By Kelly Hogaboom
Chris, executive chef and owner at the Passport Café in Hoquiam, is a busy man. As I talk to him about the new eatery, a handful of employees bustle about making fresh pizzas, washing and cutting vegetables for lunch specials, and putting the morning coffee on. Tonight he and his crew will be hosting a wedding reception dinner in their dining area – a 2,000-square-foot space that opened to the public on October 13.
If you haven’t made it in yet, here’s a look at what you’re missing: A Mexican cemita sandwich filled with slow-cooked Yucatan pork or chopped herbed chicken and topped with lettuce and avocado. House-made hummus in Spanish bread stuffed with grape leaves, olive tapenade, tomatoes, onions, and sprouts. Fresh soups which include cheesy potato bacon, mushroom spelt, veggie gumbo, and a German cabbage soup. Both hot and cold-brew coffee, and a new fresh-brewed tea, daily. Bottled pepsi (made with cane sugar) and huckleberry soda. Need I go on?
The price is right, too. Dishes range from $3 (for hummus and pita) to $8 for larger sandwiches. This football season they are even offering a Seahawks Game Day special: A U-bake pizza with any number of quality toppings, a 2-liter soft drink, and house salad – all for $15.
Describing their business as “fresh, slow food – fast,” with an international flair, Chris explains he’s “always been in food.” From working as a banquet chef at a Gulf Coast resort to running a food truck specializing in Louisiana fare and Greek dishes, his passion for the culinary arts are evident.
He’s especially proud of his breads. “We make fresh bread daily for sandwiches, and for sale. Our breads are made without additives, preservatives, mold inhibitors or any of those 14-letter ingredients.”
In fact, Passport’s breads are well-known to me already. I’ve probably tried ten different kinds, excluding their sweet pastries. My favorite bread so far has been the Pan de Sal, a white bread with a heady, dark crust. I hid it in the cupboard so my family wouldn’t demolish every bit of it on day one!
Even while working hard to put the restaurant together, Chris and his wife Sheryl have not been idle where the community is concerned. In the past two months they’ve donated bread and other food items to the Harbor Rescue fundraiser at the 7th Street Theatre, the Friends of the Hoquiam Timberland Library, Hoquiam High School‘s spaghetti feed fundraiser for Senior Night, Oktoberfest at St. Mary’s, and the HBA’s “Hoquiam Shows Its Best” auction. They also hosted a booth at Grays Harbor PRIDE’s first festival this summer and were open on Logger’s Playday in early September.
Chris is pleased with the start the restaurant has had. “We’ve been supported by the community. I’ve been able to source all I need here.” This includes contract work, most recently being – to my knowledge – the beautiful treatment of the dining room floor, sure to get many compliments.
I ask Chris what his hopes are for the future. He tells me he hopes to establish decor and finish their dining room space very soon. Customers can expect longer hours and an expanded menu, too. He explains to me they’re also hoping to add a continental breakfast option, offering “fresh bread, spreadable cheese, and sliced tomatoes,” he describes by way of example. My stomach, empty as I’m about to head to a yoga class, clenches in envy.
I pour a cup of coffee and we close out our conversation. As a long-term Hoquiamite, living 25 years of my life in Hoquiam’s west side, this new cafe is a welcome addition to downtown. My family and I have been regular customers since they opened in mid-August this year. I tell him how much I appreciate they are here. Chris tells me, “I like being near the water. And [my wife and I] want to participate in the rejuvenation of a small town.”
From what I can see so far – mission accomplished!
You can find the Passport Cafe on Facebook. They offer in-house catered events, breakfast and lunch, takeaway, and ala-carte food for off-site events.
526 8th St
Hoquiam, WA 98550
Hours: Monday – Saturday, 9:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.