Paying homage to a classic childhood comfort food with a recipe passed down from his grandmother Sylvia, Seattle chef Jonny “Chef Perm” Silverberg has done the inconceivable: Launched a food truck where he makes sandwiches — out of latkes.
Silverberg grew up in Scottsdale, Ariz., attended the University of Oregon, and later graduated from the Culinary Institute of America. When he first arrived in Seattle in 2007, he got a job as a sous chef at a catering company in Redmond, connected with the restaurant Pomegranate Bistro on the Eastside. After moving back to Arizona, then back to Seattle, Silverberg returned to Pomegranate Bistro as the chef de cuisine.
Silverberg knew when he rejoined Pomegranate that his goal would be to start his own business. Being his own boss has always been his ambition, he said, but getting his own restaurant was becoming far too daunting a task.
“The fact that the food truck world has kind of taken off in this city and the laws have changed [have] made it a lot easier,” says Silverberg, in addition to “the fact that I have this one product that is truly unique, and nobody else is doing and it allows me to be really focused.”
One day, Silverberg was cooking and reminiscing about his grandmother’s latkes when the idea came to him. “I’ve always loved sandwiches — they’re sort of a guilty pleasure,” he says. “And it just sort of happened.”
Silverberg tested his sandwiches a few times in the restaurant to gauge the response.
“People kind of lost their minds,” Silverberg said, laughing.
Monday saw the grand opening of Napkin Friends: The Latke Press Sandwich food truck at South Lake Union’s Banya 5 parking lot. That will be the truck’s Monday afternoon spot from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for the foreseeable future, with more spots to be added as Silverberg searches the truck circuit.
Last month, Silverberg launched a Kickstarter campaign for Napkin Friends to help recoup costs for the truck and equipment for the mobile restaurant.
“The idea is to have people retroactively help me out. I have the truck and all the things I need with the exception of a couple of pieces of equipment I have,” says Silverberg. “But the idea of the Kickstarter is to get people who know me and want to be part of it to be able to be part of it and also to get the message out.”
By supporting Napkin Friends’ Kickstarter, you get rewards such as your name printed on the truck, Grandma Sylvia’s secret latke recipe, spice rubs, and other swag. So the investment is still very much there.
While some sandwiches will rotate, other staples will stay on the menu, like the Classic Combo, a vegetarian sweet-and-savory sandwich with apple and brie. Matzoh ball soup and Extra Britt’s pickles will also be signature items.
“Anything that you think could be amazing with potatoes, is amazing in a latke sandwich,” says Silverberg. He couldn’t be more right.