Seattle in January
I'll be visiting Seattle in January for a conference. I'd like to eat
1. what's regionally unique
2. what I can't get near Tampa, FL (Ethiopian especially)
3. what's really good
My instinct tells me that there is great sushi available there.
Plain or fancy
Cheap or expensive
Haute or humble
To paraphrase Roy Rogers, "I never met a cuisine that I didn't like."
Thanks for posting where you are from! Definitely the dungeness crab. (Prepared Szechuan style at Seven Stars Pepper Restaurant its incredible.) Seattle's Asian roots provide many great options. The Vietnamese "sandwiches" at Tamarind Tree; Shiro's for Sushi. (Just ask Shiro to prepare you dinner, do not order from the menu. Many delights await you.) Tapas at Harvest Vine merge the Pacific Northwest with Spain in a unique way. Pacific Mussels at Maximillien's at the Market. Palace Kitchen for earthy cooking ideal for our January weather. Wear lots of Gore-Tex and enjoy your visit!
1. I'd agree w/PALACE KITCHEN. I still savour their melt-in-the-mouth ravioli...everytime I think about it, I react like one of Pavlov's dogs.
2. for cheap & plain, I'd go to SALUMI'S (communal tables & sandwiches). If you don't get there right when it opens, you'll be standing in a line that goes around the corner.
Better yet, go late. I go after 2:00 and often find Salumi nearly empty (YMMV). It is a European bistro, ripe with conviviality and flavor. Palace Kitchen is a modest spluge we savor. It's all good.
A Puget Sound native, I want to throw in a little caution about the Szechaun crab. It is, indeed, a treasure, but the subtlety of the sweet Dungeness flavor does not play the lead here. As fine an alternative as a jaded Northwesterner might find a crab smothered in spicy black bean sauce, this is certainly not the most direct introduction to this very special meat. Anthony's Home Port, I believe, has (had???) an "all-you-can-eat" Dungeness special that was a fine fine group experience. Plenty of slaw, and bread, and all that (tons of lemons easily) are there, and Crab, Crab, Crab, til you are quite though (and than you very much, indeed). Years ago, it was about $35 a person, but WAY worth the price. To the East Coast visitor, I say - do not shun the body, as some of the sweetest meat is there. Grab the crackers and the picker and roll up your sleeves. There is nothing, nothing, so grand and memorable as stuffing yourself full of Dungeness in the daytime in Seattle. With the possible exception of stuffing yourself full of Dungeness in the night.
Back to the Asian mentions: A long time appreciator of Tamarind Tree (a great design job - dig the restrooms!, persimmon walls, fountain - way to go Tham), we are glad to see Green Leaf, a welcome addition. My first exposure to Ban Xeo was there, rich with the flavor of coconut. It must have been a big buzz in restaurant society, as every menu within shouting distance now features this dish (though none so far so splendidly). Maybe a hound will clue us to its local forbears, but, as far as I know, Green Leaf introduced this here, and we are grateful of it.
Take a car. Go South on 1st Avenue til after it becomes East Marginal Way, a half-mile past the (very obvious) First Avenue South bridge, to the South Park bridge. Barely noted by a nondescript sign on the roadside, and a little hard to believe because of its very BOEING surroundings, do take the turn, even if your better judgment says NO. You will cross a bridge in a few blocks, the other end of which is landed in a whole nother place. A whole nother culture, indeed. Muy Macho, with its bright signs and forward colors, is easy to find, and worth the trip. Get a taco plate. Your choice of (was it 5? or 4? or 6?) tacos from a list that includes carne asada, carnitas, lengua, cabeza, chicken (pollo) of course, and I can never keep track of the good things there. Think of this as Mexican Truck Stop food; genuine food of genuine people. I hope your Spanish is good, as your host/server will likely be happy of that. Across the corner is Mexi-Mart. It specializes in bringing foodstuffs common at the border up to the frozen North (the only local place I ever saw a decent chile sauce), and is a hoot.
I hope hounds who know more than I will set us straight here, but I have enjoyed wonderful Ethiopian lunches on First Avenue, above Pike Place. I can never remember if it is called "Pan African Market" or "Africando" (I mortify myself here, I'm certain), or what, but it is great. If you walk First Avenue and do not hurry too blinkeredly, you will smell it. The njera (Ethiopian national bread) is the best I've had in seven cities, and the spicings are subtle in the traditional ways. I am a lucky man.
Just down a few hundred feet or so (in elevation, mind you), along the Pike Street Hill Climb, find El Puerco Lloron (the crying pig). This is El Paso, transported. As you enter, note fresh tortillas being pressed at the grill and resolve to order a dozen (do not question this, just do it). I like the Asada tacos, but it's all good. Grab a sat by the window and try not to feel too sorry for yourself that you don't live here. Enjoy.
There are so many other hidden worthies, it is a tough assignment. I love mussells at Maximiliens, but also Ciopinno at Jack's, across the Pike, pizza at DeLaurenti's, and chili at World Class Chili, down behind (Cincinatti chili far better than Skyline in Cinci.). If you are downtown on a weekend, treat yourself to Brunch at Cafe Campagne (underneath Campagne). I love the French French Toast, though it may just be the name that does it for me.
Oh my, that was a lot of suggestions. I'd better stand away now and let the rest of the city have a chance to introduce you.
There's a very lot more, and you came to the right place. Welcome, and please report back for us.
I think Walter gives some great recommendations, esp. Seven Stars Pepper and the crab. I'll also recommend Green Leaf (I give it the edge over Tamarind Tree for Vietnamese, though both are very good). I'll also add the Market Grill, for fantastic grilled salmon in a very casual (counter seating only) Pike Place Market environment, and Matt's in the Market, which is a very unique to Seattle type place.
Wow, this sounds fantastic.
I'll be staying at a la Quinta not far from the convention center. Are any of these walkable from there?
The La Quinta is on 8th and Bell...The recommended Palace Kitchen would be an easy walk, as would Shiro's, and it's not a bad walk to the Market Grill or Matt's or Maximilien at the Pike Place Market. Seven Stars Pepper, Tamarind Tree and Green Leaf are all in the International District, and would probably be easiest with a bus (lots of routes go there, and downtown buses are free)/cab unless you really like to walk (in January).