BukBuk’s Island Chicken and Lumpia opening in Tacoma
BukBuk’s Island Chicken and Lumpia will go big in June in Tacoma.
Simultaneously, owner Domonick Arnett – a longtime Tacoma restaurant industry worker – will open a mobile restaurant and a brick-and-mortar location in Tacoma.
But more on those locations in a moment.
BukBuk’s merges Pacific Island flavors in portable, handheld eats. Flavors initially will be influenced by dishes from the Philippines and Guam, but expect to see a broader Pacific Island palate in the form of daily specials and new menu items.
“This will be a street-food experience, through handheld food. Pacific Island tapas is an easy way to describe it,” said Arnett. “I’m starting with Filipino food because that’s what I grew up with and that’s what I know, but I want to represent more Pacific Island food.”
BukBuk’s will offer seven styles of lumpia – five savory, two sweet and myriad sauces. Those lumpia include traditional Shanghai style, a beef-and-pork original flavor, lemongrass pork, vegetarian, curry for the savory offerings. For sweet lumpia, he’ll have an apple pie version and a banana-jackfruit turon lumpia. For sauces, choices include a ginger-plum sauce, a tamarind, a savory soy-based sauce, a Thai-style chili sauce and a sauce that’s something like a Chamorro finadene sauce, among others.
Chicken wings will come in a host of island-tweaked flavors. He described calamansi spiked wings, as well as patis wings, which are fish sauce flavored, and a play on POG, which is passionfruit, orange and guava and a kick of Thai chili. “It’s perfect for beer food,” he said, which is perfect because his first mobile stop will be at Tacoma’s Beer Star in the Sixth Avenue neighborhood.
Pancit, adobo, savory and sweet empanadas will round out the initial menu. Later, Arnett plans to expand the menu to include broader dishes from the Pacific Islands.
“I wanted to create this street food type of walk-up-and-get-it-and-eat-it thing. As I get going, I’ll start incorporating things like siopao and the fish balls and maybe chicken feet, which are really good when they’re stewed,” he said. He also has plans for shrimp patties, a portable version of kare-kare and more.
ARNETT’S RESTAURANT BACKGROUND
If Tacoma industry workers played the “two degrees of separation game” with Arnett, they or a co-worker would likely overlap with Arnett at a Pierce County restaurant. He worked in Tacoma-area restaurants for a few decades before leaving the industry for a job in finance.
His resume reads like every other career server or chef in the area: He started at Red Lobster when he was 15, then worked for Anthony’s for six years. He lists Matador and Chopstix on his resume. He also did stints at the long-gone Merende and Sea Grill.
He worked both front and back of house.
He ditched restaurants to become a finance manager at a car dealership, but is ready to get back into the restaurant game as a side hustle. He intends to keep that job in finance.
He counts several industry veterans as mentors, including Gordon Naccarato of the former Pacific Grill and Erwin Arceo, who locals will remember from The Rock before he headed to Seattle to run Belltown Pub (now closed).
“Erwin recruited me to my first job as a director,” said Arnett, who worked with Arceo at The Rock when Arceo consulted for the company. The Rock Wood Fired Pizza was expanding to Renton and “I became the beverage director. I created the beverage menus and developed the drinks,” said Arnett.
Arceo also was a food mentor who encouraged Arnett to stretch his palate into broader Filipino territory. Arnett had deep experience in Filipino food already. After his parents separated, both parents married Filipino partners. Arnett, who is Black, Japanese and white, said his food is much like himself – a mixture of a lot of cultures and influences.
“I tread this very thin line of cultural appropriation,” Arnett said. “I’m really sensitive to that. I try and be as respectful as possible. I don’t want to be known as a Filipino restaurant. I want to be respectful to a lot of cultures. That is what I’m all about. I myself am a mix of so many different things and I want my food to be a mix with all different influences.”
SLOW-ROLL OPENING FOR BUKBUK’S
It’ll be a slow-roll opening through June with limited hours and menu to start.
Arnett will serve from BukBuk’s truck at Beer Star with regular hours by the end of June and a series of soft openings before that (as in, hours and days will fluctuate). Diners will see the branding on the truck morph over time. Initially, the BukBuk’s truck will carry the logo of Social, the Tacoma bar on the Foss Waterway. That’s because Arnett purchased the truck from Social, but as soon as he’s able, he plans to pay to have the truck wrapped up in BukBuk’s logo.
The brick-and-mortar location at Freighthouse Square will not initially sell to the public, but eventually will activate its exterior walk-up window where he’ll sell lumpia to train commuters or walk-up customers.
Diners will see BukBuk’s Freighthouse location on delivery apps such as UberEats, DoorDash, GrubHub, etc. Arnett plans to use the kitchen, initially, at Freighthouse Square as a commissary where he’ll make food for truck meals and serve from the Freighthouse location to the delivery apps.
BUKBUK’S ISLAND CHICKEN AND LUMPIA
Where: Beer Star Tacoma and Freighthouse Square, Tacoma
Opening: June. Check social media for hours and schedule
COMING TO SIXTH AVENUE: CENTRAL TEXAS STYLE BARBECUE
Did you hear that longtime local chef Kyle Campisi is opening a Central Texas style barbecue walk-up spot on Sixth Avenue? Check out this story!