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Jul 17, 2007 09:36 PM

What should I eat to get a "Bite of Seattle"?

Dear Seattle Chowhounders, I need your expertise.

I am a foodie from Kansas City (and a big fan of Chowhound) who is using my summer to travel to six different food festivals across the U.S. My goal is to truly get a "taste" of each city and then write about my food experiences while contrasting the differences and similarities of each festival for a local food magazine I currently write for in KC.

Many foodies I have spoken with show complete distain for these types of food festivals as they don't believe one can truly get great food at them. I know that these are not the best food festivals you city has to offer. I am also aware that most of these food festivals feature restaurants that are more fast food in nature and that very few of a city's culinary heavy hitters ever attend these events. I also know that chain restaurants also use these events to drive their business.

However, I believe there are hidden gems at each of these festivals that are locally-owned and truly represent the tastes and flavors of city that they live and do business in. Those are the places, I am trying to find.

I just returned from the Taste of Chicago a couple of weeks ago, which is attended by over 3.5 million people during the week it is held, and is considered the biggest food festival of its kind in the U.S. Upon asking the locals what I should eat to "Taste Chicago," I was kindly pointed to and gladly ate the following (listed in the order of most recommended):
#1 - Chicago-style Deep Dish Pizza
#2 - Chicago-style Hot Dogs
#3 - Italian Beef Sandwich
#4 - Pierogies with sour cream
#5 - Billygoat's Cheeseburger, cheeseburger!
#6 - Rainbow Ice Cream

Last weekend I was at the Taste of Dallas in the West End area, where I directed to go eat: Texas BBQ and Tex Mex food . . .or really any dish involving lots and lots of meat, preferrably BEEF. I dutifully obliged and had some terrific culinary experiences along the way.

Now, I am headed to Bite of Seattle this weekend, and I am needing to know what I should eat there to get a "taste" of your city.

Please see my link below, I want to make sure I hit only the best places that really will demonstrate what Seattle is about from a culinary standpoint.

If you can point me in the right direction, I would appreciate it. Then, I guess my bigger question for you is if I cannot really find a "taste of Seattle" at this festival . . . what restaurants or types of cuisine should I hit outside of my time at the "Taste" to really taste Seattle? Many thanks!

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  1. The only thing that looks even remotely promising is The Alley, the Tom Douglas fundraiser that you pay admission to. I don't see a lineup of restaurants in the Alley, but it has to be better than the other stuff that's there, which looks like typical festival food. I would say you really cannot get a taste of Seattle if you rely on the Bite. (Does anyone even go to this? I never hear co-workers, friends, or anyone mention it). There are small food festivals around the region-Penn Cove Mussel fest, oyster fest in Shelton-that would provide a taste of the region.

    Outside of the festival:
    Here is a good thread about "the quintessential Seattle restaurant:"

    If I could think of one place that was very Seattle, it would be Matt's in the Market (seafood/local). My second pick would be Green Leaf (Vietnamese), and then I'd say just wander around the Pike Place Market and eat whatever looks good (there's many threads on our market favorites). That is a much more authentic experience than the Bite.

    1. If you're going to the Bite of Seattle to get your impression of food in this town, prepare to hate Seattle.

      It's a weak event, not worth attending even as a local who lives within walking distance of the venue.

      1. I'd go to Ivar's on the waterfront and order their fried oysters; or go out on the Peninsula and do the same, after a day trip through the rain forest.

        Or go to a Mariner's game and have Red Hook Ale and a hotdog with sauerkraut. And root for them!

        Seattle flavors have a lot to do with oysters and clams, the native Americans' food---we live here, and regularly have what we call 'the grizzly bears' diet', which involves blackened salmon, salad, blueberries [they grow huge here] with whipped cream, and Washington wines, which are good and numerous. You can actually lose weight and get healthy on it.

        I would add that the trip out to Tillicum island [off the pier at Seattle] is very much worth doing: salmon, roasted Indian style, and a northwest Indian mask drama, plus a boat ride across Elliott Bay, is the best evening I can think of readily.

        1. Okay, just to play the game - of the listed food booths (most of which do not have corresponding restaurants in town) I would suggest (suggest, not recommend): Biringer Farms, RAIN Modern Japanese Cuisine, Bambuza Vietnamese Bistro, Indo Cafe, The Alley. Note that The Alley has different hours than the rest of the festival (it closes early).

          But be sure to follow the reccomendations listed below so you don't leave Seattle with a bad taste in your mouth - literally.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Lauren

            Many thanks! I really appreciate the honest advice . . .this is also my first trip to Seattle, and I was also wondering what kind of food would you say one must try while visiting. Salmon, I assume, seafood I would assume . . .anything else I should not miss? Local favorites? Wines not to miss? Also why would you say these foods are "must do's" while in Seattle? I do truly know the type of event Bite of Seattle is, I understand the disdain. I don't expect miracles, just a Bite of Seattle if possible.

            1. re: jvergara

              What is unique about Seattle goes back to the Native Americans. Other Native Americans hunted the deer or buffalo or grew corn. The NW tribes built canoes, did---and still do---marvelous wood carvings with intricate symbology---and gathered their food from the sea and the beach. Clams and oysters, salmon [runs all summer long]---the half dozen kinds of edible berries---these creations of nature still abound in the NW, many of them refusing domestication, like the huckleberry. So if you want the real taste of the NW, concentrate on the shellfish, the salmon, and the berries---wonderful cobblers, teas, drinks, and scones, and thank the tribes who learned how to make use of what nature so generously provided in the area---appreciate the native art, and enjoy the wonderful natural tastes, many of them enhanced with the smoke of the water-side alder tree, and others gathered from the cold waters of the north Pacific.

              And of course---the inevitable latte stands: at every intersection, there must be one. Go for iced, in this season, double shot at 20 oz; chilled chai tea, or other such: Seattle is singlehandedly responsible for Starbucks, and while there may be better coffees, Starbucks is very Seattle, and worth a try.

              1. re: dragonfare

                Speaking of cobblers. Chinook's at fisherman's terminal, does a seasonal "slump," which is a decadent cobbler a la' mode with whatever's fresh. Served up in a memorably maritime setting.

          2. Since you will be in the area this weekend, I recommend that you also attend the Seafair Indian Days Pow Wow at the Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center in Discovery Park, just minutes from downtown Seattle. In addition to the regalia and pagentry, you will have a truly regional culinary experience with a Northwest Coast style Indian salmon bake. The fry bread is a must.

            Here's a link to their website, for your perusal:

            1 Reply
            1. re: Roo

              Dragonfare, you are full of wonderful information about Seattle's food history . . .many thanks! I will put it to good use. I am enjoying my stay in Seattle and plan to eat my way through Bite and some other terrific restaurants while I am here. Roo, I like your suggestion too . . .again thanks to all!