EVERETT — The 90-year-old building at 1414 Hewitt Ave. has a colorful past.
It has been a tavern, a drag show saloon and a piano bar with gyrating belly dancers that attracted brassy TV celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay.
Now the building has posh dining, chic cocktails and romantic ambience.
What’s up with that?
It’s Abbott’s, a new upscale restaurant in the digs that were formerly Prohibition Grille/Gastropub/Saloon.
“An intimate dining scenario,” owner James Abbott said. “Candles on the tables. Vests on the servers.”
Abbott and his wife, Anne, spent five months remodeling the historic venue before opening in late November. The first thing they did was tone down the bar that was painted bright red during Ramsay’s reality show “Kitchen Nightmares” revamp in 2012. The long wooden bar is now a classic antique burgundy that complements the drapes and subdued decor. Couples can sink into the brown leather club chairs in the back room and sip brandy. Or linger over a $90 bottle of wine, whispering sweet nothings.
Abbott, 45, is best known for Buck’s American Cafe, a “Cheers” type watering hole 15 blocks away at the riverside end of the Hewitt strip in the 1892 Swalwell building. He was hired as a chef in 1997 at Buck’s where his mom, Marie, was (and still is) a server, and bought the cafe in 2014 when the owner retired. Abbott kept things there pretty much the same, from meatloaf to peanut butter pie to the mounted bucks with antlers on the wall.
“At Buck’s we’ve always tried to be everything to everyone, and be value-minded,” he said. “This is a special occasion and destination place.”
Buck’s patrons plan their week around blue-plate specials. Abbott’s is more a place to plan your paycheck around.
Entrees are $28 to $48. Sides are $9. Add a few drinks and, of course, dessert. “Expect on paying a couple hundred dollars,” Abbott said.
It’s one of the most expensive restaurants in Everett.
“That’s what we’re going for, that higher quality,” Abbott said. “This is my answer to people saying you have to go to Seattle or Edmonds to have a fine dinner. You can stay in town. People can go to their shows. They can walk down to the water when the sun is setting.”
Seems his vision is shared. Expedia recently named Everett one of the best eight small cities for a staycation, describing it as a “waterfront wonderland” with parks, museums and multicultural meals.
Abbott’s is open from 5 to 9:30 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. So far, business has been steady in dining room seating 50. “We’re pretty booked up for Valentine’s Day,” Abbott said.
The menu is seductive. The stuffed chicken breast is rolled around a lobster tail with a creamy caper sauce. Braised short ribs are finished with rich Cabernet-blackberry infused demi-glace and rosemary-roasted vegetables.
“It’s important for Everett for businesses like this to succeed,” said customer Martin Floe, of Lynnwood.
Floe and his girlfriend dine out often.
“I like places that are like El Gaucho in downtown Seattle,” said Floe, a Seattle high school principal. “There is a correlation with what you spend and the meal itself and the memories it generates.”
Floe noted Abbott’s attentive staff.
“You make a motion and they’ll come and ask if you want another drink or however else they can help you,” he said. “After you eat and before dessert, your waiter comes by with a crumb brush and cleans your table.”
That attention to detail is what James Abbott is honing in on in every aspect.
He and Anne began transforming the inside of the restaurant last summer. They cleaned, scraped, sanded and painted to bring out the elegance in the building.
“We tried to get the zigzags off the wall,” Abbott said, referring to the gold paint accents a la Ramsay that remain.
Ramsay’s week-long makeover of Prohibition Grille put this corner of Everett in the limelight. Stone-faced guards patrolled the sidewalk as crowds gathered, hoping to catch the mouthy, mussy-haired star known for his signature f-bombs.
Prohibition owner Darlene “Rishi” Brown, a belly dancer by trade, credited Ramsay with saving her struggling restaurant. He blasted the menu, banned belly dancing and changed the named from Grille to Gastropub. The show aired in April 2013 and the video of Brown explaining “Soup of the Day” got more than 2.8 million views.
A kinder, gentler Ramsay returned seven months later for a revisit episode. He signed autographs and a fan’s prosthetic leg. Then-Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson proclaimed July 31, 2013, as “Prohibition Gastropub Appreciation Day.”
Ramsay’s magic lasted three years. In 2016, Brenton Holland, who also owned nearby gay bar Bar Myx Everett, bought the Prohibition’s business operation from Brown. He replaced Gastropub with Grille & Saloon and focused on steaks and whiskeys. He also added a drag show brunch on Sundays.
Less than a year later, Holland closed the doors.
Property owner Morrie Trautman, an Everett businessman and regular at Buck’s, offered the space to Abbott.
“I had confidence in him and his concept. It puts the challenge out there for others to step up Everett,” Trautman said.
Abbott jumped on the chance to finally start his own restaurant after more than three decades of following the lead of others.
He started bussing tables at age 13 at Gianni’s Ristorante Italiano and cooking at Everett’s Bacchus by the Bay at 16. It beat high school. He got a GED and attended the culinary program at Everett Community College. He was a sous chef at Arnies in Mukilteo before joining his mom at Buck’s. Anne came on board full time at Buck’s in 2016. The couple’s daughters, Virginia, 11, and Rowan, 13, make sure no desserts go to waste.
At Buck’s, it’s business as usual under his wife’s leadership — and mom’s TLC — as he wears the chef’s hat at Abbott’s.
What about the history of this former “Kitchen Nightmare” on Hewitt?
“It’s a little unnerving,” Abbott said. “But no swings, no hits.”
He is drawn to the charm of old buildings. In the century before Gordon Ramsay came to town, 1414 Hewitt Ave. was a respected address. According to Everett historians, it was Crystal Dye Works in 1927 then Model Cleaners and Binyon Optical before going the tavern route in 1941 and making reality TV history.
The site has a colorful past for Abbott as well.
“I used to hang out here in my early 20s when it was Time Out Tavern, meet my friends for pool and beers,” he said. “Some of those late nights here sanding the bar and painting gave me flashbacks of my younger days when we’d come drink on the Hewitt strip. I was lucky enough to do all that stuff before Facebook.”
Andrea Brown: 425-339-3443; abrown @herald net.com. Twitter: @eporterbrown.