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Sep 29, 2003 11:54 PM

Help me, Olympia Jane! :-)

  • d

Are you still in Olympia? I need some help finding good places to eat here. I am using so much fuel driving north for lunch! LOL

I know about Pho Olympia. I think their pho is wonderful! Is everything else they make just as delicious, or should I just stick to the pho?

I tried Chopsticks for the Phad Thai. I wasn't super impressed, but I think it's more that I'm no longer a big fan of Phad Thai. Is the rest of their menu good?

I found halibut and chips at Eagan's.

What about pizza? Any good, creative pizza places in the area?

Also, any good (mostly concerned with quality of meats) classic Chinese restaurants in the area?

Any other suggestion???

Thank you so much if you (or anyone!) can help. I REALLY appreciate it!

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  1. Trinacria is the best restaurant in town. Its lunch hours are limited, I think 11:30-2pm, but call ahead. Great pasta dishes: the Penne Norma (with eggplant)and Amatriciana (with pancetta and caramelized onions)are my standards, but they also make excellent thin crust pizzas and lasagna (dinner only, unfortunately).

    Osaka Sushi in Tanglewilde is a bit far out, but definitely worth the trek. Impeccable, fresh sushi and sashimi. They also have a Korean spicy fish soup that is amazing, great cure for a cold, just watch out for all the bones. Their sukiyaki is also notable. They have a coupon/promotion section on their website for five bucks off lunch FWIW.

    I misremember if Lemongrass is open for lunch, but they have fantastic curry dishes.

    Mehfil in Lacey used to be excellent Indian food, but had been somewhat poor the last two times I went. It might be worth another shot though, and it's a nice change of taste from bowl after bowl of pho.



    1 Reply
    1. re: Jason S.

      I hate to be a fart, but I don't think there is much in Olympia to rave about. Lemongrass is uneven and at best a so-so Thai restaurant. It beats the other Thai alternatives downtown, however. I had decent (chain) pho at Pho Hoa yesterday; otherwise I would recommend the Asian food mart on Harrison Rd. (near Wendy's, if a sign helps). There are no satisfactory Chinese restaurants in this town, nor pizza worth mentioning. I've been disappointed in my visits to Trinacria, but I keep thinking there must be more to it, since it gets positive buzz from folks like you.

      Water St. Cafe is a new entrant into the downtown take a client to lunch competition. I think it shows promise. The space is nice and the wait staff friendly. The dishes are fussy and are still somewhat hit or miss. Good wine list though.

      After wallowing in my fartdom, I've come to regard Ramblin' Jacks as entirely acceptable. The draft beer selection is good, and at least some of the dishes are reliable. I like the BBQ shrimp appetizer: spicy and sweet, with lots of sauce to mop up. I would imagine that you could get an OK sandwich with lunch.

      From Thursday to Sunday, lunch could mean a good bowl of pozole at Los Tulenos at the Farmers Market, with some pleasant shopping thrown in. (Olympia has a very nice farmers market.)

      If your idea of lunch is a hangtown omelette (with oysters, spinach and bacon), drop by The Spar. Tell them you want the omelette loose, though, or they will cook it til it could double as a frisbee. (It's open-face.)

      Speaking of oysters, Shelton Oyster Fest is nearly at hand! (slurp)

    2. o
      Olympia Jane

      Yipes, sorry to be so belated in my reply about Olympia lunch places. 'Tis Saturday morning, and I just sat down to the computer with a cup of Batdorf's finest, and a bowl of yellow grits with Mama Lil's peppers and a handful of grated asiago cheese. A fine breakfast for a foggy October morning and a foggy brain. This is the first chance I have had all week to read through the week's chowhound postings,otherwise I would have replied to your quest for help finding Oly lunch spots sooner!

      To respond to your post: There is good news and bad news about lunch in Olympia, as you and your gas tank have discovered.

      PIzza: First, if I want pizza, I think the closest place to even think about getting pizza is New York City. Short of that, if I have to have a pizza fix and am too lazy to grill my own on the Q, I go to Capitale in downtown Olympia.

      Water Street Cafe: As mentioned in another post, the Water Street Cafe just opened, and they have pizza on their menu but I have not tried it yet. If you do, let us know. The one lunch I ate at the newly opened Water Street Cafe was a miserable rendition of a soup and salad. The place is tres tres, a sort of "Am I in Olympia?Nah!" kind of place, the wait staff perfect, and the owner is capable of much better, so either it waa opening week foibles or the wrong selection. The fellow behind the Water Street Cafe (Jeff) was the original owner and creator of Capitale, and went on to Louisa's, so I KNOW he can do better and do pizza, just not New York Pizza. He does the northwest/california thin crust, wood fired pizza with tasty goo-goo toppings, and sometimes that is just the thing that does it for me.

      Chinese food in Olympia? Not a chance. Don't even think about it. Go directly to the ID in Seattle, do not pass go, or to the place in Renton that Irwin has recommended(can't remember the name right now.)
      Other lunch spots?

      Bayview Market: I like to go to Bayview Market Grocery Store sometimes and order from their deli, sit outside on the deck, and talk to the seal in that part of Budd Inlet that slops up under the deck at the Market. My co-worker/lunch partner has dubbed the seal as Sammy. A couple of years ago a gray whale showed up there as well, and the salmon run under the 4th Street Bridge (such that it is at the moment), so it is an interesting place to have lunch when you get tired of your co-worker's antics and want to check out the marine life version of a day at the office.

      Oyster House: My co-worker and I also like the Oyster House for "oyster tempura" at lunch time, especially now that we are back in full oyster season.

      Ben Moore's: I used to go to Ben Moore's a lot, loved their waitresses almost as much as their grilled oyster and pesto pasta lunch, but haven't been for a while. A friend of mine loved their Patty Melts, too, and they do a great burger and green salad with blue cheese.

      Anthony's: I know, I know, we just went a bit upscale from the grocery store, but they have this Huckleberry thing going on right NOW, and the Huckleberry Slump dessert is right up there as a reason for living through the rest of the work week. They are also doing grilled halibut with huckleberry salsa at lunch time, and I am particularly fond of their so-called "Hawaiann Cobb", a salad with mango, avocado, shrimp, crispy bacon, and crumbled blue cheese in a light vinaigrette dressing.

      Lemon Grass Thai: It IS open for lunch. Crowded, usually, get there early. A few menu items you won't see anywhere else in Olympia.

      Budd Bay Cafe: Surprisingly good with their new chef/owner/menu, especially after years of mediocre to poor food. Lots of crab melt and crab louis type items. A good place to sit out on the deck and soak up the sun, since it actually seems to be shining down on us this rare, rare, sunny summer in Olympia.

      The Farmer's Market (The Olympia farmer's market is open through Christmas from Thursday through Sunday, 10-3.) Oh, you must have heard me wax on about Carlotta's Meatball Sandwiches. Now THERE Is a reason for living! Crispy french roll spilling over with delicious marinara sauce and tasty, tasty meatballs, served up with a little tossed green salad. She also does great panini sandwiches, pastas, and pizza, but I can't bear to order anything except the meatball sandwiches.
      The Farmer's Market vendors offer curries, crabcakes, bratwurst, the aforementioned mexican food, soba noodles, chinese cabbage/chicken salad, and, of course, you can go to the Wagner's Bakery outpost they have there and have a chocolate eclair or a napoleon for dessert, or go the San Francisco bakery and eat a gingerbread man or a "Hypno Cookie", their swirled chocolate/white cookie. Oh, and pick up a loaf of the kalamata olive/garlic bread from the Blue Heron bakery, or a bag of Rebel Crunch granola.

      Lew's East Bay Drive In: This used to be the best place in town for a BLT, now it is the best lunch spot close to town for chicken teriyaki and a california roll.

      Osaka: I agree heartily with the other post about Osaka. If you have time to drive out to Tanglewilde, it is by far better than anywhere else close to town for Korean/Japanese food. I like their Bento box for lunch, with the salmon teriyaki.

      Olympia Pho: Last, but not least, I go to the Olympia Pho II place at the corner of Martin Way and Sleater-Kinney Road about twice a week for lunch, so they know me there, and they always bring me #12, the chicken pho, unless I am in the mood for something different. With the zany stress level at my job, that #12 is my comfort food/stress reliever/calm tonic. My lunch partner usually orders curried tofu, and sometimes I ask them to make me up a spicy chicken and veggie stir fry that is not on the menu but easily made.

      I could go on about eating lunch at golf courses, the 24 hour Rib Eye, Eddy's market on the Westside, Charlie's Tavern across from the downtown Safeway, Ruby's, but I think I mentioned most of my favorite places. Email me if you want more, or run out of ideas...and let's hope this gives you a few more Olympia ideas.


      9 Replies
      1. re: Olympia Jane

        Olympia Jane: Thank you for you delightful, comprehensive report about Olympia eats.

        Now how may we arrange to have you sent, on temporary duty, to work for ample periods in Tacoma and Seattle?

        We sure could use the type of in-depth report you've provided for Olympia in both those communities. I've never enjoyed as personalized response to any query more then the report you've provided. Everytime i've gone to Olympia, i've somehow ended up at the 'Spar", no more now that i've printed out your reply. Irwin

        1. re: Irwin Koval
          Olympia Jane

          Thank you very kindly, Irwin, I always enjoy your greatly informational posts. It is clear from your writing that you have enjoyed a long, interesting career in the world of food, and we are lucky to benefit from your generosity in sharing your knowldege! Viva la!

        2. re: Olympia Jane

          Thank you so much, Jane!!!

          I had meant to ask you about the Blue Heron Bakery. Are all of their breads delicious?

          The Rib Eye is a 24-hour joint? What are they known best for? I guess that's the same as asking what their best dishes are.

          I always see D.J. Murphy's. Are they any good?

          I'm really interested in this huckleberry stuff going on at Anthony's. What exactly is Anthony's? LOL I looked in the phone book and found a restaurant called Anthony's Homeport; is that it? Any idea how much the halibut with the huckleberry salsa runs? (I'm on such a strict budget.)

          I love Olympia Pho. I always get a large #6. It is such wonderful stuff.

          Anyway, I appreciate you taking so much time helping.

          Dave :-)

          P.S. Here I am in oyster central, and I just don't think I can eat one. I could maybe swallow one whole, but I know I couldn't chew one. Don't they have a big, gristly, somewhat-hard thing in the middle? I really do wish I was an oyster lover. LOL

          1. re: David
            Olympia Jane

            David, the Rib Eye is located on Martin Way, just past the Pacific Avenue/Martin Way split, and it is, well, a Real Live Dive, no jive. Think toasted cheese sandwiches on white breaad, greasy patty melts, platters of eggs, hashbrowns and toast for $2.59 with a coupon cut out of The Olympian. Think the joint you stagger into around 2 or 3 am to soak up the alcohol from a weekend bender, or the place you go to if you work a weird nightshift and get off at 4am (like I did in the winter of 1973 when I was a college student during the day, and a janitor at the Westside Lanes bowling alley at night.) I was very happy to be amongst other, well, mostly human types at the god forsaken hour of 4am in the indescribably dark winter rainy wetness of mid-winter Olympia. On a whim, I had lunch there last summer and darn if everything wasn't still in place, circa 1973, right down to the waitresses, the paper placemats and the orange naugahyde decor.

            As for Anthony's, yup, I was referring to Anthony's Homeport. Like I said, a bit upscale from the other suggestions on my original list of Olympia lunch spots. Call 'em to see they still have the huckleberry thing going on and to maybe check prices if that is an issue before you go. The lunch time version of the halibut with huckleberry salsa was around $12 or $13 if I remember correctly, so it is pricey. The warm huckleberry slump with vanilla ice cream is $5 or $6, and well worth the five spot plus one.

            As for being in the middle of oyster land and not really being able to imagine eating such a creature, well, here's the route I took. Even though I grew up outside of St.Louis, the land of meatloaf and bbq, as a child my mother made fresh oyster stew for us. The old saying goes that if you put enough cream and butter in a dish it is going to taste delicious, and oyster stew is nothing but a big warm bowl of light cream or rich milk, a dollops of melting butter and a few gently cooked and slightly elusive oysters floating carelessly about in all that cream and butter. Delicious, even to a child. So, while my big brother would happily eat a platter of raw oysters on the half shell when we travelled to the coast, I wouldn't touch the slimy suckers. Until. Until I came out here, and ate my first oysters that had been gathered with friends from the beach, then thrown on slow fire on the beach until the moment the shell popped open a tad, enough for us to slip the oyster out and into our open mouths. Yipes. Delicious. It wasn't long before I was shucking raw oysters and savoring what some may consider a nuance of a difference, but what I find as strikingly incredible and wonderous differences in the wide varieties of Puget Sound oysters. Oy vay, don't get me started on the taste of oysters, what is already too long will be way, WAY, way too long, and I will start craving oysters and have to walk down to the beach with a flashlight instead of staying put and reading through the rest of the proposals I brought home from the office to work on tonight.

   has been fun to write about Olympia for a change!

            1. re: Olympia Jane

              One other lunch possibility, and may the great spirit protect me for even harboring such a thought, is the Evergreen State College. No kidding. Since they replaced their catering service the food has taken a drastic leap. Salads are generally excellent, with lots of organic produce to choose from. The steam table stuff is hit or miss, but, honestly, so is most of the restaurant fare in these parts. And from time to time it really does hit. OK, not every day, but don't you want to situate yourself within a gaggle of 'greeners and take it all in once in a while?

              I work here and so I am a somewhat captive customer, but I would pop in from time to time anyway.

              Meanwhile, has anyone tried the new Peruvian place?

              1. re: Peter

                Several years ago when my son was an Evergreen student, we used to love Jo Mama's for pizza. Have they gone under, or downhill?

                1. re: Abra

                  Under. I've been here for 5 years and it was nonexistent before that.

                  Olympia is a pizza wasteland. (Or waistland: too much cheese, too much grease.)

                  1. re: Peter

                    I'm going to disagree with that. Brewery City Pizza is quite good and Vic's Pizza is great.

                    I'll conceded that Brewery City Pizza is sometimes greasy but the menu is very extensive and extremely satisfying. They also make some fantastic (and affordable) calzones.

                    Compared to the amazing pizza of the Bay Area that I'm used to (Zachary's, Escape to New York, Fat Slice, Blondie's, The Cheeseboard etc.) Olympia is lacking but that does not mean that good pizza can't be found

                2. re: Peter

                  I don't know if this was true back in 2003 but it certainly isn't now. I just finished my first year at Evergreen and I can tell you that The Greenery is vile. I ate there at the beginning of the year to use up my block meals and ended up switching meal plans because I was tired of feeling horribly sick and disgusted. Evergreen's catering service Aramark produces slop for schools and prisons all over the country and their food is far from edible. There are a few dishes which are quite decent, including BBQ and beer battered fish but they're rarely served and in my experience the online menu has only matched up with the actual menu a sparse handful of times, forcing patrons to visit the Greenery to see what is being served. The best thing the Greenery has to offer is a self-serve softserve icecream machine with vanilla and orange. If you just want to pay $8+ for unlimited softserve then feel free but you'd be better off investing that money in some ingredients to cook yourself a decent meal.

                  Some of the food in the Market one floor above the Greenery is decent (exceptionally greasy breakfast sandwiches, lasagna, sometimes the pizza) but for the most part the cuisine consists of bagels and snacks that one could easily find in many other places without having to drive out to the woods and tolerate the Greeners.

          2. Gah! Good Lord! I've lived in Olympia for over 30yrs and some of these suggestions make me a little nervous.

            First of all, Lemon Grass is a wonderful restaurant. I thoroughly enjoy it every time I visit.

            For pizza, you might as well try Old School Pizzeria. It's a local hangout. The pizza is okay, but the atmosphere is probably more memorable. If you want more options, there's also Vic's Pizzeria on the Westside and Brewery City Pizza in Tumwater.

            For Chinese, I guess you could try Emperor's Palace. I've never been there, because that place scares me, but it's been here longer than I've been alive (I think) so they must be doing something right.

            For a little fine dining, I've always had a decent time at Anthony's new restaurant, the Hearthfire Grill, which is located down on the point.

            I'd skip Waterstreet Cafe, because it's way overpriced and the dishes are hit or miss, and I don't like to take chances when money and food are involved.

            Hope that helps.

            Finally, thank you for dredging up this skeleton from 2003. Nice one.