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Mexico City meets the Northwest at Ballard's Raiz

On Northwest 65th Street, a bustling stretch of Ballard's Stumbletown neighborhood, chef Ricardo Valdes is putting down roots.

"I've been in Ballard for almost ten years. My kids were born here," said Valdes. "We had this dream, my wife and I, of opening a spot here on this strip. It's sort of come full circle - about ten years later."

Valdes worked in top kitchens in both Seattle and Los Angeles before teaming with his best friend Kenny, first to open El Xolo, a taco shop in Capitol Hill, and now Raiz.

"The meaning of Raiz is root, and really the singular word 'root' and dropping roots was the inspiration for this (restaurant)," explained Valdes. "We are an all-day cafe serving breakfast, lunch and dinner on certain nights, and really the inspiration for this is Mexico City meets the Northwest."

The restaurant is a celebration of Valdes' Mexican heritage and the people who first nurtured his love for food and hospitality: his family.

"Grandmothers on both sides [of the family], but especially my mom's side...from the moment you walked in the door, no matter who you were, you were invited to the table. From the moment you sat down, you might not have been hungry, but [my grandma] was forcing food in your face," said Valdes. "She was like the grandma for the entire neighborhood and really their house was a hub. A lot of families they knew from Mexico would come through without anywhere to land and they would land there. So there was always an open door policy and that was super special."

One of the highlights of the dinner menu is Trucha a La Talla. Fresh local trout smothered with a spicy, smoky paste and finished with poached local turnips, flavor-packed escabeche and fresh herbs.

Those big, bold flavors are on display in the morning too. For its ultra-popular brunch, the team at Raiz is putting its own spin on classic dishes like chilaquiles and biscuits and gravy.

"Kenny, my business partner, has an awesome family recipe for buttermilk biscuits," explained Valdes. "We make our gravy with chorizo, which we make it house. It comes from local pigs. Then, you're in the classic biscuits and gravy realm. You've got a fried egg on top, some chives and then a little dried pepper flakes - so we try not to define lines. We sort of live in the gray area."

At Raiz, the hospitality is as important as the food. Valdes wants guests to feel like this place has been here for years, that it's friendly at warm, like that table back at his grandmother's house.

"Ultimately, we want (our guests) to have an awesome experience, a great meal. They can feel the energy is good. The music is loud. That's just how we roll. This isn't a quiet space, it's not stuffy. We want this to just be a comfortable space."

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