Yesterday I caught up with Marjorie Chang Fuller, who was busy fielding a torrent of calls after she and husband Mark Fuller broke the news that Spring Hill will be Spring Hill no more as of next week. It seems the public’s unbridled love for fried chicken helped inspire the decision to change the destination restaurant into the more casual, Hawaiian-focused Ma’ono Fried Chicken and Whisky.
Fuller says the couple was considering the name and concept change this past fall when they re-launched the revered Monday night fried chicken dinners under the Ma’ono name (the Southernist original recipe remains on the menu, along with more Asia-fied preparations). The chef-owner decided to retire these weekly feeding frenzies a few months earlier, prompting a torrent of emails, comment cards and even in-person visits from diners who objected to a world without such brined and battered goodness.
“It was so popular and when we took it away, we didn’t realize the impact that would make,” says Marjorie Fuller.
But flipping back and forth between elegant destination dining and greasy-fingered fried chicken fest didn’t sit right. “I think people got mixed messages as to what we were about,” says Marjorie Fuller.
She describes the new incarnation of Spring Hill as her husband’s style of comfort food. Mark Fuller grew up splitting his time between Kauai and the Puget Sound area. Some of the menu items, according to his wife, are riffs on the picnic lunches Fuller would back with his grandparents before setting off for the beach. Front and center on the new Ma’ono website is a family photo of Mark Fuller’s grandparents, mother, and uncle.
The new menu does maintain some other original dishes, and brunch is largely unchanged (for now). The restaurant’s interior will mostly stay the same, says Marjorie Fuller, save the handy substitution of paper napkins for linens, a savvy idea when trading in mass quantities of fried fare.
As for the Whisky part of Ma’ono, Mark Fuller is a big fan of the spirit, and has been working with bar manager MiNan Ahn to expand the liquor inventory and create a list of more than a dozen whiskey-based cocktails. Ahn, whose bar experience includes Tamara Murphy’s former restaurant Brasa, is also focused on food and spirit pairings, says Marjorie Fuller. According to Eater Seattle, Ma’ono will also add a counter to the bar for more seating.
And in case you’re wondering, the Fullers did consider changing the name to Spring Chicken.