Like many areas in and around Seattle, the theme of the restaurant scene in Kenmore could be “change is the only constant.”
May saw the opening of a sleek new outpost of the popular Ballard brewery Stoup, featuring their award-winning brews alongside hefty smash burgers and slabs of square, grandma-style pizza along with the unveiling of the Lodge at St. Edward Park, a multimillion dollar hotel, spa and restaurant in a historic former seminary.
And changes are still coming; Andrea and Mark Mizer of the popular Rainier Valley restaurant and food truck Buddha Bruddah are nearly ready to open the doors on their Kenmore location. The grand opening is scheduled for Oct. 29. Fans of the restaurant will recognize favorite Asian/Hawaiian-inspired dishes, but chef Roel Ardiente (previously from The Maple in Maple Leaf) will be introducing a few new items.
“Roel and Mark are childhood friends, and some of their favorite stories take them back to days working and eating at Orange King in the U District. We are hoping to bring a few Orange King favorites onto our menu as featured items,” wrote Andrea Mizer via email, referencing the beloved longtime U District restaurant that shut this year.
In the meantime, here are three great bites to grab in Kenmore now (including a surprisingly good parsnip soup at that flashy new hotel).
The Vet Chef
Marine Corps veteran Kyle Gourlie has been pulling his orange food trailer The Vet Chef since 2016, serving up substantial San Diego-style burritos around Kenmore, Everett and Bothell almost daily. I visited the trailer while it was parked at Kenmore’s Cairn Brewing (home to an expansive outdoor patio and a rich, chocolaty stout called Thor’s Hammer, perfect for these cooler temps). Gourlie fell in love with San Diego’s massive, french-fry-stuffed burritos while stationed at Camp Pendleton as a Marine, and spent years perfecting his recipes.
The signature item is the Famous California Burrito, a brick-sized concoction stuffed with tender carne asada, crinkle-cut fries, shredded cheese and crema ($14). There’s also a handful of other sandwiches masquerading as burritos — a cheeseburger and fries burrito with mustard, ketchup, mayo and pickles inside, a Philly burrito with provolone, onion and bell peppers, and a Cubano with pork, Swiss cheese, pickles and mustard, all rolled up in tortillas — and a simple bean and cheese burrito ($10), which the person working the window when I visited highlighted as their favorite.
The Famous California Burrito was packed with well-seasoned beef and a fistful of fries. The cheese and crema pump up the richness factor, which was easily cut with a few sips of Cairn Brewing beer between bites. And I’m inclined to agree that the bean and cheese is a dark horse — especially if you add fries and crema for an extra buck. There’s a nice bit of salt from the fries, and a scoop of corn salsa for a little surprising sweetness. These burritos pack a punch in terms of substance and flavor, and I look forward to catching the trailer on another day to check out a cheeseburger burrito.
Cedar + Elm
Breakfast 7-10 a.m. daily, brunch 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, lunch 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Friday, high tea 2:30-4:30 p.m. Thursday, dinner 5-9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 5-10 p.m. Saturday; 14477 Juanita Drive N.E., Kenmore; 425-321-1580; thelodgeatstedward.com
Nestled amidst the towering pines of the 316-acre Saint Edward State Park rises the 90,000-square-foot brick building that was originally built as a seminary and first opened in 1931. The Lodge opened as a hotel in May, and it marks the first time the building has been open to the public, and the first time it has been open at all, since the Catholic Archdiocese of Seattle sold the building and the land to the state and abandoned the property in the 1970s.
There are two bars on-site — Father Mulligan’s, named for the seminary’s first president, and The Tonsorium, named as a nod to the room’s former history as the on-site barber shop. The original dining hall has been reimagined into the light-filled Cedar + Elm, helmed by chef Jason Wilson (The Lakehouse, Miller’s Guild). There’s a posh high tea service on Thursday afternoons ($65/person), which was just beginning the afternoon I was there for lunch.
The menu is seasonal, but one of the standouts when I was there was (stay with me on this) a rich parsnip soup ($14) crowned with a spoonful of olive tapenade. Maybe it was the setting — an outdoor patio on a sunny October afternoon without my children — or maybe it was that the tapenade seemed revelatory because I’m more used to seeing parsnips paired with apple, potato or bacon. Either way, it’s a darn good soup. Another clear winner was the shrimp and grits ($23) with a smoky, spicy tomato broth. The grits are thick with cheese and have maintained a great texture. Dotted with fresh corn and cherry tomatoes, I am assuming this dish will evolve as we head into winter, but for now, I really enjoyed this take on a classic dish.
KDJ’s The Bakerie
Karen Jenkins teaches in the baking and pastry arts program at Edmonds College, running KDJ’s The Bakerie as a cottage business in her downtime. She’s got a wide range of offerings, including bread loaves, cookies, shortbread, tarts and brownies, and she accepts direct orders. She also pops up regularly in Kenmore and has recently settled on a semiregular schedule of every second and fourth Saturday at Cairn Brewing (7204 N.E. 175th St., Building A, Kenmore), but keep an eye on her Instagram for changes or additions. You’re going to want to go for fudgy brownies and chocolate crinkle cookies, unbelievably flaky hand pies with seasonal fillings (fingers crossed the spiced pear sticks around for a while), and crumbly, buttery jalapeno cheddar scones. My love for pop-up bakeries has been documented before, but I cannot underscore how much I love a well-made cookie or flaky pie crust. Jenkins is a wizard when it comes to turning butter, flour and sugar into treats. My only regret is not buying multiples of each of her offerings.