"Chamorro Restaurant"

The other day, I took a different bus home and one of the stops was right in front of a Chamorro restaurant. Imagine my surprise at an actual Chamorro restaurant in Seattle! It was in a small, shack of a building, but there was a latte stone and the words Chamorro BBQ. My heart jumped! When Mike got home, we went back to the place to investigate.

A Filipina woman greeted us as we walked in. Mike asked if she was from Saipan. She shook her head and said, “No, my husband is.” I saw a man in the back, scrambling from one end to the other. I scanned the menu eagerly for Chamorro cuisine like chicken kelaguen. But there was none, save for some BBQ, but the only Chamorro thing about it was the guy at the grill.

The Chamorro guy came out and introduced himself. He asked me some questions in Chamorro and I replied in chopped-pathetic sentences. He asked me my family name (the name or nickname my family is better known as) and I told him, “Pitu.” I tried to explain that my uncle was the former mayor, my mother’s real name, etc. He said he hadn’t been home for years, that he had been in Seattle since ’83. So I guess he wouldn’t know my uncle. But here’s the kicker: he said, “You should really know your family name.” I told him, “I did, it’s Pitu.” He repeated, “Yeah, I know that, but you should really know the name.” I thought, didn’t I just tell you that? I had flashbacks of all these mean cousins and distant relatives who tried to shame me because of my weak language skills. I didn’t say anything because the food came out. Because of my new-found vegetarianism, I had udon and Mike had chicken teriyaki. His red rice tasted burnt and I felt embarrassed that he would be eating it something not done as well.

Then other flaws came to light. The iceberg lettuce in the salad bar was withering under; every surface seemed to have a greasy just-wiped-with-a-wet-rag plastic feel to it. There was no “island” feel to the place, save for two GUAM posters tacked up in one corner. A huge Chinese portrait hung on one side. The items on lit-up menu board .. And they spelled “Restaurant” as “Resturant” and “Restaruant”. Of all the things to do, couldn’t they have spell-checked? There was another restaurant across the street, couldn’t they have used that as a reference? It felt like another teriyaki place that couldn’t even do its teriyaki very well.

There was a great Vietnamese place a few blocks away called Pho Cycle. The place was really majestic, they made it a point to tell a story of the Vietnamese cyclicsts who knew the streets, the score, the gossip, etc., so everything in the restaurant told a story. I kept thinking of that place while I was in the faux-Chamorro BBQ. They could have done sooo much better.

So the moral of all this: if you’re going to have a Chamorro restaurant, please make it Chamorro. Have a story, explain what Chamorro is, where the islands are, what are some distinctive dishes… And don’t shame your customers! Is that too hard to ask???

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Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    Maybe as a fellow Chomorro “person” you could have made a suggestion or two to help them out as they are working hard for a living and doing the best they can, instead of ragging on people you obviously at first felt immediately drawn to. Ever think of that? How easily we turn on our fellow “chomorro’s.” How utterly American.

  2. Anonymous says:

    For example,instead of making fun and talking trash about how you asked, “Is that too hard to ask?” I will bring to your attention that the phrase actually goes like this: “Is that too much to ask?” Saying “Is that too hard to ask?” would actually be referring to yourself. I don’t know, is it too hard to ask? Just a thought, since you are an ENGLISH major and all.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I really have no love for Chamorros like the one working at the restuarant. Don’t give me a lesson about my family name, instead, give me what I came to your restuarant for! Some nerve! I would not eat there, Chamorro or not. Is that sad? Oh well.

  4. Anonymous says:

    You should have said, “My family name is PITU. I just told you that. What ELSE is there to know about it? Serve me some kelaguen. F-A-S-T!”

  5. Anonymous says:

    Now isnt that typical… to walk into a restaurant and only to find it is half of what it is or none at all! No better authentic serving than HOME! By the way, is the so called “Chamorro guy” from Guam? “I KNOW”….Being away as far back as 83 is not too far to forget unless you chose to .. well then..this explains the burnt red rice!

  6. sorry about your bad experience…i too had the same senario…but in las vegas…a filipina greeted us…then came the chamooro guy gave us some pugua…nice..we ate redrice…chicken keleguen..hamhocks with mongobeans…lumpia and pancit…it was lacking that flare…my son looked at me and said…mom you cook better than this…i said i know…the chamorro guy had also been away from home eighty plus years…maybe the same family…the best part was when we got up up to leave the back door was open and they were barbecueing and on the side was a 12 pack of budweiser…it made me so homesick

  7. Anonymous says:

    “He said he hadn’t been home for years, that he had been in Seattle since ’83.”

    ’83? That’s 25 years ago! Damn! That Chamorro dude has beeen in Seattle for a long long time. There are a lot of Chamorros like that. Tens of thousands of Chamorros have left Guam or the Northern Mariana Islands (MNI)for the states and will never move back to Guam or the Northern Mariana Islands. And their Chamorro kids, born and raised in the states, know nothing of the Chamorro language or culture or about Guam or the NMI. It’s a fact that can not be denied or prevented. It’s not a bad thing at all. They moved by choice. They did because they wanted to. And so that makes it a good thing. They are enjoying their constitional right to move whereever in the US they want. They did on their own free will. If they wanted to move back they would but their home, by choice, is somewhere in the states. But despite Chamorros leaving Guam, Guam’s population is rising. Why? Immigration. Filipinos are the future of Guam. There are so so so many of them. There are also so so so many immigrants from Micronesia, such as from Palau or Truk. Filipinos are the second largest ethnic group in Guam and since the Philippines has millions of people and just about everyone there wants to immigrant to the US, it is only a matter of time until they become the largest ethnic group in Guam. It is unavoidable. It is unstoppable. It is inevitable. After all, how many times have you met a person from Guam who is of Filipino ancestry and not Chamorro ancestry? Filipinos are the future of Guam!!

  8. well i am glad that anonymous made a point in a none rude or hurtful way and instead of him lexuring you he told you how to do things better next time or told you things you could have said instead of yelling and getting angry and no not all people are the same but alot of people dont want some stranger to just be walking up to them and saying hey are u chamurru cuz to some thats disrespectful im native american but im datin a chamurru

  9. Jessica says:

    I went to that same restaurant in Georgetown. All I can say is YUCK!
    I’m American Indian and I married a Chamorro, and he and his family taught me to cook some chamorro dishes, and the food they served was nothing chamorro. We were disappointed cause we were looking to connect with other chamorros. Love the people. Very outgoing and very giving.

  10. I am an American Mutt, little of lots of things married to a great Chamorro guy. We have a beautiful little girl. But I feel for your experience, you want so hard for it to be right, to be good and then the disappointment. We are hoping someone down this way will open a Chamorro cafe’. We do have a grocery store, so that is something. Best of luck and thanks for sharing!

  11. Anonymous says:

    I guess the obvious thing to say would be the only place you can get the best Chamorro food is at home.. GUAM!

    One of the anonymous people stated that Guam is overpopulated with Filipinos and Chuukese.. Right on! And the only restaurants you see around are Filipino, Vietnamese, and Japanese cuisine. Other cuisines are hard to find and Chamorro restaurants are so rare its ridiculous..

    I would rather stay home hanging out by the grill drinking some bud..

    Our table always consists of:
    Potato Salad, Pancit, Eggplant kelaguen, beef kelaguen, chicken kelague, red rice, shrimp patties, banana in coconut milk, etc..

    Nothing can compare to home cooked meals made on our beautiful island!

  12. Not That Chamorro Uncle says:

    Wow! I am so glad a ran into this blog. My search was on that Chamorro restaurant in Georgetown I heard about awhile back, and for some reason it crossed my mind. I don’t think it’s open anymore LOL Mona and anon., I know exactly what you are talking about Chamorros who are like that, especially relatives. They can be total d*ckheads & a**holes! It’s like a strange inferiority complex that alot of them have, and it always pissed me off because I am the total opposite of that. I like people, thank you very much!

    It is so sad about the Chamorro culture basically going extinct. We don’t represent. I can say this because I was born in the States, and have lived here all of my life, and was never taught the language. I admit that being surrounded by relatives like that made me really stray away from wanting to learn. I mean would you want to communicate with relatives trying to “one-up” you all the time, or find some way of ridiculing you?

    Now as an older guy, I am more and more interested in learning and representing our Chamorro culture. I think we have one of the best foods in the world, and wish more people knew about it. I have always loved cooking, but have never took time to try to cook our food, because that is what Mom is for. I know that I need to step up to the plate, and learn to keep that part of our culture alive.

    I am intersted in opening a Chamorro concept restaurant in Seattle, and was wondering what kind of support would I have. My family was friends with another Chamorro family in Bellingham. They opened up a restaurant, but closed it because it was not as profitable as their other business. That was back in the 80s, but now it’s a totally different era where so many people are looking for something different, especially Seattle.

    I would appreciate anyone to continue on this blog and respond in particular to my post with thoughts and comments. I promise everyone that I will represent and make all of us Chamorros proud. Thank you!

  13. Totally, tooo many Filipinos. I wish most of them were out. We wouldnt be worrying about this if the stupid US imposed their immigration laws here.

  14. I only went to that restaurant twice. and it was for the empanada that you could purchase frozen, so you could cook it at home. I spoke briefly with the owners and they mentioned they were from Saipan.
    The owners of Kusinang Ari’s at the Chamorro Village in Guam, used to have a restaurant in the U district a few years back. called Ari’s Melting Pot. food tasted just like at Chamorro Village. we had the hook up as the owner was one of my room mates middle school teachers. (small world) I wasnt ashame to bring non Guamanian Friends there. sadly, they got home sick and closed shop.

    Ive hear mixed reviews of Yokozuna’s in San Diego as well.

    (Not That Chamorro Uncle) -word of mouth is your best advertisement if your menu and food are up to par. The internet is another. and just remember Guamanians dont like driving far, so location is a huge factor.

    (Guamboy)- Filipinos were a huge factor in the rebuilding of Guam after WWII, so youre saying that the food would have been better if the cook didnt marry a Filipina?

  15. anonymous says:

    So are there any Chamorro restaurants in Seattle? Yokozuna is pretty good but not as good as home made chamorro goodness. But please let me know if there is any because my boyfriend constantly craves for it and so do I.

  16. Zachariah Ayden says:

    There are chamorro’s mixed that have restaurants all over the world, you just need to know or hear about them, below is a couple of them.

    1. North Carolina – Vietnamese with chamorro guy running a Asian Restaurant

    2. California – ER’s Barbecue 45 minutes from IRvine….

  17. If you are ever in the S.F. Bay Area, email me! My mom and me are from Guam…Leon Guerrero/Jomoc family, although my dad is caucasion I was raised over there….been over here since I left at age 17 for college. Sent for my mom in 98. At the time I was a musician/artist in my band New Native, playing out around the city. We started serving Chamorro food at our gigs as a gift to our fans and charging a modest cover. Within a few months we started hosting secret Chamorro dinner parties in our flat on a busy street in the Mission District. To this day we still host these events although not as frequently as I have children now, but about one to two times a month we THROW DOWN! And we do it all organic/sustainable. Red rice, kelaguen, tinaktak, bbq ribs, chicken. lumpia, pancit, even bonelos aga! We even do vegan options. We do it with love and to continue our island tradition of gathering and sharing love happiness and the prosperity of good food, family…and we have deejays so everyone can dance, because we all know how the chamorrus love to dance! We are hoping to open a spot soon to host and properly represent our culture and our food and to provide that awesome island hospitality we are so famous for. Hit us up! 1lovepeace Lynette

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