Josh Henderson just announced plans for a bevy of new projects, an ambitious span that includes everything from burgers to rotisserie chicken to his own return to the kitchen.
"It's a little bit obscene, to be honest," he says. "There are some things that are hard to walk away from; we chose to buckle down and say 'yes' more than 'no'."
After founding Skillet Street Food and its two sibling diners and an initial involvement with Hollywood Tavern and the two Cone and Steiner mercantiles, Henderson's restaurateur universe, known as Huxley Wallace Collective, currently consists of Westward and Quality Athletics. With some pretty tremendous growth on the horizon, he's bringing in a director of operations, the talented and indefatigably creative Eric Rivera who cooked at Blueacre before moving to Chicago to work at a little restaurant called Alinea.
According to Eater, the Olympia native later rose to the position of director of culinary research operations for the famed restaurant and its sibling enterprises Next and Aviary.
Rivera will be involved in matters culinary, financial, and operational. Henderson figures a guy who can standardize Alinea's recipes and help recreate its entire menu in a New York popup will bring method and energy to tasks ranging from sourcing the right rotisserie machine to managing financials.
Here—in a chronological order that's bound to change somewhat—are Henderson's plans for the next 10 months. He promises names will come soon.
July/August: Brasserie and Burgers in Laurelhurst
The former Bill the Butcher space at 3600 NE 45th St, just beyond University Village, will be home to two restaurants. The top floor will be an all-day cafe in the European model: juices and pastry in the morning, salads and plates of charcuterie with cheese and crusty bread by day, and bistro fare at night. The back faces the Burke-Gilman Trail; Henderson's planning an outdoor fireplace here (the combo of alfresco fire and Burke-Gilman proximity certainly works over at Westward).
Downstairs will be the first location of Henderson's forthcoming string of burger shacks. If you've been to any of the culty burger chains—In-N-Out, Shake Shack, Little Big Burger—you'll know what to expect: a simple menu with double and single burgers, onion rings, shakes, and fries. Henderson has an app in the works for quick and easy ordering; there's parking out front and he's envisioning minivans pulling up to grab sacks of burgers on the way home from little league.
October/November: Tacos and More Burgers at Seventh and Westlake
The Amazon tower going up across from FareStart will house Henderson's flagship burger shack. He's catering to a customer base of harried, hardworking Amazon folk with high-tech ordering and quick pickup, plus gentle prices: "We want people to get in and out for under $8 or $9 bucks."
Next door will be a ceviche and taco bar Henderson describes as "super dark and sexy," with late hours, high design, and just the right amount of thumping music. Again, the menu will be just four or six items, though the lineup of tamales and hand-pressed tortillas filled with meats will be augmented by lots o' booze.
January: Beer, Chicken, and Josh Henderson at Westlake and Mercer
Just off this massive intersection will be the largest project of all, a mini compound of sorts with a rotisserie chicken counter selling whole and half birds with sauces for takeaway, a Henderson-style "urban bodega" dispensing things like Advil and newspapers, and a bottle shop (why yes, there will be growler fills).
But the star of this show will be a restaurant where Henderson will actually be in the kitchen, cooking his own style of food. For a guy who's a big name in Seattle's culinary scene, Henderson hasn't actually done much of his own food in this town: He established his reputation within the confines of a truck, which in turn shaped the menu at Skillet Diner. Henderson says he's excited to spend time traveling and figuring out what, exactly, that looks like: "I gravitate toward the NorCal, San Francisco aesthetic."
He's doing this in part to retain the cred that comes when a restaurateur stays close to a working stove, and partly because that same restaurateur status affords him the ability to set a kinder schedule, and spend a few nights a week outside the restaurant. "I don't ever not want to be known as a chef," says Henderson.