As we inch closer to shade-and-shorts weather, expect more restaurants to open their doors. Many restaurateurs have been in a holding pattern, hibernating through winter until warmer weather and the vaccination rate rises before they cut the grand opening ribbon. Nearly 13% of Washington state residents are fully vaccinated. With more vaccines on the way, we could see a surge of openings in the summer…on with our roll call.
For those on the island of West Seattle pining for more dining options, Moto has opened off the main drag. The early response has been surreal for this Detroit-style pizza parlor. During the first two weeks, Moto caused a traffic jam with customers illegally parking or turning on their hazard lights and dashing in for their takeout. To ease congestion, owner Lee Kindell has moved to online orders, and already he’s sold-out for the entire month of March. “I’m floored,” said Kindell, a self-taught pizza maker. “I don’t understand it. It’s sold out so fast, I’m taking orders for April now. It’s crazy.” (Psst, insiders know that Kindell sets aside a few pizza doughs for walk-in orders at 4 p.m. But to score one of those walk-in orders, you might as well bring your sleeping bag and camp out overnight.) Moto plays with unusual topping combos, from a Dungeness crab pie with dill and butter to another version topped with Filipino lechon or roasted pork belly. There’s a burger homage with ground beef and American cheese toppings, though purists can stick to pepperoni.
In Madison Valley, Aki Kushiyaki specializes in charcoal-grilled meat and seafood on a stick. We’re talking elaborate 13-course, $129 tasting menus showcasing various chicken, duck, lamb and wagyu beef on skewers. No takeout. No walk-ins. Reservations only for dining-in. Aki Kushiyaki comes from the investors behind one of the best ramen houses in Puget Sound, Arashi Ramen in Ballard and Tukwila.
Also doing Japanese grill, Ishoni Yakiniku opened on Capitol Hill along the drag of Broadway East, with a meat-centric focus from gyūtan grilled beef tongue to flap steak with garlic butter, though plenty of familiar noodle and rice dishes can be had, from kimchi/pork belly udon to chicken katsu.
On the sweet side, Mexican chocolate shop Rey Amargo Chocolate Shop on Capitol Hill showcases artisanal dark and milk chocolate in various forms, from cacao-covered strawberries to both iced and hot chocolate drinks.
BOCA at Queen City Grill, the Argentine bistro on Capitol Hill, has expanded with a second location in Belltown, a block away from two other South American steakhouses. Its new locale will also boasts a meat-centric menu including a $45 Delmonico steak. Outside of hotel restaurants, most restaurants around Seattle close on slow Mondays. But BOCA vows to stay open every day during the pandemic.
Kamakura Japanese Cuisine in Fremont has plopped down a “vegan sushi bar” to avoid “cross contamination” with its raw fish and meat. The vegan menu includes “spicy vegan California roll” with tofu crab meat and “vegan tuna roll.”
Banh Mi Deluxe debuts in Rainier Valley, where there is stiff competition for Vietnamese sandwiches already. Prices are a buck to two bucks higher here than at the nearby delis in strip malls, but the quality is better at Banh Mi Deluxe ($5-$6) — a warm, crackly baguette with substantial meat and other fixings. Warning: The wait can be long. Avoid weekends if you don’t have the patience or time. Too bad Banh Mi Deluxe opened after our 100 banh mi roundup; this deli would have earned a mention in that banh mi bonanza.
Flavor Lao Bowl in North Seattle specializes in hot pot and soups including the classic Khao Piak Sen chicken noodle. Though if you’re getting takeout, the dry offerings such as spicy pork sausage with sticky rice hold up better for that long drive home.
Shewa-Ber is the Ethiopian restaurant set to open any day now, located near the Vulcan apartment development in the Central District. That 532-apartment unit, at the elbow of South Jackson Street and 23rd Avenue South, is one of the developments that is attracting more eateries looking to cash in on this new residential community. Near the apartment complex, Oaky’s Tex Mex, from the guys behind Wood Shop BBQ, is scheduled to open in late April, next to the bakery Temple Pastries. Meanwhile, Shewa-Ber promises a large vegetarian and vegan menu when its kitchen is ready.
In West Seattle, Alki gets the taco stand Tacontainer, or what looks more like a shipping container reimagined as a walk-up window with a $3 taco menu.
Pivots and pop-ups:
While Guy Fieri’s Flavortown Kitchen has sucked up all the oxygen out of the ghost kitchen scene, there are other delivery-only setups: the chain Veggie Grill has started Mas Veggies Taqueria downtown, focusing on plant-based tacos and other Mexican comfort food. In the Chinatown International District, Sushi Blossom does delivery-only as well. In West Seattle, Thai Chicken Rice spotlights the popular poached chicken dish Khao Man Gai.
Not new but on the move:
Hi Helen, the breakfast egg sandwich pop-up that our food writer Jackie Varriano raved about, has relocated from West Seattle to a commissary kitchen in Sodo. The Octopus Bar moved just two doors down from its original location in Wallingford.
Gather Kitchen & Bar in Ballard has pivoted to a fast-casual, grain bowl concept under the banner Harmony & Grain. Customers can choose from farro, quinoa, brown rice, cauliflower rice or greens as the base, and build their bowl with various proteins, seafood and veggies. In Chinatown ID, Itsumono, which used to be Kaname Izakaya, has rebranded -— from a traditional Japanese bar menu to an Asian fusion theme that’s geared toward a younger, hipper crowd. Some items that have appeared on its rotating menu: a Nashville-karaage chicken sandwich and a loco moco Scotch egg.
And look who’s back:
Martino’s, which closed five years ago, returns to North Seattle with an expanded dinner menu, but it’s still a deli at heart. Check out its signature Santa Maria tri-tip sandwich, which made the cut for the best sandwiches our food critic ate this month. And Capitol Hill denizens will be happy to know that HoneyHole Sandwiches, under new ownership, is keeping around the old-school favorites including The Gooch. New owner Kristin Rye plans to open a second HoneyHole branch by the end of summer but didn’t reveal which Seattle neighborhood that will be in. Local 360 Café & Bar, which was among the early casualties of the pandemic, is reopening in Belltown.