PhinneyWood is full of wonderful people and great places that we all wish we knew more about. Resident Kevin Kozel periodically digs deeper to let us know more in a column we like to call … Hi Neighbor!
The 74th Street Ale House is a long-time staple of the PhinneyWood community. Known for good food, good drink, and good service, it has provided a cozy atmosphere for 28 years. When longtime owner Jeff Eagan decided that operating three ale houses in Seattle was two too many, he didn’t have to look far for new owners at 74th Street. Let’s get to know long-time employees, and new owners, Kathy Christopher and Morgan McDowell.
Kevin Kozel (KK): So, how long have you two been here at the 74th Street Ale House?
Kathy Christopher (KC): I’ve been here 27 years, so a year after the Ale House opened. I didn’t think I would ever be here that long, but I liked their vision. They let me do what I wanted with the food, and then it just became family. I love the place.
Morgan McDowell (MM): I’ve been here 18 years. I moved up this way and started coming here because of the beer and the food. I was in the industry and always thought it would be a fun place to work, so I got a job as a part-time server. In about a year I became bar manager, and a year and a half later the general manager spot opened up. So I’ve been the GM for about 15 years.
KK: How did the opportunity for you two to own the Ale House come about?
KC: I’ve spent so much time here. I love the neighborhood and the employees. It’s where I’ve been for a long time. We have been running it for the “Jeffs” (former owners Jeff Eagan and Jeff Reich), so it just seemed like a natural transition.
KK: Did you decide that together you could take that next step?
KC: Well we’re married.
MM: We met working here and now we’ve been married about nine years. We’ve both invested quite a number of years in this place. You feel a bit of ownership and have a sense of family. We know people that come here on a regular basis since we both started, so there is definitely that sense of community. We couldn’t imagine finding another job, so we did everything we could to make it happen.
KK: And of course it has some sentimental value for you as a couple as well.
MM: Yes, there’s been a lot of blood, sweat, and tears put into it. It would be hard to walk away from this place.
KK: One thing I’ve noticed since living in this neighborhood is that you guys do an amazing lunch business. It’s not very common around here. What do you think the reason for that is?
KC: I would say it’s the food and the staff. Most importantly the staff.
MM: Both are very consistent. Our newest employees have been here at least three years… maybe five.
KC: We have some people that have been here 20 years.
KK: So you really have this family vibe on many levels.
MM: The people coming in here know who’s working and they know their stories. I think that has a lot to do with it.
KK: Right, it has a very British feeling in that it’s the neighborhood pub.
MM: Well when the Jeffs chose this concept it was inspired by their travels in Europe. It was also when the craft beer scene was just starting here. They were one of the first ones in on that scene. It made this a destination place when you combined it with the type of food they were doing. It wasn’t deep fryers, poppers, and chicken wings. It was a different take on what pub food could be paired with craft beer
KK: Now that it’s your place, is there anything you want to change about it or do you want to like it just the way it is?
KC: We want to keep the tradition and the feel of the place the same. I am going to change some of the stuff on the menu, but nothing drastic.
KK: You’re not going to get rid of the Reuben?
KC: No! Never, that’s my Reuben. It’s our number one seller.
MM: That’s sacred, it won’t be touched for sure. We’ve brought in a full bar. We’re still working on that, but we’ve got all of the basics so far. We’ll be adding some scotches and some higher end whiskeys. We’ve expanded our wine list and hopefully that will grow and become more dynamic. We’re not looking to be a sports bar or change the identity, we’re just trying to update it a little bit.
KC: And we’re doing flowers again.
MM: That was one of the things we wanted to bring back.We used to have fresh flowers every week and eventually it kind of went by the wayside. We both missed it, so it was one of the first things we brought back and the people at Terra Bella do a really awesome job.
KK: Any plans for a formal announcement for the transition?
MM: We hope to have a 28th Anniversary/Grand Re-Opening Party soon!
KK: That’s great, it can be a “We’re new, but still sticking with tradition” party.
Be sure to keep your eyes open for the latest info on the Anniversary/Re-Opening Party at the 74th Street Ale House’s website and Facebook page.
Any person, place, or thing you want to know more about in our neighborhood? Feel free to drop us a line or leave a comment and we’ll look into making it a future feature on Hi Neighbor!