It’s been one hell of a road trip for the leader of Seattle’s street food revolution and, if his plans for Skillet Diner are any indication, Josh Henderson is ready to pull the rig over for the night and put down some neighborhood roots.
“This is about having a stable environment for our brand and our offerings,” Henderson said as he gave CHS a tour of the in-progress creation of Skillet’s new diner in the southwest corner of the Chloe building’s retail space.
“We want to be part of the neighborhood — in the morning, in the afternoon and at night.”
The new Skillet space is nowhere near complete but the first fixed-place restaurant created by Henderson’s high-flying company is coming together quickly. Opening day should come sometime in April. Or maybe it will be opening morning.
“We’ll have a stand-up espresso bar for people to start their day with,” Henderson said. Skillet will open every morning at 7 AM and Henderson would like nothing more than a busy crowd of locals standing at the bar, getting their caffeine and morning news fix before heading into the neighborhood to begin their workdays.
Or maybe it will be an opening night. Henderson plans to keep Skillet open to midnight most nights and 2 AM on the weekends. After last call, he hopes the Pike/Pine party crowd will make a tradition of the short hike over to 14th and Union to visit Skillet’s poutinery walk-up.
Inside the under-construction diner, between conversations about important things like drink tray placement, Henderson shows off pieces of the materials that will be used on the restaurant’s immense counter and comfy booths. 1979 Frigidaire green dominates. It’s a good color for Skillet — familiar, traditional but in a new place and in a new way. Skillet’s street menu has been built the same way. Henderson says the only difference in the diner will be scale — “The menu is going to be big!” — and technical ambition. Outside the confines of the Airstream, Skillet’s crew will have more room to roam. Seattle foodies got a preview last fall as Henderson alpha tested his expanded menu at the Mt. Baker Community Club.
Henderson, though, hopes to keep things close to home. “I’d love for us to be a neighborhood place and filled with people who live here,” he said. He picked up two of the skillets given to him in a drive being promoted in Skillet’s newsletter. Give Skillet your pan and you’ll get a $40 gift certificate. The donations, Henderson says, will be displayed on the east wall of the diner by the dozens — a wall of skillets.
There are still weeks of work before that wall is unveiled, however. Skillet’s street crew is still on the road — across the street from the construction every Wednesday for lunch, by the way. And even when the permanent space is open, Skillet’s road trip won’t really end. “A lot of this will be a nod to our past,” Henderson said. “We just needed space.”