Owners Hassan Chebaro and Patsy Williams are happy to teach you about their favorite cuisine. You may ask Patsy what grits are, then Hassan will make you a plate so creamy and luscious you’ll want to visit the South.
If you grew up in the Northwest, you may not be too familiar with Southern favorites, like grits and pimento cheese. Do not let that scare you away from the new Cycene, a fun, comfortable, breakfast-and-lunch spot that opened Thanksgiving Day in Pike Place Market.
In fact, owners Hassan Chebaro and Patsy Williams are happy to teach you about their favorite cuisine. You may ask Patsy what grits are (she handles the front of the house), and she’ll say they’re similar to polenta. Then her husband, Hassan, will make you a plate of grits so creamy and luscious you’ll want to visit the South.
“Once they try it, it’s so nice to see that they like the stuff from back home,” Hassan said. He grew up in the South and the Midwest, spending a large chunk of time in Kansas, and Patsy’s from Chicago, where they’ve lived most recently.
1523 First Ave., (Pike Place Market) Seattle; open 6 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday-Sunday; 206-617-6838 or cycenekitchen.com
Hassan has been a cook for many years in restaurants across the country and in Europe, and was ready to move to an area with better weather and access to nature, and to start his own venture with his wife.
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“I just wanted to make something humble and something good, that I’d like to eat myself,” Hassan said. “We want to keep it comfortable and welcoming to everybody, and put out what we eat ourselves at home.”
It’s comfortable for sure, so simply decorated you can’t help but notice what they haven’t done with the place — and that’s a compliment. With chalkboard signs, exposed vents, booths, stools and loud Johnny Cash playing overhead, it’s the kind of place you want to hang out with a beer.
The menu: The restaurant’s tagline says it all: “sandwiches & grits,” and great versions of each. Sandwiches include breakfast varieties with egg and bacon or sausage, a grilled cheese with both pimento and American cheeses, and a blackened chicken sandwich with Alabama white BBQ sauce (horseradish, vinegar and aioli). All come with a bed of crispy home fries.
Those excellent grits are served a few ways: topped with sausage gravy, eggs, bacon and more delicious sausage (all the sausage is Hassan’s own recipe); with shrimp, collard greens and New Orleans BBQ sauce; or with Cajun boudin, red-eye gravy and black-eyed peas.
Wash it all down with an interesting selection of beers, including Shiner Bock, from Texas, and Jever, from Germany.
Don’t miss: The hot ham-and-cheese sandwich was delicious. Crunchy house-made, bread-and-butter pickles offset thick-cut ham and gooey pimento cheese and Swiss.
And the grits, slathered with a light, heavily spiced gravy, turned this Seattleite and grits noob into a fan.
What to skip: The chili fries called for some brightness from sour cream, cheese or onions to balance out the heavy and not-super-spicy chili (although they did get better the longer the potatoes sat in the chili juice).
A tip: For a cheap breakfast, try the $6 eggs-and-grits special with bacon or sausage, available weekdays from 6-8 a.m.
Prices: A hot ham sandwich ($11), bacon ’n’ sausage and grits ($11) and chili fries ($5) cost $27, before tax and tip, a filling lunch with leftovers for two.