Un Bien: On Their Own

bien bros

“These are the guys that turned down Guy Fieri,” Ornella Lorenzo blurted out.

“Not because we didn’t want the exposure,” her husband, Lucas Lorenzo protested. “We’re just not the best at publicity, actually we’re pretty bad. I mean, look at us. We suck on paper. We didn’t attend a fancy culinary institute, we’ve never traveled the world sourcing the best international flavors. We just grew up working with my dad, day in and day out, learning the recipes and cuisine he brought with him from Cuba.”

Welcome to Un Bien, the child of Paseo, or more accurately, a restaurant by the children of Lorenzo Lorenzo (his real name), the founder and former owner of Paseo, arguably Seattle’s most celebrated sandwich shop. For over 20 years, until it’s abrupt closing last November, Paseo was a favorite of locals and travelers alike. Lorenzo’s two children, Julian and Lucas Lorenzo, worked weekends at Paseo while in high school and full-time for the last five years. When their father, amidst some legal trouble, abruptly closed both stores, Julian and Lucas were left without jobs.

bien sammy

Four months ago they opened Un Bien at 7302 15th Ave NW in Ballard, at the former site of Burger Hero (and Lunchbox Laboratory before that). They’ve painted the building a Caribbean-pink and are serving many of the same sandwiches that made Paseo famous—such as the nationally-renowned Caribbean Roast. They use the same bread Paseo did for 20 years, the Giuseppe Roll made by Macrina, the perfect roll for a robust sandwich like the Caribbean Roast—not so soft that it collapses under the weight and juices of the marinated pork, aioli, onions, lettuce, and jalapeños, and not so firm that the sandwich’s ingredients spill out into your lap (or at least most of them) when you take a bite.

bien progress

They opened with a staff comprised entirely of former Paseo employees. Business has been brisk, largely fueled by word of mouth. To keep up, they’ve recently had to hire two new employees. Lucas works the kitchen in the mornings, Julian in the evenings. They are busy at lunch and then again later at dinner. As their father was, they are very protective of the secret ingredients in the marinades. But they’ve tweaked things a bit, finding ways to speed up the line by making the kitchen more efficient, adding a helpful new POS system, and accepting credit cards, a big difference from the cash-only days of their father’s Paseo.

On a recent weekday afternoon, Un Bien’s long outdoor communal table was full, a steady line at the order window, the kitchen a bustle of activity. Lucas, his wife Ornella, and Julian stood in front, tired from the days work, but grateful to be open and doing their own thing. “We feel very fortunate for the reception we’ve gotten,” Julian said. When asked about the future Lucas said, “We still have to get through our first winter. We work to make the food we know the best we can. We’re proud to make our father’s recipes, to carry that on, and also to be doing our own thing. One day at a time. We’re restaurant people, that’s what we do.”

Un Bien:  7302 15th Ave NW; Open Wednesday-Saturday 11 am – 9 pm and Sunday 11 am – 8 pm; Closed Monday and Tuesday