Young Bros. Smoked Fish Co. sounds rather like a Jewish deli crossed with the Northwest's own Scandinavian-based traditions of preserved fish—with baked goods from Heather Earnhardt of the Wandering Goose thrown in for good measure.
Which is to say...wow.
Brothers Zac and Jesse Young are builders by trade, but grew up around the Northwest, from Bend to Alaska, catching fish and smoking it in the backyard. When Earnhardt opened her own cafe in 2012, she hired the Youngs to do the buildout at Wandering Goose. "And I stuck around," says Zac—which is to say, he and Earnhardt are now married.
As adults, the Youngs still smoke a lot of fish; all the high-quality salmon caught by regional fishermen makes for a finished product leagues better than the mass-market stuff. But these days it's hard to find any small, independent seafood smokehouses (Jensen's is one of the region's holdouts). So Zac and Jesse Young are building a smoked fish company of their own at 5605 Rainier Ave S, in the thick of Hillman City—just a few blocks from where Zac and Heather live with their five kids.
Young Bros. Smoked Fish Co. will be decidedly a deli, not a restaurant, its case filled with lox and gravlax, and various types of hot- and cold-smoked salmon, plus smoked shrimp, cod, sturgeon, and black cod (the latter marinated in miso). The shop will smoke fish daily and pickle its own oysters and herring; the counter will serve smoked fish chowder, plus soups like matzo ball (yes!) and chicken noodle.
Earnhardt will handle the baked goods, making sweets that balance her Southern roots with the deli's persona—cookies made with smoked chocolate chips or smoked oats with sticky dates, big cakes, smoked chocolate bread pudding. She's even planning her own rendition of a black and white cookie. "I'm trying to push some stuff she doesn't do at the Goose," says Zac of his wife's culinary talents. "Her freaking banana pudding is amazing." Her more savory stuff, like galettes with smoked fish and potato fish cakes, sound equally intriguing.
A place dedicated to smoked fish cries out for bagels. Young Bros. is too small to bake its own, but the brothers are talking to Matt Tinder of the excellent (destination-worthy) Saboteur Bakery in Bremerton about making some, and perhaps a Scandinavian bread or two. Right now this is just a conversation, not a given, so cross your fingers. Because if there were ever a guy who would make a badass bagel, it's Tinder.
Young Bros. will also retail various smoked items (butter, oats, chocolate chips, honey) and soups and stocks, plus beer and wine. Zac says he and Jesse will buy all their seafood directly from small family fishing operations in Washington and Alaska, who share their belief in sustainable practices and careful handling.
The shop is currently on track to open this summer. Navigating the permits and regulations surrounding curing, salting, and smoking raw seafood has been a long process. When Young Bros. does arrive, says Zac, it won't be much larger than a counter, but it will have some style to it. "We're carpenters, so the place is going to be nice." Keep tabs on its progress via the Young Bros. Instagram account.