Upon entering the Kingfish Café, tucked away in the south end of Seattle’s Capital Hill neighborhood, you inevitably will be welcomed at the door by the beautiful wide smile from either Laurel or Leslie Coaston (see below). This is the kind of place where great stories have been told and all ages and walks of life gather for life’s events. Eclectic and cozy this southern soul food beckons you from the street. Famished after a long flight and sticking true to Southern hospitality, I started with a hearty bowl of vegetable soup. Packed full of corn, green beans, tomatoes, and black-eyed peas, it had enough zest and chunkiness to stand alone as a meal. Unaware of this, I feasted on the corn bread, that tasted as if there was a bit’ o jalapeño dancing around inside.
As if that wasn’t enough, I couldn’t possibly refuse the kingfish Caesar salad with smoky chipotle infused dressing. It was topped with a hefty salmon fillet, rubbed with their “special” blackened seasoning. I am glad I had room, as the fish could have jumped right out of the river it was so fresh and savory.
Kingfish Café is known for their creamy rich homemade crawfish and corn chowder filled with fresh corn, chunky vegetables and delicate crawfish. I unfortunately had to pass this up because of an unfortunate shellfish allergy. Other notables on the menu include: the down home mac and cheese which totes “two cheeses, onion and a bit of mushroom for this good sized helping then we bake it up bubbling hot and serve it alongside a cool green salad” and the jazz it slow gumbo sings “down in the cellar and back to the street, listening to Ma Rainey and her Georgia beat – some gumbo and cornbread is what you wanna eat… cooked down with tasso, prawns, chicken, fish, and okra.” The fried chicken is rumored to be outstanding also.
As we were about to leave I couldn’t help but notice the massive piece of their signature red velvet cake making it’s way to a joyous table filled with an exuberant crew. It looked amazing and I was tempted to join them. This is the kind of place this is.
There are no reservations accepted at this hidden gem, but I’m telling you now, it’s worth the wait…for breakfast, lunch, dinner, brunch, cocktails, cake and of course the soup! The Kingfish Yarn (the story from their website) Southern cooking is a testament to both our past and present. Reunions, holidays, and other special occasions are times when the menu is just as important as the guest list. With that in mind, during the spring of 1997, we opened The Kingfish Café—a tribute to our family and the food we grew up on.
Our mother, Geraldine, has always had a passion for food and family. To this day, she bakes our sweet potato pies, and has handed down her coveted corn bread muffins recipe. Our love for food and tradition began early while spending countless evening is the kitchens of our mother and Aunt Fannie.
Our father, Louis, was born in Selma, Alabama during the Great Depression. He taught us to never give up on the things that we want, and it is with this upbringing that we stay true to our inspirations, and our visions.
We were born and raised in Seattle, and attended Garfield High School and The University of Washington. Prior to opening the restaurant, we spent five years researching and developing recipes. We traveled to different cities across the country and met with restaurant owners, chefs, and our family members. We returned home enthusiastic, enriched, and determined to fulfill our dream.
Because the inspiration began with family and food, it was only fitting that we honored the memory of our beginnings. Each photograph that adorns our walls is a family member; from our great, great aunt Mary Laura Josephine, born a slave in 1850, to our third cousin, poet, Langston Hughes.
The restaurant name comes from George “Kingfish” Stevens, a character on the 1950′s Television show Amos ‘n Andy; his business ventures were many, and often chaotic, but always comical. Like “Kingfish”, we encountered a myriad of challenges on our journey, but the largest was our lack of restaurant experience and formal culinary training.
Because of the way our parents raised us, we understood that the idea, quite simply, was not enough, and our lack of experience, coupled with having very little money, made the inception of our dream difficult. However, persistence, faith, and the belief that Seattle would embrace our concept are what made us finally realize our dream.
Many of our recipes are foods that we were raised on, while others were created under the direction of our chef, Kenyetta Carter, and our amazing staff. Soulfully cooked food is richly flavored, passed down from generation to generation, and filled with tradition and history. We are firm believers in simple pleasures, and we are delighted to share our version of Southern hospitality with you.
We thank everyone who has graced our tables and shared pieces of themselves. It is a pleasure to share a little bit of home with you.
Red beans and ricefully yours,
Laurel & Leslie Coaston