Cofounders Ben Hunter, Tarik Abdullah, and Rodney Herold.
Cofounders Ben Hunter, Tarik Abdullah, and Rodney Herold. Emily Stevenson

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When you walk into Black & Tan Hall in Hillman City, you can feel the energy brewing. You can also see the hard work investors and community members have poured into the space over the last year. While the bones of the building still echo its predecessor, Maxim’s—that’s it. Co-founder and longtime Seattle chef Tarik Abdullah says that folks who used to haunt the former karaoke space are going to lose their minds when they see it now.

“I mean, when we started on it, there was a huge koi pond over there,” he says, pointing to the coat room near the entrance, “and there used to be a giant Buddha statue blocking the entryway here. We’ve all put in a lot of work. We kind of have bragging rights among us. I even learned how to drywall on that area over there.”

The Hall, led by Abdullah and co-founders Ben Hunter and Rodney Herold, is nearly complete, largely thanks to community members and the neighborhood, which is still relatively untouched by gentrification. “We host work parties once a week and invite people to come out who are good with tools,” Abdullah says. Forty-eight investors have come together, each contributing at least 52 hours in unpaid labor.

The stage is the latest installation. It’s doubled in size, flanked by bright red leather seating, and now large enough to host a full band. There’s also a new bar and tables for brunch, and one entire wall is covered in a spice rack. Upcycled light fixtures dangle from intricate wood ceiling tiles. Abdullah has already fleshed out his opening menu, too. “The menu can only be so big with the kitchen space,” he says. “We’ll have a meat, seafood, vegan, and vegetarian dish. Something for everyone. But it’s all about the sides. We’ll have five or so, including a squash salad I’m excited about, and a waffle. I’m thinking a gluten-free coriander orange waffle with a seasonal fruit compote. We’re starting with a red papaya compote with hibiscus cashew cream.”

Abdullah may be best known for Morning Star, his pop-up brunch series, but he’s put brunch on hold in order to dedicate more time to the Hall. “I might pull some friends together for another one before summer ends. I’ve missed being in the kitchen,” he says.

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In what little free time he has, Abdullah stays busy mentoring kids through Coyote Central’s creative cooking classes. He’s now in his fifth year as an instructor. “These kids are something else. They’re 10, 12 years old, and I have one girl perfecting frittatas!” His students don’t know him as the famed Chef Tarik though. “It’s Cooker T,” he says. “Mr. T was the man growing up, and I want these kids to know that you can be respected as a cook. You can be incredibly talented without the ‘chef’ title.”

Like many new businesses, Black & Tan Hall has hit a few roadblocks, including permitting hiccups with the city. “We’ve learned a lot about the city and how it operates, and there’s definitely a big difference in working with an older building,” says Abdullah.

So when will they open? Everyone in the neighborhood is anxiously waiting, including neighboring businesses PCC and Poke to the Max. And me. When asked, Abdullah and Hunter smirk at each other and laugh. “We’ve shared three opening dates that have come and passed, and learned our lesson this time around,” says Abdullah. “Let’s just say it will still be shorts weather.”