Food & Drink

Eat at the Cock

Why You Should Go to the Fightin' Cock Roaster as Soon as Humanly Possible

Eat at the Cock

kelly o

JON DAVIS Citizen of the world, hero of Interbay.

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Kelly O

I read somewhere that in another dozen or so generations, we'll all look more or less like we're of the same race—after so many interracial couplings, everybody will look a little Asian, a little African, a little European... We'll just look like Earthmen. (Whatever. Earthpeople.)

Jon Davis, owner of the Fightin' Cock Roaster in Interbay, likes Cuban coffee—a holdover from his time living in South Florida. He has a fondness for the barbecue of his youth in Texas. He also likes Thai food, having lived in Thailand and been part owner of two restaurants there. The red cement counter he poured for his tiny rotisserie is inlaid with coins from his travels in South America. If there's a restaurant in Seattle striving toward Earthcuisine for Earthpeople, it's the Fightin' Cock Roaster.

Davis has a hand in everything happening at the Fightin' Cock (or, if you prefer, the Cock Roaster). He built the 300-gallon smoker out back from a secondhand barbecue and an old wood-burning stove he Frankensteined together. He gives instructions to his staff in both Thai and English, counseling one woman to put the knife away and tear the chicken apart with her hands, while showing another that the cheese goes both under and over the beans. When I ask for a Cuban coffee, the barista at the counter cedes to Davis, saying, "He'd just stop me and step in anyway." Somehow he manages to do all this without seeming like a control freak.

There's a reason you can't find Cuban coffee (cafecito) most places—making it correctly (the sugar goes in the portafilter basket with the espresso grind) tends to muck up and ruin your basket. The trade-off for mucking up your basket is that the cafecito is a distinctively smooth, sweet pour. Davis is meticulous in his preparations: adding a little sugar, moving it around the filter, taking a little out... he counts the seconds under his breath during the pull, then waits confidently and watches to see that it's all right. Which, of course, it is. Sweet and rich, it's the best of what can happen when Italian espresso machine meets Cuban sugarcane and South American beans.

The six barbecue sandwiches at the Fightin' Cock bridge a bizarre (but somehow intuitive) connection between Austin and Bangkok. The signature sandwich, the Texas Slugger, is a foot of pulled, smoked, and roasted pork slathered in barbecue sauce, served up on a lovely baguette made by Seattle Roll (a Vietnamese family bakery). The bread has a light, airy interior and just a wink toward a crisp crunch in the crust. The pork is succulent (a word, I believe, invented to describe pork). The pork reminds you that it's pork. The pork is smoked by smoldering apple logs and moistened by the wood's own tannin water (the logs are soaked prior to smoking). The pork is a contradiction: It's soft and sweet and sloppy, and it's also alert, bright, and sharp.

The side of coleslaw did its job, which is the best thing you can say about coleslaw. It called no attention to itself—it was cool and smooth and (some would say) bland—but that's coleslaw's role. It understands that the meat is the fun one. Coleslaw is the Bud Abbott of barbecue.

The smoked chicken (hormone-free, anti-biotic-free, but not free-range) is an epic poem told through the medium of chicken flesh, smoked for a day and roasted for a night. It's the story of a smoky campfire in North Carolina that gets quenched and blown back to life over and over in your mouth. It resonates on the lips for an hour.

The Fightin' Cock Roaster recently took a hiatus of four months. Davis split from a partner, reorganized, and reopened three weeks ago with a new menu and schedule: serviceable breakfast from 5:30 a.m., with sandwiches taking over at 11:00 a.m. and going until 2:00 p.m. or whenever the day's chicken runs out, and Cuban coffee throughout. He has given up on dinner service for now—the neighborhood's traffic dies off too sharply at dinnertime.

Davis started in restaurants as a teenager, and through mini-careers in music, video production, and the army, restaurants were always sneaking back into his life. When, finding himself in Thailand with a bit of money in his pocket, he bought into a small restaurant and introduced himself to the staff by showing up as the dishwasher. This wasn't a management stunt; he didn't show up as the dishwasher for a day. He showed up as the dishwasher for six months before outing himself as the new partner. "Aaah, you like Thai people," Davis says the other staff kidded. "You sneaky." recommended

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1
Thaddeus You should try out for the New York Times. They're looking for a new restaurant critic and you're as good as any I've ever read there.
Posted by ram on September 30, 2009 at 4:50 PM · Report this
2
thanks mom.
Posted by thadius vanlandingham iii on September 30, 2009 at 6:20 PM · Report this
3
the Cock Roaster is a little oasis in this part of Seattle. The muay thai chicken will get your juices flowing. All bike commuters from Ballard should stop on by.
Posted by bearandger on October 2, 2009 at 10:45 AM · Report this
4
Putting sugar in your portafilter basket will only "muck it up" until you rinse it out, and if you're tamping properly all the sugar will be melted away into the coffee anyway.
Posted by Henry on October 6, 2009 at 2:14 PM · Report this

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