Hardware Store owner opens Seattle eatery

Hardware Store Restaurant owner Melinda Sontgerath opened a new restaurant near the University District in Seattle last week to good reviews.

Hardware Store Restaurant owner Melinda Sontgerath opened a new restaurant near the University District in Seattle last week to good reviews.

Sontgerath, who has been working to create 50 North for the last four months, was pleased with the preview “tasting” days and opening day itself.

“It was great. It was really smooth. …. It felt so good,” she said.

Like The Hardware Store, 50 North serves what Sontgerath calls “upscale American cuisine.”

“We take food people know and make it more special,” she said, noting her staff uses high-quality ingredients and takes care with presentation.

Islanders will see many familiar items on 50 North’s menu. About half of the new restaurant’s menu is the same as The Hardware Store’s, but the other half was conceived for 50 North, Sontgerath said.

The head of the new kitchen is Joel Lewis, who had been the executive chef at Red Fin, the restaurant in Seattle’s Hotel Max. He and Sontgerath collaborated on the new menu, a fun process, she said. At the top of her new favorites list is pomegranate short ribs.

Upstairs from 50 North is a 3,200-square-foot luxury event space, and the staff at 50 North are the designated caterers for events there.

Sontgerath, who has owned The Hardware Store Restaurant on Vashon for five years, said she did not set out to open a new restaurant, but her friend and Hardware Store customer Rob Andrews, an investor in the popular Seattle restaurants The Wild Ginger, El Gaucho and the Waterfront, found this new space and suggested to Sontgerath they create an eatery together.

She told him she would be interested only if they could create it and stay true to their mission of creating a gathering place within a community.

The neighborhood, near University Village, did not have that kind of restaurant, Sontgerath said, so they set about creating one, spending the last months redoing the space top to bottom, developing the menu and hiring staff. Five hundred people applied for 50 positions, she noted.

“It’s a group of professionals,” she said of her staff.

The Hardware Store has a following of loyal customers who live in Seattle, according to Sontgerath; about 25 percent of the restaurant’s business is from there. Sontgerath believes this new restaurant will increase the visibility of The Hardware Store and draw more visitors from Seattle, who will decide to take a trip over.

This new business has lured Sontgerath away from Vashon for bit, but she said that is just temporary, and she will be back and very much part of The Hardware Store Restaurant once 50 North is fully launched.

“The Hardware Store is my first baby,” she said.

50 North

Address: 5001 25th Ave. N.E.

Phone: 397-3939

Website: 50NorthRestaurant.com.

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