Of the precious few things the restaurant industry can celebrate after the last few years, it is worth taking careful note of how its values in innovation and community care have shaped the landscape of recovery and growth. Pop-ups and food trucks offer some of the most exciting, creative food to be found throughout the region. They offer room for chefs to experiment and establish a new concept before taking the plunge into the often precarious venture of opening a brick and mortar space. While the restaurant world strives to recover from the upending impact of the pandemic, we are seeing a wealth of incredible menus born from chefs cooking and creating community on the alternative path forward.
In the initial months of the pandemic closures, La Dive co-owners, Kate Opatz, Anais Custer, and David Gurewitz pivoted to open a natural wine marketplace. They joined a small network of restaurants acting as hubs for safety supplies for medics and protestors as the Black Lives Matter protests took place only a few blocks away. Once Covid safety restrictions were lifted enough to begin service, they decided to continue creating space for the community by inviting chefs to host pop-ups from their kitchen. La Dive has since become a whirlwind of some of the best folks in the industry showcasing their menus and breaking the mold on traditional models of success. Follow their pop-up schedule: @ladiveseattle
Partners and cooks, Janet Becerra and Jonathan Ragsdale found themselves with some time on their hands after shelter-in-place orders were instated, so they began cooking for one another while planning their own business. They pivoted once more to raise bail-support funds for protestors and BIPOC organizations during the summer of 2020, from which evolved not one, but two businesses to fully demonstrate their perspectives on food. The result: Estuary and Pancita. Estuary conveys Jon’s passion for sustainability and seafood. Pancita generously invites patrons to join in Janet’s exploration reconnecting to her Mexican heritage. Her expression of regional Mexican cuisine and self-taught indigenous cooking techniques produce wonders like homemade nixtamal and hand-made tetelas, tlacoyos, and tamales made using a traditional molino from Masienda. Pancita at La Dive 4/10, 12pm-4pm. @pancitaseattle
Through T’juana Tacos, Monica Rodriguez and her family blend the flavors of Northern Mexico with carefully sourced ingredients from the Pacific Northwest. Through her cooking, Monica offers recipes carried down through generations of her family in Durango, Mexico. While the food is traditionally rustic, she brings a modern twist by presenting her recipes through recognizable street food options using handmade heirloom corn tortillas made with corn masa she sources from Milpa Masa’s Perla Ruiz, also from Tijuana. Also a must at T’Juana Tacos: outdoor grilled meats, tamales, guisados, and signature birria which are offered alongside vegan and vegetarian options. Everything is made using organic ingredients from local farms as well as halal steak and chicken. Permanent location inside Nacho Borracho, various food truck locations: @t.juanatacos
If you’re involved with food trucks on the streets of Seattle, chances are, you’ve met Syd. He’s not just about the food, he’s all about the lifestyle. Since 2010, Syd Suntha has worked the line at a variety of Seattle Food Trucks. From this passion, Syd developed his own flavor profile and his own hot sauce brand, Ballyhoo. In one mad 24-hour period just over a year ago, Syd’s Sri Lankan street food brainchild, Kottu, exploded onto the Seattle scene. Syd decided almost overnight to launch his own cart after helping so many others with their projects in the years leading up to his own leap. Various Locations: @kottu
Modeled after their favorite European marketplaces, John and Candace Hegeman launched Northwest Marketplaces in 1990. Since then, they have organized wildly successful community marketplaces and festivals with over 900,000 attendees in 2019 alone. They are the organizers behind the Mobile Food Rodeo, Trucktoberfest, Taco Libre Showdown, Grilled Cheese Grand Prix and their flagship, the Seattle Street Food Festival. Their dedication to nurture small businesses while working to strengthen the local economy has proven fruitful, as nearly 78% of their participating food businesses have been able to go on to open brick and mortar spaces. Their SLU Saturday Market re-opens on May 7th! @slusaturdaymarket, @seattlenightmarkets