Honestly Good Food and Drink
Just on the Southwest edge of Wallingford, along the Burke Gilman Trail sits an old train station which, over the last 80 years has hosted several iconic Seattle businesses. In addition to a train station, this spot has been a bicycle shop, a café and now, a (mini) bar with killer Korean street food.
I first discovered Minibar when my husband’s hockey team rented it out for a holiday party. Wandering in, I was delighted to see that the former Solsticio Café had been revived…and this time, with adult beverages!
I popped in again the other day and had a long chat with the owner, Jane Hwang and her knife and fire wielding colleague, Jesse. Even more than the food and drink, I was incredibly charmed by Jane’s warmth and commitment to taking care of her customers.
Jane was warmly engaging, a gracious host in the way you expect someone to be when you enter their home. For Jane, it seems this is by habit and intention. She wants the place to be comfortable, a place customers can eat good food in the way they like. She talked about finding a way to mimic Korean culture where you have a bunch of aunties feeding you. She envisions bar seating right in front of the open kitchen so she can see if someone needs more rice or a dash of sauce. Jane doesn’t think food needs to be cookie cutter, and it’s ok if you don’t get a dish exactly the same way each time.
Going to school for hotel and tourism in Chicago, the service industry was in her study as well as her blood. Jane’s mother, June and her aunt owned a small café and Jane grew up learning the industry from her mom. After going to school for hotel and tourism, Jane has worked at a variety of restaurants in a myriad of roles, most recently serving as a consultant for a restaurant/bar in Fremont Seattle. Jane had been dreaming of opening her own space when she learned that the old train station along the Burke Gilman was available.
Street Food How You Like It
With her grandmother’s kimchi recipe in hand, Jane jumped in and Minibar Seattle was born. Minibar Seattle is sort of a food truck without the wheels. It hosts a rotating menu of elevated street foods, putting a fresh spin on Jane’s childhood favorites. While she is still learning the business side, I can personally attest to the fact that she has the hospitality part down pat! I am clearly not the only one to notice. I looked on Yelp to find several comments (and 5 stars) talking about the food and drink, but all mentioning Jane and the welcoming vibes she brings to every service. While Jane may set the tone, the food is incredible in it’s one right!
During my visit I had the street fries, and I honestly cannot rave strongly about the kimchi that topped this pile of French fries, corn, bulgogi, and pico de gallo. The entire dish was incredible and the kimchi itself will haunt my dreams for years to come — it was crunchy and spicy — the stuff I would eat straight out of the container (if we could ever talk Jane into bottling it). I also had a perfectly balanced dish of slightly seared and incredibly rich tuna with avocado and soy flavors on top of a bed of greens. I was so dazzled by this dish that I can’t recall the name of it, but I earned a year of “good partner points” by having the self control to bring half of it home for my husband. The Mule flight, featuring 3 tasty mini cocktails served on a wood paddle was enjoyed down to the very last drop.
I cannot wait to add Minibar Seattle to my list of neighborhood haunts where I can do with friends, on the occasional date or even by myself when the kimchi calls.