The construction covers are off and the doors open this morning to Skillet's new concept at the Armory at the Center House. The crown jewel of the new kingdom of food offerings in the completely redesigned space, the Counter, as they're calling it, is predominantly just that: a large, open kitchen enclosed by a long curved counter, which is flanked by extra patio seating.
It would look right at home at an airport except for its noticeable Skillet-esque touches: reclaimed local materials, twirling bar stools emblazoned with their signature frying pans, and gleaming sheets of aluminum riveted together to form the counter in a nod to the original Street Food Airstream. The airport effect doesn't cheapen the look so much as it leads you to fantasize that you'll someday find one of these located next to your departure terminal at Sea-Tac.
“For us it's exciting because it's a new concept, trying something fast-food and to-go oriented,” says owner Josh Henderson.
The menu offerings draw from diner menu favorites like the classic burger with bacon jam ($12), the pork belly & cornmeal waffle ($10) and kale caesar salad ($7) but are presented in smaller portions for the more transient crowd of festival-goers, conference attendees and tourists who make up the bulk of the Center House traffic.
Henderson and his crew have also beefed up the kids menu, given the high number of child-oriented events here. There's a PB & J with choice of crunchy or creamy peanut butter ($5), “the huck,” a grilled cheese with the crust cut off ($6), and lil' griddle cakes ($4) at all hours of the day, because as the recent father of his second, child Henderson can appreciate the power of a late-afternoon pancake bribe.
Many of the other businesses are already operational or will soon be: Eltana, Bigfood, Sweet Treats, Mod Pizza, Kabab, and Ceres Roasting Company, as well as Fremont favorite Pie, which opened its second location in the Armory about two months ago.
Pie's Jessica Bryant says the volume of pies they've sold since opening has been nothing short of mind-blowing. “It has been insane,” she says. “During [Seattle PrideFest] we had a line six people deep going all the way across the room for five hours straight – and no one minds waiting in line for pie.”
Seeing these and other familiar faces here finally in the flesh, we've got to hand it to those 21st Century Committee folks: the transformation of the Center House's formerly dank food court is indeed a thoughtful and stylish representation of Seattle that we can be proud to show off.
Update: Henderson has announced he'll be scaling back his involvement in the day-to-day operations of Skillet, while setting his sites on a new development in Woodinville. Seattle Weekly has that story.
The Skillet Counter is open 8 a.m.-8 p.m. 7 days a week. skilletstreetfood.com
This post has been updated since its original publication.