Seattle’s resilient restaurants ready to serve again


By Janice Nesamani

Japanese Comfort Food from Restaurant Maneki (Photo from Instagram of Restaurant Maneki)

Wednesday June 30 could not have arrived earlier for Washington State! Not only did it give us a respite from the scorching 100 degree temperature days that we almost melted, but it also brought us closer to normal life after Covid-19.

Governor Jay Inslee announced in May that our state could lift most Covid-related trade restrictions on June 30. This means that your favorite restaurant can now open at full capacity, you won’t have to stay six feet from other diners, and, if you’re vaccinated, you can say goodbye to face masks.

For more than a year now, Seattle restaurants have been sold out as state and health officials try to bring the pandemic under control. Restaurant owners have had to close their doors, operate only take-out, lay off staff, and get creative to keep their businesses alive.

Maneki store front (Photo by John Liu)

Take, for example, the 116-year-old Japanese restaurant Maneki. During the pandemic, Maneki had to shut down, but he was given a new lease of life. Cash donations have poured in from patrons to help keep the institution afloat.

Overwhelmed with love and support, Nakayama decided to only offer take-out and launched a website,, where customers can place their orders online. The restaurant has learned many lessons from the pandemic. For Nakayama, two stand out.

“First of all, our ability to be highly adaptive in an industry that can be created or broken so easily without sustained financial stability,” Nakayama said. “Second, do not underestimate the compassion and love of neighbor in our community. We are grateful for all the care and support during these difficult times, ”she said.

Having never provided take-out service in the history of the restaurant, Nakayama saw it as an opportunity for Maneki to continue something his customers appreciate. Given the small size of its kitchen, the restaurant is working out the details of how it will maintain its stellar dining experience while still being able to offer convenient take-out.

“We may need to ask for a little patience to figure out what we can offer,” Nakayama said, hinting at what their take-out might include. “Everyone seems to miss our sushi and sashimi.”

Over the past year, Maneki has had to cut staff and work hours, and some of its seasoned workers have had to find extra work elsewhere to make ends meet. As restaurants reopen, Maneki is cautious.

“Our approach will be a slower reopening due to limited staff so as not to overwhelm our leaders,” Nakayama said. She confirms that hiring in the service industry is a challenge in a field where everyone is competing for the same talent while looking for new replacements.

“We hope to attract passionate applicants who wish to be a part of Maneki’s community and legacy,” she said.

However, things were not calm at the restaurant during this time. A $ 45,000 investment from Puget Sound Energy has enabled the restaurant to become more energy efficient with better lighting and energy efficient appliances.

Dimmable lights in the tatami room and a walk through Maneki’s history in pictures are what patrons can expect when they finally score a table at the restaurant.

“Honestly, we are still worried about our elders,” Nakayama said. “We know that progress is being made and we look forward to seeing those smiles again in our tatami rooms soon.”

Front of Ho Ho Seafood Restaurant (Photo by Assunta Ng)

“Covid touched us deeply,” said Vivian Xiao, owner of seafood restaurant Ho Ho. “We had so few customers because everyone was afraid to go out to eat. Then things got very expensive during the pandemic. When customers come in without a mask, we provide one. The prices of masks have increased. It costs over $ 1 each. We have to serve our customers with plastic gloves, which cost up to $ 20 for a pack of 100. That does not include increased food prices or takeout box prices.

Ho Ho reopened on June 30, and the restaurant is asking customers to wear masks for everyone’s safety.

Tai Tung Team (Photo provided by Tai Tung Restaurant)

If you’ve missed the welcoming face of Harry Chan behind the counter, reading the specials handwritten on the mirror, or just ordering your favorite dish at Tai Tung Restaurant, you may soon be going back there and pretending the pandemic doesn’t. had never existed. come.

“We haven’t had to lay off any of our employees due to the pandemic,” Chan said. Instead, the restaurant cut back on hours when things got bad last year. This will prevent Chan from looking for new staff in a job market where the right staff has become very difficult to find.

When things reopen, Chan expects business to return to 70-80% of what it was before the pandemic.

“I think people will still be a bit hesitant to go out for dinner, but we still hope for the best,” he said.

Slowness in business has forced Jade Garden to step up its delivery game during the pandemic. Eric Chan, whose family owns the restaurant, made deliveries to Factoria to deliver dumplings to customers in the Eastside. To complicate matters, the restaurant was vandalized and broken into twice in 2020.

Unable to see their favorite restaurant barricaded, the muralists covered the art boards, sparking a movement that saw other artists cover barricaded windows across the International District with messages of hope and solidarity that have become a sign. community and resilience during a particularly difficult time. time.

The pandemic has changed a lot of things for Jade Garden, but Chan said, “We’re going to be here to do what we’ve always done: serve people like we’ve always done.”

Janice can be contacted at [email protected].

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