Food & Culture

Fancy Chicken Nuggets? ‘Black Sheep’ Chef’s New Pop-Up Will Turn PNW Dining on Its Head

It's not cheap, but this ticket is a glimpse into the head (and history) of Garrett Melkonian.

By Chelsea Lin August 14, 2017


When the ill-fated Circadia closed for business on May 1, chef Garrett Melkonian decided to do something generally unheard of in the restaurant industry: He decided to take the summer off.

OK, “off” may not be appropriate term. He decided that instead of jumping into his next big chef role somewhere—he first opened and built the reputation of Mamnoon and then opened Circadia—he was going to take a few months to spend time with his daughter. 

But time off has given Melkonian some time (and perspective) to think about his next move: a pop-up that will be entirely his own food. August 31 will mark the first of what he’s hoping will be a tri-monthly pop-up restaurant—White Pants Production Co., he’s calling it—at the Marian Built Loft in Ballard. He’s partnering with Circadia dining room manager (and former GM of Matt’s in the Market) Chris Armstrong. Dinner will be a 16(ish)-course affair, with some dishes as small as a single bite and others a more substantial portion. Tickets are $165 and include gratuity and drinks. (“Just don’t vomit in the parking lot!” the ticket link says).  

After years spent cooking his food within other people’s parameters, the talented chef is ready to take the reins. “Even if there was a really great job out there, I’d be hard pressed to take it,” he says. “I just thought it was time for me to jump into the deep end, make my own rules. I want to do something that really represents who I am and what I think cooking should be.”

Melkonian sent me a sample menu, and I can tell you that this isn’t your typical PNW fare—and that’s a good thing. Expect flavors from around the world, representative of the chef’s multicultural upbringing, from takoyaki to Armenian beef tartare. He says it’ll be a combination of low-brow food done in a high-brow way and high-brow food done in a low-brow way (see also: boudin blanc done in the style of chicken nuggets). 

“I don’t feel this in a bad way, but I’m a bit of a black sheep in terms of the culinary scene of the Northwest,” he says. “The majority of chefs here are from here, so their collective memory is from here, attached to specific memories from here. I don’t share that. I grew up in Los Angeles. My collective food memory is eating at my Lebanese grandparents on the weekend [and sampling the excellent Mexican and Cantonese food of the San Fernando Valley]. That’s my truth, that’s what I grew up with.”

Melkonian is hoping, too, to break down some of the barriers between chef and diners, making this more like a 25-person dinner party than a traditional restaurant experience. He wants to introduce each dish, tell its story. In fact, he loves the idea of, down the road, doing a crowd-sourced meal that takes into account each diner’s requests and food memories. The ultimate communal dinner.

“I just really want to do something different,” Melkonian says. “The people that have driven the Seattle ethos forward, I applaud them, I’m in deep admiration for them. I want them to continue to do what they do. And I hope there’s room in our culinary landscape to do what I do, too.” 

Join The Must List

Sign up and get Seattle's best events delivered to your inbox every week.

Follow Us

Five Things You Need to Eat in September

Five Things You Need to Eat in September

A grilled cheese smash burger? Katsu spam masubi? Creative mash-ups born from the delicious idea of two-in-one

A lot of good things come from saying, “Why not do both?” When both options are coveted, marrying the two hardly feels like a compromise at all. The food scene is working hard to make our tough choices easier, particularly as we head into autumnal months when cravings turn to comfort foods, but stomach space…

Big Mario's Reopens Northlake After Seven-Month Closure

Big Mario’s Reopens Northlake After Seven-Month Closure

Big Mario’s reopens venerable pizza spot in time for Husky opener

The Northlake Tavern & Pizza House lives on. Big Mario’s has reopened the popular destination near the University of Washington campus as Big Mario’s Northlake Tavern. The 65-year-old pizza joint closed in January after the previous owner retired. Big Mario’s said at the time that the closure would last only two months, but the full-blown…

Five Things You Need to Eat in August

Five Things You Need to Eat in August

Ube pancakes, egg cream, and blistered tomato memories

Food has the wonderful effect of capturing a time and place. Many dishes in this city bring memories into the present, celebrate history, and preserve the abundance of our current season. What is old can be made anew. And in this bustling city where creativity, change, and traditions intersect, we can return to many familiar…

A Pandan Treat

A Pandan Treat

How a Vietnamese coffee shop became one of the city's best under-the-radar waffle spots

Whether it’s a hot puff of steam pushing through a tightly packed mound of grounds, or beans whirring in a grinder perfuming the air with their bitter oils, in almost every coffee shop on the planet there’s only one scent that dominates: coffee. So, it can be a little surprising to walk inside Phin Vietnamese…