What started as a popup favorite and longtime grocery staple, the purple yam–based ube cheesecake has come to represent, in part, a national moment in which Filipino cuisine is at the center. In Seattle that means Hood Famous Bakeshop. Its, well, famous purple-hued dessert decidedly erupted onto the food scene when owners and husband and wife Geo Quibuyen and Chera Amlag opened their Ballard bakery off Shilshole Ave two years ago (though it already had a cult following by then) and helped to usher in more Filipino collabs and flavors into the city's collective palate.
It's been a marathon. But, to the joy of sweet-toothed citizens, Hood Famous isn't slowing down. Rather, it's expanding to Chinatown–International District with Hood Famous Cafe and Bar.
Things will stay true to their dessert roots with the popular suite of cheesecakes—ube, guava, calamansi, and the like—but will add more sweets as well as savory options, some of which will seasonally rotate in and out. That may look like a lineup of quiches that Amlag's particularly excited about in iterations such as an eggplant torta (in Filipino cuisine, a torta is basically a stuffed omelet), sauteed ampalaya (aka bittermelon), and longanisa sausage. They're also slowly working in some breads and pastries, like pan de sal buns and ensaymada—brioche topped with butter cream, sugar, maybe a bit of cheese. To pair with the dessert menu, by day at least, there will be a full coffee program in collaboration with various local roasting outfits such as Fulcrum Coffee Roasters.
At their Ballard spot seating is zero, grab-and-go is a must, but at the new location inside the redeveloped Publix Hotel on Fifth Avenue South you'll be able to stay a while and plop down at one of the handful of tables should you so desire. By night, drinks will still play well with desserts but will skew boozy. "We're definitely trying to include things that you wouldn't be able to find at any other bar, like spirits from the Philippines," says Quibuyen, who's crafting the bar's menu. Cocktails will have hints of calamansi citrus, tamarind, ube, and guava, much like the flagship cheesecake flavors, but don't be surprised if some salty-savory-piquant notes of bagaoong (fermented shrimp paste) sneak in, too.
The space, all at once sleek and modern, yet traditional and rooted in the couple's upbringings in Hawaii and the Philippines, is ultimately a reflection of Hood Famous itself: an eclectic blend of styles, flavors Amlag and Quiyuben think simply go together. It's simultaneously fresh and comforting.
When they were fresh out of the University of Washington, Chera Amlag and Geo Quibuyen worked their first jobs in the Chinatown–International District. They recognize that much has changed about the neighborhood since then, some things less so, but nonetheless they're happy to make a return to the community. "To know that we're a part of a wave of our generation setting up their own small businesses," says Quibuyen, "we're excited about that most of all."
Hood Famous Cafe and Bar will open in early 2019 (after we've all recovered from any post-holiday madness which will most certainly call for a cocktails and baked goods.)
Follow along the Hood Famous Bakeshop Instagram and website (which just got an updated look and new merch—hello, holidays) for news on progress. Stay tuned to Nosh Pit for more details as we have them.