The Phoenecia is reopening, coming full circle back to the West Seattle Junction
When Hussein Khazaal came to West Seattle in 1975 he chose to open a restaurant in the Junction and have it reflect his Lebanese heritage. The Phoenecia would become a West Seattle favorite and Hussein a local treasure.
Now his family is bringing The Phoenecia back and coming full circle, it will open later this summer once again in the West Seattle Junction at 4717 42nd SW in the former Alchemy location.
Through Hussein, many in the area got their first taste of Baklava, or Taboule, or many other middle eastern specialties. It was in the original Junction location he brought his experience from working in or owning dozens of restaurants around the world to fruition.
But in the early 80's they lost their lease and chose to head back to West Africa for a few years. Hussien and and his wife Inaam both loved Seattle though and came back from their sojurn to open in the Hansen Baking Company building in lower Queen Anne. Hussein the master chef and Inaam the ultimate hostess built a loyal following. They stayed for nearly a decade. But West Seattle has a way of pulling people back and this time they chose Alki Beach where the couple, by then with three children, created a fine dining establishment.
The Phoenecia on Alki was back.
It became a place of distinct flavors, experiences and memories for the people of West Seattle and the Khazaal family.
Hussein's way was to always "make you something special" and often he would emerge from the kitchen with Tuna Tartare, or a perfect Filet Mignon, or a Lamb shank each so remarkable it was like the first time you'd ever had it. He would smile knowingly, so pleased he could bring you something so good.
He was a beloved figure and his untimely passing in 2009 was a blow to the entire peninsula. He had always wanted to make some changes to the menu, making it a bit less formal and serve a selection of high quality pizzas alongside the many Lebanese dishes that were made with such craft and care. So the family took up that challenge and some five months later they reopened with a sense of honoring him and his plans.
For another decade they made people happy (and full) introducing their own personal flair along the way. Until they were told that the building they had occupied for some 25 years was being sold and would be torn down. It caught the family and their fans by surprise but as is often the case it became a blessing in disguise. The family had worked nearly non-stop and had no time for travel or to just relax. Sonya Khazaal who had married, become an actress, model and mother, chose to travel, spending time in Los Angeles and doing research into restaurant style trends and more. Her sister Nadia Khazaal took time with Inaam to travel to Paris and enjoy the City of Light but also at least casually soak up the local atmosphere and style cues.
They knew they wanted to reopen at some point but finding a location was not easy. When both Alchemy on 42nd SW and Vine and Spoon on Calfornia Ave SW were simultaneously evicted late last year, that meant a space in the junction was available. After some negotiation, they made their move and got the keys in late April for the 2000 square foot former craft cocktail spot at Alchemy.
They have a lot of work ahead of them (a kitchen makeover is first up) and promise that the new place will bring forward old favorites. Nadia said it will reflect not only their own tastes but also represent a kind of cultural heritage that is not often seen. Sonya said, "The goal is to create an unforgettable vibe and experience here. The vibe on Alki was the experience of having us there. Which i love. But I would love for it to translate without us there. That warmth and that feeling that we know everybody."
Nadia said, "It was bittersweet leaving Alki. I grew up at that restaurant. There are so many memories and so much of my Dad is in that space. The fact that we did reopen after he passed was such an amazing healing experience, especially for my Mom. So being able to travel with her recently was such a blessing. We got a lot of really cool inspiration in Paris. Sonya and I had a meeting yesterday and we agreed we are going to incorporate a lot of the Parisian influence into this new space."
Remarkably Beirut, Lebanon experienced a cultural makeover of sorts in the mid-20th century. Following World War I, the city became a tourist destination and financial capital, and became known as "the Paris of the Middle East" thanks to its French influences and vibrant cultural and intellectual life. Even today French is a common language spoken there.
There will be a new color scheme, some additional outdoor seating, changes in lighting, furniture and more. But most importantly dishes like the 39 spice beef, the Lamb Shank, the pizzas of course, Turkish Coffed and the Charcuterie will be back. The Phoencia will also serve cocktails for the first time at their large black marble bar. A signature drink is being planned.
Along one wall the history of the family's restaurants will be told with photos, press clippings and momentos. It will honor Hussein and give people a sense of the journey the family has taken.
And speaking of journeys all three ladies will soon take a trip to Lebanon. It will include some research of course but also some visits to place Hussein and Inaam once lived and operated restaurants there.
What they are planning with the return to the junction is to bring forward the best of what they've offered before, introducing people to new things, and taking people along with them on the way.
Inaam said,"I've really missed the restaurant and I am so looking forward to seeing everyone again."
The family even has expansion plans with a second Phoenecia in Bellevue and possibly even Los Angeles in the next couple of years if things go well.
They plan on being open every day, opening at 3 or 4pm to be able to offer a happy hour. Catering is being considered but it's early. To-Go orders will be offered and they will eventually sign up with one of the delivery services too. There is parking on the street, in the basement of their building, and across the street making it a little easier for diners to visit.
Hussein would be happy his family has brought the Phoenecia full circle. Back to the West Seattle Junction where he fell in love with the community. And where this community embraced him and his entire family.
Wonderful news, this will fill a hole in many hearts!
Will it still be small plates or full meals?
AMMAAAAAAZZZZZIIINNNNGGG!! My favorite restaurant in all of Seattle. Pizzas and beef are incredible. Was heartbroken when they closed their doors, but optimistic that they would return as they said they would.
I had no idea about the family's story. What a great insight into their world and inspiration. They seem like a resilient bunch!
I am so thrilled for your family and for us very lucky customers! We can’t wait to enjoy the new phase of Phoenicia!!
The Phoenecia menu will be a combination of small plates and full meals and yes the Saffron Chicken will be back. You will find Tabouleh, Hummus, 39 Spice Beef, Lamb Shank, and a lot more in addition to their famous craft pizzas. There are even potential plans to carry their branding forward into their own packaging for spices. That's not in the story since it's since in the "maybe dream" phase but was mentioned in the interview. Their history is long, colorful and assuredly flavorful. Just another reason West Seattle is the Best Seattle.
So happy to hear this. We started going to Phoenicia when it was in lower QA and watched our family and yours grow up. Will be delighted to come back when you are open.
Hey Khazaals: We’ve missed you a lot since you announced. I was so caught by surprise. This news is so good to hear. We will plan to be there in total (Natalie, Lauren, Smith, Libby, Bob, and the kids) when you all re-open. We are so excited for you. Things happen for a reason and now with all your travels, you will be even more successful and happy!!!! We’re so proud of you all!!!! Love, The Sinclairs