Lest someone else say to me, “There are no good locally-owned restaurants in Downtown Bellevue;” I am hereby stealing an idea from Stephen Colbert and inviting you to Better Know a Locally-Owned Downtown Bellevue Restaurant (Part I in a 367 part series – not really).

Let’s start with my absolute fave restaurant: Monsoon East on Old Main Street. There is simply no better place to go on the entire Eastside (and few Seattle restaurants can compare) for fine Vietnamese cuisine. I chatted with Gene Dexter, the go-to guy from Monsoon East, about its short tenure on Main Street and its renowned chef Eric Banh.

Monsoon East is the Bellevue version of Seattle’s Monsoon. Both are owned by Eric and his sister, Chef Sophie Banh, who also owns the yummy Seattle lunch spot Baguette Box. Chefs Banh are quite the stars in the foodie world- they’ve cooked at the James Beard House (the James Beard Awards are the Oscars of restaurants) and won Star Chef awards.

Q: What would Eric Banh be doing if he weren’t a chef?
Monsoon: He can’t imagine doing anything else. Real estate, maybe!

Q: What’s Monsoon East’s most popular dish?
Monsoon: The caramelized Idaho catfish clay pot, with fresh coconut juice and green onions.

(note: I haven’t had that yet. I can’t stop ordering the Crispy Drunken Chicken.)

Q: What’s the strangest thing a customer has ever requested?
Monsoon: Well, we’re so new that we don’t have any funny stories…yet.

Q: What’s new at Monsoon?
Monsoon: We have recently started serving brunch on the weekends. It’s not just our take on eggs Benedict and Belgian waffles, but also vermicelli noodle bowls, pho, and rice bowls.

(note: He didn’t mention the brioche French toast. With grilled pineapple. Must. Eat.)

Q: Any last words for our readers?
Monsoon: If they come in and mention the Downtown Bellevue Network, we’ll give them a slice of warm banana cake on the house!

(note: I’ve had that cake. OK, I’ve had lots of that cake. You should take him up on it!)

Monsoon is located at 10245 Main St. It is open daily from 11am-2:30pm for lunch, 5pm-10pm for dinner, and Fridays and Saturdays until 11pm.

Brunch is served Saturdays and Sundays from 10am-3pm.


  1. I second this recommendation. Monsoon East has quickly become one of our favorites. While there make sure to try their ‘geoduck’ appetizer.

    One more thing most people don’t know about. This restaurant has reserved parking in the back of the building. So you don’t have to drive around looking for a parking spot on Main Street.

  2. Hi Denise – I really like Monsoon too, and will make it a point to try their banana cake and geoduck, but have definite issues with the statement “There are no good locally-owned restaurants in Downtown Bellevue”. That is far from the truth – and I know you know it is not true.

    EVERY single listing on our happy hour page is a locally owned establishment with good food – and there are many more in the area as well.

  3. Joe- My comment about “no good locally-owned restaurants” was a reference to a comment left from my “Salute is out of business” post. A reader actually commented that with Salute gone, there were “no locally-owned restaurants in downtown Bellevue anymore.” I listed 20 to him off the top of my head, but it did occur to me that people still think Bellevue is the land of horrid chains. So think of this post as my rebuttal 🙂

  4. When people say there are no locally owned places, I think they actually mean there are not many smaller hole-in-the wall places. Say for example in downtown seattle you get up one day and decide to take a walk to find a nice little coffee shop or bar to get brunch. Within 3-4 blocks you will discover several totally unique places. Same experience in U-district, downtwon kirkland, or some of the other walkable parts of town. Now try the same thing in Bellevue. The only places that comes to mind are the pastry shop in old bellevue, and *maybe* i’d count some of those restaurants by the bus terminal and Chase’s. But that’s a real stretch.

  5. I think there’s more holes in the Bellevue wall than you’d think. I love T’Latte, a little sofa-and-cushy-chair coffee & tea shop; Cafe Pirouette, hidden behind Old Bellevue; Ginza, the best Japanese place no one knows about; Topolino’s Pizza; Ooba Tooba’s, even though they’re only open 10-2pm; I used to love Cafe Belvi by the library until they went catering-only; “my” breakfast spot is Brief Encounter Cafe; Cocina del Puerco; and Danube Bistro is a quiet little place with a lovely patio. And yes I adore Belle Pastry!

  6. The reason why there are no hole-in-the-wall restaurants in Downtown Bellevue is becasue this city has no “holes in the wall.” Eventually, 10 years from now, places like Gilbert’s, Melting Pot, and Top Pot will begin to feel like our hole-in-the-walls. Don’t judge Bellevue too quickly. We’re only toddlers here and don’t have the crows feet or “old charm” of our elder counterparts!

    You have to admit that you love our fresh, young skin! So much growing for DTB to do!!

  7. Y’all have overlooked one of the longest-tenured authentic original places – Pogacha. Consistently a great product. And it was memorable to see so many neighbors hanging out there during the big blackout after the windstorm of 2007. Kids were home from college, families reunited. Great food and wine at reasonable prices. That’s way more important to me. What is a hole in the wall, anyway? Is that somehow superior to a place like Pogacha? Or is Pogacha in fact a hole in the wall?

  8. Denise, I think your referring to my comment on the Salute story. Far from saying there are “no good locally-owned restaurants” I said that it was a shame to see a local operator go under and recommended that people support locally owned businesses; like your doing here.

    The underlying thrust of my post was that people should support locally owned/smaller operators unless they want corporate homogeneity. Perhaps by:

    * choosing to eat there
    * supporting changes in the local city government that help small businesses.

    With the expense of doing business in Bellevue, the real and expensive hurdles with permitting in this city, and the fact that gen-Y and younger people seem to prefer corporate chains offering practically the same fare the long term trend is smaller operators will go under because they cannot compete.

    I’ll look forward to your other locally owned restaurant posts.

  9. There’s a recent interview with three local restaurant owners in Bellevue at