Category Archives: Seattle

My Best Road Trip Meals of 2013: Part 1

Even the hard-working cooks have fun at Pete's Breakfast House in Ventura, California

Even the hard-working cooks have fun at Pete’s Breakfast House in Ventura, California

What happens when you hit a couple of hundred independent diners, cafes, coffeehouses, bakeries and breweries in the western U.S./Canada in one year? An ambulance ride to emergency? Fortunately, no. Instead, I got to discover some great places to eat and drink, run by some seriously committed, wonderful people. Here are the best of 2013, in two parts.

Best Breakfasts

My best 2013 breakfast is the day’s locovore omelette at Chow in Bend, Oregon. Perfectly prepared, it features chicken-apple sausage, caramelized onions and local chanterelle mushrooms and cheese. What puts it over the top is the choice of three bottles of house-made sauce of varying intensity, so good I buy two bottles to go.

My best 2013 breakfast is the locovore omelette at lovely Chow in Bend, Oregon

My best 2013 breakfast is the locovore omelette at lovely Chow in Bend, Oregon

Pancakes: The pancake sandwich—bacon atop buttermilk blueberry cakes and, underneath, two over-easy eggs—at Pete’s Breakfast House in Ventura, California. Great vibe ups the ante.

Delicious blueberry pancakes over eggs at Pete's Breakfast House in Ventura, California

Delicious blueberry pancakes over eggs at Pete’s Breakfast House in Ventura, California

Breakfast Sandwich: Sometimes, all you want for breakfast is an egg or two between two slices of a bready product. But at Tweets Cafe in tiny Edison, Washington, the breakfast sandwich is a work of art, with a mini salad on top, a slice of melon bursting with flavour and perfectly cooked eggs and ham atop a home-baked biscuit.

The breakfast sandwich in the hands of an artist at Tweet's Cafe in Edison, Washington

The breakfast sandwich in the hands of an artist at Tweet’s Cafe in Edison, Washington

Off the Radar: How about a breakfast burrito of smoked turkey, avocado, egg whites and a hash patty, chased by an invigorating iced drink of protein powder, espresso, peanut butter, banana and chocolate? It’s all on the healthy menu at D’Lish Drive Thru in Scottsdale, Arizona, along with a free dose of off-the-wall friendliness.

This excellent AZ Burro is one of many creative, healthy breakfast choices at D'Lish Drive-Thru

This excellent AZ Burro is one of many creative, healthy breakfast choices at D’Lish Drive-Thru in Scottsdale, Arizona

Best Coffee

In a year when I visit the coffee meccas of Seattle and Portland, it’s a roaster/coffeehouse in little Lethbridge, Alberta that serves my two best cups of coffee, one by Chemex, the other by Aeropress. Cupper’s Coffee & Tea‘s slightly darker roasts are so good, I’ve been ordering their shipped beans instead of just roasting my own.

Cupper's owner Al Anctil and the sophisticated roaster he helped build

Cupper’s owner Al Anctil and the sophisticated roaster he helped build in Lethbridge, Alberta

     Honourable Mentions: The espresso at Portland hole-in-the-wall Spella Caffee holds my tongue in a lingering, smoky embrace. My best coffee experiences are in Seattle’s also tiny Moore Coffee Shop—where I sink into a leather chair and savour a fine Americano served with a square of complimentary chocolate—and the funky vibe of Lux Central in Phoenix. I also have to include Nobrow Coffee Werks, in the coffee mecca of Salt Lake City (just joking) for the most sophisticated brewing machine, the Steampunk, I’ve ever seen.

Joe Evans and the very latest in custom-brewed coffee at Nobrow Coffee Works; I'd say this is high brow

Joe Evans and the very latest in custom-brewed coffee at Nobrow Coffee Works; I’d say this is high brow

Best Bakery/Café Santa Fe’s Clafoutis has a full-fledged menu, but it’s the ethereal croissants, brioche and baguettes, along with great coffee, that bring me back for more at this elegant, oh-so-French café.

A stack of baguettes amidst all the creative elements at Clafoutis in Santa Fe, New Mexico

A stack of baguettes amidst all the creative elements at Clafoutis in Santa Fe, New Mexico

      Honourable Mentions: Last year’s pick, La Baguette, in Revelstoke, B.C., keeps knocking it out of the park with things as simple but outstanding as Healthy Bread, its take on toast. San Francisco’s famed Tartine Bakery & Cafe lives up to the hype with brioche bread pudding and gorgeous gougère.

Gorgeously gooey gougere at Tartine Bakery & Cafe in San Francisco

Gorgeously gooey gougere at Tartine Bakery & Cafe in San Francisco

Best Sandwich The sandwich is a road-trip lunch staple, but it’s rarely raised to an art form like the Oxacan— shredded mole chicken, avocado, goat cheese and apple, served on lovely seed-crusted ciabatta—that I’m served at the fantastic Curious Kumquat, way out in Silver City, New Mexico.

This shredded mole chicken sandwich makes the drive to Silver City, New Mexico well worthwhile

This shredded mole chicken sandwich makes the drive to Silver City, New Mexico well worthwhile

     Honourable Mentions: My steak sandwich at Longview Steakhouse, in the ranch country of Longview, Alberta, is really a huge, superb strip loin on an overwhelmed single piece of bread, though the latter does soak up all the juices. In the heavyweight sandwich battle, my mortadella with all the fixings at Compagno’s Delicatessen, in Monterey Bay, California, reaches a sleep-inducing draw with the turkey-bacon monster at Sandwich Spot, in Palm Springs, California.

I gave half of this monster, fab $8 creation from the Sandwich Spot to a passing street person in Palm Springs, California

I gave half of this monster, fab $8 creation from the Sandwich Spot to a passing street person in Palm Springs, California. Kept us both fed for a day

Best Burger

A tie: Bobcat Bite has left its character-filled old adobe building and morphed into Santa Fe Bite, but it’s still pumping out its signature green chile cheeseburgers. Diablo Burger sources its natural, lean meats from open-range ranches near Flagstaff, Arizona. Both places offer their thick patties medium-rare.

The name and the location's changing, but there's no disguising these fantastic green chile cheeseburgers at Santa Fe Bite

This fantastic, medium-rare green chile cheeseburger, at Santa Fe Bite, is at least three inches thick

     Honourable Mentions: In the Asian fusion category, my fine wagyu burger at Bachi Burger in Las Vegas is edged by the Loco Moco—a Kobe patty over rice and Japanese mushrooms and topped with a sunny-side egg—at Carino Bistro in Calgary, Alberta.

Who needs a bun when you can have a Kobe patty atop rice and Japanese mushrooms at Carino Bistro in Calgary, Alberta

Who needs a bun when you can have a Kobe patty atop rice and Japanese mushrooms at Carino Bistro in Calgary, Alberta?

Best Vegetarian

Yes, I probably eat more burgers than salads on the road, but I’m by no means averse to vegetarian or even vegan so long as it’s tasty. It’s no surprise that in the running capital of Eugene, Oregon, healthy folks head to Morning Glory Cafe for tofu scrambles, black-bean burgers or my baked squash mounded with chanterelle mushrooms, brown rice and goat feta.

This baked squash mounded with goodies made for a healthy lunch at Morning Glory Cafe in Eugene, Oregon

This baked squash mounded with goodies makes for a healthy lunch at Morning Glory Cafe in Eugene, Oregon

Best Pizza

Among the many contenders, my top pick is Pizzeria Seven Twelve, in Orem, Utah, where the focus is on fresh and simple but creative ingredients like hand-pulled mozzarella, house-made sausage, roasted fennel and a thin, bubbly crust with a nice tangy flavour from the sourdough starter.

Simple, house-made ingredients make this sausage and fennel pie a standout at Pizzeria Seven Twelve in Orem, Utah

Simple, house-made ingredients make this sausage and fennel pie a standout at Pizzeria Seven Twelve in Orem, Utah

     Honourable Mention: At neighbourhood pub The Flying Goat, in Spokane, Washington, my Kiernan pie is layered with Italian sausage, heavy cream, an over-medium egg and some truffle-oil tossed arugula.

Italian sausage, heavy cream and truffle-oil tossed arugula add up to a winner at The Flying Goat in Spokane, Washington

Italian sausage, heavy cream and truffle-oil tossed arugula add up to a winner at The Flying Goat in Spokane, Washington

Best Salad

Salt Lake City’s gorgeous Finca creates a work-of-art beet salad, with a velvety house ricotta base, a ring of beet chunks and a middle tower of argula topped by macerated strawberries and toasted almonds.

This arranged beet salad, at Finca, is almost too pretty to eat... almost

This arranged beet salad, at Finca, is almost too pretty to eat… almost

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Seattle Sandwich Standoff

What do Seattle diners do while they're waiting in line? Why of course, talk to each other

What do Seattle diners do while they’re waiting in line? Why of course, talk to each other

It’s your classic heavyweight battle. In one corner, er Seattle streetfront, is the long-time, undisputed champ: Paseo, famed for its Cuban-style sandwiches. Almost right across Fremont Avenue is the contender, Dot’s Delicatessen, which also does sandwiches, along with charcuterie plates.

I head for the latter because a) I like an underdog and b) there’s no 11 am lineup here. I order a porchetta sandwich, the fatty pork tenderloin nicely offsetting the crunchy, pinkish coleslaw and the whole thing nicely held together by lightly toasted, chewy sourdough bread. It’s a simple, great $9 sandwich.

The porchetta sandwich on sourdough is sublime at Dot's Delicatessen

The porchetta sandwich on sourdough is sublime at Dot’s Delicatessen

By the time I’ve wolfed down the last morsel, I would probably just be ordering at Paseo. But as I pass the latter and its ever-lengthening line, I see some seated lads digging into steaming pork subs, smothered in caramelized onions. Damn, that looks good, too.

There's usually a healthy line for Paseo's Cuban-style sandwiches

There’s usually a healthy line for Paseo’s Cuban-style sandwiches

I can see a split decision here. Heck, even Urbanspoon reviewers are having a tough time deciding. I guess everyone’s a winner.

Dot’s Delicatessen
4262 Fremont Ave North
Daily 11 am-9 pm, except 3 pm closing Sunday
Dot’s Delicatessen on Urbanspoon

Paseo
4225 Fremont Avenue North or 6226 Seaview Avenue NW
Tuesday to Friday 11 am-9 pm, Saturday 11 am-8 pm. Closed Sunday and Monday
Paseo on Urbanspoon

Seattle’s Finest Coffee?

Espresso Vivace may be the top hipster pick for coffee in Seattle

Espresso Vivace may be the top hipster pick for coffee in Seattle

It’s Seattle, folks, where Starbucks got started more than 40 years ago and many a novel and email has been read. It’s the place that really put cafe society on the map in North America. So not surprisingly, there are lots and lots of coffee shops around, many of them micro roasters and just as many devoted to the art of making precise cups of java of any style imaginable.

Espresso Vivace pulls a fine, smooth espresso at two cafes and one sidewalk stand, while Victrola Coffee Roaster also has three shops, serving nice pour-overs, some soaring into the price stratosphere depending on the chosen bean. A nice discovery for me is Caffe Ladro, a roaster/scratch bakery with a dozen area cafes and single cups done three ways: Clover, Aeropress or, my choice, Clever (think French press without the sediment).

Much less heralded but a place I thoroughly enjoy is Moore Coffee Shop, in the downtown Moore Hotel. Parking’s a bitch, but the small cafe is a haven of serenity, where I sink into a nice leather chair to savour a strong, double-shot Americano (believe they use local Caffe D’arte beans).

Enjoying a fabulous Americano at Moore Coffee Shop in downtown Seattle

Enjoying a fabulous Americano at Moore Coffee Shop in downtown Seattle

Owner Lupe has included some nice touches such as slices of, say, apple, in a complementary jug of cold water and a little square of good chocolate placed on the saucer. He’s also added some good, $6 sandwiches, like a caprese with fresh mozza, to the menu. Let’s hope the cognoscenti don’t discover this sanctuary.

Moore covers all the nice touches like this jug of fruit-infused water

Moore covers all the nice touches like this jug of fruit-infused water

Moore Coffee Shop
1930 2 Avenue, Seattle
Weekdays 6:30 am-5 pm, Saturday 8 am-3 pm. Closed Sunday