Ex-Admiral Benbow, future cafe: Details from its proprietor

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While we were reporting recently on the opening of Shipwreck Tavern in the Admiral District, talk turned to the fate of the former Admiral Benbow Inn nearby. We have a few more details this morning directly from Jay Wergin, who’ll be opening a cafe there (as previously revealed here) – here’s his announcement:

Coming soon to West Seattle: The Heartland Cafe, a family-friendly restaurant with a focus on great, affordable Midwestern comfort food.

Co-owner and longtime West Seattle resident Jay Wergin was born and raised in Green Bay, Wisconsin, on the classic dishes served at supper clubs, church picnics and back yard barbecues: bratwurst, Italian beef, chicken booyah, and of course, beer from Wisconsin, such as Leinenkugel and Milwaukee¹s Best. Together with Jeff Loren, a 25-year restaurant industry insider, who has run the show at Julia¹s and other prominent Seattle-area eateries, Wergin will open the Heartland Cafe in the heart of the Admiral District on the site of the former Benbow Inn. The iconic space is currently undergoing major renovations to restore the vintage pirate ship bar and transform the main dinner and banquet room into a family-friendly space. The Heartland Cafe is slated to open later this winter and will serve dinner during the week and breakfast, lunch, and dinner with a late-night menu on weekends. Stay tuned for updates … !

ADDED 2:02 PM: We asked Jay a few followup questions. For one, we’d heard of a “West Seattle Sausage Co.” coming to that vicinity – turns out that was an early working name for the project. For two, here’s a little more about the bar/restaurant delineation:

As for the layout of the place. A full service bar will be located in the pirate ship and will be identified as the ³Benbow Room² with the primary access to the bar (21 and older) from the alley entrance. The main restaurant and banquet room will be entered through the Admiral Street entrance (Next door to the Shipwreck).

He says the late-night all-ages dining will run to 3 am Friday and Saturday nights (of interest to us since your editor here has a 13-year-old fellow extreme night owl in the house).

48 Replies to "Ex-Admiral Benbow, future cafe: Details from its proprietor"

  • sam October 21, 2009 (9:57 am)

    uh- oh. if you have fried cheese curds in addition to those Leinenkugels, I’ll have a hard time keeping my other half away.

  • LAintheJunction October 21, 2009 (10:06 am)

    This is great news! My husband is thrilled – he was born and raised in Ripon, WI and misses good old fashioned Midwest cuisine. And of course, Leinenkugel beer. Any plans to serve Summit from the Twin Cities? Count on two loyal customers as soon as it opens.

  • Wsm October 21, 2009 (10:23 am)

    Will they ever be able to get the smell of gin and cigarettes out of the space?

  • dawsonct October 21, 2009 (11:11 am)

    Good news!
    Support your LOCAL restaurants, folks!

  • Keith October 21, 2009 (11:37 am)

    “The iconic space is currently undergoing major renovations to restore the vintage pirate ship bar”

    No freaking way! That is incredible news.

  • Admiral Lady October 21, 2009 (11:40 am)

    Where exactly was this Benbow Inn? I’ve only been in WS for 2 years now… Thanks

  • Phoebe October 21, 2009 (11:40 am)

    Arrrr I be SO pleased to know they be restoring the pirate ship barrrr!

  • owen October 21, 2009 (11:43 am)

    I’m eager to see how they weave the pirate ship into the mid-western theme. Despite the Great Lakes, Wisconsin is still a long way from the sea.

  • JanS October 21, 2009 (11:43 am)

    wonderful ! and only a half block away from me..I can’t wait :)

  • Sidney October 21, 2009 (11:45 am)

    So excited! My family hails from the Northwoods. By the way, for those of you thirstin’ for Leiney’s who just can’t wait until the grand opening of The Heartland Cafe, I’ve seen it for sale at the Thriftway at the Fauntleroy/California junction.

  • Paul in Gatewood October 21, 2009 (11:46 am)

    Cool, sounds kind of like Zayda Buddy’s in Ballard. We’ll have to check it out when it opens.

  • villagegreen October 21, 2009 (11:58 am)

    Holy sh*te! If Leinenkugel’s and/or Summit is on tap, I promise to single-handedly keep the place in business.

    My understanding from the few places around town that serve Lienie’s on tap is that they only export Leinie’s Sunset Wheat to the Northwest (trying to break into the market with what they think is a “premium” beer). But there’s no way they can compete with local wheat beers.

    What we do need out here is a cheap substitute for Pabst, Rainier, and Olympia! Bring on the old school Leinie’s!

  • tink October 21, 2009 (12:01 pm)

    So excited for the cheese curds. As for Summit beer, I believe they have it at the MN bar in Ballard (called Zayda Buddies). The owner is from St. Cloud…they have everything from tator tot hotdish to mello yellow pop!

  • Amazon October 21, 2009 (12:03 pm)

    My husband and I are from Green Bay too and can not wait to have this little piece of home right here in West Seattle. Hopefully they’ll have a TV in the corner to watch da Packers!

  • K October 21, 2009 (12:03 pm)

    Leinie’s in West Seattle?!! YES! Pride of my hometown, ha ha :)

  • coffee October 21, 2009 (12:04 pm)

    From the twin cities, ummmmm Summit!

  • rob October 21, 2009 (12:09 pm)

    i just got very, very excited.

  • Forest October 21, 2009 (12:49 pm)

    On a trivial note, I urge the owners to hold a local naming contest for the new restaurant. If they stick with “Heartland,” I can guarantee a rhyming nickname that starts with an F.

  • Diane October 21, 2009 (12:50 pm)

    re Where exactly was this Benbow Inn? I’ve only been in WS for 2 years now… Thanks
    Comment by Admiral Lady
    yes please; I’ve been here 10 yrs but don’t know where this is; address? cross streets?
    the inserted map is not showing up for me; it’s just blank space

  • WSB October 21, 2009 (12:56 pm)

    Same storefront block as the Shipwreck. Roughly 4210 SW Admiral.

  • dawsonct October 21, 2009 (1:35 pm)

    They could retheme the “pirate” ship as a Viking ship which, in my apparently too sodden shape, I always thought it was.

    Maybe I was in Ballard.

  • JRR October 21, 2009 (1:40 pm)

    As a NW Wisco native, I promise to drink a lot of their Leinies.

  • Tracy D. October 21, 2009 (1:41 pm)

    I would be willing to try mid-west beer, just for another chance to sit in the pirate ship bar! Best of Luck to the Heartland Cafe!

  • cathyw October 21, 2009 (2:13 pm)

    It’s directly across the alley from the Wells Fargo Bank/Zatz Bagel/laundromat parking lot(on the north side of Admiral Way and just east of California Ave). There used to be an entrance right off the alley and another one in the front on Admiral Way. It’s a great space. So glad it is going to be active again. It’s been quiet there for too long.

  • WSB October 21, 2009 (2:15 pm)

    If you read the top item this morning and haven’t checked back, I just added some more info – I had sent a few followup questions to the owner after getting this announcement and I just found his reply in the box. It includes an explanation of the entrances, among other things – TR

  • KBear October 21, 2009 (2:16 pm)

    In response to Owen’s comment, the Great Lakes are essentially freshwater seas. Wisconsin has over 800 miles of Great Lakes coastline and a long tradition of sailing vessels. Probably some pirates, too.

  • Parkuser October 21, 2009 (2:25 pm)

    Fried cheese curds, please! And love that they’re restoring the pirate theme, that’s great for the kiddos.

  • Flexie October 21, 2009 (2:35 pm)

    Bring on the cheese curds and hot dish! Can’t wait!

  • nic October 21, 2009 (2:37 pm)

    Yawn…another “family friendly” establishment in West Seattle. Can someone please open up a restaurant that doesn’t cater to screaming, hyperactive little brats? Someone even brought a toddler into the Swell last night…can’t us adults have one sanctuary on this side of the bridge?

  • WSB October 21, 2009 (2:40 pm)

    Aren’t Matador and Shadow Land both still 21-only? Shipwreck Tavern (no food though) and Feedback Lounge too. I’m sure I’m missing someone.

  • KBear October 21, 2009 (3:01 pm)

    nic, if it were truly an authentic Wisconsin bar, kids could even drink beer with their parents. (It’s allowed under Wisconsin law.)

  • bnc October 21, 2009 (3:05 pm)

    Can someone please open up a restaurant that doesn’t cater to obnoxious, idiotic, non-breeding NICs? Someone even brought NIC into the Swell last night…can’t us compassionate adults have one sanctuary on this side of the bridge?

  • owen October 21, 2009 (4:10 pm)

    Kbear, but you can’t really be a salty pirate without saltwater, can you? Arrgh!
    I hope the Benbow Room includes a secret passage over to Shipwreck – no sense in dueling pirate bars. Unless of course they both have cannons.

  • sam October 21, 2009 (4:11 pm)

    Beveridge place pub is 21+ too, right?

  • Diane October 21, 2009 (4:35 pm)

    thanks cathyw for more descriptive location info; now I get it; I didn’t know where Shipwreck is either; I was just reading about these/looking at old pics at library in Westside Story; Admiral library has historic section of books right across from librarian desk; it’s amazing to see all the changes in West Seattle since early settlement

  • Meghan October 21, 2009 (5:16 pm)

    This sounds like a great business plan for that space. There are so many families with kids in N. Admiral now, the menu sounds ideal. Plus people still have such fond memories of the Admiral Benbow, so restoring the bar is brilliant. If they have good food at reasonable prices and good service, they’ll do great.

  • Kara October 21, 2009 (5:29 pm)

    My family will be so excited to hear this news!

  • Tanya October 21, 2009 (7:55 pm)

    I LOVE that they are restoring the pirate ship bar! That was the best…along with the little bridge in the hallway that went over water…it used to have real goldfish in it!! :( I sure miss the Benbow, but this place sounds fun too!

  • Christina October 21, 2009 (9:58 pm)

    I grew up going to the Benbow with my family. We always sat in the banquet room, with the fountain. My Grandparents even went to the Benbow back in the 40’s. Looking forward to the new ownership and restaurant.

  • Laconique October 22, 2009 (8:55 am)

    I’m all for representing the Midwest, being from Illinois myself, but come on people, Leinies? It’s not good beer. We have such amazing beers made here in Washington! It’s like living in Paris and choosing to eat only imported croissandwiches from Micky-Ds. Bring in some Great Lakes or Bells or even Goose Island and then you might, just might be able to compete with all the great local options. And what the hell is Chicken Booyah? Must be a cheesehead thing.

  • dawsonct October 22, 2009 (10:38 am)

    Agreed Laconique, a lot of good small breweries in the MW. Besides, Leinie’s is owned by SABMiller, so it is just another product of a trans-national corporation. They hate you and your freedom, so I say ‘no’. On the other hand, Summit is owned by it’s employees. How about some August Schell, Grain Belt, Stevens Point, New Glarus (if they can find a distributor). Lot of good beer being brewed in the MW, and not one sip of the profits needs to go to huge trans-national corporations (who hate your freedom).

  • dawsonct October 22, 2009 (10:43 am)

    Serving food to 3 A.M. on Fri. and Sat.!!??!! BRILLIANT!! Post-closing-hour dining will no longer be restricted to the ID or Denny’s (if you can find one. Heh, heh).

  • Carlosda October 22, 2009 (11:20 am)

    Sounds like it will fill a much-needed niche. I’ll definitely be trying this new place out! Way to go, Jay!

  • KBear October 22, 2009 (12:02 pm)

    Laconique, you are incorrect. Leinie’s IS good beer, although they do send the occasional bad batch to Illinois, because most FIBs can’t tell the difference.

    Dawsonct, it is true that Leinie’s is now owned by Miller, but it is still operated by the Leinenkugel family, as it has been for almost 150 years.

  • Laconique October 22, 2009 (2:29 pm)

    KBear, you’re right, as native Midwesterner, I couldn’t tell the difference until I moved to the PNW, the home of fabulous locally-owned craft beer!! Never going back. It’s okay, I know people who think Heineken must be good beer because its imported.

  • Sconnie October 22, 2009 (8:32 pm)

    I can’t believe how many Wisconsin folk are out here. How much do you wanna bet we’ll all run into someone we went to Elementary or High School with?

  • Jay Wergin October 23, 2009 (8:49 am)

    I’m encouraged by your positive response & community support. All I ask is that you be patient …as we go through the difficult process of restoring charm into the old Benbow. I promise you it will be worth the wait …as we introduce exciting & artistic additions to the Heartland Cafe.

    If you would like to help? Please get in touch with the editor of the WS Blog if you have photographs of times spent at the Benbow (inside and out) that you would be willing to share as a historical display at the restaurant.

    Jay Wergin

  • Alvis October 24, 2009 (9:20 am)

    Public relations note to the new restaurant operators: There isn’t an “Admiral Street” entrance. It’s Admiral Way.

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