Sad news for Central District barbecue fans. Central Smoke — the Asian-meets-Southern food offshoot to acclaimed Vietnamese spots Ba Bar and Monsoon — recently announced that it has closed permanently. A statement on the restaurant website explained, “We have decided that it makes the best business sense to focus all of our energy and resources on our three Ba Bar restaurants and its two Saigon Siblings, Monsoon and Monsoon Bellevue.” According to a restaurant spokesperson, though the closing was sudden, the owners informed staff beforehand and offered them positions at those aforementioned restaurants.
When the Ba Bar folks first opened the space in 2015, it was a Vietnamese steakhouse called Seven Beef, focusing on high-quality cuts of dry-aged Washington steak and a modern interpretation of bò 7 món, a traditional seven-course Vietnamese beef dinner. The restaurant then switched to Central Smoke in the spring of 2018, melding both Vietnamese and Korean flavors with slow-cooked meats and Southern dishes, including oysters with kimchi and pork-and-squid sausage, much of it cooked in a custom-built smoker.
But the second iteration apparently still didn’t work. The recent Central Smoke statement cited the “unforgiving economics of the Seattle restaurant scene” (something that the Seattle Times dug into this weekend) as the reason for the initial change from Seven Beef, and the renewed focus on the Bar Bar and Monsoon properties. But the restaurant also notes that the “state-of-the-art kitchen, inviting bar and gracious patio” would make the space an attractive property for “other enterprising entrepreneurs.”