Photo by Shane Harms
Nathan Osher (left) and Jonathan Fisher looking over leek blossoms at Skylight Farms.

Porkchop & Co. brings deli inspired delicacies to Ballard

Porkchop & Co. at 5451 Leary Ave. N.W. is turning heads and enticing appetites with their deli-style approach to locally sourced foods.

The restaurant opened last April relatively under the radar in the space where Belle Clementine used to be. But chef and owner, Paul Osher said that was the plan: open fast and then build up slowly using the best ingredients possible.

Since opening Osher has been slowly adding to the menu and has started offering unique "deli-items" by the half-pint like house-made kimchi, kraut, strawberry jam and pickles. They have also slowly added new entrees like Spaetzle and sides like kale Caesar salad to a decorated menu that offers breakfast/brunch, lunch and dinner.

“We are just offering honest and tasty food. It’s honest because there’s nothing made here that comes out of a box, and tasty because we take flavor very seriously. We are really trying to turn out the best product that we can – something that is unusual and flavor-forward and surprising, ” said Osher.

Like a deli, Porkchop has specialized in the sandwich, offering 10 truly unique and ambitious sandwiches for both vegetarians and carnivores. The smoked beet sandwich is not something typical to see on most restaurant menus and is made with blue cheese, frisée and romesco sauce on Macrina Bakery’s rye. The pulled pastrami sandwich with red sauerkraut, cheese, mustard on rye is a classic and dear to Osher.

“Since my family used to be in the kosher meat packing business the pastrami is kind of an ode to them, but it’s definitely made a little differently than how they did it. … It’s shredded like pulled pork and we give it extra smoke,” said Osher.

The iconic glass deli case containing house-made pickled vegetables speaks to Osher’s history with food. Osher comes from a long line of kosher butchers. His family owned a meat packing business in Cincinnati and later in Chicago.

While in college Osher worked at a corner deli slicing meats and wrapping orders for neighborhood customers. There he learned some of the simple pleasures of working at a deli like making friends with the regulars, making fresh sandwiches and deli specialties.

In 2010 Osher started Bean & Thyme, a catering company and farmers market sandwich vendor. Osher served sandwiches made from scratch using ingredients found at Santa Monica Farmers' Market and house-cured meats. At the time Osher was also working toward a Ph.D. in political theory but soon felt his passion was leaning more toward food. Osher said he began reading more cookbooks than textbooks.

Over a year ago Osher started looking for a location to start a restaurant. In Los Angeles, the competition for find a unique space that fit Osher’s vision was tough. So when Osher’s parents had dinner at Bell Clemetime and learned that the space would soon be vacant, Osher jumped at the opportunity.

Like in Santa Monica, the crux of Osher’s philosophy of food is to source most of their products from local and regional farmers. Much of Osher’s ingredients come from Skylight Farms in Snohomish rather than from bulk purveyors.

Skylight is owned and operated by Ballardites, Petrina and Jonathan Fisher. Their 20-acre farm resides on the banks of the Snohomish River, where they grow seasonal vegetables, fruits and maintain a small herd of cattle and pastured hens.

“The stuff we get from local farms is definitely different. It’s more flavorful and unusual. For instance, one week the arugula will be something you wouldn’t expect – extra peppery with a ridiculous bite. The stuff we get from the farms is always superior and fantastic. But it’s not all about that. It’s also about supporting the local economy and good sustainable farming practices.”

Indeed. The Fishers respectful stewardship of the land and sustainable farming practices are revealed in the quality and terroir of their produce. That unique excellence and sense of place is what Osher wants to showcase in his food.

After visiting Skylight Farms and seeing the pristine rolling country hallowed with fog, bestowing rows and rows of tomato’s, kale, and beets, the Ballard News-Tribune needed to have a taste.

The roasted cauliflower sandwich is in its own echelon of greatness. It’s decadent, creamy and richly sumptuous.

“The inspiration for the sandwich is my love and obsession with cauliflower. It started as a cauliflower salad sandwich like a chicken salad sandwich and somehow it grew into this.”

Osher roasts cauliflower and then bastes it with hot sauce. To add even more cauliflower flavor, there is a cauliflower puree, which is cauliflower with butter, miso, hot sauce and mustard seeds. In addition there is cheddar and in-house made American cheese for extra creaminess. The spicy arugula gives a good peppery cut into the thick buttery-ness of the puree. Moreover, the grilled Macrina rye mingles well with the sweet, nutty flavor of the cauliflower and mustard seeds, and adds the much needed crispy, chewy texture to go with the smooth puree. To top it off there is a soft egg added, oozing a warm gooey yolk all over, and adding a rounded, enveloping blanket of flavor that ties all the ingredients together. Yum.

Roasted cauliflower sandwich. Photo by Shane Harms

“The egg yolk is in there because everything should have an egg yolk. It just pushes it over the top. The eggs are cooked in a water bath for an hour so they don’t run and are more like custard.”

With sandwiches like the roasted cauliflower, it’s promising Porkchop & Co. will be a hit with Ballardites. Osher said since their opening they have had a lot of good feedback from patrons.

“We get a lot of repeat customers. That’s something I’m really happy and excited to see. I’m guessing 25 percent of customers coming in have been here before. It’s pretty good. I think people are happy to have us. There’s obviously no shortage of restaurants in the area, but I think we stand out. We are not a bar. We are not a pub or a fancy restaurant. We are a place where people can come more than once a week and enjoy really great food grown not far from here.”

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