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Dropped ChowChild off @ Evergreen in Olympia last weekend

Dropped Chowchild off @ Evergreen State in Olympia last weekend for his freshman orientation. At one point my son was the youngest Chowhound poster on SF Bay area board. His only concern re his first year at college was how would he adjust to small town cuisine after 18 years of eating in the SF Bay Area?
He had thoroughly researched Evergreen and knew it was the right school for him. During move in day he noticed a large empty spot in front of all the dorms and announced to the other freshmen--"I'm going to bring a grill and make my famous BBQ ribs for everyone." Silence. One thing he hadn't looked into was the eating habits of his fellow classmates--estimates are 70% of students are vegans or vegetarians.
He regained his spirits at Anthony's that night. Loved the oysters, chowder and seafood fettucinne. The planked halibut was very good. Yummy huckleberry desserts. Service was friendly and attentive. Chowchild is going back next Sunday for the all you can eat dungeness crab. (704 Columbia Street NW; 360 357 9700; www.anthonys.com).
We heard raves about the Oyster House downtown so tried it out the next evening. Nice selection of oysters; very reasonable price (at least by SF standards): $10/6; $16/12. Impressive list of local microbeers on tap--my favorite was Fish Tale wild salmon pale ale from a brewery a few blocks away. Huge glass was only $4.75. The wine list reminded me of Kansas City menus--Columbia Crest, Corbett Canyon, Inglenook?!? Mr. ChowFish was thrilled to see Manhattan clam chowder on the menu and pronounced it one of the best he'd had. I enjoyed the oyster bay stew. The main courses are not even worth writing about--the vegetables were obviously frozen. So stop by Oyster House for beer and oysters before you go out for dinner. (320 4th Avenue West; 360 753 7000).

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  1. If your son has a vehicle, or can make friends with someone who does (and who eats seafood), send him to Xinh's in Shelton. I think it's one of our real treasures outside of Seattle. http://www.taylorshellfishfarms.com/x...

    1. kkbriggs beat me to the punch: definitely check out Xinh's in Shelton. It's about 20 miles northwest of Evergreen on Hwy 101. Her curried mussels are heavenly and her pan fried oysters are some of the best I've ever had. Xinh herself is quite a character - a Vietnamese immigrant and champion oyster shucker who has perfected northwest/asian fusion with her seafood and other dishes. If ChowChild wants to take a break from studies, the drive on 101 along Hood Canal is beautiful in the fall.

      Xinh's Clam & Oyster House: 360-427-8709
      221 W Railroad Ave # D, Shelton, WA 98584

      1. I used to work at Evergreen, so I'm biased--but I think your son has made a very good choice. Self-directed, enthusiastic kids can do amazing work there. I hope he's enjoying it!

        If you liked the Fish Tale Ale, be sure to visit their brewpub on your next visit. Very good pub food, great house-made soups. Also worth checking out, not far from campus, is the Blue Heron Bakery, for healthy baked goods that manage to still be tasty. And if the kid gets too hungry for BBQ and doesn't have time to do his own, there's always Ranch House BBQ, a few miles west of campus. There's been some debate here about them, but I liked their meats quite a bit--and so have a lot of bbq competition judges, as evidenced by all the trophies on display in the restaurant.

        Your son is probably less than thrilled with the campus food service--I've had good dorm food, but Aramark at Evergreen ain't it! Some of the dorms have cooking facilities, but his best bet if he wants to eat well may be to move out once the dorms have served their purpose and he's settled into the campus community. Olympia has a very nice farmer's market downtown, and the college's organic farm does a farm stand on campus a couple of days a week.

        And tell him not to despair about the rib feast--just give the vegetarians a little time. Not to impugn the sincerity of the meat-is-murder convictions of all the young Greeners...but for at least some of them, part of the appeal of swearing off meat was to be different. That may have worked a lot better for them at home than it's going to here! I actually ran across more flexible eaters than I expected to find among the students there.

        1. Leper's post (http://www.chowhound.com/topics/444078) reminded me that the OysterFest is coming up soon - first weekend of October. It is also in Shelton. It's beginning to sound like I love Shelton, which I most definitely do not! But, since we're on the Shelton topic, there's a really good tortilla place, too. Tortilla Jalisco, I think.

          1. I'm completely objective because I teach at Evergreen -- it's a great place! It isn't ideal for everything -- what school is? -- but what it does well it does very well. Maybe I'll see the ChowChild in class some day.

            Meanwhile, my opinion is that Olympia is not a good restaurant town. There is adequate fare, especially at the low price end, but not much better. OTOH, it's a very good town for cooking. The farmer's market is really excellent for its size, and the Oly Food Coop (esp on the east side, though this is a haul from Evergreen) is also top notch. (It lacks alcohol, but that is not supposed to be an issue for your underage offspring....) As long as he doesn't fall into the culture of too much smoking and austere, self-denying vegan food (as opposed to hedonistic vegan food), which is too rampant at my place of employment, he should be fine.

            1. another can't miss place in the general area is la tarasca in centralia about 20 miles south on i-5. it's far and away the best mexican food i've ever had. chowhounds who are more expert on mexican food should be able to both vouch for that and illuminate what region the family comes from or style they serve. their carnitas for one is spectacular...just googled it: apparently they're michuocan and i think it's the chili verde that blew my freakin' mind. definitely make the drive from oly if possible. and tortillas heche a mano (sp?)

              1. So far I am loving this school. I love the setting and the people (despite their vegan tendencies).

                I tried The Reef yesterday and it was pretty good. Certainly not great but my fried chicken was tasty and the gravy was rich. Atmosphere was a little... meh. The colors were drab and the music was poor (Coldplay... blech) and the bathroom was in very poor condition (no mirror and no door for the stall).

                I was AMAZED with the size of grocery stores here. Top Foods blew my mind... it's about the size of two Safeways that one would find in the Bay Area... possibly even larger. I ended up stocking my room with sharp cheddar, sourdough and goat cheese.

                1. Oh and one more thing...

                  I want to eat my mascot.

                  Does anyone know where I could have a decent geoduck dinner?

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: ChowChild

                    good sushi restaraunts round these parts often have geoduck batayaki : like a sautee w/butter and mushrooms and garlic and i think the geoduck is usually battered...doesn't sound very japanese hunh?

                    1. re: ericlutzker

                      Geoduck batayaki is not BATTERED, it's BUTTERED.
                      (I can see how translating back and forth between Japanese and English throws it off)

                      In any case, I'm not a huge fan, geoduck is best in it's purest form, as sashimi.
                      It loses alot when cooked.

                    2. re: ChowChild

                      If Seattle's not too far, Tsukushinbo very frequently has geoduck (it's always on the list, but not always available).

                      Chewy! But you should try it.
                      It's in the ID. PM for details, if you wish.

                      1. re: ChowChild

                        Xinh's in Shelton serves a pan fried geoduck that is interesting, but not as good as her pan fried oysters.

                        I also second the nomination of La Tarasca in Centralia for Mexican cuisine. Their homemade corn tortillas are soft and pillowy and, quite frankly, the best I've ever tasted.

                        1. re: Roo

                          Did anybody else see that Geoduck episode on Dirty Jobs with Mike..um, Rowe? I think he was in Shelton, but I don't recall. I've shied away from the stuff myself, but I wish you luck in your pursuit of the duck.

                          1. re: Shiggy

                            If I remember correctly (I've actually seen a few different geoduck tv shows!), that episode of dirty jobs featured Xinh's.

                            1. re: casey_jones

                              My son is a 5th year Greener and a full time cook at the Water Street Cafe (cooking is the reason it's take 5 years!).
                              He's had a good "cooking" education in Oly (self-taught), as well as enjoying Evergreen. He may bring it back to the Bay Area when he graduates.
                              BTW, bbq is his thing as well...
                              Take heart!

                      2. the thai pavillion on 4th and franklin is among the best thai places ever. the owners are wonderful (over the years of eating their, they have made friends with us, and all of their rtegular customers). the chef is a wonderful cook, who has a great talent for traditional food, and creating her own dishes, using only fresh, authentic ingredients.

                        theres a mcminimens on 4th and capitol way. they are pretty reliable (after a kinda disastrous opening, they have come around nicely) for good, fresh fish. they make a great beer batter, and fresh hand cut fries.

                        sadly, we lost the ranch house BBQ in the december storm. they are however going to be setting up temporary shop in the Governer hotel, there the southern kitchen used to be.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: princessteenymeat

                          may i suggest a geoduck chowder?
                          there are about five local tribes who make great chowders/
                          wild game/
                          seafood bakes, usually on holidays.
                          easter egg hunt on the skokomish reservation (past xinh's in shelton and the oysterfest @ the airport) @ n 40 tribal center road on hood canal, has fantastic clambakes in pits--that are slow roasted in a very unique and tasty way.
                          the canal also has olympia and japanese varietal oysters,
                          joan pells smoked salmon on highway 101 is the finest (best kept secret) alder-smoked salmon and oysters....
                          the tribes near evergreen are geoduck divers.
                          u could ask at the TESC Longhouse, if anyone knows anyone who could hook u up.
                          u can sometimes go to the local boat marinas--zittels has some duck divers....or simply call the squaxin island tribal center, or the skokomish tribal center and ask!

                          the best chowders are lots of clam--say ten parts clam
                          (razor clams too if u can afford them,)
                          to one part potato....
                          some fresh herbs--if u must,
                          a bit of good fresh cream....
                          let the salty/sea/briney taste of the geoduck do its thing to impart the real flavor.