Inside Seattle's Food Scene With Chef Josh Henderson

Restaurateur and local chef Josh Henderson takes us to some of the city's best dining stops—and shares his plan for a perfect day exploring the city (bring your bike).

Josh Henderson is an award-winning Seattle chef and restaurateur who has spent the past few years building an ever-expanding restaurant and food empire. He got his start in 2007 with Skillet—phenomenal street food served from a vintage Airstream trailer. A brick-and-mortar location, Skillet Diner, followed in 2011, accompanied by retail sales of his famous bacon jam. In 2013, Josh formed the Huxley Wallace Collective with other partners to open Westward, Little Gull Grocery and Hollywood Tavern—and he isn't done yet. There are other projects in the works, and we can't wait to see what's next from this talented local entrepreneur.

Beside your own restaurants, where do you like to eat out?

Three of my favorites right now are Il Corvo (217 James St.), Radiator Whiskey (94 Pike St.) and Loretta’s (8617 14th Ave. S).

What is it about the Seattle food scene that sets it apart from other cities?

The access we have on the West Coast—Seattle in particular—to amazing, fresh ingredients is pretty incredible. We’re able to source some of the best produce, meats and cheeses year-round, which has a direct impact on the whole food scene here. We also have amazing Northwest fish, crab, oysters and mussels all basically from our own back yard.

Oysters on the half shell at Westward
Fresh oysters on the half shell at Westward (©Sarah Jurado)

What is your fondest Seattle memory?

I actually have two. Both times my wife was pregnant with our sons (Huck 4 and Wally 1), we got the chance to walk our Seattle neighborhood while labor was just beginning. It was such an incredibly special feeling on each occasion, knowing our boys were going to be here hours later. Time for the two of us to appreciate what we have and enjoy those last moments before life would change so much.

What Seattle landmark could you not live without?

Mount Rainier. The view of it on a clear Seattle day is amazing. I've lived here for decades and it never gets old.

What is your favorite dish to prepare at home?

Pork ragu and a small pasta like gemelli. I like to slow cook the sauce overnight with pork, San Marzano tomatoes and sage. Add some fresh crusty bread, reggiano cheese and some red wine, and it’s good to go.

What has been the highlight of your career so far in Seattle?

The highlight of my career so far is being able to work with a remarkable group of people every day. Seeing a team of creative, passionate and smart individuals develop over the years, and then come together to work on a variety of projects has been very cool. I feel lucky to be surrounded by such a great network.

If you had to pick one of your restaurants as your favorite, which would it be?

Of course, it’s hard to pick just one. They’re kind of like having kids—how can one be the best? That being said, it would have to be the Airstream trailer because that was the very first, and the reason all of the other properties now exist. The Airstream will always be emotionally special. The Skillet diners, Westward, Little Gull, The Hollywood Tavern, Parchment and Cone & Steiner all have certain things I love, but street food was where it all started.

Seattle restaurant Westward
The eclectic, diner-style feel at Westward (©Sarah Jurado)

My Perfect Day

9 am: A breakfast bike tour

Ride my bike (pulling the kids in the trailer) to Café Basalu (5909 24th Ave. NW) in Ballard for a Danish. Good, strong coffee is also a must. From there, I'd take the kids down to the ship canal to watch the boats as they head in and out of the locks. They love it when the bridge goes up to let the big fishing and tug boats through.

Noon: Lunch at Westward

A Huxley Wallace Collective (the Collective that owns and develops his many restaurant concepts) meeting and lunch at Westward (2501 N. Northlake Way). Westward is located waterfront on the north end of Lake Union and offers views of the lake and city. Lake Union is at the heart of the city and always buzzing with boats, seaplanes, kayaks and paddle boards—never a dull moment.

The waterfront at Westward restaurant in Seattle
The waterfront at Westward (©Linster Creative)

3 pm: Farmers markets and bakeries

Next, would be grocery shopping for dinner at our friends' beach house. I'd grab fresh produce and cheese from any of the local farmers markets and bread from Columbia City Bakery (4865 Rainier Ave. S). On a nice day I’ll also get wood for the fire pit so we can cook outside with a view of the water.

9 pm: Local distilleries

S’mores around the camp fire followed by whiskey and cards with friends. Lucky for me so many local distilleries are producing some great spirits.

Discover more of Seattle: The Where® Travel Guide to Seattle