KIRKLAND, Wash. — One of Yelp’s 100 Top Places to Eat in the U.S. for 2020 is a hidden gem in Kirkland.
Box and Burgers Eatery is inside the Totem Hill Plaza, tucked between a sandwich shop and a travel agency. Prices range from $3 - $15.
But don’t let the cost or ordinary location fool you – the restaurant serves an Asian/Hawaiian fusion menu that resembles fine dining.
"I just want people to enjoy it, but not have to empty out their wallet,” said owner Reis Llaneza.
His background is in refined cuisine. But when it came time to launch his own restaurant, Llaneza told his wife and friends he wanted to start small.
“All I said was I wanted a box with cooking equipment in it. And they're like, 'that's a food truck!'" he said.
Aptly named "The Box," the truck served Llaneza’s unique take on the dishes he grew up eating.
"Being born in Hawaii, it's kind of like a melting pot,” he said. “I always say you grow up with these different ethnic backgrounds - Japanese, Chinese, Filipino and Hawaiian food. You have all these familiar flavors that you want to express in your food."
His twist on chicken karaage earned him a loyal following. And after eight years, The Box expanded to the brick and mortar spot in Kirkland.
The menu includes small plates, like the popular pork belly and kalua pork bao tacos, and large plates like pan-roasted miso salmon with yuzu.
Burgers are also a house specialty. The French Blues includes Roquefort cheese, bacon confit and truffled arugula.
For customers looking for more traditional island favorites, Hawaiian style fried chicken and Loco Moco are available.
"When the food came and I looked at the plate, I said this is perfect. It's like going to an expensive restaurant,” said customer Lu Madriaga, who hails from the Big Island. "The food is impeccable, I think it's impeccable."
Llaneza’s upbringing in Hilo also extends to his customer service approach.
"We want to create that vibe where you're our family,” he said. “It's kind of how you grow up in Hawaii, you have that family 'ohana' feel, so that's what we're trying to do."