to begin their demolition (those notorious Arboretum ramps are shown in the photo above, marked by the big "X" at the bottom as well as the "X" immediately above).  The Seattle Times just reported (well, three hours ago), that the contractor has delayed the project in order to concentrate on other demolition work related to the bridge. That's surprising, since there was supposed to be some ceremony marking the occasion last Saturday.  No reports on whether that happened or not.  Anyway, for those who may have missed it, Times columnist Danny Westneat had a cute piece on the eventual tear down of the infamous ramps (which you can find here).

And while we're on the subject, let us again remind readers that the Ramps to Somewhere (a turn of phrase that we just coined) will also eventually be coming down. We're referring of course to the Arboretum's freeway ramps that lead to and from 520.  If you've missed that fact after all this time, you must be a new reader to the blog (the story can be found here).

Okay, enough time on what did happen and what didn't happen while we were not reporting. Here are a couple of events upcoming:

Tree Walk:  Here's what our friend, Mary Henry, has to say on that subject: "On Saturday, October 25th Steve Lorton, former Northwest editor of the Sunset Magazine, and Rolland Hiebert, horticulturist at City People's Garden Store, will lead the third Tree Walk in Madison Park sponsored by the Madison Park Community Council.  The walk will begin at Park Shore, 1600 43rd Avenue East and tread new avenues.  Starting at 10 am and lasting about 90 minutes, the walk will head north and explore streets north of Madison.  One of the exotic plants to be seen is a Trumpet Vine twined around a light pole.  Previous walkers have found that pencils and pads prove valuable for noting certain plants, flowers and trees.  Steve is most knowledgeable about all and in addition is a formidable and enchanting story-teller.  The walk is free to the public but donations may be made to the Madison Park Community Council, a 501C3 organization."

Trick or Treating:  The annual happening, sponsored by the Madison Park Business Association, will occur this year from 4 until 6 pm on Halloween, October 31.  This is a kids' event, by the way.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Art Walk returns tomorrow

It's become a summer tradition in Madison Park for area artists to display their work in neighborhood businesses as the season draws to a close.  This year is no different, with Art Walk scheduled to begin tomorrow evening and run through September 28.  A total of 30 Madison Park businesses will be participating, with the walk running down Madison all the way from Starbucks to Park Bench Gifts.  The full line up of participating businesses and artists can be found here

The excitement begins with a reception at Starbucks beginning at 6 pm on Friday.

[Upper photo: art of Brooke Westlund; lower photo: art of Arthur Pasette]

Friday, September 5, 2014

Restaurants set to debut

Two openings in September

Madison Park’s cuisine scene will be broadened this month as two new eateries open their doors.  Taking the place of Madison Park Conservatory at 1927 43rd Avenue E. will be the Beach House Bar & Grill, owned by Chef Ricky Eng and his wife, Maria, who are the proprietors of a successful restaurant of the same name in Kirkland.  The original Beach House, which first opened on the eastside five years ago, features “gourmet American” food, such as grilled steak salad, buttermilk fried chicken, and seared yellow fin tuna. The restaurant’s full dinner/lunch/brunch menus are available here.

The Madison Park version of the Beach House will be about 80% the same as the Kirkland’s, according to Ricky Eng, at least in terms of cuisine.  In Madison Park, however, Eng will be able to take advantage of the wood-fired oven left by Madison Park Conservatory.  That means that some new signature steaks and appetizers, at a minimum, can be added to the restaurant’s repertoire, says Eng.

The Beach House will offer “comfort food with a twist.” While everything won’t be organic, the dishes will be as all-natural as possible, and the menu will emphasize locally sourced ingredients (meaning within the Pacific Northwest). There will also be a “healthy” kids’ menu.

Renovation of the MPC space has been underway for several weeks. The revamped space will have new light fixtures, new hardwood floors downstairs (replacing tile) and new tables and chairs, including the addition of downstairs banquette seating.

The timetable for the Beach House’s opening is mid-month.

Meanwhile, further up the street at the old Mad Pizza location (4021 E. Madison), a new Vietnamese restaurant will be making its debut near the end of the month. Bella Viet Café is the first restaurant for owner/operator Tani Phan, whose background in the restaurant business includes many years at various Thai restaurants in the area.  She and her business partner, Elena Vo, needed to gut the Mad Pizza space, which was less than pristine after the long-time tenant pizza purveyor moved out. The new restaurant will feature all-new bathrooms, kitchen, and dining room.  It will seat 20, with additional seating outside (perhaps two or three tables) when the weather’s decent.  Of course there will be a take-out menu.

Phan says that her focus is going to be on fresh, high-quality Vietnamese fare, though not necessarily in the traditional style. Pho (Vietnamese noodle soup) will be a feature, with five varieties slated for the initial menu.  Phan says that Bella Viet Café’s Pho will be distinguished from that of many other Vietnamese restaurants in that no frozen broth will ever be used its preparation.

Among the other items on the menu will be sandwiches, including lemongrass marinated beef and Trio Ham, and salad selections such as fresh lotus root shrimp salad.  Fresh rolls, spring rolls, pork skewer, crispy wings, and garlic edamame round out the initial menu, which will change with the seasons.  There will be multiple vegan selections as well.

We’ll have more to share about both restaurants, including the exact opening dates, as we move further into the month.  Stay tuned.

[Photos courtesy of Beach House Bar & Grill.]

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Cafe Parco closes

Chef Celinda calls it quits

The restaurant business is a tough one, and the Madison Park audience doesn't make the situation any easier for a restauranteur.  After almost three years of struggle to hit the right notes, chef/proprietor Celinda Norton has decided to give it up. In an email to patrons sent early this morning, Norton writes "the time has come to bid you a farewell...Despite working seven days a week, since 2011, cooking every meal myself, the business continues to be ‘economically challenged’. It is time to seek other avenues to satisfy my need to create great food."

As Madison Park's only Italian restaurant, Cafe Parco occupied the space that for many years housed Karen Binder's French-themed Madison Park Cafe (1807 42nd Avenue E.).  Binder is the property's landlord and will again have the task of finding a tenant, as she did after closing her own restaurant three years ago. The onetime private residence is difficult space for a restaurant to operate in because it has a very small kitchen (which is in need of renovation) and limited interior seating, among other factors.

It is always sad to see a neighborhood business fail, sad for both the business's patrons and for the many of us who care about maintaining a 'critical mass' within the Village's business community.  We wish the hard-working Chef Celinda and her son, Nic, well in whatever their futures hold.

Seeing Cafe Parco close, however, reminds us of the old adage, "When one door closes, another opens."  Ironically, our intended posting today was about the two new neighborhood restaurants that plan to open their doors later this month.

We'll have the details tomorrow.

[Photo by S. Pratt for Seattle Eater.] 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Music in the Park returns this evening

Every Thursday this month there will be Music in the Park, presented by the Madison Park Business Association. On the boards tonight is The Moonspinners, a "60's-esque" trio. You can get a good idea of their particular vibe by watching this YouTube video.

In upcoming weeks, three groups that have appeared in past years at Music in the Park will be back:  August 14, The Side Project, August 21, Two Scoops Combo, and August 28, Gin Creek.

The music begins at 6:30 and ends at 8.  The venue is the grassy area of the park, near the tennis courts.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

HomeStreet gets the doors open

After a very long gestation period, Seattle-based HomeStreet bank birthed its Madison Park baby today, finally revealing to the world its long-awaited branch along the neighborhood's main thoroughfare. The prominent Madison Street location next to Bert's Red Apple was most-recently the site of the Tully's, the much-lamented and long-departed coffee shop.  It's been almost two years since that exit.

HomeStreet would have been here earlier had it not been for the involved design and permitting processes and the fact that the hundred-plus-year-old building was in worse shape by far than originally anticipated.  The end result of all that rehabilitation is pretty impressive, however.  If you're willing to accept the fact that Madison Park is now a banking hub with five bank branches calling the neighborhood home, you will probably be pleased with the attractiveness and compatibility of HomeStreet's finished product. The bank sign apparently meets the community standards for its modest size, and the building doesn't look too bank-like. That, we're told, sits well with the neighborhood "powers that be" who try to enforce the various "village" standards.  Another concession to the community: the fireplace that graced Tully's is back in an improved form to add to the ambiance of the bank's interior.

While we certainly can't claim that HomeStreet is not a bank, it can be argued that it's a bank that is different from the others that (with the exception only of KeyBank) have been part of the Madison Park community for many decades.  Though they certainly didn't start out that way, each of the neighborhood's other four bank branches is a part of a big national bank organization based out of state---far out of state, in most cases (New York in the case of Chase, Ohio in the case of Key and North Carolina in the case of Bank of America).  Only Wells can make the claim that it's even based in the general region (California).

Not that there's anything wrong with being from out of state.  However, HomeStreet is definitely home grown, having been founded in Seattle as a mortgage company 93 years ago, later becoming a federally-chartered savings bank.  HomeStreet, with about $3.3 billion in assets, operates 31 branches, ten of these in Seattle.

In charge of HomeStreet's Madison Park location is Ila Wagner, who joined the bank from Chase during the past month.  She told us that she understands the fact that "there's a fear of over-saturation with banks in Madison Park."  But "HomeStreet will be a different kind of experience."  She cites the bank's intense involvement in the communities it serves as one example.  Also, HomeStreet is, we're told, the "official bank" of both the Seahawks and the Sounders, with promotions related to both teams (special deals for season ticket holders, for example).

While today is Day One for HomeStreet's Madison Park incarnation, the big official grand opening will take place for the community in early September.  That's when the bank will be giving away a lot of money.

Just kidding.  (About the money give-away, that is).

[As a matter of self disclosure for those not already aware of the fact, the Madison Park Blogger is a banker by day, though not an employee of any of the banks who operate branches in Madison Park.]

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Speaking of trees

It's just a lovely memory now. It was trucked away, for the most part, over the weekend. But for multiple decades this majestic tree, believed to be a Chinese Elm, graced the E. Highland Drive road end near Lake Washington, just off of 43rd Avenue E. It split apart Friday morning at around 2 am, and a significant portion crash landed in the owners' backyard with a big kaBOOM (though at least some neighbors, we understand, slept through the whole thing). While the tree had not been known to be diseased, a not-very-close inspection shows the rot that must have caused the collapse.

There was no saving the standing portion. We're told that the arborist who made the initial inspection of the downed tree commented that what remained upright could fall at anytime: ten months, ten weeks---or perhaps ten minutes.  The homeowners wisely decided not to take the chance.

As an aside, we note that this Lake Washington road end has something of a reputation, or perhaps multiple reputations.  "Lovers' Lane" is one descriptor.  We've heard that when the tree fell in the dark of the early morning there was a car either directly underneath or close by. It was occupied by a couple who were not only startled out of doing whatever they were doing but also seriously impeded in their efforts to exit the scene.  No injuries reported, however.

It was just a few weeks ago that another prominent Washington Park tree experienced its own sad separation. This tree overhung E. Lee Street near 39th Avenue E.:

In this case the the rest of the tree has been saved, at least for now.  Though some of the tree is still there, it's standing with a lot less elegance and artistry than before the fall.

And speaking of trees, these two very tall trees located on the lot of a soon-to-be-demolished house at the northeast corner of E. Galer and McGilvra Boulevard are the subject of some concern.  It's not because they are in imminent danger of collapse, however.

In this case the issue has to do with the possibility that the recent purchaser of the property, Chaffey Building Group, may decide to remove the trees as part of its redevelopment plans.  The immediate neighbors and some other Madison Park residents are interested in petitioning to keep the trees. If you would like to help you can contact Gayle Jack, who is heading up this effort:

[Middle photo courtesy of Nancy Dobrin.]

Friday, August 1, 2014

Lakeside story elicits ugly commentary

Blogger rethinks policy on reader comments

By Bryan Tagas

Our recent posting on the SEC shutdown of Lakeside Capital Management has had higher readership than any story we've ever reported, with over 2,200 page views to date.  The posting has also resulted in a higher-than-normal volume of reader comments on the Madison Park Blogger website.  Unfortunately, some of the commentary is scurrilous. Specifically, unwarranted personal attacks have been made on the family of Lakeside's owner, Dennis Daugs, all of them anonymously.

This low level of discourse has prompted one horrified MPB reader to challenge me to enforce a minimum standard for reader commentary on blog postings.  While Daugs may be fair game, she correctly points out that his family is not. I've always taken the view that readers of this blog should have an open forum to say what they think, even if they wish to remain anonymous.  But because this privilege is now being abused by some, I agree that a standard of behavior for commentators should be enforced: no more ad hominem attacks. In plain English that means inappropriate or irrelevant commentary, such as statements about the supposed physical or personality characteristics of people who are not even the subject of the blog posting, will be removed from the site. This rule applies retroactively to the reader comments on the Lakeside story.

[The Peter Steiner cartoon, shown above, is from the New Yorker magazine. It's a famous take from the 1990's on the freedom the internet provides.  But with freedom comes responsibility.  Cartoon used without permission.]

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Seen or heard in the 'hood

New restaurant to take MP Conservatory space

Though we don't yet have the details, we do know that the space on 43rd Avenue E. vacated by Madison Park Conservatory in February will soon be the site of a new restaurant.  Owners Maria and Ricky Eng, doing business as Eng Seattle Restaurants, Inc., applied earlier this month for a liquor license for the site. Ricky Eng confirms that while the name is yet to be determined, the restaurant will definitely be a full-service, sit-down affair. We'll give you the full scoop when we have it.

Founder moves on but pizzeria still going strong

Tom Siegal, who created The Independent Pizzeria in 2010 and who has been the mainstay pizza maker ever since, moved to Providence, Rhode Island earlier this summer.  His wife was admitted to the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design--and Tom, quite naturally, decided to relocate to the East Coast to be with her while she's in school.

While Tom is maintaining his ownership of our neighborhood pizza joint, Joe Heffernan and the rest of The Independent Pizza crew are carrying on the four-year tradition of making excellent Neapolitan pizza in Madison Park.  National foodie website Epicurious tapped The Indpendent as having one of the 10 Top Pizzas in the U.S. last year.

Former Mad Pizza space undergoing refurbishment

Construction of a new interior, along with some exterior refurbishment, is underway at the old Mad Pizza location on E. Madison St.  So it looks like what's rumored to be an Asian eatery is going to be part of Madison Park's future.  What's apparently not in our future, however, is a taco stand at the location of the old Best Buds flower shop on E. Blaine.  Nothing much happening there since the notice was taken out of the window months ago.   Both sites have been vacant since last year.

Ann Marie elects to stay

Although Ann Marie Lingerie announced during Spring that it was giving up its "bricks and mortar" in the neighborhood and migrating to an exclusively on-line business, apparently the moving-out sale and the interest generated from the publicity resulted in a re-thinking of that business strategy.  Manager Felicia Klabo reported to us earlier this month that the shop is staying in place.  The efforts to increase Ann Marie's on-line presence continues unabated, however.

HomeStreet almost ready to enter banking scene

It's taken a long, long time to get to this point, but the new Madison Park HomeStreet Bank branch seems to be nearing completion, with an anticipated late August/early September opening date.  The one-time Tully's site, which was vacated in October 2012, has been under such an extensive repair program that it could almost be argued that the result is a new building.  The original structure is over one hundred years old and has served host to many different businesses along the way, but never a bank. What's happening to this space is part of a trend, however, of Madison Park becoming a banking hub. HomeStreet, when open, will be Bank Branch Number Five.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Feds shut down Lakeside Capital

Firm's principal misused client funds says SEC

Madison Park's Lakeside Capital Management, founded in 1997 and solely owned by portfolio manager Dennis Daugs since 2010, is ceasing its operations as a result of a recent action by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.  The SEC, in an order today instituting administrative "cease and desist" proceedings against both the firm and Daugs, states that Daugs "used over $8 million in client advisory assets to conduct undisclosed actions that fraudulently breached his fiduciary duty."  (The full text of the SEC order can be found here.)

Daugs, according to a report by Reuters, neither denies nor admits the allegations of the SEC but agreed to be barred from the industry.  A separate news report on the website states that Daugs is paying $590,000 to settle the SEC charges.  The website states that Lakeside has paid out almost $15 million in customer settlements over the past nine years (though we could not independently confirm this based on the information the SEC released today).

Lakeside has been a prominent neighborhood business, making real estate investments in this area and elsewhere on behalf of its well-heeled clients.  It recently negotiated the sale of the investor-owned Villa Marina apartment building on 43rd Avenue E. at the foot of Madison, which is next door to Lakeside's headquarters (shown above).

According to the SEC, "Daugs breached [his fiduciary] duty beginning in 2008 and 2009,
when he invested a senior citizen Lakeside client in $3.1 million in personal loans to himself. Daugs used the loans to buy a vacation home and refinance his purchase of a rare automobile, and the loans involved a material conflict of interest between Daugs and the client. Yet Daugs did not disclose the loans to the client until early 2010."  The auto in question, according to the SEC, is a rare 1955 "Gullwing" Mercedes, similar to the one shown below:

Also, says the SEC, "Daugs used over $5 million from [a Lakeside managed] fund in undisclosed self-dealing."  These and other compliance violations, say the feds, constitute willful violation of securities laws by the respondents, Lakeside Captial Management and Dennis Daugs, who have therefore been censured by the SEC for their conduct.

Daugs has six months to wind down Lakeside's operations.  The press report by Reuters notes that Daugs, in a recent letter to the firm's investors, states that their investments are not at risk.  The SEC reports that Lakeside had approximately $150 million in assets under management on average and served as investment adviser to about 100 individuals and over thirty private real estate funds during the period the alleged violations occurred.

[Gullwing photo from Wikipedia.]