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Ghost Kitchens Take the Seattle Restaurant Scene by Storm

Post-Pandemic some of Seattle’s best dishes are made in ghost kitchens and SRW is bringing them to the forefront during Seattle Restaurant Week.

Presented by Seattle Restaurant Week October 25, 2022

Distinguished Foods Commercial Kitchen has been providing commissary space to small food businesses for over 25 years.

Image: Logan Niles

It used to be a relatively overlooked part of the restaurant industry, but since the pandemic, ghost kitchen businesses have rightfully earned their place alongside brick and mortar restaurants. Ghost kitchens, also called virtual or cloud restaurants, are commercial kitchens rented by pop-ups, food trucks, market vendors, caterers, or bakers.

There’s no dine-in seating, but during the time of social distancing, that didn’t matter. Some ghost kitchen businesses offer pick-up or delivery through apps like DoorDash or UberEats, partner with like-minded restaurants for pop-ups, or sell their food at special events. Ghost kitchens are also more accessible than signing a lease on costly Seattle real estate, and can be a hub for resource-sharing and camaraderie among newer businesses. 

For intrepid chefs starting out during the pandemic, ghost kitchens were just the right solution, either as an end in itself or part of a greater vision. For example, Fan Tang Asian Cafe intended to open in 2020, but when the deal fell through, they temporarily pivoted to a commissary kitchen in Tukwila before relaunching in a Kirkland space last year.

Whether it’s a single mom preparing her signature Singapore black pepper crab for pick-up, a Filipino pie company born out of quarantine, or an aspiring West African chef on a journey to a brick and mortar restaurant, these food businesses are just as influential as any in the Seattle scene.

Read on for more about several ghost kitchen restaurants participating in Seattle Restaurant Week (SRW) this fall.

SRW is the city’s largest biannual dining promotion, and this fall’s celebration features over 200 restaurants offering special curated menus at a variety of price points. See a full listing of restaurants at srweek.org

Family-run Seattle Sorbets has made delectable sorbets and ice cream for over 25 years. Logan Niles

Image: Logan Niles

Distinguished Foods and Seattle Sorbets

Founded in West Seattle over 25 years ago, Distinguished Foods Commercial Kitchen was created to meet the needs of small food producers for commercial space. Since then, Distinguished Foods has seen countless small businesses grow, thrive, and move on to greater success in the food industry. Recently Claiborne Bell bought Distinguished Foods from his father, Samuel Bell, who owned it for 20 years.

“Our goal is to create a kitchen incubator environment to support the starting and stable growth of small food businesses,” Claiborne Bell said. “We help people with the permitting process, business banking, business insurance, website building, and even connect people with stores and distributors that we know.”

Distinguished Foods works with food trucks, caterers, bakers, and restaurants who operate for pick-up or delivery only.

Bell’s own business, Seattle Sorbets, is family-owned and operated, featuring decadent sorbet and ice cream. For SRW, Seattle Sorbets is offering four pints of their most popular sorbet flavors for $20: Mango Sunset, Raspberry Merlot, Champagne Orange, and French Chocolate. Those looking for ice cream can opt for six individual serving cups of their classics (two each): honey vanilla, strawberry, and chocolate, for $20. West Seattle. Four pints of sorbet, or six servings of ice cream for $20.

Taste of Mumbai at Distinguished Foods Commercial Kitchen.Logan Niles

Image: Logan Niles

Taste of Mumbai

Specializing in regional Indian cuisines, Taste of Mumbai operates out of Distinguished Foods for pick-up and delivery only. They might be a lesser-known gem, but those who crave authentic Indian dishes quickly become devoted customers here. Dosas are popular, curries are expertly spiced (typically on the hotter side unless otherwise specified), and there’s a dedicated vegan section on the menu. For SRW, Taste of Mumbai is offering dinner for two for $50, including a choice of appetizer, two curry dishes, a naan selection, and dessert. West Seattle. Dinner is $50.

Family-run Aroy Mak Thai Food operates out of Distinguished Foods Commercial Kitchen.

Image: Logan Niles

Aroy Mak Thai Food

This family-run Thai food business found a home at Distinguished Foods about six months ago. “It’s been a great fit for our growing business since we didn't have the money to open a traditional restaurant,” said Chef Patty. “There are a lot of benefits to working next to other restaurants like ours; we share resources and make each other laugh. It's like making our family that much bigger."

Aroy Mak Thai Food makes food based on recipes passed down by the family’s matriarchs, with exceptional fried chicken. For SRW, they offer a $20 lunch special with options like Thai-fried chicken (or grilled Northeast style), with winter melon soup, and ginger rice. West Seattle. Lunch is $20.

Other participating SRW ghost kitchen restaurants and vendors include Marimakan, an Indonesian pop-up that made a splash with their Singapore black pepper crab (Marimakan’s SRW menus include crab dinners for two at $50 and $130); Latina-owned Bakescapade (featuring Pan de Muerto specials for SRW); and Gold Coast Ghal Kitchen, Liberian and Ghanaian foods, with a SRW three-course meal at Poco Wine & Bar on October 29. 

There’s also Grayseas Pie, a Filipino Beacon Hill pop-up featuring chicken adobo pies and more; and Roux Tha Day, a purveyor of Creole and Soul Food classics like jerk chicken, jambalaya, ribs, and gumbo (they offer a $35 “build your own” SRW menu).

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