There’s a lot to be said for your neighborhood bar – an epicenter of activity, a perpetual refuge, a place for cold beers, cheap cocktails and good company. Lottie’s Lounge is just that, with the chalk-drawn phrase “Lottie’s Lounge is Columbia City’s lounge” on the menu to boot.
On a recent Sunday evening, this particularly crowded lounge hosted Pancita, a pandemic-born pop-up created by chef Janet Becerra. ‘It’s my love letter to Mexican food,’ she says, as she recently tossed tostadas to crowds of eager customers, in addition to masa and even chocolate flan ice cream in collaboration with KRYSE Ice Cream.
The pandemic has not deterred Becerra from starting a business. She says, “It was actually very natural because the food looked like the food I wanted to cook, you know? When cooking for other people sometimes you have to hold back and modify yourself a bit, but now I can finally explore Mexican cuisine [professionally].“
Tostadas in particular are a food that Becerra, a first-generation Mexican-American, grew up eating. They’re small, easy to assemble, and “a nice blank canvas for literally anything you want to put in there,” Becerra says.
Now I have a low tolerance for spicy foods, so take this with a grain of salt if you’re devoted to the heat – the halibut ceviche ($12) and tostadas asada ($10) are spicy. Both come with a generous layer of layered guacamole and cilantro topping sandwiched on a crispy 6-inch tostada plate. The ceviche has a heap of plump halibut chunks, red onions, guajillo, lime, and (my saving grace) ultra-refreshing cucumber chunks. For the asada, a smoky charcoal-grilled steak and red pepper salsa that Becerra says is a play on her mother’s salsa recipe. Although “hers certainly does not contain peppers. Mine is more molcajete style, with tomatoes, grated jalapeños, onions, the whole shebang.
Becerra sources much of its ingredients from local BIPOC farms like Mariposa Farm and Alvarez Organic Farms. “We really try to integrate [POC-owned sources] where we get our food from,” she says, “and we are also small, so we try to support other small farmers and businesses.
The OG tostada ($8), topped with refried pinto beans, iceberg lettuce, tomato salsa and a cheddar cheese coating, serves as a delicious palate cleanser between bites of its spicier companions.
At 6 p.m., two hours before the pop-up closed, Pancita sold tostadas, a moment celebrated with applause and cheers from the full bellies in attendance at Lottie’s.
“I’ve cooked for many Eurocentric restaurants, and I’m thrilled to finally have the chance to explore food that resonates and makes me happy and share it with people,” Becerra says, “and that’s the mexican cuisine. I want people to feel the same joy as me when eating it.
Keep an eye on Instagram for more details on Pancita’s next pop-up: instagram.com/pancitaseattle
4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday to Friday. Currently residing at Alexandra’s Macarons at 1410 18th Ave., Seattle. To verify Instagram of Alexandra Macarons for updated menus, times and locations.
On a recent Friday that ended surprisingly warm after a freezing dawn, I – along with the majority of the town – decided to participate in the happiest hours of the day, all in the name of the sunny weekend ahead. I found myself at pizza queens pop-up at Alexandra’s Macarons, an inviting one-story white brick building with a teal entrance and a bright pink “Alexandra’s” sign.
The atmosphere inside Alexandra is warm and the decor is elegant, creating an aesthetic that enchants guests to stay awhile. The restaurant is quaint yet refined, charming yet unpretentious, small and intimate. The honey-coloured wood panels that line the ceiling extend to the rear of the restaurant, inviting those who step further into the quaintness of it all. The glossy white walls of the narrow rectangle-shaped space contrast with the ceiling, looking something like a fresh pour of espresso over milk. Walk past the booths anchored with baby pink (!) tables and herringbone cafe chairs that should be in Paris, and you’ll reach the patisserie filled with palm-sized macaroons in shades of chestnut, satin and occasionally a robin’s egg blue or it will definitely rain gray.
After a quick read of the menu, I figured I couldn’t go wrong with their daisy — it’s simple, delicious and, frankly, hard to go wrong. But then I saw the French Onion ($22), which has caramelized onions, candied garlic, mozzarella, fresh herbs, and a toasted parmesan crust, and thought I absolutely couldn’t go wrong with that. Silky caramelized onions added a welcome sweetness to the pie before giving way to a zest of garlic here, a melting sweetness of mozzarella there.
As I explored the menu further, I realized everything the pizza options seemed too good to pass up. I ended up trying two more, which was enough to feed a family of four, or make leftovers for the next few days if you’re a group of mine.
You know those pizzas where you (shamefully) have to take a fork and a knife? The Sweet & Sassy ($20) is one of them (sorry, pizza gods!). There’s simply no way to pick it up and eat it without risking an immediate gooey landslide of precious toppings. The sweetness of this pizza is due to the pineapples and drizzle of honey, while the sassy is greeted with a generous sprinkling of jalapeños. But don’t be put off by the sassy – jalapeños blend perfectly with their sweet counterparts, resulting in bites of flavor resembling green peppers. After than anything on the spicier side of the spectrum.
The Wild Shroom ($22) ended up being my favorite. It’s topped with a mix of shiitake and cremini mushrooms, little mounds of homemade ricotta, and — the part that made me think, “Oh, I really have to try this” — miso butter. I don’t know if it was the mushrooms or the miso, but this pizza is amazing and even better as leftovers.
In all three pies, puffy dark brown domes surfaced where the pizza dough was bubbling – kissed and therefore charred by the heat of the oven. Take a bite from the edge of the pizza crust and you’ll find a maze of air-filled tunnels, creating a soft but not too hard crust. The dough packs a big sourdough punch, so if that’s your thing, you’re in luck.
After hours, Alexandra’s offers weekend brunch, happy hour, and cafe menus. The menus state that the restaurant is a ‘no laptop/work zone’, but that’s more than ok. The vibe of this little place is backed by uninterrupted whispers and laughter from technology and obligations from elsewhere. Grab a friend, put your phones away and enjoy a few slices.
The Chicken Supply and Nekojiru
To verify Chicken Supply’s Instagram for pop-up times and locations.
I have good news and I have bad news. Let’s get the bad news out of the way first, shall we? In the search for local fried chicken, many Seattleites have heard rumors about The Chicken Supply (recently reviewed by my colleague Bethany Jean). It is, quite simply, notoriously difficult to get your hands on. It usually sells out soon after opening – no pre-order, no luck!
The good news? On some particularly blessed Sundays, the shop switches gears from its regular service and hosts walk-in only, no pre-orders, it’s a style pop-up every man for himself. A recent such Sunday, chicken supply arose with Nekojiru to serve Japanese-style fried chicken (karaage; $8), waffle fries ($5), mini chashu don ($7) and mac salad ($4).
The crispness of the karaage skin is immediately put to the test with the first bite, literally melting to reveal a juicy dark meat interior. The Honey Garlic Whipped Sauce (50 cents), a mysteriously addictive addition to my meal, is a great dip. I loved it so much that I ended up scooping up every last bit with the crispy karaage bits hidden in the bottom of my takeout box. Mini chashu don gives a similar juiciness to chicken, but this time in pork form, accompanied by rice and topped with leeks and green onions.
The waffle fries are generously dusted with tangy curry spices (or not, “if your kids can’t smell it,” as the menu says). Accompanied by macaroni salad, served with red onion, Kewpie (mayo), aonori (seaweed) and tōgarashi (a Japanese spice blend), these two sides add an adventurous depth of flavor that complements the coveted fried chicken.
The Chicken Supply hosts a pop-up on the first Sunday of every month. The recent Nekojiru x The Chicken Supply pop-up “may reappear in the future, but it’s not a permanent thing,” the restaurant says via Instagram. Going forward, expect to find a menu similar to April’s pop-up offerings: chicken sandwiches, hot garlic and chili honey drumsticks, “chicken waffle fries with fried chicken skin” and other chicken-inspired treats. Enjoy!