Yuki Sodos took Hatch chiles for granted until she left her native Albuquerque in 1993 for the University of Washington. She was astounded to find the produce section at QFC bereft of the capsicum that defines food in New Mexico.
Back home, she says, “Even at McDonald’s, you can get them on a burger.”
A few years after her sister, Miki, joined her in Seattle, the two opened Bang Bang Cafe in Belltown, mostly to assuage their own longings for chile-smothered breakfast burritos. In January they added a large new offshoot, Bang Bang Kitchen, that serves dinner, brunch, and happy hour across from Othello Park.
The sisters Sodos procure Hatch chiles directly from New Mexico and make the two variations of Hatch chile salsa that dapple their home state: a smoky red, and more assertive green. They lavish it on enchiladas, huevos rancheros, a burger, and a few favorites borrowed from the cafe, like the vegan mac and cheese and signature hulking burrito, which comes with an abundant side salad rather than the traditional sloppy pool of cheese and sauce. This is the Northwest, after all.
These days, Seattle swells with transplants who arrive with various yearnings for the food that means home. We have an admirable body of Southern fare—especially of late, thanks to Edouardo Jordan’s JuneBaby—but new arrivals like Bang Bang Kitchen, Chicago-style deep dish destination Windy City Pie, and Bar Harbor, with its superb lobster roll, stick additional pins on our culinary map.
At Bang Bang, most of the nostalgia resides with its owners; maybe five customers a day are grateful New Mexico transplants. But at Petoskey’s, a new bar in Fremont, owner Vuong Loc estimates 90 percent of customers hail from the upper Midwest. The walls sport five big screens plus a mishmash of Michigan paraphernalia…a Chicago Bears poster…a Minnesota Vikings helmet. Scalloped Hamm’s coasters dot the bar, and a Leinenkugel sign out front turns the heads of passing Wisconsinites.
Loc is a Michigan native, but Petoskey’s came about when the restaurateur closed ChinaPie, his Asian-inflected pizzeria. He needed to fill the space, and some partners with their own Midwest connections helped conceive of a watering hole dedicated to big games and even bigger food from the country’s north-of-center.
But gut-busting fare need not be artless. The tater tot hotdish arrives, still bubbling from the oven, in a petite ceramic bowl, sprigs of broccoli still crunchy as they cling like plucky wildflowers to the mountainside of molten cheese on top. Purists might pause at the square-cut pizza, satisfying as it might be. The crust is way thinner than the various pies that proliferate north of Chicago. It’s that Italian wood-fired oven, says Loc. A remnant from the ChinaPie days, it responds best to certain styles of dough. Cheese curds, shipped in from Wisconsin and fried to bar snack perfection, are a top seller—you don’t need family in Milwaukee or a lifelong Green Bay Packers allegiance to crave the pleasures of fried cheese.