IN THE LATE 19TH and early 20th centuries, going to town often meant a stop at the local drug store, where one could get a fizzy drink at the soda fountain or a scoop of ice cream, in addition to medicine and other necessities. This iconic piece of American life all but faded away as larger corporations institutionalized the pharmacy.
Just as all trends seem to cycle back into popular culture (enough of the 80’s already!), the neighborhood drug store has burst back into existence in downtown Kirkland. Remedies Pharmacy opened last winter on Central Way in downtown Kirkland and offers everything from prescriptions and typical drug store products to beer, wine, espresso and ice cream. Oh, and borsch, piroshky, crepes and other hard-to-find Eastern European wares.
Almost everything about Remedies owner Dr. Sohrab “Rob” Daneshfar goes against one’s preconceived notions. A first generation immigrant from southern Iran with an Eastern European background, this 20-year pharmacist veteran got fed up with the changing regulations that he claims put independent pharmacies out of business. Refusing to buy a franchise, Rob decided to expand the front of the house to draw more customers.
For eight years, Rob operated his own pharmacy/European grocery in Lynnwood, but made the move to Kirkland this year.
“Kirkland is a magical place -- especially when the sun is out,” says Rob, smiling as warm light floods his southern facing front windows.
Rob’s goal is to offer something unique. “Beans and cheese are fine,” he says referring to the many Mexican eateries in Kirkland, “But no one can make a decent crepe on the Eastside. And people have to go to Pike Place Market or Crossroads Mall for a piroshky.”
MOST AMERICANS have at least a rudimentary understanding of crepes -- the thin French “pancake” (sorry Francophiles -- I’m cringing, too) usually filled with sweets like strawberry preserves or Nutella stateside. But Russian food is still a mystery to most. Many think that the word “borsch” is an onomatopoeia referring to a thick meaty stew brimming with wild boar, when it is really more like a colorful vegetable soup that can be served hot or cold. The cold version is a bit like gazpacho.
Of course, there are as many variations of borsch as there are Eurasian ethnic groups. Russian borsch usually contains beets, giving it a rosy magenta hue.
“Many people mistakenly think the color comes from tomatoes,” says Rob, though tomatoes can be used in some versions of borsch.
Anyone who has entertained an out-of-town guest has likely walked right by Piroshky! Piroshky! at Pike Place Market. Piroshky are yeasted buns, similar to a croissant, and always filled with something either sweet or savory. Rob makes both the borsch and the piroshky from scratch and offers the latter filled with beef, potato-cheese, cabbage or mushrooms.
“I make my own fruit preserves, too,” says Rob who is allergic to preservatives found in many commercial products. A line of house-produced natural jams and preserves will be available soon at Remedies.
I asked Rob if other Russian items like the little ear-shaped dumplings called pelmini might be in the works. He says that he will expand the food offerings as the customer base grows.
While Remedies Pharmacy is not quite like your grandma’s drug store with its globally leaning snacks and products, it does have the makings of a neighborhood hangout complete with comfortable chairs perfect for idle gossip and tasty treats.