By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
That response was “the tipping point” in Chaco Canyon Organic Café‘s decision to choose West Seattle as its second location, owner Chris Maykut told WSB, as he announced, “We’ve signed the papers,” as we chatted inside his U-District restaurant.
While there, we talked with Chris and his current U-District (and future West Seattle) general manager Sarah Coyle (in our photo, from left, are Chris, Sarah, and chef Lois Blanford) about what’ll be different in West Seattle and why they are so excited about joining this community – read on:
“It’s funny how this has all come about,” he recalled. “When Harbor (Properties, developer of Link and nearby Mural [WSB sponsor]) approached us, (I thought) West Seattle? I’m a native Seattleite, grew up in Phinney Ridge, spent a lot of time in West Seattle, my best friend lived there in school days … (but) I’d seen a lot of cafés come and go outside The Junction, didn’t see much staying power, didn’t think that was the right spot for us. Then (came the WSB discussion). We spent a few weeks doing research – I had no idea what a tight-knit community West Seattle is, it’s amazing … I don’t think there’s a community like it anywhere in Seattle … I had in my head that a natural place would be to go to Capitol Hill (for example), because that’s where all the funky vegans are … but that’s also where 20 places serve what we do.”
Further research revealed that while you can find “nibbles” of organic, vegan, sustainable, raw, and/or gluten-free food around West Seattle, there’s “just not much of this there.” So, Chris concluded, “I think it’s the perfect fit for us, and we’re delighted for the opportunity. … All the stars have been aligned with this.” And in some cases, it will be like working with old friends; they are excited about Link partnering with West Seattle’s Twilight Artist Collective, since one of the Twilight partners is a longtime friend. “They (Harbor) are not just doing a cookie-cutter building … we think we can have a really great community in the building,” in addition to customers who live elsewhere.
If you’ve been to the University District Chaco Canyon Café – here’s what will be different in West Seattle: More “soft seating,” off to the side of the café; more “nooks and crannies,” more family-friendly, more soundproofing – they are the first to agree their current location is noisy (it was a challenging place for a conversation) – more power plugs.
Yes, power plugs. Chaco Canyon isn’t a table-service-type restaurant – it’s “a hangout,” as Chris puts it. You order food at the counter, and you can hang out all day if you choose, which, he says, many people do, with their laptops (etc.).
They’re also planning to offer some dinner entrees, starting at their current café – Chris, who has quite the sense of humor, jokes that you can go to Chaco Canyon at dinnertime, but if a pesto melt isn’t your idea of a nice dinner, you’re out of luck.
Also new at the West Seattle café will be these “pilot programs”:
*RETAIL AREA: Selling vegan products, raw products, gluten-free products. And “organic, sustainable,” Sarah adds. Not just food – “cookbooks, anything having to do with food, and the kind of food we offer.” Maybe even food-related equipment like juicers, though Chris says they’re waiting to see how much space they’ll use for the “retail area.”
*DEDICATED KIDS’ MENU: “Something that’s equal amounts regular kid food, and sneaky stuff that kids will eat and drink that’s secretly good for them,” Chris explains. “I can get collard greens into their smoothies if I put enough fruit in!”
If you’re not already into raw, organic, vegan/vegetarian food, don’t let the talk of collard-green smoothies scare you. Chris notes that he and their head chef are omnivores. “We make stuff that we love … 60 to 70 percent of the people who come in aren’t vegetarians. We make it accessible and very delicious.” Even vegan cookies that not only taste good, but, he smiles, “are not good for you at all!”
A program that’s proven popular at the U-District location will come with Chaco Canyon to West Seattle, Sarah explains, the Community Partners Program, “partnering up with other like-minded local businesses, to let our customers know about those business.” It involves a space on the restaurant wall where those businesses can post their cards, coupons, etc., and Chaco Canyon will make their coupons available at those businesses’ own locations. Chris adds that this usually involves reciprocal discounts for the employees at participating businesses: “We have a wonderful trade with the YMCA [in the U-District] and one with Scarecrow Video – they get free coffee, we get free movies.” That’s been a big employment draw, Sarah notes.
Which might lead you to ask – when will they be hiring (and opening) in West Seattle? Target date is April 1st, according to Chris. Seeing our raised eyebrows, he declares, “We’re not superstitious here!” They’ll probably start hiring in early February, maybe “8 to 10 staff members” besides those (like Sarah) who move from the U-District location.
Hours will be the same as U-District, 7 am-9 pm Mondays-Fridays, 9 am-9 pm weekends, with Saturday and Sunday brunch.
We asked one last question: Where did the name “Chaco Canyon” come from?
It’s an Anasazi site in New Mexico that Chris visited years ago and felt a kinship with while driving around the Southwest years ago. “I fell in love with that place … and wanted to bring that sort of warmth and centeredness back to Seattle.”
The West Seattle “perfect fit,” by the way, puts them a year and a half ahead of their onetime business plan – “September 2012 for our second location” (though Sarah adds that she expected it to be more like September 2011). “Harbor (Properties) is really dedicated to us being there,” summarizes Chris. “They asked the community – they said, ‘the community wants you, how can we make it happen?'”
(If you want to preview Chaco Canyon by visiting its U-District cafe, it’s at 50th and 12th, in a Harbor-built development called Helix – here’s a map.)