‘Thank you, West Seattle’: Charlestown Street Café’s final day

(Earlier coverage: First customers on the last morning, here; midday update, here)

Story and photos by Kathy Mulady
Reporting for West Seattle Blog

At 2:45 p.m. today, the last meal was cooked and served at Webster’s Charlestown Street Café.

Hesper Guerra, a waitress at the restaurant for two decades, raised a little plastic glass of apple cider, tears sliding down her cheeks, and gave a toast. The staff gathered behind her raised their glasses, and dabbed their own tears.

The last customers of the restaurant left slowly, shaking hands with owner Ron Hanlon, sharing their thoughts on what the restaurant has meant to them.

“The food is great, but the love is better,” said Debbie Coscorrosa, who followed Hanlon from Webster’s restaurant to the Charlestown.

Deacon Dean Hard of First Lutheran Church in West Seattle had breakfast every morning at the Charlestown, and often came back for lunch or dinner. He has been a regular for 21 years.

“I had to be here for the final fling,” he said. “I’ve watched Hesper and Tama grow up here. The kitchen staff is behind the scenes, but they are the best. It is a true, true family here.” Deacon Hard said he isn’t sure where he will go for future meals, but thinks he “might go bug Jack Miller at Husky Deli for a while.”

West Seattle composer Bobby Weinberg gave Hesper and Tama Warrior big hugs as he left. “I’ve been friends with Ron as long as I can remember,” said Weinberg.

Bob Miller and Jaunita Ludwig said they never had a bad meal at the Charlestown, They too have been customers for 20 years.

Hanlon autographed a menu for longtime customer Jim Lockerbie.

“This is an institution,” said Lockerbie.

Hanlon invited customers and staff to take their favorite pictures that decorate the walls. One customer bought the mirror in the women’s bathroom. Hanlon said he sold 30 chairs to a church for their choir.

Others bought frozen bags of the beloved award-winning clam chowder to take home for future dinners.

Many customers left their e-mail addresses, hoping to stay in touch with their favorite servers, and possible news of the crew opening a new restaurant somewhere else in West Seattle.

By 4 pm, the kitchen was cleaned. The last customer was gone, but the front door was still wide open. The staff gathered at tables for final farewells and hugs. Most don’t have new jobs yet and aren’t sure what they will be doing next.

Hanlon knows what’s next on his list: 32 years on his feet in the restaurant has taken a toll on his knees. He is having knee replacement surgery in two weeks, then a long recovery.

After that, he’s not sure.

“I’m only 65, I’m not done,” Hanlon said.

Previous WSB coverage of the Charlestown Street Cafe’s ups and downs over the past four years is archived here, newest to oldest (scroll down the page), including first word just one week ago that Hanlon would shut it down. The site’s fate has not been officially announced; as we noted last weekend, city online records indicate a mixed-use development proposal was floated last year.

15 Replies to "'Thank you, West Seattle': Charlestown Street Café's final day"

  • Marsh April 3, 2011 (9:16 pm)

    I am sad to see the Charlestown Cafe close. However for all who love the chowder, it will still be available at Pike Place Chowder at Pike Place Market and Pacific Place downtown. The owner of those outlets used to be part of Charlestown’s ownership and continued to let them sell the chowder!

  • westseattledood April 3, 2011 (10:02 pm)

    For years before I moved to WS, I lived in the North end and would drive across town to the Charlestown Cafe for the chowder. The Charlestown was, at the time, the only place I had as a destination in West Seattle, besides the beaches and Lincoln Park.

    When I finally moved here eight years ago after years of dreaming about it, the Cafe’s vibe and the neighborhood, were part of my decision-making process to move. It made a big impression about life here in WS. I will always associate them with one of the best decisions of my life.

    It is strange to think of WS without them or their buckwheat pancakes. I wish them all, customers and staff, the very best.

  • Silly Goose April 3, 2011 (10:12 pm)

    So hard to see the Charleston close, a sad reminder to my family at how quickly life as we once knew it changes. We have many many wonderful memories of meals with friends and family on Sunday mornings after mass. We are truely going to miss the neighborhood feel of this wonderful resturant. Blessings to you all, and thanks for all the wonderful meals and great gatherings over the years.

  • Unsentimental Realist April 3, 2011 (10:32 pm)

    The Charlestown was mediocre at best. Not sure how it survived so long serving overpriced, nasty food and weak coffee. Why are people so crazy about it? I’ve tried to like it, but have always been disappointed. Good luck to those associated with it. Hope someone finds a good use for the building.

  • wsone April 3, 2011 (10:52 pm)

    My kids are really going to miss it. They were always so happy to get the balloons and so proud to have their artwork displayed! Plus, where am I going to get such a good omelet for breakfast!?

  • Cathy April 3, 2011 (11:37 pm)

    We had breakfast this morning. My 6yo sad she was sad it was closing. I can’t imagine how others feel that have been going for so long.

    No snarky comments please but it was a great family restaurant. We have been going there before we had kids to this morning with our 5 kids plus a friend. I can’t imagine anywhere else that will meet our group with a smile everytime.

  • Don Bown April 4, 2011 (11:09 am)

    I just read the news but I am not finding the answer to one all-important questions as to the closing of the Charlestown Cafe… Why?

  • rick April 4, 2011 (11:33 am)

    I have the same question? Did the landlord not want to do a longer lease?

    • WSB April 4, 2011 (11:56 am)

      Sorry, we wrote several stories before this ahead of time and they are linked in this one, as well as the general coverage archive:
      That was one of the factors the owner blamed as part of saying, in general, that it was “the economy.” – TR

  • JJ April 4, 2011 (12:01 pm)

    So sad…. it was good food. I remember going there with my (now ex-) boyfriend for breakfast. I will miss that place.

  • gatewood April 4, 2011 (6:34 pm)

    Will miss the place! Anyone able to get that yummy curry dressing recipe?

  • Kathleen April 7, 2011 (9:08 am)

    So sad to see another W.S. icon close and lose another piece of our history. At least we still have all our precious memories of many happy family meals there!

  • Roger Pence April 12, 2011 (9:49 pm)

    While we’ve never lived in West Seattle, Webster’s has been part of our lives for…well, many years. I first started going when it was south on California, about a mile south of the Junction. Good, reliable, down-home cooking; can’t remember if Mary Webster was still part of the operation then.

    Then they moved to Charlestown St., and even expanded for a short time; even had a Webster’s on 15th Ave. NW in Ballard; but that didn’t last.

    Charlestown St. was the first restaurant we went to as a family with children — my now-19-year-old son slept peacefully in his carseat while Alison and I had lunch.

    Neighborhoods need places like Webster’s. We can’t survive only on Thai and Mexican.

  • Judy C April 14, 2011 (12:43 am)

    I will miss the Charlestown Cafe. I would come in for breakfast after working the night shift at Swedish Medical Center. I will miss the welcome smile from Hester and will miss the coffee (black) and large orange juice that would magically show up frequently at my table.

  • Arne April 21, 2011 (11:19 am)

    Congrats Ron for 25+ years of community service. !!!
    Keep in touch. -Arne and Grace

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