It sounds like the sort of thing dreamt up in the blurry, hungry hours following a night of drinking—a sandwich pressed between golden fried potato pancakes instead of humdrum whole wheat. But the latke press sandwich, and subsequently the Napkin Friends food truck chef Jonny Silverberg is launching Monday, January 6, is born of a much finer pedigree.
Silverberg graduated from the Culinary Institute and most recently headed the kitchen at Lisa Dupar’s Pomegranate Bistro. It was there that the latke press sandwich was born.
“Being a nice Jewish boy, I’ve grown up eating latkes my whole life,” Silverberg says. “And then one day something just clicked. Why can’t you just replace the bread and put it on a panini machine and see what happens?” The self-proclaimed sandwich lover did just that, and ran it as a special at Pomegranate Bistro for a week—long enough for him to realize he was onto something special. He pulled it from the menu: “I wanted this to be mine, not something associated with the restaurant.”
Just last summer, Silverberg decided to follow his longstanding dream of being his own boss. He opted for a Napkin Friends truck—an old FedEx truck with about 275,000 miles on it that he’s since souped up with refrigeration and a couple of fancy panini presses—instead of a brick-and-mortar space. The name? That’s the one thing that did come about a few drinks in, but Silverberg decided to use it because he wants to keep this project silly. “The only thing we’re taking seriously is the product and the quality of what we’re giving you,” he says.
When the truck launches Monday—11 to 2 at the Banya 5 parking lot in South Lake Union, where you’ll find Napkin Friends every Monday—you’ll be able to try first-hand Silverberg’s signature creation, the OG: a five-day brined pastrami with gruyere, arugula, 1000 Island dressing, horseradish cream, and Mama Lil’s peppers, pressed between two latkes. There’s a roast chicken press, a twist on a BLT, and a vegetarian option featuring thick slices of honeycrisp apple, caramelized onions, and brie.
The latke recipe is an adaptation of Silverberg’s grandmother Silvia’s family recipe. “She’s so excited about it,” he says. “It’s giving her a little bit of a legacy, outside our family.” Making Grandma proud by bringing potato pancakes to the masses? Good Jewish boy, indeed.