by Reagan Jackson
What’s for breakfast in Columbia City? If you were at Chef Tarik Abdullah’s pop up brunch last Sunday you might have had the lamb hash cooked with dates, chickpeas, kale and served over polenta, or the cauliflower salad with spiced cashew crème. The Moroccan inspired entrees and friendly vibe had the Royal Room packed from 10:00am-2:00pm.
“Breakfast for me was not a heavy egg, heavy bread thing. I grew up around a lot of vegetables. And if there was an egg it was like a boiled egg,” explained Abdullah. “It’s a great way to introduce people to spices more than anything because I know when people try the food they’re like man whatever spice you put in there I want to know what it is.”
Abdullah has been hosting pop up brunches throughout the Central Area and South End for almost three years. What began at the 1st anniversary of the Tin Umbrella migrated to Bannister in Capitol Hill next to Tougo Coffee and has now landed indefinitely at the Royal Room. While the creative menu and artfully prepared food are definitely a draw, brunch goers love the sense of community as well.
“I came for the safe space that I know he creates in the body and in the physical as well as the food. I’m here for all of it,” said Sakara Remmu as she settles down to join a table of friends.
“This is the most diverse brunch I’ve been to in Seattle,” recounted Natasha Marin. “It really is. I mean look around the room. It’s not just a room of white people in Columbia City. That counts. The food is delicious, which I expect. It’s Tarik.”
Anastacia Tolbert added: “The ambience is good. I think that something to point out too is that because of the times we’re living in, our first responses are to talk about the environment, to talk about the ambience, to talk about how it’s diverse, not …we didn’t lead off with food. I think good food and good people is a combination we need right now.”
Abdullah takes pride in the fact that despite being a pop up brunch, the vibe remains consistent. “We’re pretty much always busy and people are always in a good mood,” he said. “Its not just about the food. It’s about the whole fact of just giving people the experience, understanding what community really is and the community standing behind something that’s just beneficial to the neighborhood.”
Abdullah’s interest in international cuisine began as a kid. “I grew up around really good food. I grew up in a Muslim family, in a Muslim household so a lot of my friends, my childhood friends were from the Middle East or the Mediterranean so I was always around good food, but I never thought it would end up becoming my profession.”
As Abdullah enters his 25th year of cooking, passion for food and spices has taken him around the world and inspired him to share what he’s learned with the next generation. He has been teaching kids to cook for the past 15 years, most recently through “In the Kitchen with Chef T” at the Hillman City Collaboratory.
“Basically we did 2 hour classes on Saturdays just teaching kids the basic fundamentals while also giving them a chance to just really cook food,” explained Abdullah. “And not say lets make some brownies and M&M cookies, but really cook the type of food that you actually had today and they actual learn it and they are all between the ages as little as 6 up to 15.” This year’s summer camp, in partnership with Coyote Central, is already full, but Abdullah anticipates that he’ll be running additional camps next summer to accommodate the interested young people.
“The pop up just kind of gives…for somebody like it me, it just gives me the freedom to work on other projects,” explained Abdullah. Abdullah is also involved in the creation of a community funded performing arts space, restaurant and café called the Black and Tan which will open this September in Hillman City where Maxim’s used to be.
“The Black and Tan was basically a vision that Rodney Harold, Ben Hunter and I came up with where we just wanted something for the neighborhood, for and by the neighborhood and so the idea of a co-op was like the way to go.” James Ackley, the owner of Bob’s Quality Meats in Columbia City took an interest in their vision and bought the building. Renovations are already underway.
In the meantime if you’re searching for a delicious and unique breakfast, the next pop up will be at the Royal Room on July 31 from 10:00am-2:00pm. There won’t be any French toast, but there will be waffles and cuisine that explores the tastes of India and South Africa.
Featured image courtesy of Tarik Abdullah