If you pass through the intersection of 23rd and Union (as I do every day) you will see a gas station, an empty lot with a cavernous sink hole, and a one-story building with multiple businesses including Earl’s Hair Cuts, a tax broker, and a state liquor store.
And on the northeast corner you’ll find an oddly shaped, stand-alone building most remembered as Philly’s Best Steaks & Hoagies. It is said that the owner, Dejene Berecha, was a lovely man. People speak of him kindly, saying that he was funny and the perfect host for those needing a quick bite before catching the 48 or the number 2 bus.
Tragically, Berecha died in 2008 after sustaining injuries from a shooting at the restaurant.
And this wasn’t the first time tragedy had struck the spot. In 2003 previous owner Troy Hackett was shot to death in his car a few blocks away from the restaurant.
For years the shell of Philly’s Best remained empty, the cracked plastic menu still hanging over the counter.
But last summer an enigmatic ‘coming soon’ sign appeared in the window announcing a that bakery would be opened on the corner. The Bumble Bee Bakery lasted six months. The staff was friendly, but the goods were nothing to write home about, and the place had an ill-fated feel from the start.
Another six months went by and another, somehow more convincing ‘coming soon’ sign appeared in the windows, this time announcing the upcoming arrival of Med Mix.
In the weeks since, there’s been a flurry of improvements to the building with new paint on the walls inside and outside, a snazzy Greek pattern surrounding the roof line, and decals on the windows advertising an ambitious array of foods, from moussaka to fish and chips to pizza by the slice.
So is Med Mix for real? I have talked to the new owner, Mr. Otmane Bezzaz, who is originally from Morocco, on the phone a couple of times. But he’s been elusive. He must be very confident that his food is extremely good and the location is prime, that he doesn’t need PR.
What’s especially promising is that Otmane has restaurant experience. He is owner of the “Mediterranean Mix” in Pioneer Square, a restaurant that has enjoyed consistent popularity according to David, the prep cook, who has worked with Otmane for eight years and will soon be cooking at the 23rd and Union location.
Med Mix has an interesting group of cooks: David is from Seattle. Ken, who is originally from Louisiana and now lives in the CD, will be taking care of the fried chicken. Then there is Winsten, from Jamaica, who will be preparing the special offerings, such as jerk chicken, meat and veggie patties.
When I asked Ken about the competition with Ezell’s a few blocks away, he said that there are four fried chicken locations in Seattle proper; Med Mix will be the fifth. He thinks that fried chicken is so delicious it deserves more than four spots offering it. He also pointed out that Med Mix is not just fried chicken, it offers a whole slew of foods, even for vegetarians like me.
Med Mix’s menu stays truer to the Mix than to the Med in its name. In addition to fried chicken, they offer a wide range of foods: pizza, meat and veggie patties, that apparently are different than the hamburgers, various kinds of sandwiches, hot dogs, gyros, Philly cheesesteaks, hummus, maybe even fish-n chips, and salads. But best of all, they’re going to have falafel sandwiches.
I have not had a falafel sandwich in Seattle since arriving from Amman 19 months ago. I, like many Arabs, am very particular about what a falafel sandwich should taste like. Med Mix promises a good falafel sandwich. So, on the day it opens, I will be there to put it to the test and have my first Seattle falafel sandwich.
So when, you might ask, will that be? Well, Otmane is preserving the mystery, but there are already sodas in the beverage case, and sources say it will open before the end of the month.
I must admit that I want this place to succeed because I want to have this corner to be busy, for this location to be owned by–and employ–people of color, and to provide foods that are delicious. I also want it to do well because it is time to dispel the feeling that this little spot is somehow cursed.