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Hot Seattle pop-ups: Loaded tostadas, sourdough crust pizza and Japanese-style fried chicken

There’s a lot to be said for your neighborhood bar — an epicenter of activity, a perpetual refuge, a place for cold beers, cheap cocktails and good company. Lottie’s Lounge is just that, with the chalk-drawn phrase “Lottie’s Lounge is Columbia City’s living room” on the menu to boot.

On a recent Sunday evening, this particularly crowded living room hosted tummy, a pandemic-born pop-up created by chef Janet Becerra. “It’s my love letter to Mexican food,” she says, as she’s recently been slinging tostadas to crowds of eager customers, in addition to masa and even chocolate flan-flavored ice cream in collaboration with KRYSE Ice Cream.

The pandemic didn’t stop Becerra from starting a business. She says, “It actually felt very natural because the food felt like the food that I’ve been wanting to cook, you know? When you’re cooking for other people, you have to hold back sometimes and edit yourself a little bit, but now I can finally explore Mexican food [professionally].

Tostadas in particular are a food Becerra, a first-generation Mexican American, grew up eating. They’re small, easy to assemble and “a beautiful blank canvas for literally whatever you want to put on there,” Becerra says.

Now, I have a low tolerance for spicy foods, so take this with a grain of salt if you’re devoted to the heat — the halibut ceviche ($12) and asada ($10) tostadas are spicy. Both come with a generous slather of guacamole and cilantro garnish as sandwiching layers atop a crisp 6-inch tostada plate. The ceviche gets a heaping of plump halibut pieces, red onions, guajillo, lime and (my saving grace) ultra-cooling cucumber bits. For the asada, smoky charcoal grilled steak and a red pepper salsa that Becerra says is a play on her mom’s salsa recipe. Although, “hers definitely does not have bell peppers in it. Mine is more molcajete-style, with tomatoes, shredded jalapeños, onions, the whole shebang.”

Becerra sources a lot of her ingredients from local BIPOC farms like Mariposa Farm and Alvarez Organic Farms. “We really try to integrate [POC-owned sources] in from where we get our food from,” she says, “and we’re also small, so we’re trying to support other small farmers and businesses.”

The OG ($8) tostada, topped with fried pinto beans, iceberg lettuce, tomato sauce and a blanket of cheddar cheese, serves as a delightful palate cleanser in between bites of its spicier companions.

At 6 pm, two hours before the pop-up was set to close, Pancita sold out of tostadas, a moment celebrated by claps and cheers from the full bellies present in Lottie’s.

“I cooked for a lot of Eurocentric restaurants, and I’m excited to finally get a chance to explore the food that resonates and makes me happy and share that with people,” Becerra says, “and that is Mexican food. I want people to feel that same joy that I get from eating it.”

Keep an eye on Instagram for details of Pancita’s next pop-up: instagram.com/pancitaseattle

Queen’s Pizza

4-8 pm Thursday-Friday. Currently residing in Alexandra’s Macarons at 1410 18th Ave., Seattle. check Alexandra’s Macarons’ Instagram for updated menus, hours and locations.

On a recent Friday that ended surprisingly warm after a chilly dawn, I — along with the majority of the city — decided to partake in the happiest hours of the day, all in the name of the sunny weekend ahead. I found myself at the Queen’s Pizza pop-up at Alexandra’s Macarons, an inviting one-story white brick building with a deep teal entrance and hot pink “Alexandra’s” sign.

The atmosphere inside Alexandra’s is warm and the décor is stylish, creating an aesthetic that enchants customers to stay awhile. The restaurant is quaint yet refined, charming yet unpretentious, small and intimate. The honey-colored wood panels lining the ceiling stretch all the way to the back of the restaurant, beckoning those who enter further into the picturesqueness of it all. Bright white walls of the narrow rectanglelike space contrast the ceiling, resembling something like a fresh pour of espresso over milk. Walk past the booths anchored with baby pink(!) tables and chevron café chairs that ought to be in Paris, and you’ll reach the pastry case filled with palm-size macarons in shades of chestnut, satin and an occasional robin egg blue or it’s-definitely-going-to-rain-grey.

With a quick perusal over the menu, I thought I couldn’t go wrong with their margherita — it’s simple, delicious and, frankly, hard to get wrong. But then I saw the French Onion ($22), made with caramelized onions, garlic confit, mozzarella, fresh herbs and a toasted Parmesan crust, and thought I absolutely could not go wrong with that. The silky caramelized onions added a welcome sweetness to the pie before giving the stage to a zing of garlic here, a melty mildness of mozzarella there.

Upon further exploration of the menu, I realized there the pizza options sounded too good to pass up. I ended up trying two more, which was enough food to feed a family of four, or make leftovers for the next few days if you’re a party of one a la me.

You know those pizzas where you have to (shamefully) take a fork and knife to them? The Sweet & Sassy ($20) is one of those (I’m sorry, pizza gods!). There is simply no way to pick it up and eat it without risking an immediate gooey landslide of precious toppings. The sweetness of this pizza is thanks to the pineapples and honey drizzle, while the sassy gets a nod from a generous sprinkling of jalapeños. But don’t be deterred from the sassy — the jalapeños meld seamlessly with their sweet counterparts, making for bites of flavor resembling green peppers more than anything on the spicier side of the spectrum.

The Wild Shroom ($22) ended up being my favorite. It’s topped with a mix of shiitake and cremini mushrooms, little mountains of house-made ricotta and — the part that made me think, “Oh, I definitely have to try this” — miso butter. I’m not sure if it was the mushrooms or the miso, but this pizza is incredible and somehow even better as leftovers.

In all three feet, dark brown inflated domes surfaced where the pizza dough bubbled — kissed and thus charred by the heat of the oven. Take a bite out of the edge of the pizza crust and you’ll find a labyrinth of air-filled tunnels, making for a chewy yet not-too-tough crust. The dough packs a major sourdough punch, so if that’s your thing, you’re in luck.

During non-pop-up hours, Alexandra’s offers weekend brunch, happy hour and café menus. The menus state the restaurant is a “laptop/work free zone,” but that’s more than OK. The ambience of this little spot is sustained with whispers and laughs unbroken by technology and obligations from somewhere else. Grab a friend, tuck your phones away and enjoy some slices.

The Chicken Supply and Nekojiru

check The Chicken Supply’s Instagram for pop-up times and locations.

I have good news, and I have bad news. Let’s get the bad news over with first, shall we? In the search for local fried chicken, many a Seattleite have heard rumors of The Chicken Supply (recently reviewed by my colleague Bethany Jean). It is, simply put, notoriously hard to get your hands on. It typically sells out soon after opening — no pre-order, no chance!

The good news? On some especially blessed Sundays, the shop switches gears from its regular service and hosts a walk-in only, no pre-order, it’s-every-man-for-himself style pop-up. On a recent such Sunday, The Chicken Supply popped up with Nekojiru to serve Japanese-style fried chicken (karaage; $8), waffle fries ($5), mini chashu don ($7) and mac salad ($4).

The karaage skin’s guise of crispiness is immediately challenged upon first bite, literally melting away to reveal an interior of juicy dark meat. The honey garlic whip sauce (50 cents), a mysteriously addicting addition to my meal, is a great dip. I enjoyed it so much I ended up scooping out every last bit with the crispy karaage bits hiding at the bottom of my takeout box. The mini chashu don yields a similar juiciness to the chicken, though this time in the form of pork, alongside rice and topped with leeks and scallions.

The waffle fries come with a generous dusting of tangy curry spices (or not, “if your kids aren’t feelin’ it,” as the menu says). Paired with the mac salad, served with red onion, Kewpie (mayo), aonori (seaweed) and tōgarashi (a Japanese spice blend), these two sides add a depth of adventurous flavor that complements the coveted fried chicken.

The Chicken Supply hosts a pop-up on the first Sunday of every month. The recent Nekojiru x The Chicken Supply pop-up “might show up again in the future, but it’s not a permanent thing,” says the restaurant via Instagram. In the future, expect to find a menu similar to April’s pop-up offerings: chicken sandwiches, garlic and chili hot honey drumsticks, “chicken-y waffle fries with fried chicken skin” and more chicken-inspired treats. Enjoy!

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