Cafe by Day, Bar by Night
Cafe by day, bar by night, Hood Famous offers a taste of the Philippines in the heart of the International District. The neighborhood is rich in Philippine history, but Hood Famous is the only Filipino restaurant, offering a moment of joyful nostalgia to those who grew up with the unique flavors of the islands, and a window into another culture for those who did not. The storefront in Chinatown was a natural extension of Chera Amlag & Geo Quibuyen’s Ballard based bakery, locally famous for their flagship Ube Cheesecake. Beyond baked goods, the new cafe is a celebration of heritage and history from the moment guests enter the doors.
The International District was an obvious choice for such an undertaking in 2019. Both Chera and her husband have deep roots in the neighborhood, from their first jobs to personal relationships in the community. Once home to many Filipino businesses, Chera and Geo wanted to reclaim and revive the stories and influence of those early immigrants. On the walls, you’ll find black and white photos of the original entrepreneurs and risk-takers who built the Chinatown International District. Occasionally, a visitor will even spot themselves or a family member in the photographs.
Fulcrum x Hood Famous
The design of the space, from the green-blue tile to the verdant plant life, is only part of Chera and Geo’s commitment to celebrating their cultural heritage. The products they choose to carry, whenever possible, share a connection to the Philippines. Hood Famous, for instance, is the first cafe on the West Coast to carry Kalsada Coffee. Chera discovered the brand when she saw a photo of Kalsada’s founder in Pike Place Market and learned of Carmelo Laurino’s mission to help the Filippino coffee industry thrive. Inspired, Chera sought out a farmer and began importing the coffee. Fulcrum co-founder, Blas Alfaro, let Chera use their space to roast and process the coffee herself. Chera’s vision and her commitment to carrying Kalsada Coffee, despite its relatively unknown status, impressed Blas, who shared a similar passion for supporting small farmers in the world of coffee. Fulcrum soon began importing and roasting Kalsada Coffee purely for Hood Famous.
Today, you can step off the light rail and pop into Hood Famous for a hot cup of fresh brew in the morning, or you can swing by after dinner for a Kalsada cold brew martini made with a Philippine gin. Hood Famous Cafe & Bar has carved out a unique niche well worth seeking out for anyone open to being transported through flavor. The space sings with authenticity, a true labor of love for Chera and Geo. Geo says “the vibe is all about the present moment, but inspired and informed by history and building a foundation for the future… We bring our traditions with us and develop new ones, changing the landscape and being changed by it in the process.”
The pandemic and associated lock downs made the future less certain, but the couple’s passion and excitement are still very much present. They have strong roots in the community and a long history of supporting local artists and other small businesses, playing their part in a cycle of giving back. Their commitment to doing the right thing, rather than the easy thing, is recognized in a neighborhood that values interconnectedness and sustainability. In short, they’ve always had this community’s back, and now the community has theirs.