Paseo

by Steven Behling


Oh, Paseo.  What is there left to say that hasn't already been said?  Perhaps the haiku below can get the rest of the world up to speed:

Caribbean food
loved by all Seattleites
vanishes o'ernight

Paseo, a Caribbean take-out joint painted in shades of vivid aqua and electric pink and topped with a corrugated metal roof, has been a prized staple of Fremont and Ballard, nay, Seattle...nay, Pacific Northwest foodies for over two decades, winning awards and mentions from Yelp (#2 on their list of Best Places to Eat in the U.S.), Esquire, and Seattle Magazine to name a few.  Smart folks line up before the place even opens, with sheeple arriving later in the day for a long wait.  Slow-roasted meat takes time, and in the past, it wasn't uncommon for them to cross out menu items as the day progressed, signaling that they'd sold out of one or more ingredients.  Sometimes they'd even run out of bread, relegating patrons to forgo their signature sandwiches and slum it with a tasty Caribbean platter of delight.    

My favorite, above all, is their Caribbean Roast Sandwich: a toasted baguette slathered with aioli and topped with a leaf of romaine, "pork shoulder coated in Paseo marinade & slow roasted 'til falling into succulent morsels" plus still-crisp caramelized onions, pickled jalapeños, and fragrant cilantro. God bless this mess and send lots of napkins my way.  Let's be honest...summer in Seattle isn't complete until you've sat in the sun-soaked sand at Golden Gardens and, feeling peckish, meandered over to the Ballard location for a little nosh.

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In early October 2014, I moved to an apartment just around the block from the Fremont location, and on mornings when I was feeling indulgent, would crack open my dining room window, letting in both the crisp autumn air and the tantalizing aroma of Paseo as we both started our respective engines up for the day.  On the morning of Tuesday, November 11, 2014, hope disappeared faster than The Nothing devoured Fantasia when a modest sign was posted at both locations stating that Paseo had closed permanently, with no warning or explanation.  The following day, the owners filed for bankruptcy.  Per The Seattle Times, the restaurant allegedly "owed more than $30,000 to various creditors and potentially faced unknown tax debts stemming from a pending civil suit filed by four ex-workers" regarding unpaid wages and work breaks not given.  

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Sadness reigned over The Emerald City, and friends who'd never made the time to stand in line for Paseo's divine Caribbean cuisine, imagining that they'd someday find an open hour or two to visit the iconic establishment, were devastated.  Well...most of them were.  One of my friends responded to the news by saying that if what the former employees were alleging was true, she was glad they'd shut down and that she'd never eaten there.  My response, amid all the controversy, and despite my liberal political views, is captured in the text conversation below:

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How glorious a day it was, and how the citizens of Seattle did rejoice, when just over a month later, Ryan Santwire, investor in Fremont's Rock Creek (located just around the corner from Paseo and the planned site of SeaPsych's one-year anniversary dinner), purchased the name and assets of Paseo and promised to re-open it soon.  A few weeks later, I was walking home from work and saw a beacon of light shining through the dark winter's night.  That light was coming from inside Paseo. 

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In the weeks following their re-opening, I'd say that not much has changed.  The sandwiches taste the same, credit cards are now accepted, the lines are shorter (for now), and when I manage to get out of the office before 9pm, it appears that they aren't running out of food to serve hungry customers.  Let us hope that this new chapter of Paseo is truly neverending.

Paseo is located in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle at 4225 Fremont Avenue North, with the original Ballard location at 6226 Seaview Ave Northwest.