Stateside chef/owner Eric Johnson is turning a snippet of space just east of his restaurant's front door into a 25-seat cocktail bar. The name, Foreign National, is apropos for a guy who spent so many years of his career leading high-end kitchens in Shanghai and Hong Kong. Seth Hammond, who runs the gracious front of house at Stateside is a partner in this venture, too.
The cocktails and handful of drinking snacks will draw influences from all over Asia. Johnson and crew will use a range of unusual fresh ingredients, as they do at Stateside. But otherwise, says the chef, Foreign National's menu won't borrow any food or cocktails from its sibling restaurant. Nope, not even the sparkling passionfruit whiskey sour or the rum, galangal, and lime leaf concoction known simply as "the coconut," because it's served in one.
Bar snacks will be "either finger food or chopstick food," says Johnson. "Maybe fork food—but no cutting," since that gets awkward fast when you're sitting at a small, low cocktail table.
Given the mass outpourings of adoration for Stateside since it opened in late 2014 (Seattle Met most definitely included), Johnson cautions that Foreign National is "very small and very simple, and really its own thing." To further this point, Stateside designer Callie Meyer is fashioning a lounge that's dark and moody, like an expat watering hole you'd find down the end of a dark alley—but with an enormous (as in, four feet in diameter enormous) handmade disco ball lending some sparkle. This Capitol Hill Seattle post has a basic diagram of the space.
Johnson also wants to incorporate some of the bia hoi culture—Vietnam's abundance of watering holes that receive daily deliveries of unpasteurized beer. At Foreign National, a small local brewer will occasionally deliver a small batch of beer brewed just for the bar. When that happens, says Johnson, it's cause for a bia hoi party, and the night's menu of drinking snacks might skew more uniformly Vietnamese. In cities like Saigon, these daily beer deliveries are usually light lagers suitable for the hot weather; Johnson says Foreign National's version will adhere more to Seattle's climes.
Look for Foreign National this summer, perhaps in June or July if all goes well. Hours will be 6pm to 2am, seven days a week. Keep tabs on the Foreign National website for updates.