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3 Ninjas fire it up in Kendall Yards

January 2, 2019

The 3 Ninjas food truck is a regular fixture at the Kendall Yards Night Market during farmers market season.

Now the popular local vendor has a small brick-and-mortar location – its first – in the same ever-growing development.

At 315 square feet, the space isn’t much bigger than their mobile business. But the walk-up counter fits their fast-casual concept, featuring easy-to-transport menu items.

Three Ninjas Mobile Food and Catering is one of the few grab-and-go options in the neighborhood – other than the mini-doughnut shop Hello Sugar, which opened on the west end of Kendall Yards last summer, Veraci Pizza, which offers pizza by the slice, and the deli at My Fresh Basket. Other eateries in Kendall Yards are sit-down, table-service spots such as Central Food, Park Lodge, Wandering Table, Yards Bruncheon, and Umi Kitchen and Sushi Bar.

The menu at 3 Ninjas is designed for efficiency. The shop, which opened Dec. 6, offers three types of tacos, three types of wraps, three different sandwiches and three kinds of salads.

A top-seller – and 3 Ninjas’ signature menu item – is the Fire Wrap, which can also be found on the menu at their food truck. It features house-made habanero pepper jelly, habanero aioli, buttermilk-soaked fried onions, jalapeños, cabbage and shredded cheese. And it’s served with 3 Ninjas’ house-made chips and house-made salsa.

All three “ninjas” – business owners Steven Kitchens, Tymen Hofmann and Michael Anderson – are fans of heat. Their logo features flames.

And, in addition to their quick and streamlined eats, they sell three signature hot sauces: smoky jalapeño, mango habanero and sweet Melissa, a traditional and spicy Jamaican pepper sauce. Each 5-ounce bottle sells for $5. (Pro tip: “If you like bloody marys, throw a little bit of that in there,” Kitchens said.)

Tacos are Thai lemongrass with tofu or chicken – a favorite that the ninjas are bringing back from their first year in business – as well as smoked chicken and bulgogi. The other two wraps are barbecue chicken and steak with blue cheese and a balsamic glaze, both of which are also on the food truck menu.

Sandwiches are Buffalo chicken with bacon and Provolone, a Philly cheesesteak with mushrooms and peppers, and a steak banh mi with candied jalapeños, cucumbers and cilantro. The banh mi is new. The Buffalo was on the food truck menu as a wrap; it’s been converted to a sandwich for the shop. The Philly – along with the smoked chicken taco – are popular on the special food truck menu the ninjas serve at concerts at the Gorge Amphitheatre.

Salads – all new – are bulgogi steak with Mandarin oranges and fried wonton strips, Greek Ninja with chicken and feta, and sunflower-citrus with greens, red peppers, broccoli, bacon, chicken, sunflower seeds and a citrus-onion dressing.

Three Ninjas is tucked behind the Craftsman Cellars tasting room in the space that formerly held Solace Mead and Cider, which closed last January.

Space is limited. The shop has only two tables – round high-tops – and three stools as well as a Coca-Cola Freestyle machine, a touch-screen soda fountain that features 165 Coca-Cola products and allows customers to create custom flavors.

The kitchen is tight, too. But all three ninjas say that doesn’t faze them. They’re used to working in a truck.

“It’s like a tiny house restaurant,” Hofmann said. “We make it work.”

The ninjas are the shop’s only three employees – for now.

“We have a lot of fun on the job,” Kitchens said. “But at the same time we have high standards and we expect results. Everything’s scratch. Nothing’s out of a jar.”

Kitchens, Hofmann and Anderson met about 17 years ago while working at restaurants. All three quit their day jobs to start 3 Ninjas in 2014, specializing in fast-casual fusion dishes and hand-helds, tacos and wraps in particular.

Three Ninjas has been a mainstay at the Night Market since it started in 2015. The plan is continue to bring the food truck to the market, which runs from May through September, even though the shop is now open.

“We’re here and we are open seven days a week,” Kitchen said. “The 3 Ninjas are firing on all cylinders and we’re ready to rock for Spokane.”

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