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Beloved Central District Restaurant Chef Cafe Has Quietly Closed

Plus, Bite of Seattle has a new owner, and more news of the week

A mural that reads “Chef Cafe.” Harry Cheadle
Harry Cheadle is the editor of Eater Seattle.

Ethiopian restaurant Chef Cafe didn’t have much of an internet presence: no Instagram account, no website, a name that defied Google. Opened in 2009 by married couple Yihdego Gidey and Gburemical Tsehyesh, Chef Cafe built up its business the old-fashioned way, through friendly service and great food (with huge portions). It was a homespun space with plenty of regulars in the surrounding Central District. And as of November 30, it’s closed forever.

Chef Cafe’s non-online status meant that this closure was not widely reported at the time, but Vanishing Seattle had the story on its Instagram account this week. According to the caption, the restaurant fell into financial difficulties during the pandemic lockdown era and couldn’t rebound:

Due to the pandemic, Chef Cafe lost a lot of customers, and business didn’t come back to the same level. In addition, the owners couldn’t afford all the rising expenses coupled with inflation. They tried hard to keep it open - hoping things would eventually get better - but got into too much debt and had to close.

The old Chef Cafe sign is now gone — though the graffiti-style mural on the side of the building acts as a kind of memorial to the restaurant. According to a sign in the window, Maheder Cafe — presumably another Ethiopian restaurant — will be taking over the space.

Bite of Seattle gets new owners (again)

Seattle’s biggest and most well-known food festival swapped ownership for the second time in two years, according to the Puget Sound Business Journal. Last year a Kirkland-based digital payment startup called Cheq bought the festival, which hadn’t hosted any events for three years due to COVID-19. Cheq required festival-goers to download its app, and the resulting delays and confusion led to complaints from vendors, which Eater Seattle reported on last summer. FoodieLand, the California-based company that purchased Bite of Seattle, said in a statement that “Attendees can expect... the return of in-person payments, both credit cards and cash, for a more familiar experience.”

Another Capitol Hill institution closes

Last week Coastal Kitchen announced that it was closing after 31 years. Now another longstanding Capitol Hill restaurant is shutting its doors — Capitol Hill Seattle Blog reports that Ristorante Machiavelli is closing. Owner Suzette Jarding, a longtime employee who bought the Italian restaurant in 2013 from the original owners, said on Instagram that she had been operating without a lease for months and had been having “a very difficult negotiation process” with the landlord, which contributed to the decision to close. Ristorante Machiavelli is currently closed but will reopen for one last service from 3 to 10 p.m. on February 15. The Edmonds location of the restaurant, opened last year, is still around.

It’s burger month at Lil Woody’s

Wait, isn’t every month burger month at the local chain? Well, February is officially burger month at Lil Woody’s, which is once again rolling out its annual collaborations with notable Seattle-area chefs. This year the chefs are Aisha Ibrahim (Canlis), Conner Cronin (Darkolino’s), Janet Becerra (Pancita), and Taylor Cheney (Yalla). Each chef creates a burger that is sold at Lil Woody’s for one week only, and the burger chain donates sandwiches to a charity of the chef’s choosing. Guests who try all four special sandwiches get a limited-edition water bottle. This week the featured sandwich, from Ibrahim, is the Pyanggang Fried Chicken Sandwich: a fried chicken Thigh with burnt coconut aioli, sawsawan pickled cucumbers, and scallions. (This is not a burger, but we’ll accept it.) For more info, go here.