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Magnuson Cafe & Brewery

A very Seattle spot

For a city surrounded by water, we have relatively few waterfront restaurants. With the new Magnuson Cafe & Brewery, officially opened July 31, we have something to add to the short list.

Photo courtesy of Magnuson Cafe & Brewery

Magnuson Park, a former military base, is now home to sports fields, a community garden, wetland habitat, trails, boat launch, community center, and swimming beach. The Mountaineers and Cascade Bicycle Club have made it their home as well. Toward the end of the park, across the parking lot from Lake Washington sits the cafe and brewery, adding a new component to the mix. With 57 seats inside, and 150 on the deck outside, about 4,000 square feet total, they are primed for success. "We want people to come from all over, but we're definitely a neighborhood spot," says owner Cody Cluff. "We did a soft opening and the neighborhood really embraced us. We want to be a pillar of the community and stay a long time."

Built in 1932, the building (Building 20) housed torpedoes, and is an historical landmark building. "The front doors are original and the hanging lamps inside come from other hangars around the park. The building was just a brick shell when we took over. We added a full kitchen, a 15-barrel brewing system and the deck. Still to come is a large pergola over the deck and a wrap-around bar on the deck continued from inside to allow us to use the deck outside of the summer months. Dogs and kids are welcome on the deck."

Eric Wagner (chef de cuisine), Cody Cluff (owner) Jon Langley (culinary director)

Cody, who grew up in Olympia, attended the University of Washington, and lived in Seattle, spent the past six years working for Yum Brands (Taco Bell, KFC, Pizza Hut, WingStreet). He and his family had moved around, most recently living in the U.K., working as the head HR person for Yum. "I was in the restaurants three days a week, talking to customers and staff. Yum was a great training ground for me. My wife and I decided it was time to put down roots with the kids getting older and decided to come back to Seattle. When I was in the U.K., I was reading Washington Beer Blog by Kendall Jones and saw this location mentioned as an amazing place for a taphouse. I reached out to the City in November 2016. My architect introduced me to Brewer Cody Morris ( click here to read our 2015 story about Cody ) and I bought Mollusk Brewing in July 2017. I love Cody's beer, but wanted to build a commercial space to brew. We rebranded 'Mollusk' in South Lake Union to 'Dexter Brewhouse,' serving Mollusk Brewing beers.

In November, we brought on Jon Langley as Culinary Director over both Magnuson and Dexter. He came from Heavy Restaurant Group (Purple, Barrio, The Commons, Thackeray, Pablo y Pablo, etc.). Cody Cluff found Jon on LinkedIn and wanted to network about chefs he might know. "We had a half hour appointment and ended up talking for 2-1/2 hours," laughs Jon. "I spent nine years with Heavy Restaurant Group (click here to see Jon's background) and was interested in operating a multi-unit situation. I ended up telling Cody I was interested in the job. I told Larry Kurofsky (owner of Heavy) that everything I learned there led me to this, he was so gracious and said of course I had to do it." Jon's menu ranges from starters like pretzel bites with smoked honey mustard, to salads and soup (organic strawberry and kale!), to entrees including a burger, crispy chicken sandwich, pork carnitas tacos, fish 'n chips, and pasta. Brunch brings on a cinnamon roll, veggie scramble, spicy chicken and biscuits, corned beef hash and more. Eric Wagner is their chef at Magnuson, working under Jon's direction.

Fish & chips photo credit: Jake Hanson

"We also brought on our GM Lawrence Barnes from Elliott Bay Brewing; he opened their Lake City location. We wanted to take the beer model, how breweries work, and connect that to a restaurant. Food-wise, we want to be true to what people expect from a brewpub and put our spin on it. We do craft food and beer," says Cody.

Brewmaster Cody Morris is excited about this new opportunity. "With Magnuson, we have quadrupled our capacity from 450 barrels to 2,000. We're packaging in bottles and canning may be coming down the road. At Dexter, we do more mixed fermentation and a broad range of styles. We're doing six "house" brewpub classics at Magnuson: our River Pig IPA, Sand Point Pilsner, Power Coastal IPA, Riddler Sour Ale, Wave Crest Wheat Ale, and Rain Shadow Nitro Stout. We'll also have seasonals at both locations. With 15 barrels, five primary and two brights, we have tons of room to play around."

With the final touches coming on the deck, constant exploration with beer, and seasonal changes on the menu, you can look forward to great times at Magnuson. And it won't stop there. Cody is looking at more neighborhoods where he can create community spaces.

Magnuson Cafe & Brewery
7801 62nd Ave NE
Seattle, WA 98115

Dexter Brewhouse
803 Dexter Ave N
Seattle, WA 98109

Connie Adams/August 2018

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