Regional food specialties
- A return to the Emerald City
We took off for Canada in another last second trip this past summer. It was the Labor Day weekend so we wanted to get away but there weren't a ton of reasonable options. There was one to Seattle though so we decided we'd fly into there and head out to Vancouver via car rental (report coming). We would then spend a couple nights in Seattle on the rebound before heading home. Since this was my second visit to Seattle I went in knowing it's a city I liked. I very much enjoyed what was then my first trip here back in 2016. Much can happen over a four year span so there was plenty of new to do.
Sights from Seattle
Seattle was just as pleasant this time around as it was the last visit which came in the Spring. I've never been in Seattle when it rains and it's never been gloomy or ugly as far as weather. That said I've heard all about it. It's geographic location makes it a great outdoor city and a nice place to visit when the weather is right. Foodwise they have more than enough for a vacationing visitor. Strengths include seafood, Japanese, Vietnamese, and of course there's Pike's Place Market. My full thoughts below.
Sights from Seattle
Jack's Fish Spot
For some reason we ended up over at Pike Place Market again. It's of course a must for any first time visitor to Seattle but I'm not really sure you need to go more than once. Unless you like large crowds and Disney World type prices on everything that's being sold. Still though there is some good seafood to be had. We wanted some chowder and were again greeted by an insanely long line to the famous spot when we arrived. No way I was waiting so we hopped over to Jack's where there was a line but not nearly as long and it was moving fast at that. The clam chowder from here was really good. Enough so to where unless the other spot has some magical stuff they use there's no way it could be that much better to where it's worth waiting up to an hour for. Some local bay shrimp was nice too.
Clam Chowder and Bay Shrimp at Jack's Fish Spot
I'm a sucker for a good fish sandwich. I think all my time spent down in South Florida and the Keys contributed to this problem. A good one can actually be pretty hard to find outside that area. Those from Market Grill caught my eye. Like every other spot in the market they were packed and the grill was loaded with filets of fresh salmon and halibut as well as buttered up French bread. Count me in. Even at the $20 pricetag. It was damn good but they played us by listing the price at $15 while below it was some small print informing the customer that bread and toppings were an extra $5. Play on.
Halibut Sandwich at Market Grill in Pike Place Market
Ok now for the good well informed tourist stuff. Dinner at the critically acclaimed JuneBaby was one of just a couple meals of the non Asian variety on this recent trip west (tip: stick to regional strengths when eating on the road). The Northwest isn’t the first place you’d expect to find one of the country’s best Southern restaurants but here we are at one of Seattle’s best restaurants. The kitchen here is led by Chef/Owner Edouardo Jordan. He's a two time James Beard award winning chef for 2018's "best new restaurant in the country" (JuneBaby) and "Best Chef: Northwest". His ode to Southern cooking is one of America's best restaurants. We got to try a nice selection of the items on offer this evening. Lucky for us it was still summer so the vegetables at JuneBaby were shining. GREAT meal.
Fried Pig Ears with nectarines, pickled fennel, verde
Mesquite smoked carrots with collard greens and tahini
Local Heirloom tomatoes, string beans, clabber, honey vinaigrette
Catfish with Cheesy Geechie Boy grits, sweet onion, pickled corn, pepper sauce
Mamma Jordan’s Oxtails, white chanterelles, summer vegetables, consommé
Despite what a follower texted me on instagram the Seattle Dog is a thing. Something I'd never actually had in Seattle but have made for myself in the hot dog shop. There's two key components to a Seattle style hot dog, maybe three. The two musts are cream cheese and grilled onions while the third is one that seems to be followed by all spots in town - an extra large wiener. Monster Dogs is one of the city's most well known purveyors of the Seattle dog. They have carts scattered about town and they tend to be in areas where there's a lots of nightlife such as this location on a popular Capitol Hill drinking strip. I got a spicy beef Polish sausage and said yes to a smear of cream cheese on the bun as well as grilled onions on top. You can then take your hot dog over to the toppings bar where handfuls of options await. I didn't want to go crazy so I added jalapeno and sauerkraut and that was that. I didn't need to be convinced Seattle dogs were a hit. Especially one late at night from a cart.
Seattle Style Hot Dog at Monster Dogs
Always on the prowl for what's hot I read about a stand in the Uwajimaya Market that was attracting long lines for mochi donuts. I was down depending on the size of the line. I arrived to Dochi an hour after they opened and got in what was a nice sized line but nothing too long. Plus it's all to go so you're not waiting for people to eat etc. It ended up taking about 15/20 minutes to get in and I treated myself to three of the offerings. Mochi donuts are loved for being light and chewy and in most cases Japanese in terms of style. For example the Matcha Oreo donut seen below sitting front and center. Not only was the chew different compared to all other donuts I've tried I loved how they break off into individual munchkins. I would've gone back before we left if they opened earlier. I really liked these.
Mochi Donuts from Dochi
I made sure we got reservations to eat with Seattle’s soba master. There’s only a few people in the country who can do handmade Japanese soba noodles and the lady behind this popular little spot is one of them. We tried one of the more traditional versions in the Kamonegi served seiro (broth on side) made with Duck Breast, Duck Tsukune, Leek, Mitsuba. It definitely brought back memories of Abri Soba in Paris - one of my all time favorites. One of the best bites of the trip was a Foie Gras “Tofu” which was a Foie Gras mousse made to look like tofu. Tempura is the other focal point and you can tell in the form of zucchini blossoms stuffed with scallop mousse and nuoc cham corn. Shrimp Tempura was super light and crisp. Asahi nice and cold. The media love on this is well deserved.
Tempura and Soba at Kamonegi
Sandwich House Tres
I made sure to get a nice fix of Japanese food while in Seattle. It's got a really nice selection of stuff including this cute little sando specialist in a Bellevue strip mall. I rode out here the morning of our flight back home as these little pre-made sandwiches make for the perfect flight snack. They're popular in Japan where people are always on the go. Sandwich House Tres makes their own old fashioned squishy white bread and fills them with extremely Japanese fillings. These sandwiches can be both sweet and savory. Sweet being options like cream and strawberries while the savory selections can be everything from tonkatsu (breaded pork) to potato salad or Yakisoba noodles. They make the sandwiches fresh and they then get wrapped up and put in the display case. There was a nice crowd coming and going and they were mostly Japanese. I ended up getting six including the two most Seattle options in a smoked salmon with cream cheese and a chicken teriyaki. Awesome.
Japanese Sandos at Sandwich House Tres (click pics to enhance)
We walked by this cool little food truck turned brick and mortar by way of an old apartment. It was cool in that all the other apartments in this building were residential. Jeepney is a walk up lumpia specialist. The menu has a few other offerings but it's the lumpia that make for the perfect take them and eat on the go snack. Or you can just chill there and eat them while standing. An order of the pork was on point as far as a snack to hold us over while waited for our name to be called for dinner.
Lumpia at Jeepney
That dinner we were waiting on was Malaysian food at Kedai Mekan. It's one of Seattle's most popular restaurants and it has been for a little while now. We were told it would be over an hour and decided we'd walk back over when we got the text notification. We contemplated going somewhere else but made the right decision to wait. There's not a big Malaysian presence in Seattle but Kedai Makan is a couples ode to Malaysia's incredible foodways. They make two dishes that pretty much every table seems to order. First up was my first taste of of Roti Jala. It translates to "Net Bread" which comes from the way the lace doily is made and then looks. It's a popular tea time snack in Malaysia. The other item most every table seems to have is the Nasi Goreng Kambing. Nasi Goreng being what the Malaysians and Indonesians call fried rice. This version comes with lamb, curry powder, kecap manis, sprouts, long beans, and a fried runny egg. Good if a bit one toned. Maybe we should have got one more dish to mix it up. The Chili Pan Mee (stire fried noodles) were tempting.
Dinner at Kedai Mekan
This is one of the popular Eater hyped type Vietnamese restaurants in town. We stopped in our last trip here and had some snacks and a drink. Same sequence this time around. The crispy fresh duck rolls are a good choice. They're made of crispy fried egg rolls stuffed with shredded bbq duck and then wrapped in both fresh herbs and rice paper. So it's the best of both worlds of a spring roll and an egg roll. The drinks here were well made same as last time. Guessing the rest of the menu is good.
Crispy Fresh Duck Rolls at Stateside
Cafe Huong Que
When it comes to international eats I’d say Seattle’s biggest strengths are Japanese and Vietnamese. The latter of which I didn’t get to explore much of last time I was here. Well not the more local places anyway. There’s a few really good trendy Vietnamese bars and kitchens and also some spots that cater to locals who have no idea what an Eater heat list is. The folks at Cafe Huong Que are mostly immigrants from Vietnam. Some of the groups here had young kids but all the tables were filled with Vietnamese locals and they were all speaking in Vietnamese. To me this was a good sign. So was the fact the menu wasn't all that big. They had Pho, Bo Ne (steak and eggs), and Bo Kho served a few ways. Bo Kho being Vietnamese beef stew. You can get as is served with a French Baguette (called Banh Mi Bo Kho) or how I got with rice noodles which is called Hu Tieu Bo Kho. If you're used to good old fashioned beef stew you will be knocked to the floor by the aromatic broth in most versions of Bo Kho. This was arguably my favorite bite of the entire trip in Seattle or Vancouver.
Hu Tieu Bo Kho at Cafe Huong Que
Lan Huê Sandwich and Bakery
The Pacific Northwest is a hot-spot for great Banh Mi sandwiches. So I made sure to seek one out while in Seattle. I would've liked to try a few but I was very happy with my choice enough to where I was pretty sure if I tried a second option from another spot it wouldn't have been as good. That's bc the Bánh mì Dặc Biệt (everything from head cheese to ham and pate) was as quality of a Banh Mi as I’ve had from the bread baked on site down to the homemade deli meats that go inside of it. Lan Huê Sandwich and Bakery is owned by a family that moved their popular Banh Mi shop in Vietnam to Seattle. So you might not find better in the States. Heads up their location is a bit tricky with parking.
Bánh mì Dặc Biệt at Lan Huê Sandwich and Bakery
Hương Bình Restaurant
Chicago has a pretty decent Vietnamese food scene. But I look forward to the days when more specialists start to open shop on Argyle. Or at least I hope to one day find spots that specialize in stuff other than pho. Vietnamese food is so much more than pho and a place like Huong Bun is a perfect example with their signature Thit Nuong. Grilled pork skewers are the star of the menu here and come served in a variety of ways. I tried the Bánh Hỏi Thịt Nướng which is skewers served with thin noodles rolled into bundles and garnished with ground shrimp and scallions. The pork was as good as I remember those at the Night Market in Hoi An to be. Meanwhile the herbs were extra fresh. I heard this place was sold and thus some say not as good. As a first time visitor I couldn't tell.
Bánh Hỏi Thịt Nướng at Hương Bình Restaurant
I got some great tips from a local Seattle food writer (on both Seattle and Vancouver). I asked about where to get my favorite Vietnamese dish - Cha Ca Long. The Hanoi specialty is something I seek out when in an area with a strong Vietnamese community. He made mention of Wicked Chopstix which was on the way to the airport. Thus I scheduled it in for lunch before leaving town. This spot is a hipper version of the Vietnamese restaurants in town but it's still run by a local Vietnamese family it would just seem as though the first generation kids are involved in one way or the other. Aside from Cha Ca Va Long they also make Bun Cha Obama which has become the standard name for all bowls of Bun Cha after Obama it the dish with Bourdain in Hanoi. Wicked Chopstix makes the best version I've tried in the States. Particularly the meats which are better than that in Vietnam. They fry the meatballs before grilling them here. But it’s hard for places in the States to match the broth and herbs served in Vietnam, as fresh as they were here. It's tough to compare any version of Cha Ca Long to the version served at the legendary restaurant in Hanoi that shares it’s name. But this sizzling fried fish dish still did the trick and scratched the itch. That's it for this trip. Stay tuned for Vancouver.
Bun Cha Obama (top) and Cha Ca Va Long (bottom) at Wicked Chopstix
See ya next time @chibbqking