KwaTay opens in Queen Anne

Owner excited despite location’s rough past

The building at 315 1st Ave. N. in Lower Queen Anne has its share of history, and not all of it pleasant, but the new tenant, KwaTay's Restaurant & Lounge, brings a new flavor to Lower Queen Anne, literally.

At the urging of friend, now restaurant manager and chef Cassandra Harris, Eric Kwasi Tay bought the building in June and turned it into a destination for West African cuisine by Sept. 1. As natives of Ghana, both found a dearth of their ethnic food available in Seattle. Harris, a self-proclaimed food lover, built the menu around Ghanaian dishes she enjoys most and couldn't name a favorite.

"Everything on the menu is my favorite," Harris said laughing. "I just love the food. That's why I'm here, literally. I like to eat."

Though it's easy to find East African cuisines scattered throughout Seattle, Harris said the dishes are completely different, from ingredients used in their preparation.

"We're getting a lot of curious eaters, a lot of neighborhood people poking in. I love them and we're getting good feedback from them which is good," Harris said. "There's something for everybody. If you're a picky eater that's fine. I'm a picky eater too so I don't mind."

Though KwaTay's may soon be known for its versatility and being one of the only places to eat West African cuisine in the Northwest, the location has had a serious past. In April 2006, three people were wounded by gunshots fired by club patrons through the front door at what was then the Mr. Lucky club. Two years prior, a man was killed when he was clubbed over the head with a 4-foot metal pipe. And in 2003, a fight in the club's parking lot ended in a drive-by shooting that left one bystander paralyzed.

As far as the building's negative history, Harris said, "Our crowd is pretty mellow. Most of our music is mellow, I mean it's reggae for the most part. During night hours we keep a really strict dress code, nothing baggy."

For nighttime events, there will be security and a coat check, too. Despite the shaky past, Harris is confident in the restaurant's staying power.

"We run a restaurant that nobody else is doing right now and our atmosphere is geared toward neighbors," she said. "We want people to come here and feel comfortable, like you're at home in your living room."

Getting curious neighbors to try her food hasn't been too difficult either, Harris noted. Already a loyal customer, Lower Queen Anne resident Bess Overmon eats at KwaTay's a few times a week.

"I'm from Nigeria and we eat similar food. It's nice to go back to what I'm used to without the hassle of going to all the ethnic grocery stores," Overmon said.

As for the food, "I would say it's great, but that seems like an understatement," she added.

The restaurant's interior has been repainted and redecorated with warm reds and golds, and the dishes offer new spices to Seattleites. KwaTay's will also feature a full bar and host events. This Friday features DJ Jigsy and soca music - fast paced dancehall reggae, according to Harris.

Less than a month after opening, Harris said the only thing left to do is fix up the patio and spread the word about the new restaurant. For now though, Harris' attention is on the kitchen to make sure her homeland dishes are prepared correctly and the way she likes them.

"The cooking is [labor] intensive. It takes a long time to make our food taste good, but it's worth it when I, and customers too, get to eat it."[[In-content Ad]]