Skillet Street Food: Paving the Way with the Perfect Bun

Skillet Airstream.Josh Henderson

A pioneer for food trucks, Skillet Street Food blazed the trail for mobile food across the nation. With Josh Henderson in the driver’s seat, Skillet has made its mark on the Seattle food scene with flawlessly executed diner fare served out of an Airstream trailer. Since its launch in 2007, Josh has opened Skillet Diner and Skillet Counter – brick-and-mortar locations featuring comforting classics enjoyed at a more relaxed pace. But, for Josh, it always comes back to basics: the cheeseburger.

In 1998, Josh graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in New York with an appetite for adventure but no direct route to get there. It wasn’t until an advantageous move to California that Josh found his calling.

“Right after school I moved back to Seattle,” explains Josh. “I was trying to make a living to support my family. Then I left Seattle in 2002 and moved to L.A. That’s where I started working in the entertainment industry on film sets.”

Traveling the country as a private chef for professional photographers on flashy photo shoots, like Mercedes Benz, BMW, and Porsche, Josh’s inspiration for Seattle street food was born. Feeling a bit homesick and ready for something new, Josh packed up and returned to Seattle to launch Skillet Street Food.

In the beginning, Skillet regularly parked down the street from Macrina’s SODO location, the perfect spot for Rebecca Early and Leslie Mackie to grab a burger for lunch. It wasn’t long before Josh, Leslie, and Rebecca were talking shop and dreaming up the perfect bun for Skillet’s burger.

“I’m a huge fan of Leslie and Macrina is an icon in Seattle, so I was stoked to have her come by. I think at the time we were just using a potato roll from the grocery store,” recalls Josh. “I think Macrina is one of the better bakeries in Seattle and it can really handle the volume. Eventually, Leslie, Rebecca and I came up with the SODO bun.”

With the SODO Bun a success, Skillet menus now also feature Macrina’s buttery Brioche Burger Bun and Rustic Potato Roll.

Now, Josh is keeping his eyes on the road ahead. With Westward and Little Gull Grocery opening this summer and Woodinville’s Hollywood Tavern relaunching under Josh’s direction, there’s no chance he’ll be slowing down any time soon.

A Bit About Brunch

Buttermilk Waffle

Brunch – that delicious blend of breakfast and lunch – has fuzzy origins. Some food historians believe that the meal is rooted in 19th century Britain when hunting groups would have extravagant mid-morning meals. But, my favorite historical mention comes from an 1895 “Hunter’s Weekly” article:

“Brunch is cheerful, sociable and inciting.” Guy Beringer wrote in “Brunch: A Plea.” “It is talk-compelling. It puts you in a good temper, it makes you satisfied with yourself and your fellow beings, it sweeps away the worries and cobwebs of the week.”

There’s a soothing rhythm to this ambrosial weekend tradition: Champagne, fortified with fresh citrus, is poured into tall glasses; sugary breads are passed among good company, feeling downright communal; concerns drift away with the arrival of savory diversions; and finally, we’re ready to nap.

Here at Macrina, we adore the bustle of brunch. The great din of diners bonding over our food and lingering at the case for just one more pastry or a rustic loaf of bread to go with dinner. For us, it’s satisfying seeing everyone walk away completely contented.

With Memorial Day drawing near, we already hear the brunch buzz as everyone organizes his or her weekend morning gaggle. Our weekend diners get to enjoy not one or two but three days of brunching as we extend our brunch menu to Monday.

So, linger longer this weekend, brunch lovers, and reenact your leisurely meal an extra day.

Meet the Artist: Adrian Freuen

Adrian Freuen is the artist behind the beautiful work on display at our SODO location. Adrian came to Macrina with the idea that his art would naturally blend into conversation and capture people’s attention as they mingled with friends over breakfast or lunch.

“I wanted the viewer to live with my work,” says Adrian. “Showing in a cafe as opposed to a gallery allows the viewer to appreciate the art in a relaxed, authentic setting.”


Born into a family of doctors and artists, Adrian grew up listening to his father tell stories of the day’s surgical procedures at the dinner table. While many people would react in disgust to these sometimes-repugnant tales, Adrian found the stories inspiring. But, instead of following in his father’s footsteps, Adrian used his inherited knowledge of scientific hypotheses and methods to fuel his artistic drive. Although Adrian uses a mixed media to produce each piece, a landscape viewed through a scientific lens is unmistakeable in his work.

“I usually change the technique, because I see that it can offer a particular aesthetic,” explains Adrian of his creative process. “The technique becomes a tool as to what I want to achieve at that particular moment. Once I come to a spot where I am satisfied and feel that the work is conveying a particular observation I stop.”


Having first realized his artistic aspirations as a high school student, it’s fitting that Adrian currently teaches art at Archbishop Murphy High School and Everett Community College. For him, teaching and creating go hand in hand.

You can view Adrian’s work at our SODO location through the end of May, and then at our McGraw café for the entire month of June.

Consider the Bun

Wheat Cider Buns are the natural choice.

Wheat Cider Buns are the natural choice.

As the weather turns warm this time of year, we can’t help but notice another change in the air. Once laced with the spicy scent of stoked fireplaces, our neighborhood now harbors the aroma of backyard barbecues. Maybe more so than other regions of the country, Seattleites embrace summer like a best friend they haven’t seen in ages.

Grocery lists are readied and shopping baskets fill with the goods of summer. But, there’s one thing that’s often overlooked or purchased haphazardly: the burger bun. Consider the bun with its hollows and crust to hug its contents, be it a grilled portobello or juicy hamburger, a slippery tomato slice or crisp onion ring. Any old brand just won’t suffice.

Packed with hearty ingredients that you can pronounce, like whole-wheat flour and cracked wheat berries, our Wheat Cider Bun is a virtuous compliment to organic vegetables, grass-fed beef, or Dungeness crab salad.

This is the time for outdoor living. Are you ready?

Chef Jeff Maxfield Aims Higher

SkyCity at the Space Needle is a culinary icon boasting sweeping panoramic views from Seattle’s paramount point of interest. It’s also one of our biggest restaurant partners. SkyCity’s Executive Chef Jeff Maxfield is on a mission to revitalize the restaurant’s reputation. He shares with us about his culinary upbringing, quick rise to the top, and philosophy behind some fresh changes to the menu.

Executive Chef Jeff Maxfield Image: SkyCity Restaurant

Executive Chef Jeff Maxfield
Image: SkyCity Restaurant

What is your earliest memory of cooking?

My earliest memory was in my grandmother’s kitchen making fresh egg noodles. We would spend all morning making the dough, rolling and cutting it into strips. We would then use every bit of space in the kitchen to hang it to dry.

When did you know you wanted to be a chef?

Growing up, food was always a big part of our family. My mother is an excellent cook and was a home economics teacher for several years. She was always experimenting with new recipes. My grandmother was of French descent and was an incredible baker. I knew I wanted to be a chef around the age of eight. I gave up the toy boats in the bathtub and grabbed the egg beater, measuring cups, pots, and pans to play with. I used to play restaurant on the weekends, taking my mother’s order while she was in bed and going to the kitchen to cook.

You worked in some notable restaurants early in your career. Do you have a favorite experience?

Hands down, my experience at Canlis would have to be my favorite. I started there in the late 90s as a line cook when Rocky Toguchi was the chef and Greg Atkinson had started as the executive chef, charged with giving the restaurant a facelift and updating the recipes and how things were done. Mr. and Mrs. Canlis still ran the day-to-day operations and really made me feel part of the family. I was promoted to sous chef at the age of 20 – the youngest manager in the history of the restaurant – and helped organize the Millennium dinner on [New Year’s Eve] 1999, raising $1 million for the YWCA in a single night. Mr. Canlis treated me as a son, often giving me life lessons and advice. Chef Greg ignited the passion in the way I cook, thinking local, responsible, and sustainable.

You started at SkyCity in 2004 as sous chef and then left for a spell. Why did you decide to come back? 

I left the Space Needle in January of 2007 and moved to Scottsdale, Arizona, with my wife to be closer to her family. I had just completed opening three restaurants and hosting ESPN for Super Bowl week when I was called by the Space Needle about the executive chef position. It was a no-brainer. The Needle has always held a special place in my heart, the people that work here, the family that owns it, and it being the most recognizable building in my hometown. The new general manager that was hired had told me during the interview process that he was challenged with the rebuilding of the service, food, and overall experience of the Needle. I was totally excited about being on the team that could change the reputation of the restaurant and providing the level of experience that I knew it was capable of having.

What makes Seattle customers unique? 

Seattle diners are so aware of their surroundings, whether it be sustainably-caught fish, responsibly-farmed produce, or a palate for award-winning wines. We are so lucky to live in this area of the world and have so many unique products in our backyard. Seattle’s laidback feel is one that I embrace. We moved away from the fine dining environment where there was a dress code to something quite the opposite. Even though we are a special occasion/celebration restaurant, Seattle doesn’t really support such a stuffy experience.

What is your favorite thing on the menu at SkyCity?

Tough question. One of my signature dishes here is Mocha Braised Short Ribs. The Washington-grown beef is brined in coffee and cardamom for 24 hours then braised with chocolate, red wine, and veal stock. It’s a dish my wife and I came up with one night years ago when we were broke and didn’t have much in the house other than some sample beef I got from a vendor, leftover coffee from the morning, and some Nestlé Toll House chocolate chips. It went on the menu and hasn’t come off since.

What inspired you to incorporate Macrina products into the menu? 

During my time at Canlis, we always served Macrina’s potato rolls. I would have to get up every morning at 4:30 and call in my orders to all of our vendors, Macrina included. Back then it was usually Leslie [Mackie] who answered the phone. I lived on Alki Beach back then, so at the end of service I would take some of the leftovers to “feed the seagulls” – that wasn’t entirely the case; I usually ate them myself. Macrina has always been my favorite bakery in Seattle, sharing in a lot of the same philosophies I have in our operation: quality product, service, and being a partner rather than an account.

How have your customers responded to Macrina products and other local ingredients on your menu?

Our bread program has really evolved over the last five years. When I started, we had rolls on the table. It was easy for the staff, easy to store, and cost effective, but not really that great tasting. Over the course of the next two years, [Macrina Wholesale Sales Manager] Rebecca Early and I ran into each other at a bunch of events, and she always asked when I was ready to make the switch. My response was always, “We’re not quite there yet.” Once I had my ducks in a row, we made the switch and our guests (and staff) haven’t been happier. One of our most asked questions is, “Where can I buy this bread?”

Other than your own restaurant, where’s your favorite place to eat?

Another tough question! I have a lot of “go to” restaurants on the eastside where I live, but I would say that Piroshky Piroshky, Uli’s Bierstube, or Tat’s Deli would be my “crave” food. Honestly, on a spring day, low tide, sitting on the beach with fresh oysters and clams, a bottle of Cholula, and a cold beer is pretty awesome.

If you could choose, what would be your last meal on Earth?

Lots of stuff: my grandma’s pickled salmon on wheat thins, beluga caviar (too bad you can’t get it anymore) with Taittinger Champagne, the roasted shiitake mushroom from [Chef] Blaine Wetzel at The Willows Inn, a big pile of Dungeness crab, and a steamed artichoke with aioli.

Indulgent Ideas for Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is nearly here, and while we appreciate our mothers every day, we love taking this holiday to truly spoil her with something delectable. Our Mother’s Day brunch menu is sure to delight, and we have something extra special for moms dining with us on Sunday. But we understand that some moms might just love to spend a relaxing morning at home. For those seeking a slower pace to their day, we’ve whipped up a batch of sweet ideas for breakfast-in-bed.

Chocolate Raspberry Mousse Cake

  • For the mom who prefers to eat desert first (no matter the time of day) our Mini Rustic Almond Cake topped with rich ganache and tart raspberries is a win.
  • Moms who like some savory with their sweet will appreciate a plate of flaky Buttermilk Biscuits with strawberry or marionberry jam.
  • For those who prefer to add a personal touch to their Mother’s Day breakfast, any of our Brioche loaves take homemade french toast to a whole new realm. Chocolate Cherry Brioche french toast, anyone?
  • And, who says Mother’s Day has to be celebrated in the morning. Our Chocolate Raspberry Mousse Cake (pictured above), laced with decadent mocha and ripe raspberries, is the perfect end to a perfect day.

Wishing all of the wonderful mothers out there a very happy Mother’s Day! Have a lovely weekend!

Meet the Artist: Jo Moniz


Jo Moniz, Aero, 2012, Mixed Encaustic on rice paper, 72 x 62 inches

Jo Moniz, a Pacific Northwest based artist, is currently exhibiting her work at our McGraw café. According to Jo, the featured work was influenced by “aerial views of flattened lands with distant horizons illuminated by the clear eastern sky.” Jo recently shared with us about unearthing inspiration, communing with her favorite artists, and creating in the kitchen.

How did you decide to show your work at Macrina Bakery? 

When I was showing at the Shift [Collaborative Studio] in Pioneer Square I met another artist, Ellen Hochberg, who said that Macrina was curating artists to show at their locations. I have always been a Macrina fan and have been making cakes and other goodies from my Macrina cookbook for years, so I thought it would be fun to show with you.

On your website, you talk about finding inspiration for your work in the world around you. How has this inspiration evolved throughout your career?  

I think that the biggest shift in my inspiration has actually just come from trusting my instincts more as I grow more confident. I let ideas come to the surface instead of thinking about whether they are worthy or not.

Is there a place that inspires you the most?  

I really don’t find that I am necessarily inspired to make art by a “place.” Any place that I find myself in a happy frame of mind is inspiring. It’s really internal for me.

In addition to drawing, painting, and sculpture, you have a background in architecture. What’s your favorite medium?  

I have been concentrating on encaustic medium right now. I find it just endlessly capable of new applications in my work. I love layering the paint and seeing what happens to the texture and color. I use architectural shapes in my paintings and actually use my triangles and rulers to etch lines into the surface.

What’s your creative process?  

I typically make some very general sketches quickly and go right to the panel and start drawing in graphite. I really don’t worry too much about the final colors at the beginning. Every color and shape changes the adjacent ones, so its like one giant puzzle which I try to solve. I think about the texture and the color of each segment of the drawing. I don’t like my paintings to look like they were time consuming; I like them to feel fresh, even if a painting takes me weeks.

If you could enjoy a meal with three artists, living or deceased, who would they be?

That’s a tough one and hard to narrow down, but if I can’t have a banquet table with more artists for a meal, I would choose Jaume Plensa, because I am really drawn to his sculpture for its bravery and beautiful forms. [Paul] Gauguin would be at the table for his free spirit and his love of color and nature. Ai Weiwei would fill the last spot for his ability to think so clearly and freely about his art.

Is there anything else you would like share with our readers?  

If you can’t make it into your neighborhood Macrina, make Leslie Mackie’s Lemon-Sour Cherry Coffee Cake. You won’t be sorry!

You can find Jo’s work at our McGraw café through the end of May. Jo is preparing for a two-person show with artist Jane Richlovsky at Seattle Art Museum’s TASTE Restaurant in June.