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Apr 11, 2007 02:05 PM

The Grass is Always Greener

I watch this happen all the time: Somebody posts, asking where to find something, and the eventual thread is always about how its better elsewhere.

Well, folks. We live in Seattle. And I for one, LOVE it. I enjoy the variety of food. Yeah maybe my chinese would be better if I lived in Vancouver. My pastrami better in New York, my mexican better in California (where I understand burritos come with french fries in them).

But when people post here, they are looking for something in SEATTLE. Not advice on where to get it when they go to NY or Kansas or the Moon.

So this thread is two fold. In addition to bitching about that, this is a place for you to tell me what you get better elsewhere in the world, and also where your closest version of that in seattle is.

I'll start: The Barbacoa I got in the mountains in Queretaro in Mexico was unreal. I understand there is a store in greenwood that serves traditional style barbacoa on sundays, but I used to work on weekends and have yet to try it.

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  1. I'll take the bait.

    The best Northern-style thai food I've had is at Sticky Rice in Chicago, an incredible "secret menu" of delights. The closest approximation here is Viengthong, on Rainier.

    P.S. The sunday barbacoa at La Conasupo Market on Greenwood is very good. Five bucks for a pound of meat, or for an overstuffed taco, which could easily be redistributed into 3 tacos.

    1. Dagoose, Thank you, thank you, thank you. I am weary of hearing about Vancouver's Chinese food. (If people want to post about Vancouver's Asian food, do it on the Vancouver thread.) The dumplings and salt & papper chicken at Judy Foo's Snappy Dragon are a personal favorite. Maybe other Snappy Dragon items fallen slightly, but these two hold their own. Now, as to real BBQ, Seattle is hopeless and the subject should never be breached again.

      7 Replies
      1. re: Walters

        Agree about the BBQ thing. But the good thing is, with a little effort, you can make fabulous bbq at home. So, I don't despair over that too much. I only despair about the cuisines that are impossible to reproduce at home.

        I'm quite happy with the Seattle food scene. We have excellent food here. I feel sorry for people who feel the need to constantly whine "but it's not like...." whatever. In reality, they probably wouldn't be happy anywhere.

        1. re: malarkey

          It is curious that some of you are optimistic about the seatttle food scene generally, but you are convinced that BBQ is a lost cause.

          In the spirit of the original post, what about Jones, Pecos Pit, etc.? Aren't these even worth visiting if you don't feel up to hauling out the smoker in the backyard?

          1. re: equinoise

            I've never been to the south or anything, but I get my BBQ at Otis's place on greenwood...that I actually don't know the name of. They don't really have a menu, you just sort of go in and otis scoops lots of stuff on to your plate
            I love it.

            1. re: dagoose

              dagoose, you raise a fascinating issue. Provincialism is both a blessing and a curse for the culture of a city. It is great because it fosters a unique local idenitity that sets the city apart from others. It is undesirable when it makes the natives avoid embracing the best that other cities have to offer. Rejecting the idea of comparing Seattle's food with that of other places is not that constructive in my opinion, because it ignores the benchmarks for quality that are established elsewhere, and, in some small way, reduces the demand for better food. I love that people get on this board and bitch about our impoverished pizza, soup dumplings, BBQ, because that fuels a demand for quality. Without making reference to other cities' offerings, there is no basis for comparison.
              None of that means a seasoned critic can't still love Seattle's food scene overall.

              1. re: equinoise

                What's really funny about a lot of these complaints is that when I try to find some of the things that people bemoan the lack of here-say, New York pizza or Chinese as good as in SF-it's really difficult to figure out where to find where exactly the good stuff is that they keep talking about! If you go to the New York or SF boards you will find tons of posts saying the pizza scene in NYC is no good anymore, or that there is no good Chinese in SF, and for every recommendation that someone does offer two other people will post saying the place is terrible.

                I do think it's useful to steer people away from things we just don't have or do well here-I've read posts where visitors ask where to get the best lobster, for example, and I think it's a good idea to tell them we get our lobster flown in from Maine like they would at home in Nebraska. But I understand the OP's point. I actually don't mind that we don't have everything here-part of the excitement of traveling is getting to eat unique things that aren't found everywhere. I think it would be really boring if everywhere in the US had great Chicago pizza, NY bagels, Kansas City bbq, etc etc.

                1. re: christy319

                  i agree. part of the fun of hearing what other places do (or dont' do) better is to raise our awareness so that when we do travel (or plan trips with a secret food agenda), we can make the most of the opportunity to graze in those greener pastures. It's great to hear when Seattle does somethign better than other cities, but even better when somebody tips us off to where we can go for even better food.

                  1. re: christy319

                    A good point as to the pervasive negativity and doubt on other boards. One funny thing about new yorkers, in my opinion, is that they all like to play coroner-they love to be the first to pronounce the demise of something, be it a restaurant, a trend, a ballplayer's career. Of course, alot of times, they jump the gun. Anyone who tells you NYC's pizza scene is "no good anymore" is delusional. There is so much focus and intensity on food quality there, epecially with the rise of food network phenomenon, and the gentrification of the boroughs by foodie yuppies.

        2. Hamburgers! Not west-coast hamburgers which, with their thin patties and lots of toppings, are a totally different thing. Let's call those something else: fast-food burgers. I mean real hamburgers - patties with no less than a 1:3 ratio of thickness to diameter, toppings restricted to a subset of lettuce, tomato, bacon, cheese, onion, pickle and taking up less than 1/5 the volume of the filling.

          I'm talkin' Corner Bistro burgers. Yum yum good stuff, total unobtanium in Seattle.

          What's the closest local equivalent? Well, the Two Bells is dq'ed for using crusty bread in lieu of the standard cottony bun, but comes closest otherwise. The next closest are the miniburgers in the bar at Cascadia. They're small, but they nail the patty shape and once you discard the toppings, they approach the flavor and mouth feel of the drippy East-of-the-Mississippi burgers I crave.

          3 Replies
          1. re: terrier

            terrier, you speak of the legendary corner bistro of the west village? Sounds great. I wish I had visited.

            Your emphasis on thickness and grease makes me suspect you like sliders too, perhaps?

            1. re: terrier

              Corner Bistro burger ... yummmm. But I tell you that I'd give anything for a hoppy NW beer to go with one when I'm there.

              1. re: terrier

                i haven't tried very many burger places around here but i think the burger at Steelhead, when ordered med-rare, with its caramelized onions, cheese curds and whatever else they throw in there, is plenty thick and juicy for me...guess i'll have to try Two Bells next. Now if only they would deliver their burgers to Beveridge place pub in W Seattle...

              2. Satay, from the street stalls of Malaysia/SE Asia. Also - yakitori from the street stalls of Japan and chuanr from street stalls of Northern China. I guess I have a thing for grilled meats on sticks? I think the reason for such a lack of these types of foods around here has to do with the difference in attitudes about food and in food culture... but I digress.

                Anyway, I think you should alternatively start a thread about foods in Seattle that are unparalleled in other locales. The first thing that comes to my mind is La Carta De Oxaca in Ballard... I have not come across anything similar even deep in the trenches of So Cal.

                1. I live in Seattle as well; and also LOVE it. That being said, should one ignore facts and blindly recomend the best that our beloved city has to offer even when said offerings are below par? As equinoise states so eloquently, if we fail to make comparisons to standards set in other cities, we are only denying a valid discussion of what good food is.

                  I'll readliy admit that I commonly recommend that people drive 2 hours north rather than succumb to the poor Chinese food available in wonderful Seattle. I see this as a rather realistic option that is worth considering (as opposed to flying to Taiwan for soup dumplings at Ding Tai Fung).

                  Let's take the example of soup dumplings. Anyone who has had the pleasure of tasting a real soup dumpling (xiau long bau) knows that nothing in Seattle can be compared to a correctly prepared one. Either the skin is too thick, the skin is too thin so the soup has leaked out, the pork is underseasoned, the soup is barely there, the pork filling is barely there, the soup is mostly fat; any number of misteps that I've experienced anytime I've ordered soup dumplings in Seattle. So when someone asks for a soup dumpling recommendation on these boards, should we ignore the fact that Richmond has over 4 restaurants that offer soup dumplings that rival those found in Shanghai; or steer them to a location in Seattle where what they will be served is mediocre at best?

                  I am quick to praise the numerous establishments in Seattle turning out incredible dishes, and hold that Seattle can be compared to some of the best american cities when speaking of certain cuisines. At the same time, it would be irresponsible to bury your head in the sand and not comment on the (limited) cuisines where most of Seattle's offerings are deficient.