By Zack Chamberlain
As told to Molly Sinnott
Bread is always gonna be bread. It’s so simple, but so necessary and that necessity adds complexity. Any main dish on a dinner table is going to change, but bread is always going to be there and be comprised of more or less the same ingredients. There’s beauty in that simplicity.
Garrett asked me to come on about two weeks before the restaurant opened, and at the beginning it was really just more to help out. I think in a lot of ways that helped me learn things from the ground up and get to know people involved in the restaurant in a different way. This is my fifth restaurant opening in my career and I really love the energy that comes with opening a restaurant. But I’ve never worked a streetside window before, which is really cool. I’ve found out that I am much more of a people person than I ever thought I was in terms of being up front and talking to customers. It’s incredibly dynamic and I find a lot of joy in that. We get to see smiling faces all day and we get instant feedback from customers, which I really appreciate. I also just like making people happy and watching them leave satisfied.
Our front kitchen is specifically designed to produce this Lebanese-style street food. Being Seattle and not a city that really has a vibrant street food scene, it has kind of morphed into a to-go window and full service lunch. It also offers a great alternative to the more aggressively priced sit down formal dinner that is our back dining room. But I think our front window really balances the two types of cuisines we offer as far as fun and functional and takeaway versus fancy and formal and sit-down. We went through a lot of trial and error. Just getting people to try our food was really tough and it was hard to get people hooked. So we were out there on the street giving out samples and talking things up. We opened completely organically, though, and we haven’t really done any advertising at all. So throughout the past year there’s been a real evolution of the food we offer up front. For example, we’ve changed things from ‘kulage’ to ‘sandwich’ because really it just looks like a sandwich and we’ve adapted some of the elements from a traditional kulage to make it look more like something that Americans will eat for lunch. We’ve had to make it a bit more accessible and easy to order. I think there was a bit of resistance at first but we’ve stayed pretty close to our original path and I think we’re winning in the long run. Sometimes you have to wait for people to take, and people took. It’s exciting.
My job is basically getting everything to function and to be cohesive and I get a huge amount of satisfaction from that. The menu was completely made when I got here, but I had to pull it off logistically. I’m really more of a logistical and detail-minded person than a fancy creator of brand new foods. Which really goes back to simplicity and my initial attraction to bread. It’s the necessities, the staples. So it’s the fact that the two aspects of the restaurant kind of feed each other-- one is a little more playful and one’s more serious-- but they really balance each other out. And the cohesion of the whole place is really important to me, bridging the gap between front and back of the house and between the to-go window and the back dining room. So in a way its larger than a restaurant, it's how people come together to celebrate their passions.