Chris Cvetkovich has amassed an impressive list of world travels covering some 50 countries. He’s road tripped through much of Europe, traveled extensively in Asia, and spent time in the Caribbean and South America. The former 3D animator says the idea to open a restaurant dawned on him in Portugal.
“There are these little unassuming bar/restaurant/sandwich places all over, and they’re packed with young people, old people, different classes, guys in suits, construction workers, and they’re just popping in or a quick bite to eat, a pork sandwich and a glass of beer or a small glass of wine,” Cvetkovich says. “It’s just such a cool vibe, that’s one of the things I loved.”
Cvetkovich wanted to open a restaurant that would bring this kind of community vibe to his home in Seattle, but knew it would be an uphill battle. Restaurants are risky enough; hoping that people in the Northwest will sit together at communal tables and talk to perfect strangers is a whole other beast.
But Cvetkovich figured he’d try anyway. He opened Nue in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood in January with a menu of his favorite street food dishes inspired by his travels: Portuguese octopus skewers, Syrian kale and carrot salad, Cubano sandwich and Jamaican jerk chicken are among the current offerings. Nue’s menu changes frequently, though a few favorites seem to be sticking around: the deeply nuanced Trinidad goat curry served with a hunk of slightly sweet pineapple cornbread to cut the spice, and the South African “bunny chow” with chicken breast, masala, lime, and cilantro served in a bread bowl.
There’s always something for the adventurous eaters: a recent special of Thai water beetles had diners peeling back the wings and ripping open the shell of these cockroach-sized bugs and sucking out a teaspoon of meat that explodes with salt and intense floral flavors. And there’s always the balut, a developed duck egg popular in Southeast Asia that has also become a menu fixture—with a side serving of shock value.
Nue is small and casual with an open kitchen and communal tables, making it approachable for anyone unfamiliar with the dishes offered. It’s not necessary to have traveled the world to appreciate the food here. But if you have a favorite dish from your travels, or perhaps from your far-flung home, Cvetkovich and his team take suggestions for new menu items via the restaurant’s website.
Much to Cvetkovich’s surprise, his food is getting people talking—even to the strangers sitting next to them. “I’ve seen people sharing food. With strangers, all the time,” he says. “They’re sharing food and starting up these conversations. I see people exchanging phone numbers and sharing a bottle of wine. There’s no way I could have anticipated that happening and it’s so cool.”