Three years after Joel Radin went bankrupt and closed Zayda Buddy’s, his cult-followed ode to the Midwest in Ballard, he’s brought Minnesota-style pizza, hotdish, and so much Wisconsin cheese back to Seattle — this time at a Fremont bar called Petoskey’s, with help from a fellow Midwesterner, Pomerol owner Vuong Loc.
The new restaurant opened this fall in the former home of chef Loc’s China Pie (125 N 36th St.), which served an offbeat mash-up of pizza and dumplings for about two years. The duo met while Radin was dining at Pomerol next door, and they got to talking about a collaboration.
China Pie closed in August and underwent a few minor cosmetic changes to become Petoskey’s; the space filled with a row of cozy booths bedecked in red leather, a few flat screens showing any and all sporting events featuring Midwestern teams, and old-school sports posters and vintage beer signs from companies like Schmidt’s and Hamm’s. The pizza oven remains, of course.
This time around, instead of naming the restaurant after his grandfather, Radin has drawn inspiration from Loc’s home state of Michigan: Petoskey is a city in Michigan, the Mitten State’s official stone, and the last name of a fictional hockey player, Mike Petoskey, whose illustrious backstory is on the restaurant’s official website.
Why open another Midwestern-themed restaurant? “It’s just in the blood,” Radin says, and “Vuong is from the Midwest too, [so we thought] we’d partner up and bring the Midwest back.” Certainly, Seattle is not brimming with establishments showcasing the unique culinary achievements of the Midwest, so it’s a niche that should attract transplants and perhaps convert newbies to the cuisine as well. And because Loc has “the skills of a chef,” Radin says, “we brought [the Midwest] back a little bit more elegant.”
They’ve been doing their thing since the end of September, serving flavors of the Midwest with just as much cheese as expected but with a bit more sophistication than some might be used to. Here’s what to expect.
In Radin’s hometown of Saint Cloud, Minnesota, this hearty stew (pronounced boo-yah) is a specialty of local churches. “People bring their own pot with their name on it [to the church]. You leave it with them overnight, they fill your pot, and you come pick it up the next day,” he says. Payment is calculated according to weight.
Here, the stew is a flavorful mix of chicken, beef, and pork butt further bolstered by cabbage, potatoes, rutabaga, carrots, and corn still on the cob. It’s also one of the only items on the menu not smothered in cheese.
Tater Tot Hotdish
Another Midwestern dinner staple, this dish (sometimes spelled “hot dish” or called a casserole) usually combines ground beef with cream of mushroom soup and possibly peas or some other green vegetable, finished with a layer of tater tots. At Petoskey’s the dish is a little more refined, with ground beef and tater tots supported by caramelized onions, roasted mushrooms, and broccolini — bound together by heaps of creamy Wisconsin cheese sauce, of course.
The mark of a good fresh cheese curd is that it squeaks when chewed, an effect hard to capture unless the time between production and consumption is short. These curds, however, are neither fresh nor squeaky. Instead, they’re deep fried until gooey inside and crispy outside, served with a tangy tomato sauce. Radin sources the curds from Wisconsin and they’re one of the hottest items on the menu.
Mac and Cheese
The Petoskey’s mac and cheese combines creamy Wisconsin cheddar with pasta shells and little nuggets of deep-fried cheese curds for an over-the-top experience. “This is the dish people talk about,” Radin says.
Minnesota-style pizza has a super-thin crust and a tangy, oregano-forward sauce, Radin says, and must be cut in squares rather than the typical triangles. It’s also, no surprise, ultra cheesy. The pizza at Petoskey’s is modeled after that of Minnesota-based chain Sammy’s, which got its start in Hibbing, Minnesota, in the early 1950s, but this style is popular across North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan.
Radin’s favorite toppings are Canadian bacon and green olive, but versions adorned with mac and cheese and sauerkraut are so far proving to be big hits with customers.
While the bartenders here are fully capable of mixing up a traditional martini, one of the bar’s most popular cocktails is the so-called Minnesota Martini — it’s not a martini at all, but a boilermaker pairing Hamm’s beer with a shot of George Dickel Whisky.
Additional cocktails include a bloody mary, made with the same spicy, tangy mix popularized at Zayda Buddy’s, and the well-balanced Charlevoix, named after a town in Michigan and combining gin with St. Germaine and prosecco. There are also plenty of local craft beers alongside a few choice Midwest-sourced options, like Leinenkugel’s.
Petoskey’s is open Monday through Thursday 4 p.m. to midnight, Friday 4 p.m. to 1:30 a.m., and Saturday and Sunday 9 a.m. to noon.