Look at those big, beautiful falafel balls.
Look at those big, beautiful falafel balls. Jeanie To

Popular NYC Shawarma Joint Pops Up in Pioneer Square

Halal Guys, the now-famous New York City chain, began in 1990 as a hot dog cart catering to Muslim cabbies, and grew into the national fast-casual phenomenon it is today.

"Fast-forward 25 years, five carts, two New York City restaurants, and millions of diverse customers served," their website says, and, "The Halal Guys is growing yet again. Fans no longer have to be in NYC to experience The Halal Guys as they look to share American Halal Food all over the country and the world."

Indeed, as of August 11, you can be on 1st and Yesler and experience their famous white and red sauces. I stopped by the media preview to experience said sauces, and learned the hard way that they are not kidding about that red sauce being really, really hot. Respect the red sauce. As far as Pioneer Square lunch options go, their meats (chicken or gyro beef) are quality, their menu is very approachable, and their falafel is insanely good for a chain.

Also, for their grand opening, they're doing a partnership with those newfangled Spin bikes to encourage you to bike-share your way to Pioneer Square. If you ride a Spin bike to the restaurant between the 11th and 13th, you can scan a QR code when you arrive to have your ride comped. As an added bonus, you'll get a $5 Spin credit for visiting your new falafel friends. It's a bit of a marketing ploy, but any marketing ploy that supports alternative transit options and awesome falafel is one I can get behind.

Oh and, if you can't wait until the 11th, their platters and pita sandwiches are available now on Caviar, Square's version of Postmates. It still pits the poor restaurant employees agains the poor couriers in competition for the same precious tip, but if you're too enmeshed in your important knowledge work to leave the office, you probably don't give a shit about the plebes anyway, do you?

Caffe Vita is Maybe Buying Caffè Fiore

I was scanning the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board's permit application page, like you do if you're a food columnist, and noticed that every single Caffè Fiore liquor permit was being reapplied for under the Caffe Vita name. I hit up Vita owner Mike McConnell for comment, and he replied ever-so-cryptically that I should come find him at Vashon Island's upcoming Chautauqua Music Festival for more info. I'm going to try to do that, mostly because I relish any excuse to visit Gravy and a music festival that raises money for music and arts programs at the island's public schools is mad chill. I will report back on whatever strange experience and/or juicy scoop results.

I Want to Live in a Japanese Inspired Meat House

And now Seattle has one. Kokkaku, which literally bills itself as a "Japanese Inspired Meat House," is a new venture from the owners of Issian, the Wallingford sleeper izakaya spot that I sometimes visit with the owner of Old Ballard Liquor Co., Lexi. I am very grateful for her aquavit, of course, but also grateful that she introduced me to the marvel of tiny whole octopi on skewers.

She drunk texted me from Kokkaku the other night to let me know that the food is terrific and that she had the kimchi with bing cherries and the beef tartare with shochu. "Both were very very good." The chef is Rudy Velasquez, she says, formerly of Brunswick and Hunt and Miller's Guild. Also, she wants everyone to know they have "Bone. Marrow. Custard. For dessert."

Sounds dope. Softly open now at 2208 N 45th St, Wed-Mon 5-10 pm. Here's a phone photo of the menu:


Pablo y Pablo Pops Up in Wallingford

Heavy Restaurant Group ain't fucking around in Fremont, even though I do think they are actively fucking with us, at least in the context of Thackeray. They just opened their second venture in the lower Stone Way area, Eater reports, called Pablo y Pablo. The name continues their twee-ass tradition of unnecessarily esoteric cultural references—this one is a nod to the friendship between poet Pablo Neruda and painter Pablo Picasso—but hopefully it doesn't continue their tradition of using such cutesy branding to sell us decidedly artless food. My guy Jeremy Flores, who ran Barrio for Heavy, is at the helm here, so that's something. In my experience, he's an actual human who actually loves food and cares a lot about making sure his customers do too, so I'll definitely be in to give Pablo y Pablo a shot, despite not loving Thackeray.

Kraken Congee Sinks

Pioneer Square's subterranean porridge hotspot is no more, Eater reports, though they do have somewhat hotly debated plans to reopen. Cook Jesse Smith, formerly of Sisters and Brothers in Georgetown, called out Kraken's new owner, celebrity chef Tim Love, saying he had no plans to actually reopen, couldn't actually do so after the departure of Kraken founding chef Garrett Doherty, and was making those claims merely to save face. Love responded that he's absolutely still in love with the concept—Garrett or no Garrett—and will continue actively searching for a new space. A pity, as the underground spot it is currently in is decorated excellently, and would have been a welcome escape from the miserably rainy Seattle winter we're all currently forgetting about. This being Seattle, it'll probably be a high concept paleo wing joint with low-carb, "healthy" beer inside of two weeks, so that's some consolation, I guess?

Also Salted Sea

The popular Columbia City Asian-inspired seafood spot is also temporarily closed, according to the same Eater report, although their new banh mi venture, Lan Hue, is now open in the Pacific Rim Center. The closure is due to a "kitchen management change," they said on Facebook, and they'll be announcing a reopening date soon.

Seattle Pops is Back

Seattle Pops, arguably the city's most popular popsicle place (alliteration, fuck yeah!), will open its Wallingford brick and mortar location tomorrow, Seattle Met reports. Overloading on sugar, even if it is frozen sugar, is not a great way to beat the summer heat, as it can be extremely dehydrating, but their popsicles seem to be worth buying on the basis of deliciousness alone. Now you can do that in a real store instead of at a farmer's market stand. A summery Zesty Lime pop seems like an appropriate way to celebrate.

Important U-Village Noodle News

Hokkaido Santouku Ramen is now open in the north end's palace of consumerism. It's the popular ramen chain's second location, Bellevue being the first.

“We have found that Washingtonians love ramen," reports Jun Yoneda, CEO of parent company Plenty USA and manager of Santouku operations in Washington and Massachusetts. "Given Seattleites’ innovative and stylish, yet well-balanced, lifestyle, we believe our University Village location will be well-received.”

Not sure about the lifestyle, but he's probably not wrong about the ramen, as their press release reports that their "ramen broth is made by boiling pork bones for 20 hours until the broth turns pearly white. Traditional to Japan’s Hokkaido region, the broth is then lightly flavored in salt (shio)—Santouka’s signature broth—soy sauce (shoyu), fermented soy bean paste (miso) or spicy miso (karamiso). The exceptional broth is then completed with vegetables, dried fish, kelp and other savory ingredients."

"The slurp-worthy soup is meant to be enjoyed quickly," the press release adds, concluding that it is "easy to understand, yet hard to tire of." Would that the same could be said of all food.

In Less Important U-Village Noodle News

Two anticipated openings have arrived, as Eater reports, in the form of Ba Bar U-Village—which replaces the recently closed Liam's—and Eastlake's new Otter Bar—which replaces the dearly departed Louisa's.

Made You Cook

Rapper Nas went out for sushi at the buzzy Sushi by Bou in NYC recently, Eater reports, and ordered the $50 omakase, which is usually a "get in, get your twelve pieces, and get your ass out of the seat" affair. Given that life's a bitch and then you die, Nas wasn't trying to let his fishy fun get cut short prematurely, and ordered up a second round of omakase to keep his seat. He ate it, washed it all down with some expensive sake, and left a $200 tip, because he is the epitome of a baller. Not that I wasn't already a huge fanboy, but any rapper who shows up to one of New York's most exclusive restaurants to eat one oyster with caviar is pretty goddamn good in my book.

Oysters poppin #thegrill #seagrambuilding

A post shared by Nasir Jones (@nas) on