3 Ninjas food truck gets small brick-and-mortar spot in Kendall Yards

September 24, 2018

It’s bigger than their food truck.

But, at 315 square feet, it’s still pretty small for a restaurant.

Still, it just might be the perfect fit.

Three Ninjas Mobile Food and Catering plans to open a brick-and-mortar location – its first – in a small suite in the Kendall Yards development. The target opening date for the fast-casual walk-up counter is Nov. 1.

Steven Kitchens, one of the “three ninjas,” or business owners, believes their eatery will fill a niche in the Kendall Yards dining scene.

“I love eating everywhere here,” he said. “But, if you’re in a hurry, Kendall Yards just doesn’t have many grab-and-go options.”

On the menu at the forthcoming eatery: three types of tacos, three kinds of wraps, three different sandwiches and three salads.

“This isn’t going to be the spot where people come and kick it and do their internet cafe thing,” Kitchens said. “Everywhere else in Kendall Yards you can do that.”

The first 3 Ninjas fast-casual restaurant will offer limited indoor seating. In such a tight space, expect only three to five spots.

The cooking line is also “going to be super-tight,” Kitchens said. “But that’s how it is in the food truck. We’re used to it.”

The 3 Ninjas restaurant is moving into the space that formerly held Solace Mead and Cider, the tasting room for Hierophant Meadery and Twilight Cider Works. The tasting room closed in January.

By spring, the “ninjas” had started planning to take over the space, tucked behind Craftsman Cellars at 1198 W. Summit Parkway.

And they are already making plans to add more brick-and-mortar locations as well as possibly another food truck.

They’re hoping, Kitchens said, to expand in the greater Spokane area.

“We are very passionate about what we do,” he said. “This is just our next stepping stone. Three Ninjas isn’t going to stop.”

The plan is keep the food truck at the Night Market in Kendall Yards from May through September even after the storefront opens. Three Ninjas has become a market mainstay since the farmers market started in 2015.

The food truck and catering company also does food for everything from company events and wedding receptions to divorce parties and more.

When they work concerts and festivals at the Gorge Amphitheater in George, Washington, the “ninjas” plan for ultra-long shifts.

“When we go to the Gorge, it’s just the three of us working like 19-hour days,” Kitchens said. But, “We’re all used to working in high-volume situations. Our foundation is there. We’re restaurant guys who opened a food truck.”

Kitchens – along with partners Tymen Hofmann and Michael Anderson – met about 17 years ago while working at some of their earliest restaurant jobs in places such as Prospectors Bar and Grill, Red Robin Gourmet Burgers and Brews, and Qdoba.

All three quit their days jobs to start 3 Ninjas in 2014, specializing in fast-casual fusion dishes and hand-helds.

When they launched, Kitchens noted, there weren’t too many food trucks in Spokane. “It wasn’t a pitch climb,” he said. “It was straight uphill.”

They started as a taco truck specializing in fusion tacos. Back then, they were making their own chipotle flour tortillas and learning a lot as they went.

“We were spending as much time preparing tortillas as we were preparing (everything else) for the whole day,” Kitchens said. “You’ve got to manage your time.”

That first year, “We would just drive around till we found a spot,” using social media – particularly Facebook – to get the word out about where the food truck was parked.

“We really traveled around and tried to build our brand and let people know who we are,” Kitchens said.

They also made a point to switch up their menu about once a year if not more. “You have to have new ideas,” Kitchens said. “You have to stay fresh.”

They’ve tried wraps, rice bowls and noodle dishes and added fish tacos. They’ve also streamlined their offerings, focusing on top-sellers such as their Thai chicken peanut bowl and fire wrap.

That fire wrap will be on the menu at the new store. And all “three ninjas” expect it to be the No. 1 seller.

It features house-made habanero pepper jelly, habanero aioli, buttermilk-soaked fried onions and jalapenos, cabbage and shredded cheese. And it’s served with 3 Ninjas’ house-made chips and house-made salsa.

“It’s sweet, heat, crunch and salt,” said Kitchens, who describes their menu as the spot “where health meets heat.”

Their logo features flames.

“We always have fun,” Kitchens said. “We don’t always keep it super serious. We like to have personality.”

Their food truck offers five wraps and five rice bowls, plus the popular Thai-inspired chicken peanut bowl and fish tacos. Tofu can be substituted. Vegeterian, vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free and soy-free options are available, too.

The menu at the restaurant will follow the rule of threes – at least to start. It features three tacos, three wraps, three sandwiches and three salads. The plan is to also add soup.

“I love making soup. It’s my favorite thing to cook,” Kitchens said.

In addition to the fire wrap, the store will offer barbecue and steak and cheese wraps. Tacos will be Thai lemongrass with tofu or chicken, smoked jalapeno chicken and bulgogi.

Sandwiches will be Philly-style and served on a hoagie. They are Buffalo chicken, Philly cheesesteak and steak banh mi.

Salads will be bulgogi steak, Greek Ninja and sunflower-citrus with greens, red peppers, broccoli, bacon, chicken, sunflower seeds and a citrus-onion dressing.

The plan is also to sell 3 Ninjas’ three signature sauces: smoky jalapeno, mango habanero and sweet Melissa.

“It’s not sweet,” Kitchens said. “It’s very spicy. It’s a traditional Jamaican pepper sauce.”

Three Ninjas ran a Kickstarter campaign in 2015 to raise money to add a sauce company to their repertoire. It was successful. In all, 57 people pledged $12,220, exceeding the goal by $220.

Plans for the restaurant space also call for the installation of a Coca-Cola Freestyle machine, a touch-screen soda fountain that features 165 Coca-Cola products and allows customers to mix and match and create custom flavors.

Hours aren’t yet set in stone, but Kitchens said he expects the storefront to be open daily from 11 a.m. to 8 or 9 p.m.

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