Category Archives: Seattle

Diving Into a Seattle Character Bar

It's shoulder-to-shoulder cozy in Seattle's Pacific Inn Pub

It’s shoulder-to-shoulder cozy in Seattle’s Pacific Inn Pub

The Pacific Inn Pub has been called a dive bar. I consider it merely comfortable, with a low stucco ceiling and comfy blue vinyl booths and counter stools. Rubbing shoulders with regulars at the counter offers me a good vantage point for keeping an eye on the ball games, while watching a friendly, efficient server pour pints and relay food orders to the cook at the end of the bar. It’s evidence that a small, well-run joint with a simple menu can be run by just two people.

I order a Mac and Jack’s amber ale and a two-piece order of fish and chips, the thin slices of cod lightly breaded and crispy, the mountain of fries hot and crunchy. If this is a dive bar, I’m ready to dive in.

The cod fish and chips are thin, crispy and tasty

The cod fish and chips are thin, crispy and tasty

Pacific Inn Pub
3501 Stone Way North, Seattle
Daily 11 am-2 am
Pacific Inn Pub on Urbanspoon

Dining on Pizza at Seattle’s Delancey

It's cozy by the hearth in Seattle's Delancey

It’s cozy by the hearth in Seattle’s Delancey

As usual, I’ve grabbed a front-row seat at a pizza joint, this time the heralded Delancey, a casual, friendly spot in Seattle’s trendy Ballard district. I get to watch smoke curling from the brick, wood-fired oven as thin, sparingly adorned pizzas are carefully lifted out with a long-handled paddle. I also get to see passing starters I wish I’d ordered: gorgeous mounds of romaine, red cabbage and shaved-grana salads or small plates of local tomatoes with sheep milk’s feta and preserved Meyer lemons.

The toppings are simple but fresh in this bacon, mozza and argula pizza

The toppings are simple but fresh in this bacon, mozza and argula pizza

But I’ve saved myself for a Zoe’s bacon and onion pie, with fresh and aged mozza and scattered arugula. It’s simple, and simply delicious, with most of the ingredients locally sourced. All the pizzas are reasonably priced, ranging from $12 to $15 for a pie that can easily be shared by two.

Delancey
1415 NW 70 Street, Seattle
Wednesday to Saturday 5 pm-10 pm, Sunday 5 pm-9 pm. Closed Monday and Tuesday
Delancey on Urbanspoon

Now This is a Serious Biscuit

Think there's a few calories in this delectable chicken and biscuit and gravy.... and bacon and egg at Seattle's Serious Biscuit?

Think there’s a few calories in this delectable chicken and biscuit and gravy…. and bacon and egger at Seattle’s Serious Biscuit?

Serious Biscuit, in central Seattle, is a simple concept, done well and with almost industrial efficiency (delicious, mind you). It’s just house-made buttermilk biscuits, topped with your choice of everything from fried green tomatoes or catfish to ham hock and collards.

But, really, you have to order the fried chicken—the buttermilk-dredged skin is wonderfully crispy—smothered in Tabasco black pepper gravy ($9). It’s a fine, filling  morning  wakeup, delivered in minutes and devoured almost as fast at one of the few, small, high tables. For a couple of extra bucks, you can add bacon and egg to the caloric load.

Serious Biscuit is part of the Tom Douglas dining empire, scattered throughout Seattle. The sister Serious Pie is just up the stairs; check out the $6 happy-hour pizzas on weekdays. The production bakery for all the famed chef’s restaurants is in the back.

Serious Biscuit
401 Westlake Avenue North, Seattle
Weekdays 7 am-3 pm, weekends 9 am-3 pm
Serious Biscuit on Urbanspoon

Satisfying Southeast Asian Cuisine in Seattle

Bottoms up! Charlie about to embrace a "stinky" Durian shake at Phnom Penh in Seattle

Bottoms up! Charlie about to embrace a “stinky” Durian shake at Phnom Penh in Seattle

When you’re road-trip dining, it helps to be open to surprises that can lead to some great culinary discoveries. So, when a friend takes me to a Seattle food truck festival in the city’s International District, the crowds are so thick, we’re happy to follow a friend of his to Phnom Penh Noodle House.

I’m thus introduced to Cambodian cuisine and such wonderfully exotic dishes as crispy shrimp rolls, garlic-marinated steak wok tossed with whisky and a bowl of endlessly long sate noodles. My friend orders a yellow durian fruit shake despite warnings that it tastes musky; instead, it’s quite delightful.

Think you've tried it all? How about crispy shrimp rolls in a bean wrap?

Think you’ve tried it all? How about crispy shrimp rolls in a bean wrap?

All these recipes have been passed down through three generations of owner Sam Ung’s family, who emigrated to the U.S. in 1980 after fleeing the Khmer Rouge regime. The restaurant’s Cambodian heritage is also evident in plenty of bamboo, metal figurines and paintings.

Or garlic-marinated steak tossed with whisky?

Or garlic-marinated steak tossed with whisky?

Phnom Penh Noodle House
660 South King Street, Seattle
Monday, Tuesday and Thursday 9 am-8 pm, Friday 9 am-8:30 pm, Saturday 8:30 am-8:30 pm, Sunday 8:30 am-8 pm. Closed Wednesday
Phnom Penh Noodle House on Urbanspoon

Want a satisfying, filling lunch for $3, within the shadow of downtown Seattle’s office towers? Just head over to Saigon Deli, one of the best banh mi shops in town.

Banh mi is a Vietnamese-style sub, a foot-long, fresh roll that’s stuffed, in my case, with barbecued pork, slivered carrots and peppers, onions, cilantro and a slightly spicy mayo sauce. It adds up to a hearty, delicious sandwich for no more than the change in my pocket.

Can you believe it? A foot-long, yummy Vietnamese sub, near downtown Seattle, for only $3

Can you believe it? A foot-long, yummy Vietnamese sub, near downtown Seattle, for only $3

Saigon Deli
1237 South Jackson Street
Daily 7 am-6 pm
Saigon Deli on Urbanspoon

Loving the Breakfast Deals at This Seattle Creole Restaurant

Heavenly pork cheeks hash at happy-hour price at Seattle's Tolouse Petit

Heavenly pork cheeks hash at happy-hour price at Seattle’s Tolouse Petit

I’ve enjoyed the savings from countless afternoon and early evening happy hours. But a breakfast happy hour? Sign me up, especially when Seattle’s Tolouse Petit is knocking down the weekday prices of its creole-themed fare from as much as $15 to $9 between 8 and 11 am.

It’s an innovative menu that includes an Andouille sausage scramble, ham and corn polenta cakes and an oyster and bacon benedict (the latter $11 during happy hour). But where else am I going to find a cured pork cheeks confit hash? It’s a good choice, the tender cubes of meat with little potato cubes, asparagus slices and wilted spring greens. The hash is topped by a couple of over-easy eggs that are soon drenching the sautéed goodness below.

Toulouse Petit
601 Queen Anne Avenue North, Seattle
Daily, 8 am-2 am
Toulouse Petit Kitchen & Lounge on Urbanspoon

Wet-Coast Food Fight

Chomping down on a seared-tuna tacone at  Go Fish in Vancouver, one of four great west-coast food cities

Chomping down on a seared-tuna tacone at Go Fish in Vancouver, one of four great west-coast food cities

Let’s have some fun. What’s the best food city for road trippers in the Pacific Northwest? Heck, let’s throw San Francisco into the mix, though leave out Los Angeles, a beast of its own.

These ratings are subjective, the research somewhat sketchy. It’s primarily based on a recent road trip I took down the west coast. I spent only a few days in each of Vancouver, Seattle, Portland and San Francisco. But I ate and drank like a trencherman, sufficient, I trust, to gain a “gut” feel for what these cities offer the car traveller seeking good, independent and affordable fare. Remember, I’m not talking about high-end cuisine in this blog.

If you disagree strenuously with my assessments, please leave a reply.

Before we dive into the cuisine, I’d like to acknowledge the west coast is the epicentre of North America’s coffee culture. But for me, none of the four cities really stands out, maybe because I’m not all that partial to the lightly roasted beans au courant at so many hip cafes.

Like many San Francisco cafes, Four Barrel has the aesthetic nailed

Like many San Francisco cafes, Four Barrel has the aesthetic nailed

1) Portland: The Little City That Could

In my mind, the clear-cut winner. In fact, it’s the only one of these four cities that I’d go to just for the food. It’s that good. The biggest reason is the some 700 food carts (i.e. stationary trucks), spread throughout the city and doing more innovative things than most brick-and-mortar restaurants. Not that Portland’s regular restaurants are shabby, with top-rate, affordable joints like Pok Pok and Little Bird.

The incredibly rich food-cart scene pushes Portland to the top of my west-coast food list

The incredibly rich food-cart scene pushes Portland to the top of my west-coast food list

An elegant dish of succulent clams at Little Bird

An elegant dish of succulent clams at Little Bird

Bonus points: Because the city proper has less than 600,00 people, it’s the easiest of the four to get around, with lots of free streetside parking outside downtown. Plenty of good, innovative microbreweries, too
Cons: Lots of greenery but not the mountain views or oceanside locations of other west coast contenders
Quirks: You can’t fill your own gas tank in Oregon

2) Vancouver: The Jewel of the Pacific Northwest

All those Hong Kong investors may have pushed Vancouver real estate prices through the stratosphere. But the resulting influx of immigrants has also led to an invasion of Asian cuisine. That’s what propels it to my second spot. The suburb of Richmond may well be the Chinese food capital of North America. The city itself has lots of good fresh noodle places, matched by great Japanese ramen and izakaya joints. Throw in some great breakfast diners and vegetarian restaurants to round out the mix.

Fabulous charcoal miso ramen at Motomachi Shokudo

Fabulous charcoal miso ramen at Motomachi Shokudo

Bonus points: It can be miserably gray and wet during long stretches of winter (mind you, so can Seattle and Portland). But when it clears to reveal stunning views across the water to nearby mountains, this may be the world’s most glorious city
Cons: Undoubtedly the smuggest city in Canada

The beach, the ocean, the mountains. You just can't beat Vancouver on a sunny day

The beach, the ocean, the mountains. You just can’t beat Vancouver on a sunny day

3) San Francisco: No doubt shocked it’s not number one

San Fran doesn’t make it easy for the road tripper to love. It starts with the toll bridge into the city and the near impossibility of finding streetside parking downtown. The good news is that once you find your way into the Mission district, you can walk to a lot of good eateries—so long as you don’t mind a little harassment, filth and noise. Hey, it’s the big city.

San Francisco's Mission district is certainly steeped in character

San Francisco’s Mission district is certainly steeped in character

I might be shot for saying this, but the Chinese food is a notch below Vancouver’s, though Mission Chinese Food is certainly pushing the creative boundaries. And the StrEatfood Park is a pale imitation of the food-cart scene in Portland. If it’s any consolation, there’s way more good Mexican choices than the other three cities combined. And where else can you get that Gold Rush classic, the oyster-laden hangtown fry?

Bonus Points: Hard to beat that S.F. aesthetic: the Golden Gate Bridge, the Embarcadero, the steep hills, the iconic architecture
Cons: If you hear a basketball bouncing down the streets of the Mission district, it could soon be smashing through your parked car window

There's no contest on the architecture front

There’s no contest on the architecture front

4) Seattle: Super Bowl champ doesn’t make it to the culinary finals

Seattle certainly has a vibrant food scene, and there’s the presumed dominance of its coffee world. But someone has to finish fourth, and there was no single food culture here that bowled me over. The Tom Douglas restaurant empire reigns supreme, though many of the star chef’s joints stretch the boundaries of affordable. This is the place for an oyster or Dungeness crab feed.

Elliott's Oyster House is a great place to sample fresh oysters, especially during oyster happy hour

Elliott’s Oyster House is a great place to sample fresh oysters, especially during oyster happy hour

Bonus points: You can’t ignore Pike Place Market, even though it’s overrun by tourists. There are lots of more down-to-earth farmers’ markets throughout the city
Cons: My dining choices seemed to be really spread out, requiring lots of driving
Quirks: Those funny little parking meter stickers you have to attach to side windows. All those residential streets with little, vegetated peninsulas and circles that give your driving forearms a good workout

Sure it's overcrowded. But there's no market quite like the one in Pike Place

Sure it’s overcrowded. But there’s no market quite like the one in Pike Place

To give Seattle its proper due, I’ll be devoting the next couple of weeks to posts from some of its finer road-trip eateries.