Seattle Filipino mainstay Inay’s restaurant closes

The last day that Ernie Rios’ Filipino restaurant Inay’s Asian Pacific Cuisine was open, people couldn’t stop talking about wanting — needing — that Filipino food fix, one last time.

“One girl, she and her parents have been coming here for a long time, made all of us cry,” said Rios, known as “Uncle Ernie.” “When she left gave me a hug and said, ‘I’ll miss your vinegar!’ ”

He gave her a big jar of the restaurant’s spicy vinegar dipping condiment before she left.

Inay’s (pronounced “in-eyes”) is popular not only for its homey traditional Filipino food— adobo (pork or chicken in vinegar and soy sauce), mechado (beef in a tomato-based sauce), pancit (rice noodles stir fried with vegetables) and more, served cafeteria-style for lunch and family-style at dinner — but for its innovative special events hosted by Seattle’s younger generation of Filipino Americans.

Chera Amlag and Geo Quibuyen’s Food & Sh_t would host Filipino food pop up nights at Inay’s. Drag queen Atasha Manila, who started as a server at Inay’s,established a Friday night drag performance, which required dinner reservations at the small family restaurant.

The restaurant’s final evening featured Manila’s show, which will go on at the nearby Baja Bistro and other locations. Atasha Manila credited Rios for his support.

“I think my family doesn’t know, but Uncle Ernie bought me my first dress,” Manila announced to the fully-booked restaurant. Manila’s drag mother Aleksa Manila served as emcee and reminisced about welcoming nature of the restaurant.

Those of us who came out as gay, queer, bakla, whatever, Uncle Ernie gave us a home,” Aleksa Manila said.

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Top photo by Jovelle Tamayo.