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All You Can Eat

Trend-setting restaurants, Northwest cookbooks, local food news and the people who make them happen.

December 12, 2014 at 3:21 PM

Paseo to reopen; new owner plans no changes

Employees of Paseo, home of some of Seattle’s best and most beloved sandwiches, stand outside the locked restaurant Tuesday. Paseo has abruptly closed its doors. This location is at: 4225 Fremont Ave N Seattle, WA

Employees of Paseo, home of some of Seattle’s most beloved sandwiches, stand outside the locked restaurant last month after it closed when its owner filed for bankruptcy. A new owner is reopening it. (Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times)

Sandwich lovers of Seattle, rejoice! Paseo is coming back, and quickly.

A federal judge approved the bankruptcy sale today, and the new owner, Ryan Santwire, said the beloved Fremont storefront will be reopening as soon as possible. And yes, he promises that the famously delicious, infamously messy Paseo sandwich will be just like you remember it.

“We got the people, we got the stuff,” Santwire said. “When it’s all said and done, it should be just opening the doors again.”

He plans zero changes. “People loved it the way it was,” he added.

Paseo shut down suddenly a month ago to huge public outcry, then filed for bankruptcy. Former employees filed a lawsuit against then-owner Lorenzo Lorenzo in September, alleging they were denied overtime pay, bathroom and meal breaks, which Lorenzo disputes.

Finding the doors suddenly locked after 21 years in business, devotees literally lit candles in front of the shop; if there were actual prayers for the return of Paseo, they are about to be answered.

Last week, Santwire bought the restaurant for $91,000 at an auction held in judge’s chambers at the federal courthouse.

Lorenzo filed an objection to the inclusion of the recipes in the sale of the Paseo name and assets — asserting in court documents that he was “the developer and owner of all the recipes for the marinades, salsas, mayos and beans that were used.”

Ryan Santwire has the keys and is ready to re-open Paseo's restaurant "as soon as possible." (Mark Harrison / The Seattle Times)

Ryan Santwire has the keys and is ready to re-open Paseo’s restaurant “as soon as possible.” (Mark Harrison / The Seattle Times)

He  further claimed, “I have never disclosed the recipes to anyone else. I never let anyone watch me while I make the various items. I never licensed anyone to use my recipes.” However, Lorenzo also operated a Paseo shop in Key West, Florida, while running the two Seattle stores. (The Key West outlet remains open, according to the Key West Citizen.)

Nevertheless, copyright law does not generally apply to recipes, and Santwire said he and a team of former Paseo cooks — who he has rehired for the resurrected shop — already re-created the sandwiches in a secret, daylong session last week. The painstaking, reportedly delicious testing process took place in the kitchen of RockCreek, a seafood restaurant a block away from Paseo in which Santwire is an investor. The cooks, said Santwire, have made the famous marinades and sauces countless times before. “They’re the same people who’ve been cooking the food for eight years,” he said.

In addition to rehiring the cooks, Santwire said relationships with longtime Paseo suppliers — like Macrina Bakery and Sea Bend Meats — are also being reestablished for the sake of the beloved sandwiches’ ongoing consistency. His first priority is getting the Fremont shop back up and running, “as people remember it.” Then he’ll think about reopening the second location near Shilshole.

A Northwest native and Ballard resident, Santwire said, “I’m a full-on lover of Paseo. I’ve eaten there a hundred times… It’s a Seattle institution.”

Santwire allowed that there would be one change. Paseo used to take a yearly winter hiatus; he intends to keep it open throughout January.

“With all the doom and gloom in the world,” Santwire said, “it’s nice to have a Seahawks story — a little mini-Super Bowl — for the food industry.”

Comments | More in Food news, Restaurant Closures, Restaurants | Topics: Paseo, RockCreek, Ryan Santwire

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