The vinyl-spinning Central District restaurant on Jefferson may feel quite different come summertime, when Seven Beef transforms into Central Smoke.
When Seven Beef opened three years ago it was a time of, perhaps, peak beef. Renee Erickson's Bateau had also debuted some handful of blocks away on Capitol Hill; Girin had already uplifted a Korean steak house in Pioneer Square; later came the Butcher's Table and its Wagyu steak-house-slash-butcher-counter. But even when owners Eric and Sophie Banh (Ba Bar, Monsoon) brought their Vietnamese steak house with its own in-house whole animal butchery program to the neighborhood, they knew it was a big leap—it's labor intensive, requires a ton of space.
But after a three-year run the sibling-owners have decided to shift away from the Vietnamese-inflected steak house concept and embrace a new identity, one that involves smoked meats and seafood, hence the new name Central Smoke Bar and Smokery. The wood-fired grill remains intact as do the various steak cuts that sizzle upon it. But rather than being bound by a particular cuisine, smoke is decidedly the underlying theme here.
"I've been wanting to do something like this forever, and, in hindsight, we probably should have gone for it when we opened Seven Beef," says chef Eric Banh. "You live and learn."
The new, smoky menu will span the globe from southern-style slow-smoked brisket to tea-smoked duck to soy-fermented egg fried rice with Vietnamese smoked veal (aka bê thui). Banh's been workshopping the menu with chef Mike Whisenhunt, who most recently was Brimmer and Heeltap's OG chef until the end of last year. As a Joule alum, Whisenhunt knows his way around international flavors, which he'll no doubt employ as he helms the Central Smoke kitchen.
Banh's installing Brandon Addicks, formerly of Bathtub Gin in NYC and Bowen House in Dallas, to run the front of house and the beverage program alongside beverage director Jon Christiansen. Both drink gurus will ensure "a very smoke-centric cocktail offering," which isn't exactly new—Christiansen's been crafting smoked cocktails at Monsoon for years. So expect new takes on some pretty dialed in libations.
As for the space, as you've probably guessed by now, it will certainly skew more casual than before. Table linens will be folded up and shelved like the vestige of Seattle's fine dining scene that it is. Renovations will be minor, but will ultimately support a place made for sharing a massive amount of smoked meats with friends and drinking solid cocktails. And no way is that outdoor patio going anywhere.
It's a sure departure from fine steak house dining but Banh makes it clear that this is no fast casual pivot. Its quality ingredients and steadfast service aren't going anywhere. Look for Central Smoke (same place: 1305 East Jefferson Street) to come early this summer. Look to Nosh Pit for updates as we have them.