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Philadelphia has cheesesteaks. Chicago has hot dogs. In New York it’s pizza; in Baltimore, pit beef; for NOLA, po’ boys. But Seattle’s iconic dish is much less widely known.
It’s apparently a meal combo known as “Seattle teriyaki” — and it’s finally landing in Philly.
On Monday, July 30, restaurant veteran Tammin Kim will open the appropriately named Seattle Teriyaki as a fast-casual lunch and dinner spot in Rittenhouse. The shop, in the former Giwa at 1608 Sansom St., replaces short-lived @Ramen’s Center City location, which shuttered within a few months.
Kim, who recently closed his Green Bean coffee shop in Gladwyne after eight years in business, cut his teeth at Main Line destination Nectar, and has lived in Philly since 2004. But he’s a Seattle native, and he’s had a dream to bring the comfort food of his childhood to his new home.
“Every corner has a teriyaki shop,” he said. “All the locals have their favorites. It’s kind of like the cheesesteak of Seattle — except tourists don’t know what it is.”
Compared to other cities’ signature foods, Seattle teriyaki is different.
It hasn’t been blown up — some might say “ruined” — by celebrities or influencers looking to prove their cheap eats cred. A recent HuffPost roundup of “50 Cities Known For A Specific Food” doesn’t even mention it. The New York Times discovered it back in 2010, and last year Thrillist lamented that places to get it were slowly disappearing.
What is it? The classic rendition is slices of soy-marinated boneless chicken thigh, char-grilled and slapped over a mound of rice with some kind of thickly-dressed salad.
“Kind of like Hawaiian plate lunches,” Kim explained. “It’s cheap food, but the marriage of sweet, vinegary tang with something creamy — it’s the perfect ghetto picnic.”
The original recipe is thought to have originated with a Japanese chef in 1976, and then been tweaked over the years. Seattle teriyaki is not like what you’d find in Japan; the stateside version is sweeter and blunter in flavor, with garlic, ginger and scallion thanks to the many generations of Korean-American Seattlites who helped popularize it.
In strip malls in the Emerald City, there are endless variations. The version proffered by Kim — who has partnered with @Ramen’s Jason Kim (no relation) on the project — keeps to the basics.
“This is not farm-to-table or organic or anything like that,” Kim said. “It’s tasty food that’s really fast, easy, high quality and affordable.”
Seattle Teriyaki’s menu offers a choice of four proteins — chicken thigh, chicken breast, steak or tofu — paired with rice and potato salad for around $8 or $9 total. There are also dumplings available as a side dish, and cold brew coffee using beans from Chestnut Hill. Additional options may be added in the future.
You order at the counter and then bring your food — in disposable containers that are not styrofoam, “although that would be classic” — to one of 25 seats or take it to go.
Good news for busy Rittenhouse office lunchers: Kim expects customers to be in and out within two or three minutes. To start, hours will be 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Late-night weekend hours are also a possibility.