Marc and Bret Chatalas, the brothers behind Cactus restaurants, are teaming up with some high profile Seattle restaurant folks to create Tavern Hall, a new dining experience for the Eastside. The duo is partnering with James Weimann and Deming Maclise (Bastille, Poquito’s, Macleod’s, Von Trapp’s, Stoneburner), who are well-known for creating successful Seattle restaurants with innovative interiors.
I spoke with Marc Chatalas about the genesis of Tavern Hall. The brothers’ latest Cactus restaurant recently opened at Bellevue Square, and that experience has solidified the significance of the downtown Bellevue market. Marc said the space vacated by Munchbar was the impetus for something new. “Ultimately we began first with the location. We love being in Bellevue Square and off the Skybridge in particular. We realized there was an opportunity there to put something together. Of course we had to take a step back and look at the marketplace, where the hole was in the Bellevue dining scene, and we determined that Bellevue needed something more casual and fun and entertainment oriented,” he said.
Tavern Hall is 9,500 square feet and will feature elevated tavern fare, 20 taps, a full cocktail program, plus five shuffleboard tables, darts, foosball and live DJs on Fridays and Saturdays. Expect an eclectic and fun atmosphere, but Marc said Tavern Hall is not meant to be a nightlife destination like the ill-fated Munchbar. Marc is conscientious of the public’s perception of the former tenant (Munchbar drew a rowdy night life crowd, and was the site of a fatal nightclub shooting that led to its immediate closure), and he is eager to set Tavern Hall apart. “What we’re doing is on the total opposite of the spectrum. This is a concept that is really geared for low-key, casual get-togethers among friends. This concept is about all the folks who work and live on the Eastside. They need a place where they can go and not feel like they have to dress up, or have a reason to go out. It’s just a great place to hang out.”
A sample menu includes items like hearth-baked pretzels, blistered shishito peppers, hand-cut ahi nachos, plus flatbreads and a custom burger menu. But the culinary component is only a portion of Tavern Hall’s path to potential success. “My brother and I feel pretty strongly that it’s not just about the food, it’s about the entire experience you can offer to a guest. With Cactus we feel we are able to achieve that by creating interesting spaces that are clean and well run. We’re going to take that same approach to Tavern Hall … what we hope to do is execute a menu that’s relatively simple that hits the bull’s eye for the majority of our guests and does that in a space that becomes as much of a draw as the food,” Marc said.
One of the important aspects of Tavern Hall will be the ability to offer an all-purpose private dining and event space. The business boom in downtown Bellevue has created strong need for private event space, and Tavern Hall will be able to help fulfill that demand. “One of the interesting decisions was how much of that space we wanted to take. There was a natural dividing line in the restaurant at about 6,500 feet, which is exactly the size of Cactus. We had to make a decision — are we going to do something comfortable, or are we going to do something that is really different and unique. When we looked at that additional space, not just the square footage but how that was laid out, it was extremely obvious to us that there was a great opportunity to create a series of private dining rooms.”
The Chatalus brothers’ exposure to the Amazon clientele at the Cactus location in South Lake Union taught them there was a growing appetite for private dining and event spaces in the region, and that realization was further reinforced when Cactus opened in downtown Bellevue. “We had been continually receiving inquiries from businesses looking for a place to get together. When looking at the decision to take less or more space, it was obvious that we could help fill a need for businesses and individuals looking to celebrate special events by creating a flexible space,” Marc said.
Sounds fun to us. But what do you think? The individuals involved have a strong portfolio of restaurants behind them, and seem better equipped to be successful in the Bellevue market than outsiders like those behind Artisinal Brasserie and Munchbar. Will Tavern Hall fill a void in the Eastside’s dining scene? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.