Supporting local food economies, restaurants, and South Seattle neighbors, this program serves up more than just meals.
by Mark Van Streefkerk
In March 2020, restaurants were in trouble. Seattle was the U.S. epicenter of COVID-19, and a wave of shutdowns called for the immediate temporary closure of restaurants — some of which never reopened. Food scarcity was exacerbated as closures across all industries led to higher rates of unemployment. These disruptions also affected local farmers, many of whom lost half their major market channels instantly with the closures of schools and restaurants. In the South End, however, a handful of like-minded chefs made arguably one of the savviest pandemic pivots in the industry: They started the Seattle Kitchen Collective.
Melissa Miranda, owner and chef at Filipino restaurant Musang, is embarking on another journey in 2023: the opening of Kilig in the Chinatown-International District (CID), a Filipino restaurant inspired to serve tasty dishes, such as pancit and bulalo, in a casual yet homey space. The idea came to Miranda over a year ago after engaging with community members about their experiences with different types of Filipino restaurants, places, and cuisine in the Philippines and elsewhere.
North Beacon Hill, a Seattle neighborhood already greatly impacted by gentrification, was once the home of numerous Filipino restaurants, including Kusina Filipina and Inay’s, now all closed. For Melissa “Mel” Miranda, a Seattle chef and restaurateur, her restaurant Musang is a way to bring familiar Filipino flavors back into the neighborhood with a more modern spin.
When Chef Melissa Miranda was younger and working as a sous-chef at French and Italian restaurants, she never thought an upscale Filipino restaurant would be a possibility. Miranda studied sociology; attended culinary school in Florence, Italy; and worked in restaurants in New York City before coming back home to Seattle, where she had the opportunity she never imagined: She founded Musang, an upscale Filipino restaurant that began as a pop-up in 2016 before becoming a full-fledged restaurant in Beacon Hill in 2020. Today, Musang’s success has earned Miranda major notoriety: She’s a James Beard Award semifinalist for best chef, Northwest and Pacific.
Intentionalist is built on one simple idea: where we spend our money matters. We make it easy to find, learn about, and support small businesses and the diverse people behind them through everyday decisions about where we eat, drink, and shop. #SpendLikeItMatters
May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and it’s time to celebrate.
During the pandemic, we’ve seen local businesses scramble and adapt to the ever-changing conditions around them, with recent research showing Asian-owned small businesses have been disproportionately affected. But, despite this, we’ve also seen countless local businesses step up in so many ways to help the communities around them.
And we at Intentionalist think that’s a cause for celebration.
We believe AAPI Heritage Month isn’t just about supporting the AAPI-owned businesses in our neighborhoods — it’s about celebrating them and all the character, culture, and vitality they bring to our communities.
To kick off AAPI Heritage Month, here are three businesses you can support:
Last year when the Columbia City Ale House announced it was closing its doors for good due to the pandemic, bartender Emily Eberhart knew she had to do something about it. Having worked at the tavern for seven years, Eberhart wasn’t ready to say goodbye to her coworkers and South End community of regulars. Although a global health crisis loomed, Eberhart approached Ale House owner Jeff Eagan and asked to take over the business. He said yes, ushering in a new chapter for the Columbia City watering hole.
Eberhart remembered last year’s turning point that galvanized her into action: “[Eagan] made a statement about closing forever and my immediate response was, ‘No we’re not.’ I had an amazing group of regulars and people [who] came to me, ‘What are we doing and how are we going to do this? Let’s make it happen.’ I knew the support was there.”
In March of last year, shortly after the city shuttered the first time due to COVID-19, Seattle’s Maria Lamarca Anderson wanted take-out. She called up a BIPOC-owned Filipino restaurant she’d been meaning to try, Beacon Hill’s Musang Seattle.
“I said, ‘Hi, I’d like to order food.’ They said, ‘Oh, well, you can’t, but if you need food come and get it,’” said Lamarca Anderson.
She was confused, but Lamarca Anderson drove to the restaurant anyway. Once there, she learned that upon closing their businesses when the pandemic hit, Musang’s owner, Melissa Miranda, had pivoted from regular restaurant operations to form the Seattle Community Kitchen Collective with a few other local restaurant owners, including Chef Tarik Abdullah from Feed the People. Ever since, the coalition had been donating their kitchens and labor to make meals for anyone who’s hungry, 100% of the time.
Before the pandemic, my two favorite places to shop for holiday gifts were Kinokuniya Seattle and Pike Place Market. At Kinokuniya, the bright, densely-packed Japanese bookstore in Uwajimaya Village, I browsed children’s books, comics, magazines, and stationery for hours. At Pike Place Market, I beelined to the Herban Farm stand, founded by Ras Levi Peynado, a Seattleite with Jamaican Roots who farms and dries his products. There, I would test-smell the fragrant seasonings, rubs, and salves, while staring at ferry boats crossing Elliott Bay, before buying gifts for family members. Among favorites were Pike Place Herbs (an all purpose seasoning), the paprika-rich Seatown Smoke (“BBQ in a jar”), and the floral Lavender Sea Salt.
For Chef Melissa Miranda, Musang has always been more than a restaurant. The popular popup found a permanent home in North Beacon Hill at the beginning of this year, and through the crisis of COVID-19, pivoted to a community kitchen as well as restaurant, offering free or pay-what-you-can meals during the pandemic. Musang is one of seven restaurants and popups that form the Seattle Kitchen Collective, a grassroots collective of like-minded chefs who provide meals for community members who need them. Now through Little Wildcats cooking classes, Miranda, Chef Amelia Franada, and Chef Marizel Yuen are sharing Filipinx culture with the youngest in the community.