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‘A quintessential college restaurant’: U-District’s Orange King closes after 45 years

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Orange King closes

A note on the front door of Orange King tells visitors of the closing plans and thanks patrons for their decades of support.

A cozy, retro dining area, large portions for low prices, and owners who shared their love through food are some of the ways UW students described the Orange King restaurant, which finally closed its doors after 45 years. 

Established in 1975 on Northeast 42nd Street, just off the Ave, Orange King served generations of UW students and locals. 

Orange King felt like a quintessential college restaurant with good food, larger portions, and quick service all at a good price,” junior Kian Behroozi said.

With the pandemic forcing classes online, many UW students moved away from the U-District and away from the businesses that rely on their patronage

Christopher Leyva Vera was one of those students, returning to his home on Whidbey Island.

“I was looking forward to campus opening back up and getting back to my weekly Orange King meals, but that won’t be happening anymore,” Leyva Vera said. “I won’t get to celebrate finishing a big exam with a huge burger.”

His camera roll is filled with pictures of Orange King burgers, each one tied to a specific moment in his college career. Orange King kept him fed throughout undergrad and part of his master’s program, he said. 

Leyva Vera isn’t the only student who was anticipating a return to campus and Orange King. 

“I always told myself I’d try their poutine one day, but I guess I should’ve seized the opportunity earlier,” Behroozi said. “I heard it was great, but sadly I will never know for myself.”

For some students, Orange King was more than just a restaurant. It was a place where they socialized with friends, celebrated UW football wins, and went to decompress after stressful days. 

Anders Wennstig, a senior at UW Bothell, went to Orange King on a date with his girlfriend when they first started seeing each other. 

Behroozi and other students from his first-year interest group (FIG) would reunite at Orange King.

“I don’t often hear about people who keep in touch with their FIG, so I always thought it was really special we kept up our friendships,” Behroozi said. “And grabbing lunch at Orange King is a part of that.”

Students and Seattleites echoed similar sentiments across social media platforms.

Vanishing Seattle, an online organization dedicated to documenting displaced and disappearing Seattle businesses and culture, reported the closure of Orange King on its Instagram and Facebook pages. 

The posts amassed more than 4,500 likes and 700 comments of friends tagging friends and expressing their sadness. The Facebook post has been shared more than 300 times with many adding their own captions of memories and feelings. 

While it is unclear what specifically caused the owners of Orange King to finally close their doors, other Seattle businesses are succumbing to the economic upheaval spurred by the coronavirus pandemic. Orange King owners did not respond to requests for comment.

We tried to get takeout from Orange King several times since March to enjoy the food and to support their business, but both times a note on their door said they were closed,” Wennstig said. 

More than 600 restaurants in Seattle alone have gone out of business since March, according to a Washington Hospitality Association report

A running list of restaurants that have closed compiled by Seattle Eater includes Orange King in its most recent update. The website notes that while the coronavirus pandemic may not have been the sole reason for closing, for many businesses, it was “still a contributing factor.”

“I’d like to [...] thank them once again for their amazing food,” Leyva Vera said. “They were a staple in the U-District. They’ve fed students for decades and I doubt I am the only one that feels this way."

Reach reporter Hannah Sheil at Twitter: @thehannahsheil

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