Capitol Hill’s development boom comes in many flavors — even khrueang kaeng. Born at the farmers market, E Madison walk-up Little Uncle is making plans to be part of the neighborhood’s new construction in a very small way.
Big Uncle, Wiley Frank and Poncharee Kounpungchart tell CHS, will open by winter in the under-construction Mad Flats microhousing development at 1523 E Madison. “Yes, just half a block up Madison from Little Uncle on the same block,” the couple writes.
Wiley and PK tell CHS that the opportunity came about thanks to prolific Capitol Hill (and beyond) microhousing developer Kelten Johnson of Johnson Carr who approached the couple as they were winding down their two-year run with their first brick and mortar location in Pioneer Square.
“We immediately found common ground with [Johnson] in wanting to find exceptions to the traditions in order to make our respective businesses thrive, succeed and to contribute something unique to this great city,” Wiley and PK said.
“…the space will have exactly what we need to provide our customers with what is most important to us: food worth craving”
The expansion to Pioneer Square was a success from a business standpoint but left the couple wanting a smaller space to manage. The chefs tell CHS that they’ll be able to shape how the restaurant space in the new construction comes together.
“Big Uncle will have the space for a 24 seat restaurant open lunch and dinner with plenty of firepower and cold storage to permit us to grow the Peeks Pantry line of condiments and snacks, efficiently prep and supply food for Little Uncle down the street, maintain our steady catering business and give us a space to create modest special events, wine tastings, small parties and the like,” they write.
The recipe is similar to one Johnson has used with his development on 12th Ave where Outer Planet has built the world’s first nanobrewery in a microhousing development, we’re fairly certain. Calf and Kid sibling cheese bar Culture Club is also slated to open in the Cal Park building this summer. Johnson is also behind another development planned for 12th Ave where the old Jay Frees Plumbing and Heating building has stood.
The housing isn’t the only thing micro about the E Madison development. All of that Big Uncle goodness will be fit into 760 square feet at the corner of 16th and Madison. “The space is certainly small by most restaurant standards,” they write, “but the space will have exactly what we need to provide our customers with what is most important to us: food worth craving.”
PK and Wiley say the experience in Pioneer Square gave them confidence and experience with dishes that can be part of the new menu. The plan for Big Uncle’s sit down diners is full-on noodle:
Big Uncle will be a casual counter service 24 seat restaurant focusing on our growing repertoire of noodle dishes that we are extremely proud of, all in one place and at the same time, a feat we have not been able to provide in the past. The Big Uncle noodle dishes will be anchored by our khao soi (curry egg noodles), dom yum wun sen (roasted pork cellophane noodles), guaydiouw nuea dun (braised beef rice noodles), and, of course, the phad thai. As what usually happens with what we do, expect a menu evolution to occur where peripheral dishes of appetizers, desserts and other oddities pop up on and off the menu. Big Uncle will also provide beer, wine and simple cocktails and be open from lunch till dinner.
And what about the original Little Uncle walk-up as it approaches its fourth birthday this winter?
Upon the opening of Big Uncle, Little Uncle (1509 E Madison) will continue its street side service style, but will focus on rice, anchored with our khao mun gai, a chicken and rice dish we have had great success with. Little Uncle will also serve a variety of rotating curries, showcasing our house made curry pastes and the unique ingredients we have at hand like jungle curry with wild boar and wild mushrooms; geng liang, a vegetable and shrimp paste curry with seasonal vegetables and massaman curry with Oregon water buffalo, all served over the customer’s choice of rice or kanom jin rice noodles (we are currently working on making our own fermented version of kanom jin noodles!)
With the rush of development still cresting across the Hill, should this kind of opportunity for a small business change any small part of how people think about all the changes? “I have asked myself this question a lot lately,” Wiley said. “All I can say is that we think we have a unique situation that we are excited and confident about. However, the public should definitely approach each project case by case. Does one believe that the specific project, building or business contribute to our neighborhood, community and city?”
Big Uncle is planned to open by December at 1523 E Madison. You can learn more at littleuncleseattle.com.