Despite not having a physical space, chef Jan Parker has forged a fierce reputation for delicious, seasonal Filipino food at local farmers markets and festivals. By next year, she hopes to open a brick-and-mortar restaurant — “where brunch flavors of the Philippines reign supreme” in downtown Tacoma.
It will be called Reyna Filipina Kitchen, after the Tagalog word for queen. The name also honors her mother and all the women who have supported her culinary journey, which began as she grew up in an immigrant household and blossomed around 2015 when her husband was stationed with the Army in Europe.
Parker, who launched her food business Jan Parker Cookery in 2018, has signed a letter of intent to be an anchor tenant of a forthcoming destination in downtown Tacoma.
“It’s going to change a lot of things in Tacoma,” she said. “People need to see that someone’s doing it, so they can actually do it themselves — to get that inspiration. We need to bring more diversity to the downtown area.”
The downtown corridor is undoubtedly experiencing a burst of interest from developers, from Old City Hall’s restoration to the former Key Tower at 1119 Pacific Ave. Next door, in the ground floor of the old Key Bank through heavy, tall brass doors, Interurban Development is planning a food hall featuring Tacoma-based eateries and a bar. A block north in another historic high-rise, apartments and officers are opening, anchored by Jin Jin Matcha, a new tea cafe, on the ground floor.
Parker is currently negotiating a formal lease for her downtown restaurant space, a process that also requires raising capital to support the build-out, especially equipment. For that reason, she is keeping the precise address under wraps for now, though you can catch a teaser on her Instagram page.
REYNA FILIPINA KITCHEN
At Reyna, a brunch-focused concept, she will serve the likes of her famous chili garlic noodles, crunchy adobo fried chicken, juicy short ribs and pork belly with homemade banana ketchup — a staple of Filipino cuisine. Also popular at her Proctor Farmers Market stand are pancakes griddled with ube — fresh-cut purple yam, not the canned stuff — stacked and drizzled with a rich coconut cream sauce, finished with black sesame and brown sugar. In the off-season, while offering takeout and delivery through DoorDash from her commissary kitchen, she added ube beignets and house-stuffed longanisa, a sweet-and-spicy pork sausage.
Her food reflects her family’s history — one that highlights the complex tales of the Filipino diaspora — and the bounty of the Pacific Northwest. She was the first Filipino vendor at the Proctor market and now serves on its advisory board. If the brick-and-mortar comes to fruition, her restaurant would be the first Filipino destination in downtown Tacoma.
“I meet with so many Filipino people who get so emotional when we talk about this,” she told me in a recent phone call. “We’ve been around since the 1580s in the U.S., and to think there are a limited number of places we can go is just wild to me.”
There are more than 4 million Filipinos across the country, with more than 100,000 in the greater Seattle area. According to Pew Research Center data, of the 22 million people of Asian heritage living in the United States, almost 20 percent are Filipino — exceeded only by Indian and Chinese populations. There are fewer numbers of Vietnamese, Korean and Japanese, yet their cuisines are well-known in the restaurant world. Filipino food, full of sweet, salty and sour flavors, has only recently garnered similar attention: Three Filipino restaurants were nominated for James Beard awards this year, as The Seattle Times reported, including Archipelago in Seattle. Also to Tacoma’s north, Musang has drawn crowds since opening in 2019.
Jan Parker Cookery has been recognized, too, right here in The News Tribune: Last year, we featured Parker in our chef series, “6 women reshaping Tacoma’s restaurant scene.” KUOW highlighted her family’s holiday traditions, readers named her “Best Chef” in South Sound Magazine’s annual awards and Eater Seattle said her pop-up was one to try.
“I think it’s time,” said Parker of reaching the point of transitioning to a brick-and-mortar. “I’m also just super tired of moving stuff around!”
She is particularly excited to be part of downtown Tacoma and a more permanent player in bringing diversity to the food scene of the South Sound.
“There’s so much beauty here, there’s so much going on — we have a lot to offer,” she said. “That’s one of the main reasons why: to represent the people, let them know they have a place to go and put Filipino food on the map.”
To support Jan Parker’s goal of opening a brick-and-mortar restaurant in downtown Tacoma, check out her Kickstarter campaign, going on now through June 17. She is also hosting fundraisers with partner restaurants, including Tibbitts Fern Hill on Friday, June 10 — ube pancakes on the menu with calamansi lemonade and ube lattes.
JAN PARKER COOKERY
▪ Currently cooking most Saturdays at Proctor Farmers Market, 9 a.m.-2 p.m.
▪ Goal to open restaurant in downtown Tacoma, 2024; support the Kickstarter