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Apr 2, 2008 04:27 PM

Dining near Seatac and in Olympia

I will be flying into Seattle International on a business trip, arriving just in time for dinner.

I'm looking for any excellent places for a meal around the airport, or on the way to Olympia.

I've been browsing the board, but I'm not familiar enough with the locations to figure out which places to try.

Looking for either a nice seafood place, or local ingredient gourmet experience (but not steak - I'm coming from cattle country). Unique/good ethnic is fine as well. Not sure if that is possible with the location or not.

Also, are there any places in Olympia I shouldn't miss? I'll be there several days on business. Anything chowish is fair game for me in Olympia.

Appreciate any help...

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  1. Cicada is the best restaurant in Olympia. They use locally sourced ingredients and have the best bourbon selection in town. Their razor clam breakfast is really good if on the menu. Also in Oly, Trinacria has really good authentic Sicilian food and their wine mark up is minimal but you need a reservation. For happy hour in Olympia between 4:30 and 6, Waterstreet Cafe has the best deals in town and Ben Moore's has a good happy hour with fish and chips. All of these places are really good.

    1. There's nothing particularly good directly off I-5 between the airport and Olympia. If you are willing to drive into Tacoma, negotiating local streets, and investing an extra 20 minutes or more of driving time, you can find fairly good food. Check the board for suggestions; keep an eye on the places on 6th St. in particular.

      I tend to disagree with the Olympia boosters who post here. I don't think there are any dependable restaurants on that town, and the more high end the less dependable. And the low end, like Ben Moore, can give you a truly dreadful experience. Trinacria is OK, but that comes across as foodie heaven in Olywa.

      Within Olympia, you should not miss the farmer's market, which is compact but a great experience. You can get lunch at one of the food stands; they are all OK. If you are staying at the Phoenix, you can walk over to the market easily, if your business schedule will let you. If you find yourself at one of the seafood restaurants on a business dinner, ask for the fish grilled with just oil and herbs, no sauces. Simple is best in Olympia.

      Since it sounds like you will have a car and you really care about food, follow up on the perennial board suggestions of La Tarasca in Centralia and Xinh's in Shelton. Each is about a half-hour journey each way, and each is worth it.

      1. Xinh's does great things with shellfish and La Tarasca makes their own tortillas and moles. They are good and worth a visit but both are at least 20-25 minutes from Olympia. Don't disregard my previous rec's, I eat out all over the country and Cicada is on par with some of the top NW fusion restaurants sans the hype. For a great beer bar make sure you check out the Eastside Club Tavern downtown, they have a great rotating selection of Northwest micro beers.

        1. And I wouldn't eat any of the hot food at the farmers market, ok at best. I forgot they open tomorrow and I can't wait to check out all the fresh produce.

          13 Replies
          1. re: porky pine

            Sounds great so far - thanks for the suggestions. I'll look for Tacoma recs...

            And yes, I will be staying at the Phoenix Inn, so I hope to catch the Farmer's market. Anything else interesting there? Is the Anthony's chain worth going to?

            As for La Tarasca, I will definitely be making my way down there, since I will actually be going to Centralia as part of my business. Not sure if I can swing Xinh's yet...

            1. re: ybnormal

              I forgot about an option: if you're from the so-called heartland, you might not be from Korea-land, and there are quite a few Korean places just south of Sea-Tac. You could either take 99 south from the airport or go over to I-5 and then cut back to 99 in Federal Way (take the 320th St. exit, go west). If you check this board you'll see several discussions of where to go for KFC (Korean fried chicken), bulgogi and other delicacies. These places are very close to the highway, but they tend to be poorly marked....if you don't read Korean.

              Note: the Korean restaurants in this area are rather divey -- but mostly pretty good. (And there's also an acceptable, but again divey, Korean place in Lacey, just north of Olympia and just off I-5, that's also been dissected on this board by the locals.)

              1. re: ybnormal

                Forget about the "fancy" places in Olympia (Anthony's, Cicada): you will be disappointed. Save yourself some grief and some money by trying the local flavor, the inexpensive ethnic restaurants. For Thai, go to Lemon Grass or Bamboo (both within walking of the Phoenix Inn). Ranch House BBQ (also downtown) is a good bet. The best Indian is Curry Corner, out past Lacey (9408 Martin Way). For fancy seafood, Xinh's in Shelton is unbeatable (curried mussels, Thai crab cakes, etc.). And, as mentioned above, La Tarrasca in Centralia (30 minutes south) is incredible Michoacan Mexican (known for their carnitas, chile verde, and heavenly flan).

                Let us know what you think!

                1. re: Steve in Olympia

                  These sound interesting - I will definitely try some of them. I'm still trying to figure a way to swing Xinh's.

                  Do you have opinions on Basilico or the Oyster House?

                  Yummers - I probably won't do Korean this time around in Tacoma, since I was just in Korea-town by Orange County in LA for a few days, although I may still try it out in Olympia for lunch...

                  1. re: ybnormal

                    Well, I was trying to figure out a solution for your trip south from Sea-Tac. However, I just saw a favorable post on Vuelve a la Vida, if you're in the mood for Mexican seafood. It's a snap to get to: take the 56th St. exit in the middle of Tacoma, go left (east) for a mile or so until you come to Pacific Ave. (just after the Safeway on your left). Take a left at that light and Vuelve a la Vida is two blocks down on your left. It's not likely to be at the exalted level of La Tarasca, but not much is. (God, the chile verde...) (And you must eat a lot of fine Mexican food in Orange Co. When I lived in Riverside, I would stop from time to time at a taco truck near Pasadena that made really fantastic potato tacos.)

                    As for the recommendation for Lemongrass: at its best it is a somewhat above average Thai place. The problem is that it seems to matter a lot who's in the kitchen. They should hang a sign outside their door letting us know whether the food will be good that night.

                    For some bottles of local wine to take home (you want to do this, don't you?), stop by Olympic Wine Merchant on 4th just west of Capitol Way.

                    I haven't been back to Basilico in a couple of years. Oyster House: very nice location, good NW microbrews, very forgettable food. When I end up there I get a salmonburger to minimize my losses.

                    1. re: yummers

                      The food at the Oyster House is not very good. I like Jim and Mary's Wine Loft for NW wines, I don't think their mark up is as high as Olympic Wine Merchant and they're located right across the street from your hotel. Basilico uses Food Services of America as their primary food distributor, it's not very good. Lemongrass is hit or miss, I prefer Thai Pavillion for Thai food downtown.

                      1. re: yummers

                        Vuelve sounds intriguing - a definite possibility.

                        And I'm sure a couple of bottles of local wine will make its way on-board the plane when I leave - recommendations appreciated!

                      2. re: ybnormal

                        I've had some pretty good meals at the Oyster House. I'm not a raw oyster fan, but my dining companions said theirs were great.

                        1. re: MsMaryMc

                          In case you are still checking this...
                          I have never been impressed at Oyster House...skip it.
                          Ben Moore's can be good, but ONLY Friday or Saturday. Other days you may get seated in the dingy front room which is not pleasant. Food is pretty good, service is usually grumpy.
                          My new favorite place in town is Dockside Bistro. I was skeptical for a long time, but finally went and was wowed. Every dish we had was perfect. Go on Mon-Thurs for their fixed-price deal which is the best value in town at $25 for 3 courses. Google it for the menu.
                          For authentic Thai using some regional ingredients go to Thai Pavilion. I am a big fan of that place.
                          For good pub food and local beer check out Fish Bowl.
                          For a loooooooong wait and mediocre food, go to The Spar. Actually, just go to the Spar for a beer at the bar and enjoy the scenery.
                          Basilico did not impress me.
                          Ramblin Jack's never has impressed me either. Just mediocre BBQ. Skip it.
                          Anthony's is all right I guess, but you will not be wowed. It lacks the creativity that some of the local fine dining places put into their food.
                          The Mark is pretty good fine dining, at least check it out for cocktails (thurs-Sat?). Great atmosphere.
                          Gardner's is worth checking out too. We really do have a number of pretty good restaurants in walking distance.

                          Most of these places I named are a fairly short walk from where you are staying.

                          1. re: casey_jones

                            Thanks for all the recs - will give some a try and report back...

                            1. re: ybnormal

                              Please do report back, I want to hear what you think of restaurants in the south Puget Sound.

                  2. re: porky pine

                    You should travel about 15 miles south of Olympia to the Rochester turn off. At the light turn left going south again about 5 miles. On the right you will see Dick"s Brewery. Absolutly THE BEST sandwichand brew house around. Rustic tables but the beer and food are excellent.
                    If you go on to Centralia, The Olympic Club ha sgot some fine fare also. And in Centralia idown thre or four store fronts is a Fine Mexican Restuarant.. Good luck


                    1. re: tgardenhire

                      The food at the Olympic Club isn't good but the building is cool and worth checking out. I think it is a converted brothel and they have nice pool tables. The beer there sucks too. Dick's Brewery makes their own sausage and it's really good and their beer is some of the best in the Northwest.

                  3. I would definitely go to Cicada for brunch - I disagree with posters who say you'll be disappointed. It's expensive, but worth it and I think it's the best brunch in all of Washington. They have specials so it's hard to say what you should get, but I've had the razor clams and eggs (YUM), the morrocan spiced lamb chops and eggs (OMG), and the Sam's Poke Benedict. The Sam's Benedict (named for Sam Choy, under whom the chef worked for a while) was a really wonderful treat for this Hawaii-raised chowhounder. The poke was great - spicy and rich, and it was wonderful with the benedict. yum.

                    I'd also go to Speedway BBQ if you like BBQ. They make their own hotlinks, so make sure to get one...and they brew their own beer and make hard cider (both excellent).