Field Notes

West Seattle's Grillbird Revisits Seattle’s Teriyaki Traditions

A former Pizza Hut enters a stylish future built on char-grilled chicken.

By Allecia Vermillion August 5, 2020 Published in the July/August 2020 issue of Seattle Met

When Matthew Parker seized upon Seattle’s culinary past, he unwittingly anticipated our uncertain future. In February, Josh Henderson’s former creative director opened Grillbird, near West Seattle’s Morgan Junction. He bestowed mod Partridge Family–style graphics on the exterior of a former Pizza Hut that now serves stellar chicken teriyaki (plus various combos). It’s a ton of food for 12-ish bucks, the garlic and ginger flavors no worse for being heaped inside a clamshell alongside mac salad (Parker has family in Hawaii) and shredded cabbage.

The takeout-focused setup helped bridge our Covid reality, but Grillbird’s embrace of teriyaki is as retro as its groovy exterior. Chicken basted in sweet sauce then blasted on a grill became a Seattle emblem when the original Toshi’s Teriyaki opened in 1976. Gentrification may diminish its presence, but Parker wagers, “I bet everybody eats it once a month, just nobody talks about it anymore.”

Grillbird thrusts teriyaki into our fast-casual era: Parker made the sauce gluten-free, the chicken halal, and the customized options extensive. He riffs, too: Sesame chicken tastes like Shake Shack hijacked a Panda Express, and the $6 katsu sando hearkens back to the innocent days of 2019, when Japanese sandwiches on Texas toast became an Instagram sensation.

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