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SEA: "There is no X in Seattle"

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fooey Apr 19, 2008 09:11 AM

In a post in the recent "La Carta de Oxaca" thread, someone said:

"Enough with the blanket "there is no X in Seattle" screeds."

I'm interested in what others think, so I posted a new topic.

My reply:

When I first moved to Seattle in 2005, I wondered why chowhounds would constantly harp on how much better the food was outside of Seattle.

After being here for three years, I find myself defending those that say exactly that: "there is no X in Seattle".

At first I thought there was a variety of "Portland-Seattle-Vancouver" rivalry in place (or even a tri-cities solidarity else wise): "If you can't find it in Seattle, try this place in Vancouver." That's not true. When people say try Vancouver or try Portland, they are saying that Seattle doesn't compare favorably.

There are some good restaurants in Seattle, sure, but for every good one, IMO, there's a dearth of inferior ones.

Most cities have a "food bell curve", a number of adequate to good places at the center of the range with the usual outliers on either side. The curve in Seattle looks like a long tail with left shift: a number of good ones at the high end and a whole bunch of crap on the way down.

I think the reason the PNW board has so much SEA volume is because most of us chowhounds have become wary, indeed exasperated, of finding great chow.

I have no inhibition on spending a lot of money for great food, but I've had few experiences that would nullify my solidarity with those who are brave enough to admit the truth: "there is no X in Seattle".

This thread will generate some heated responses, no doubt, but what do others think? I think the generalization holds. I think restaurants here can grow from comparisons with other cities. I think they must.

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  1. c
    cocktailhour Apr 19, 2008 10:59 AM

    I wrote that there is no good Tex Mex in Seattle on that thread, and I stand by that statement. I still love the food scene here though, and don't agree with your overall premise that there are more inferior food joints then good ones in Seattle. It just has its own specialties and regional favorites.

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    1. barleywino Apr 19, 2008 01:13 PM

      good higher-end Italian places: Cafe Juanita is one exception but they are far away (from downtown at least) and don't seem to change their menu much at all, also not enough rock-your-world pasta choices. Pasta at Barolo tends to be thick and gluey and their osso buco could be a lot better imo. Best pasta i've had around here was the crab ravioli at Cascadia but it's way overpriced. (ok, i do like the lasagna at Cafe Lago, but that's another isolated instance)

      Truly crispy/tender baby pig and truly soupy/delicate Shanghai soup dumplings (this has been discussed numerous times before)

      Sushi w/ creative toppings-- Seattle hasn't quite caught onto this yet, unlike places on the east coast that have taken the idea and run wild with it

      Great casual Japanese-- the late Takohachi came closest, now we are left with much inferior places...other cities do much better with this (i'm thinking e.g. San Jose, Boston, where these places have lines out the door every day)

      PS. Where can i go for a good grilled weisswurst (veal sausage)? besides People's Pub (the one at Feierabend isn't very good imo)

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      1. re: barleywino
        amyh18 Apr 19, 2008 04:30 PM

        There is no good jewish deli food in Seattle. Goldbergs in Bellevue and the sandwich guy in the market are passable for corned beef on rye but you can't get a decent knish or bowl of chicken noodle/matzoh ball soup (made with schmaltz). For my brother's sake, I will mention chopped liver too. Please someone, prove me wrong.

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        1. re: amyh18
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          howard 1st Apr 20, 2008 11:00 AM

          it may be my bubby and his came from the same shtetl but i find the knishes (just had a roasted garlic version yesterday) and matzoh ball soup at the new york deli in pike place market to be very good. his rye bread is the best in the city, the half-sour pickles are addictive and the chopped liver is first-rate.

          goldberg's is hopeless on many levels and every other soup in town (i've tried them all) cannot approach that at the new york deli

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        2. re: barleywino
          terrier Apr 19, 2008 11:16 PM

          High-end Italian - what about Il Terrazzo Carmine?

          Casual Japanese - there might not be a single replacement for Takohachi, but what about Fort St. George and Maekawa Bar?

          Agreed on the lack of Shanghainese etc.

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        3. f
          Finspot Apr 19, 2008 04:47 PM

          I dunno. I've been here since '91 and can say unequivocally that the food scene is magnitudes ahead of where it was then. The flip-side is that we've lost a lot of those marginal, quirky places that could only survive in a one-horse town. Never again will we see the likes of a Sorry Charlies, a Dog House, Chubby & Tubby's, or Cloud Room. Now add Sunset Bowl to that list as of last week.

          Griping about one's local food is a time-honored tradition. Unless of course you move to San Francisco, where you can loudly proclaim you're the best on every level.

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          1. re: Finspot
            allisonw Apr 19, 2008 06:42 PM

            I think griping about the food is something mostly reserved for people who moved here from elsewhere and want Seattle to be just like where they came from. I'm a well-traveled native, and I guess it just doesn't occur to me to look at what's wrong with the food scene here. *shrug*

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            1. re: allisonw
              fooey Apr 20, 2008 09:15 AM

              There could be something to that, as I've lived in New Orleans, Chicago, Anchorage, Honolulu, and Lake Tahoe. In all of these places, after I lived there for a while, I developed go-to places, often more than one per cuisine: These two for Thai, this for Italian, this for great pizza, awesome Chinese here and here, even if they're both hole-in-wall establishments, etc.

              I wouldn't have to try so hard to come up with "go to" restaurants that were consistently good to great AND affordable.

              In Seattle, it's not like this at all, even after three years. For me, it's a much more difficult process, more granular.

              Instead of developing a quick-list of "go to" resturants, I have "go to" menu items. I don't trust restaurants here, I guess, after having so much overpriced (and under-delicous) food.

              Caveat emptor: I just realized this could say more about my palate development than the food scene: my tastes are more refined. As a result, I'm more particular. That's quite possible. I'll have to think on it some more.

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              1. re: fooey
                c
                christy319 Apr 20, 2008 05:12 PM

                It's also a Chowhound thing. Go to the Boston, NY, San Francisco, LA forums and you see the same thing. There I've seen people argue there's no good Chinese in SF, no good Mexican in Orange County, no good anything in Boston, and no consensus on what's good in NY. Which is all pretty funny because there are so many ex-pats from those cities on the Seattle board raving about the Chinese in SF or the Mexican in SoCal or the Italian in Boston/NY (just try getting a recommendation for Italian for the latter two cities. You'll be told it's all tourist trap, bad Italian-American, except for the Batali restaurants.).

                And note to Finspot: Look at the SF board!! I go there frequently for work and have given up looking at that forum for recommendations. According to them the Mexican sucks, the Chinese sucks, the Vietnamese sucks...

                I think there's an awful lot of nostalgia that affects people's memories of the food that they left "back home," too.

                I wouldn't argue that Seattle has top notch everything but if anyone else travels regularly to a variety of other American cities, you'd probably agree we have a good restaurant scene here, especially considering that we are not such a big city.

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                1. re: christy319
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                  Finspot Apr 20, 2008 09:19 PM

                  Christy319,
                  Thanks, I'll take a look. I was thinking more specifically of my friends there (lived in SF & Berkeley for a few years) who are Bay Area cheerleaders to the point of annoyance. It's good to hear they're passing around the humility doses.

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                  1. re: christy319
                    j
                    Jeters Apr 27, 2008 07:23 PM

                    Coming from north county san diego, Seattle is a freakin' food mecca.

                    (although I still can't find a decent fish taco!)

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                    1. re: Jeters
                      SauceSupreme Apr 30, 2008 12:55 AM

                      I hear you brother. I'm in Portland wondering the same thing.

                      (Vista High, c/o '96)

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              lisaf Apr 19, 2008 09:01 PM

              I'm a native too, but have lived in other cities and traveled extensively. There are some things seriously lacking in our area.

              1. Good NY Jewish Deli. Some are ok, but nothing is authentic.
              2. Mexican, not a taco truck rec
              3. Upscale Chinese
              4. Greek (Lola is good but not real traditional or afforable)
              5. East coast diners

              There are also many things we do just as well, or better than other cities:
              1. Fresh fish and seafood
              2. Asian fusion
              3. Espresso bars
              4. Brew pubs

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              1. re: lisaf
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                staffstuff Apr 20, 2008 12:28 PM

                For good Greek in this X town I recommend: Divine (updated) and Yanni's (traditional).

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              2. terrier Apr 19, 2008 11:23 PM

                My standard retort to this line of griping is that Seattle is about the same size as Jacksonville or Indianapolis. We punch way, way above our weight in the culinary world.

                (Of course there are things that are better in other cities due to various ethnic diasporas, that's always true of any place.)

                I think the reason the PNW board has so much traffic, frankly, is that the local population is relatively educated, internet savvy, and interested in food. And hooray for that.

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                  equinoise Apr 20, 2008 11:28 AM

                  My view on this sort of griping is that while I often understand the sincere motivation behind a "there is no x" claim, such claims are frequently false, and more often, entirely unhelpful for perhaps the chief purpose of this board: providing tips for locating good eats--in the geographic locale in question.

                  Those of us with multi-city experience often can't help ourselves: when we know something is way better somewhere elsewhere, we mention it. Sometimes, a particular item or cuisine is more than way better elsewhere. It is so much better elsewhere that it renders the Seattle attempt a pathetic flailing attempt at the commodity in question. see, e.g. the oft-cited soupless soup dumplings that are inexplicably served at even the better chinese places in Seatttle. I'll credit a "there is no XLB in Seattle" claim as such.

                  But, claims of "there is no good pizza" or "there is no good thai" or "there is no good sushi", which we do see here, are utter nonsense. What is the basis for comparison? Just because one or two metropolises (usually SF or NYC or LA) make a better version of x, and the speaker happens to have lived there formerly, doesen't mean there is no good x here. One needs to keep things in perspective. Terrier makes the essential point--try finding sushi in Indianapolis or dosai in Jacksonville or dim sum in Miami...and so on and so on. Seattle is the 15th largest metro area in the U.S. Anyone want to say its food scene is only #15? Per capita, Seattle's scene is formidable.

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                  1. re: equinoise
                    fooey Apr 20, 2008 11:48 AM

                    Formidable across the spectrum?

                    Getting to hair-splitting at this point, and almost redefining the topic in the following, but...

                    I agree that Seattle, for its size, has much to offer, but I feel only at the higher end.

                    There's a definite skew to Seattle's offerings. I don't think the center of the Seattle food spectrum compares favorably with other cities of comparable size, which compete and compete well across the spectrum.

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                    1. re: equinoise
                      Papa Kip Chee Apr 20, 2008 05:33 PM

                      Good points to make - I moved here from Louisville KY, and before then Miami FL, Raleigh NC, Houston, Austin, and San Antonio, where I grew up, and I think there are certainly good things, and good representations of those foods here. Did anybody mention Hiroshi's in Eastlake for Sushi. Don't know how 'true to form' it is on the scale, but I tell you I haven't had sushi/sashimi any fresher in my past domiciles.

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                    2. k
                      kirkj Apr 20, 2008 12:40 PM

                      There are things that I wish were available here, namely Xiao Long Bao, warm-rice sushi, pastrami dips, and Beard Papa. I really, really wish they were here, but I don't think we have the volume of demand here to support a good operation. Each of those requires a large volume of customers because the products cannot sit around waiting long. I've resigned myself to anticipating my trips to those places that have those goodies.

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                        hhlodesign Apr 20, 2008 09:56 PM

                        The problem, as I see it, is the fact that Seattle is the least diverse city I have ever lived in. Obviously, it takes people who are familiar with regional cuisines as both consumers and creators to have truly exceptional versions of said cuisines.
                        A form of darwinism takes place where restaurants making mediocre food die out because the market does not support them. For this to occur, the market must be educated to know what exceptional versions of these foods are. If the market accepts the mediocre, these places will not die and set the standard for what future restaurants need to achieve to survive. This is precisely the reason why these discussions are relevant; especially in a forum where people are striving for the "best."

                        I, personally, have beaten to death the fact that Seattle is horrible for all regions of Chinese food. Add to that list Mexican, and Jewish Deli; and you have my list of of areas where Seattle is extremely lacking. However, as I stated above, I attribute this to the lack of diversity in Seattle, and lack of pressure from the market for the truly exceptional. We just don't have enough Chinese, Mexican, and Jewish people here to make a difference in the market demand.

                        The other area where I find Seattle to be lacking is the truly high end. A recent thread was asking about a Seattle equivalent to Providence in LA. While I found my seafood tasting menu at Providence to be sub-par, I would have easily recommended Mistral as the go-to place to have a meal beyond what the original poster had at Providence. But, alas, Mistral is no more. The death of Mistral makes me especially sad because it was the last bastion of Seattle which provided a true tasting menu experience. The Herbfarm experience I would describe as more "theater" than tasting menu; not to mention the whole banquet feeling of the whole experience. Great restaurants such as Veil, Crush, and Union all began their lives with tasting menus available but all were phased out (without prior arrangements) becasue the demand simply did not exist for them. I personally find that Chef's tasting menus to be the true test of what a chef can do and is usually the height of any chef's culinary achievements for any given night. People living in Seattle need to demand the best from these talented chef's and support them when they are trying to deliver that.

                        My 2 cents.

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                        1. re: hhlodesign
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                          equinoise Apr 20, 2008 10:46 PM

                          hhlo- I concur 100% on the restaurant darwinism as a root cause of mediocrity. Sometimes I think about what might happen if a place like say, Paseo, was in New York. What would most likely happen is, noting Paseo's popularity, waits, and relatively uncompetitive pricing, a place called "Mateo's" serving similar items would open up nearby and begin selling Paseo's sort of cuban-inspired stuff, but for a good measure cheaper. The food might not be quite as good at first, but people waiting in line might give the newcomer a try--why not save some time and money? Then, one day, Paseo's might just start slippin'. Buzz would emerge that Mateo's had superceded the incumbent, and soon enough, the landscape would change.

                          P.s. Seattle's sichuan food is "horrible"? 7 Stars; Szechuan Chef; Bamboo Garden; Szechuan 99; Sichuanese Cuisine. All horrible? Grand Sichuan of NY or one of the SGV places just leaves these entirely in the dust with no redeeming qualities?

                          Fooey- Narrow it down for me--what type of low-end or mid-range eating was it that you feel Seattle sorely lacks that was better in New Orleans, Chicago, Anchorage, Honolulu, and Lake Tahoe.

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                          1. re: equinoise
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                            hhlodesign Apr 21, 2008 12:20 AM

                            I've been to all of the above. All Horrible? No, I may have overstated to make a point. All mediocre to bad? Yes! I've had Ma Pao Tofu without Szechuan peppercorns, waiters who have never heard of water boiled beef (swai xu nio rho), twice cooked pork (hua guo rho) that was made from the wrong cut of pork and cooked ONCE, and numerous other embarrassments that no proud Szechuanese would ever allow to happen.

                            I still go to these places when I am craving Szechuan food, but would never take my mom to any of them (and that is the true test). In fact I just met Fuschia Dunlop yesterday and could not make a single recommendation to her for Chinese in Seattle.

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                            1. re: hhlodesign
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                              equinoise Apr 21, 2008 12:34 AM

                              I'm sure that mom knows best, but that sounds like an aggregate lowlight reel to me rather than an accurate depiction of a single night's experience at the better names on this list. I too have been disappointed in the lack of peppercorns at Sichuanese Cuisine, Szechuan Noodle Bowl (none) and 7 Stars (very sparse). I think the bellevue restaurants do a much better job with that. I've had the water boiled beef (I think) at Bamboo Garden, and I enjoyed it alot. But I have no Sichuanese experience outside Seattle, so maybe I'm missing something.

                              Maybe send Fuschia to Shi'an on Lake City...I've heard there's no shaanxi food in the SGV...maybe none in London either!

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                              1. re: hhlodesign
                                fooey Apr 21, 2008 08:00 AM

                                Her cookbooks kick ass, by the way!

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                              2. re: equinoise
                                h
                                hhlodesign Apr 21, 2008 08:37 AM

                                I would argue that for your scenario to hold true, the public must be foolish enough to accept and prefer the "impostor" to the originator. On a recent trip to Taipei, I stood in line with many others for 2 hours to eat at Ding Tai Fung (some consider the best XLB in the world); even though there were a myriad of places on the same street selling the same but inferior product at lower prices. The same was true in Hong Kong were we stood in a line of 30+ to buy egg tarts from a famous stand, while other stands stood by empty. It can be said that both of these cities are food obsessed. The standards of the general public are high, which causes the standards of the supply to strive to remain high to meet the demand.

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                                1. re: hhlodesign
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                                  HungWeiLo Apr 21, 2008 11:48 AM

                                  Din Tai Fung in Taipei - I just ate there a week ago. We went at an odd hour and got a table and food right away. And it was at their original Xinyi store too!

                                  Although it pains me to say it - it was probably one of their off days and the XLBs I had in their LA outlet tasted better. Everything else was pretty nice. Although there is another XLB/noodle shop just one block away (I have their business card somewhere, but I can't find it now) which served food of similar quality at much lower prices with no wait (but still pretty popular with the locals). My friends/relatives all told me to head to that place instead. So the "imposter" theory does hold water. DTF has been in business for a long time - certainly some of their intellectual property has been leaked through years of employee turnover and whatnot...

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                                  1. re: HungWeiLo
                                    barleywino Apr 21, 2008 06:39 PM

                                    similar situation in Shanghai-- locals say the local hole-in-the-wall xlb shop Jia Jia Tang Bao (behind the Radisson New World) is better than DTF; i found it to be better than the LA DTF anyway. Imposters are good because they force the original place to up their game.

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                              3. re: hhlodesign
                                barleywino Apr 21, 2008 09:56 AM

                                A small consolation: I think Crush has phased their tasting menu back in (but i haven't been in a while to confirm). I think it's telling that the local chefs who have the potential to do good tasting menus have wised up to the local demand and are instead making a killing from casual "comfort" food like Tavolata (and the upcoming Jerry Traunfeld place which is purportedly more casual)

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                                1. re: barleywino
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                                  hhlodesign Apr 21, 2008 10:28 AM

                                  As is William Belickis' new place. Although he will set aside a space for Mistral-like service.

                                  You can't really fault the owner/chefs for catering to the demand. They have to make a living first and foremost. But you have to admire guys like David Chang who makes whatever he wants to make and if people don't like it they can "go fuck themselves." And while not everyone "gets it" or even likes it, enough people do so that he can make a good living creating exceptional product that he is proud of every night.

                                  It is a sad commentary that we had a place such as Mistral that has served me meals that rival meals I've had at some of the best restaurants in the world; which did its best to survive for 9+ years, but had to move forward with a different plan because the city just was unable to appreciate what it had.

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                                  1. re: hhlodesign
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                                    oliveoyl Apr 22, 2008 04:50 PM

                                    it certainly didn't help that the dining room at Mistral was one of the most unappealing in the city .. it was not old school enough nor contemporary enough. It had NO charm. I loved the food and the service but it was like eating at a suburban great aunt's. With all the attention to the food 1/10 of that to the room and well you might be singing a different song.

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                                    1. re: hhlodesign
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                                      christy319 May 1, 2008 09:13 AM

                                      David Chang gets to cook in a city of 8 milllion people (not including 'burbs), not to mention the fact it's a tourist mecca. Seattle has less than 600K and sees far fewer visitors. It's easier for Chang to find an audience for what he's doing.

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                                    2. re: barleywino
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                                      equinoise Apr 21, 2008 11:14 AM

                                      In March I celebrated my b-day with a tasting menu at Crush focusing on local foods and wines, which began with leek soup with fennel creme fraiche and kumamoto oysters and improved from there. Everything was fantastic...and a fair value...$60 for just the food...$40 for the wine pairings. Best meal I've had in Seattle.

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                                      1. re: equinoise
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                                        hhlodesign Apr 21, 2008 11:41 AM

                                        Yes Jason Wilson is a very talented chef and can put together a wonderful tasting menu experience. I've had quite a few at Crush. But I feel that people who appreciate a true tasting menu and are willing to pay for it are few and far between in Seattle. Hence the need to make prior arrangements for them at even the best restaurants. While many people would enjoy them, restaurants such as The French Laundry, Momofuku Ko, Alinea, and Lumier (pre-Boulud) that offer tasting menus only, would not have enough demand in Seattle to survive. Speaking as a proud 9 year Seattle resident, I feel that from a culinary standpoint, Seattle should be able to stand next to SF, NY, Chicago, and Vancouver (well, maybe not NY). If they can support this type of restaurant, why can't we?

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                                        1. re: hhlodesign
                                          vanillagorilla Apr 21, 2008 12:17 PM

                                          These are Metro Areas
                                          NYC - 18,815,988
                                          Chicago - 9,505,748
                                          Bay Area - 6,783,760
                                          Seattle - 3,309,347

                                          That's your biggest reason right there. Vancouver is slightly different because it's the biggest west coast city in an entire country.

                                          The other thing to remember is that Seattle is by far the most casual big city I've ever lived in. People go out to dinner in jeans in Birkenstocks (Not me, but I've seen it). The kind of formality that goes with a tasting menu is not something that really works well here.

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                                          1. re: vanillagorilla
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                                            oliveoyl Apr 22, 2008 04:54 PM

                                            Thank you Vanilla .. the sheer density is one thing .. and then in places like SF, NYC, Chicago where there is a high percentage of apartment dwellers, restaurants are the living-dining rooms of most people. When I lived in NY people thought I was a freak for having a dinner party at my apt.

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                                            1. re: oliveoyl
                                              fmed Apr 22, 2008 10:15 PM

                                              (Vancouverite here.)

                                              I have been reading this thread with great interest because I love Seattle and eating in Seattle. Your city kicks major gustatory ass.

                                              I just thought I'd throw my pendatic 2cents (CAD$) because I believe it may shed some light.

                                              Ethnicity and Demographics - this has been touched upon earlier in this thread. I've dug up some numbers... In Seattle (2004), 17% of the population is Asian while in Vancouver it is 41% (2007)...29% is Chinese.

                                              Urbanism - Vancouver's downtown has a very dense residential population. It is the densest in North America - about as dense as Manhattan's and it has four times the downtown residential population as Seattle. This feeds a (very) competitive restaurant scene right downtown.

                                              Asian Suburbs - As a result of a series of circumstances (the repatriation of Hong Kong back to China being the most impactful), Vancouver ended up with some affluent Asian suburbs - one of which has some decent XLB.

                                              Refs:
                                              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_Seattle
                                              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_Vancouver#Tables_of_ethnicities
                                              http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/paci...

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                                    3. re: hhlodesign
                                      vanillagorilla Apr 21, 2008 11:18 AM

                                      I know that Union still will do a tasting menu if you ask in advance. I'm pretty sure Veil and Crush would do it as well.

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                                      mr.chorizo Apr 21, 2008 01:04 AM

                                      Here's my take, and in fact it has very little to do with food at all. From working on an up and coming list site where people are allowed to be creative and post on numerous topics, one list theme dominates, negativity. The fact is, it is much easier to be negative than positive. For whatever reason people feel like they are distinguishing themselves more by saying that "I don't like this" or "we don't have that". The fact is, Seattle rates very favorably to all major cities in terms of food. We do some things well and others are lacking. If things are SOO bad and if you can't find "X" here, well maybe people need to do something about it. I really enjoy this site for the posts and heads up as to places to try and things to eat, but posts about Seattle lacking certain foods that we don't currently have will not materialize these foods or establishments. What we have is a lot of great places and I look forward to discussing more of them. While there may be no "X" is Seattle, there sure are a lot of complainers.

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                                      1. natalie.warner Apr 21, 2008 08:21 AM

                                        I just wanted to let you all know that I have enjoyed reading this thread. As of late I have been visiting Chow less and less because of the bickering that many of the thread eventually come to or the snide remarks- or lack of real insight or suggestion. The discussion of this board is viewpoint constructive arguments in my opinion and I find that delightful vs. catty. Thank you all- You have made me think.

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                                          Earl of Sandwich Apr 21, 2008 09:19 AM

                                          As the poster who made the "there is no X in Seattle" comment that sparked this thread, I am pleased that my remark prompted such an interesting discussion.

                                          I've been in Seattle for about eight months now. Before that I lived in New York for five years. I once saw someone proclaim on the New York chow board that there is no good pizza in Manhattan. Now, on this board, I'm seeing similar statements about Seattle.

                                          La Carta de Oaxaca isn't as good as Mexican food I've had in L.A., but it's pretty good. Via Tribunali isn't as good as pizza I've had in New York, but it's pretty good. And Tamarind Tree would hold its own in New York, L.A., San Francisco or anywhere else.

                                          I'm all for seeking out the best chow, but I also recognize that not every meal can be life-altering. If someone posts here asking about good Thai food in Seattle, that person isn't looking to be told that there is no real Thai food in Seattle--he/she is asking for recommendations about the best Seattle has to offer. We're all better served by focusing on the best of what's here than by complaining about what's not. Happy eating.

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                                          1. re: Earl of Sandwich
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                                            bluedog67 Apr 21, 2008 10:14 AM

                                            I have to agree with earlier posts that I think a lot of what is said has to due with the fact that this board is a unique set of diners. We have higher standards than most people who eat out, and most of us can actually pass judgement on what is authentic from one part of the world or another becuase we are also travellers. So we critique.

                                            I just returned from a business trip to Nashville, where I was told that PF Changs was the best Asian food they'd ever had. HH, I don't disagree that Seattle is less diverse than SF, LA or NYC, but have you looked at any of the major cities in between? Dallas, Denver, etc?? Seven stars rocks in comparison to anything available in middle america.

                                            Another point - certain cities are known for their specialties. If you could get the same type of pizza as nyc, or the best bbq or tex mex, or if all the dumplings were supreme, where would the joy be in returning to these other cities? I am a victim of missing the NYC scene, from pizza, italian and deli, to late nite fine dining. some folks from nyc think the pizza could never be the same elsewhere because of the water, it makes the crust distinct. my point is that if the same choices were available everywhere, how boring would that be??

                                            seattle has some great stuff to call our own, and let me tell you, my friends that live in other cities such as Raliegh, Boston and Denver are amazed at the opportunities and choices we have.

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                                            1. re: bluedog67
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                                              hhlodesign Apr 21, 2008 10:49 AM

                                              I can't say that I've ever had Chinese food in any of the flyover states; and I really don't ever plan to. But yes, you are probably right in that Seven Stars Pepper is better than any Szechuan food I can find in Dallas. But we can have so much more. Is it so bad to vocalize our desire for more than what Seattle can offer? If we only compare ourselves to what's worse without looking at what's better; where is the motivation to improve what we have?

                                              As Seattle continues to grow and prosper, the culinary scene will only improve. This being the case because of the influx of people of various backgrounds bringing their native cuisines with them; but also because the local population will continue to grow as well and raise their standards for the food they demand. Again, this is the reason these kinds of discussions are so valuable, and if we can't have them here, where can we have them?

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                                              1. re: hhlodesign
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                                                HungWeiLo Apr 21, 2008 11:59 AM

                                                You don't even need to go to the flyover states. There is a "Chinese" restaurant in virtually every town in the U.S. with population of over 1,000. Just do a quick roadtrip through eastern Oregon or eastern Washington and that should approximate your experience through the flyover states. My favorite was the chop suey in Lakeview, OR (which was a gray-colored mess of something), or ordering steamed rice in Crescent City, CA (no one orders anything other than fried rice there, apparently).

                                                One of aunts who couldn't cook worth a damn went up to Whitehorse, Yukon and opened a "Chinese" restaurant there about 15 years ago. It got really popular locally and she retired a millionaire.

                                                The point is - the bar is just set pretty low outside the major metro areas on the two coasts, and we're obviously spoiled living in the fortunate areas.

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                                              2. re: bluedog67
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                                                HungWeiLo Apr 21, 2008 11:54 AM

                                                I was in Cedar Rapids, Iowa for a business trip. What passes for Thai food over there is scary. The "triple evil" plate had not one dot of red on it.

                                                But then, I got a New York at The Roadhouse Grill (a chain with 400 restaurants), and it was much better than, say, Outback back home and at a fraction of the price. And I was told that was the best restaurant in Cedar Rapids (Iowa City to the south had much more ethnic offerings due to its proximity to a university)

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                                              3. re: Earl of Sandwich
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                                                hhlodesign Apr 21, 2008 10:17 AM

                                                Mr. Chorizo and Earl of Sandwich,

                                                I started typing a response to this only to realize that I was saying pretty much the exact same thing I said about a year ago on this very same topic. So here you go:

                                                "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."

                                                As part of the original thread:

                                                http://www.chowhound.com/topics/390722

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                                                1. re: hhlodesign
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                                                  equinoise Apr 21, 2008 11:05 AM

                                                  For clarity's sake, I still believe that comparing the merits of an item or cuisine available in Seattle against a better version available elsewhere is productive for educating eachother as to benchmarks for quality, affording perspective, and setting expectations.

                                                  Basically, I'm all for "Seattle's x is a far cry from [other city's] x, but for the best x in Seattle, go to...". What I think is a waste of time is "There is no x in seattle. Period."

                                                  Just to show I'm not just a mere native cheerleader, let me paste in my own personal "x" list which I made for someone else a few months back:

                                                  -NYC quality pizza slice vendor operating at late hours near entertainment districts. Many of them spaced widely for maximum convenience.
                                                  -East Coast style-deli selling hot and cold hoagies employing proper rolls and charging reasonable prices. Preferably using simple designations for sandwiches ( i.e. "Italian Hoagie") and not thematic overwrought ones (i.e. "The Tony Soprano"). In the mornings they have egg sandwiches on proper rolls made to order (e.g. salt, pepper, ketchup).
                                                  -CHARCOAL-FIRED Korean BBQ of first rate quality.
                                                  -XIAO LONG BAO. Other Shanghai delights too.
                                                  -NYC quality bagels.
                                                  -High quality, well-aged Italian-American homestyle place serving broccoli rabe, chicken cutlets (marsala, francese, etc.) with pasta on the side with good "gravy" and meatballs. Seven Fish Dinner at Christmas time. Lasagna with "actual tomato sauce, not fancy truffle oil and mushrooms...There is no reason at all for Maggiano's Little Italy to have three hour waits."
                                                  -Italian deli making fresh "mutz" daily by hand. Serving sandwiches with imported prosciutto and marinated sun-dried tomatoes kept in jars. wood veneer panels, decorated with icons, esp. Mary, photos of the 1990 Azurri World Cup team. Frequented by shuffling foreign-born septuagenarians muttering in southern dialects and over the hill time-wasters with protracted mob connections, or at least, such pretenses.
                                                  -Authentic pan-Indian in Seattle city limits (Spice Route would qualify). Insipid Seattle curry houses be damned!
                                                  -First rate South Indian/Doasi vendor in Seattle city limits.
                                                  -Multiple dope Thai spots serving faithful renditions of regional cuisines with unabashed spicing. E.g. southern peninsula, issan, etc.
                                                  -An outpost of Mandina's or other venerable, casual Cajun/creole spots from Naw'lins, serving magical gumbo, crawfish etoufee, jambalaya, etc. An adjunct bakery/market serving King Cakes, and well-dressed oyster po-boys.
                                                  -East LA/De Efe-style taco trucks with al pastor from the spit and other predictable delicacies. Many of them spaced widely for maximum convenience.
                                                  -True Hunan cuisine. Like LA's finest.
                                                  -Singapore-style street hawker centre. (we can dream...)
                                                  -Restaurant serving food produced from green roof(s) within Seattle city limits. That would really go over well here.
                                                  -West African restaurants, esp. Ghanian and Senegalese.
                                                  -Polish deli/diner serving mind-blowing pierogies, and to gild it, sausage varieties otherwise only available in Chicago or the old country.
                                                  -European style falafel counter with self-serving salad bar, readily prone to triple-dip abuse by stoner clientele. Too bad there are no stoners to be found here...This place wouldn't make a red cent. No, sir!

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                                                  1. re: equinoise
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                                                    Earl of Sandwich Apr 21, 2008 01:04 PM

                                                    >>>Basically, I'm all for "Seattle's x is a far cry from [other city's] x, but for the best x in Seattle, go to...". What I think is a waste of time is "There is no x in seattle. Period."<<<

                                                    I agree.

                                                    As for your list, I'd love to have all that stuff in Seattle, but no city could possibly have everything you've mentioned! For one thing, if Seattle had the best NYC pizza and the best New Orleans Cajun and the best L.A. Mexican, those cities would cease to have their own specialties because they'd no longer be special.

                                                    Second, a lot of chowhounds would argue that even the cities home to the chow you've mentioned come up short. Go check out threads on the Manhattan board about pizza sometime. You'll find few hounds who believe that Manhattan is brimming with good New York pizza.

                                                    That being said, I'd be thrilled if we had half the stuff you mentioned! :)

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                                              4. bbqboy Apr 21, 2008 02:11 PM

                                                whithout the inherent culture in place, how can you hope for more than a synthesized
                                                version of something that's native to a given area? I read the bbq in Seattle thread all the time; sort of a benchmark for what you all are talking about, isn't it?

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                                                  bluedog67 Apr 21, 2008 03:41 PM

                                                  that was my point, better said, by bbqboy and earl. Local specialties are just that - local.

                                                  But HH raises a good point that if we as a community don't support/demand a higher standard it won't survive. Sort of like keeping your small businesses like non-chain bookstores afloat. This is most true for upscale. I personally think that for specialty cuisines, it is more of a diversity issue. I wouldn't know if a xlb dumpling was bad b/c i don't know what "authentic". I even at them in HK, but was there with americans and philipinos, so still couldn't tell you if it was the real deal. Point being, if there aren't enough people who are either from that culture, or know enough about a specific regional specialty, mediocrity will prevail.

                                                  so HH, just how does one demand better dumplings in this town?

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                                                  1. re: bluedog67
                                                    fooey Apr 21, 2008 08:51 PM

                                                    And more to HHs point, the size of the city and its median income mean that if we don't put pressure for more and better, the population and its more-than-adequate income mean lesser establishments survive to dish their slop day after day after day.

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                                                    1. re: bluedog67
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                                                      hhlodesign Apr 22, 2008 03:45 PM

                                                      Good question Bluedog. I can't say I have the answer. I do know the answer does not lie in being happy with what you have, and never yearning for more. I contend that it is the job of us, people who actively seek the best culinarily, to continue to have these discussions, in a public forum, about what good food is. It is a step in raising the standards of our beloved city in areas where it is deficient.

                                                      Also, in response to bbqboy's point; XLB is a local specialty of Shanghai. Ding Tai Fung came along in Taipei and synthesized this Shanghai specialty to be better than the original (according to some.) This was possible because the market in Taipei had extremely high standards for XLB and supported a business providing an exceptional product when it came about.

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                                                      1. re: hhlodesign
                                                        barleywino Apr 22, 2008 03:50 PM

                                                        we need to find sympathetic restaurant managers and lobby them to hire or train a chef who can make them the way they are supposed to be made. i plan to start with the manager at O'Asian who has already agreed with me that xlb in China (not to mention Vancouver etc) are much better than those local to Seattle.

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                                                          kirkj Apr 22, 2008 04:39 PM

                                                          A Cantonese Dim Sum place may not be the best place to lobby. I wonder how many of the customers of restaurants with "Shanghai" in their name want Shanghai delicacies? Many already serve XLB's. It would be a matter of getting them to improve them.

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                                                          1. re: kirkj
                                                            barleywino Apr 22, 2008 07:31 PM

                                                            Interesting point. O'Asian serves xlb, they just aren't very good (although better than, say, Shanghai Garden's, surprisingly, which i find inedible). Some of the better xlb i've had in the states have been at Cantonese dimsum places (i'm thinking say Yank Sing in SF). and for a brief while the best xlb in Seattle (relatively speaking) were at a Hakka restaurant, Doong Kong Lau. I think it may be more a function of size and volume of the place; if it's a small Mom-and-Pop operation, it;s less likely to invest in a professional chef with the training or experience to do good xlb.

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                                                            1. re: barleywino
                                                              barleywino Apr 25, 2008 08:50 PM

                                                              ok i talked with the manager at O'Asian. He is no stranger to good xlb and how people wait in line for them at places in HK, Flushing NY, LA etc. He thinks there is not enough customer base up here in Seattle though (somebody needs to convince him otherwise!). Also he says it's difficult to convince a good chef to come down from Vancouver, given the weakness of the dollar, the difficulty of getting a visa and work permit etc. I told him there would be lines out the door (at least among Chinese) if he started serving real xlb. We have to keep hammering away at the restaurant managers/owners.

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                                                              1. re: barleywino
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                                                                equinoise Apr 27, 2008 12:30 AM

                                                                barley- I applaud your efforts. I have often thought to myself, with increasing seriousness, about stepping up my own personal lobbying/marketing efforts.

                                                                The challenge in Seattle is, it seems to me, explaining/marketing the authentic/regional items to the uninitiated in a way that both understands the apprehension of the customer and preserves the integrity of the cuisine. The only alternative is expediting a shift in local food culture toward eating more adventurously. I know that is not at all easy, but probably easier than changing the demographics, and the seeds have already been sown with the food network and tv shows like bourdain's and that of the bizarre food guy. One of the things I took away from my experience with the chinese menu at Bamboo Garden is that restaurant owners still underestimate the potential for experimental eating by their farang customers--potential they all but extinguish by making it a furtive experience that is banished to menus that they can't even read.

                                                                I don't understand O'Asian's economic logic, at least as to the proposition of just serving better XLB in the existing restaurant at O'Asian. Why is it too risky to just have a clinic or something for the staff to show techniques for simply physically forming the buns? A full-time Shanghai chef for oversight would be great, but it seems to me vast improvement could be made at low cost as a result of mere instruction.

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                                                                1. re: barleywino
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                                                                  HungWeiLo Apr 27, 2008 01:12 AM

                                                                  I think you have to realize that some of these chefs that are in demand are quite prima donnas. Not only will they command upwards of an over-6-figures salary, they often demand a stake in the restaurant receipts. This is a very difficult proposition for the owner, and you can do some quick math in the back of your head to see how many orders of good XLB need to be filled before this whole thing makes business sense.

                                                                  Yes - there are a healthy number of people in Seattle who would appreciate better-than-average XLB, but then there are not THAT many. The Seattle populace is said to be generally well-educated and well-exposed to many different cultures, but long lines still form out the door at the local Olive Garden and Claim Jumpers. It's a battle worth fighting, that's for sure - but I just don't see Seattle meeting the critical mass in terms of population required to support such endeavors.

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                                                                  1. re: HungWeiLo
                                                                    barleywino Apr 27, 2008 06:45 AM

                                                                    yeah i tried to tell the manager that, as the only xlb place in the Puget Sound area, they would draw in customers from far and wide (and probably take market share away from competing places like Imperial Garden). Places like Joe's Shanghai in NYC (and they're not even the best place in that area for xlb) do a huge business purely because they offer decent xlb. I would think O'Asian has deep enough pockets and a big enough customer base already that they can afford to invest in/gamble on something like this. Maybe if they get more customer requests for xlb (like more friendly pressure from chowhounds?), they will give it a shot. As far as instruction for the staff, that's a great idea, although i'm not sure exactly where they would find a competent and willing instructor.

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                                                                    1. re: HungWeiLo
                                                                      allisonw Apr 27, 2008 09:21 AM

                                                                      Do we even HAVE OG or Claim Jumpers in Seattle? I don't think I've seen either....

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                                                                        HungWeiLo Apr 27, 2008 02:14 PM

                                                                        Both are no more than 15 minutes away, as nearby as Northgate and Southcenter Mall.

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                                                                          vanillagorilla Apr 28, 2008 08:29 AM

                                                                          The Olive Garden at North Gate closed.

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                                                                          fooey Apr 27, 2008 10:01 PM

                                                                          Redmond Town Center has a Claim Jumper, and it is seriously awful. Death by carbs! Mashed potato portions to size of Volkswagen. Cornbread muffins bigger than your head...!

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                                                                      2. re: barleywino
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                                                                        clearskies0810 Apr 27, 2008 03:16 PM

                                                                        I think there is sort of misconception that XLB is "traditional" dim sum food. Generally, if you live in shanghai and you want XLB, you don't go to a dimsum joint, you go to that hole in the wall store down the street that ONLY makes XLB. It's kind of a specialized thing, and depends heavily on freshness.

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                                                                        1. re: clearskies0810
                                                                          barleywino Apr 27, 2008 07:41 PM

                                                                          yes, but unfortunately there is no hole in the wall here like Jia Jia Tang Bao in Shanghai, and the Shanghai restaurants around here are posers as far as xlb goes, so all we have left is the dimsum places. A dimsum place will be able to survive on its other items if the demand around here doesn't pan out for its xlb, while a hole in the wall place that has all its xlb in one basket will fold if it turns out that Seattle isn't "ready" for xlb. PS please tell your friends in Shanghai to move out here and open up a xlb hole in the wall ! Maybe next door to Lunchbox Laboratory, in that soon-to-be-defunct nail salon. Maybe some good shenjianbao too, while they're at it...

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                                                                          1. re: barleywino
                                                                            fmed Apr 27, 2008 08:05 PM

                                                                            You don't need a full service restaurant for XLB. A food court stall can pump out a lot of XLB to eager customers. Like this one in Crystal Mall in Burnaby, BC - it only does XLB (...very good) and a handful other items. Those two women on the right side of the photo are making XLB all day long. Can Seattle support something like this?

                                                                             
                                                                             
                                                                             
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                                                                              barleywino Apr 27, 2008 08:12 PM

                                                                              Absolutely (imo)! PS love that food porn, please send more ;)

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                                                                                fmed Apr 27, 2008 08:16 PM

                                                                                >> PS love that food porn, please send more

                                                                                (I hope this isn't too off-topic)
                                                                                Have a look over at the Western Canada boards for more. Those particular photos came from this thread http://www.chowhound.com/topics/513491

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                                                                          2. re: clearskies0810
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                                                                            jenn Apr 28, 2008 01:55 PM

                                                                            I'm more curious as to why XLB is seen as the alpha-omega of Chinese food / dim sum? Good heaven's there is a heck of a lot more to life, errr, dim sum, than that! And I think Clearskies is correct--in China, the best places specialize.........

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                                                                          3. re: barleywino
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                                                                            jenn Apr 28, 2008 02:00 PM

                                                                            hmmm, well clearly there is only one solution: take up a collection and send barleywino to Canada to learn how to make really XLB. And then get barleywino a place to work . . . . .

                                                                            But seriously, in LA an awful lot of really excellent Chinese restaurants have kitchen staff who only speak Spanish. Same for the korean places. So we can't blame the lack of good stuff on lack of cooks. Must be an issue with the eaters. . . .

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                                                                              equinoise Apr 28, 2008 02:43 PM

                                                                              agree with jenn and barley. I don't think we need a prima donna chef working full time to open up a XLB counter. We might require a chef for a month or so on a contract basis to share the recipes and train the staff. This is a consulting situation, with minimal follow-up. I suspect that any reliable manager from a reputable place in Shanghai, BC, Taipei, etc. that is not subject to confidentiality agreements could get it done for less than $10,000, plus expenses. Could be cheaper with an excellent street vendor/sole proprietor with no corporate legal obstacles, or someone already in the states that wouldn't have visa issues. This is just a wild approximation and I am no expert in these financial areas; I welcome others to chime in. Obviously, there would be normal costs associated with opening any new venture in addition. But I just can't accept that getting us good XLB is too costly a proposition.

                                                                              Oh, and on the marketing front, why not try and use the relative unfamiliarity as a strength. Perhaps a curiosity buzz approach like that used with cryptic posters for monster movies. " X. L. B. 7.1.08. Find out more at XLBseattle.com." Just show a picture of the basket...with mysterious steam rising out...wait, now this is reminding me of gremlins.

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                                                                              1. re: equinoise
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                                                                                HungWeiLo Apr 29, 2008 08:46 AM

                                                                                Intriguing idea. However - keep in mind that it may cost a lot more than you think. The good chefs learn their craft from other master chefs, who tend not to give you their recipes for about 10 to 15 years (in the meantime, you'll be chopping scallions or peeling shrimp for them or something). Even in the "quickie" chef training schools in Asia, I hear that learning to properly create the "skin" of things like XLB takes a minimum of a good year or two, unless you're born natural at this stuff.

                                                                                Not to be a rain cloud or anything...but it's probably a little more involved than hiring a chef for a month or so. An apt analogy would be hiring Andre Watts for a month to teach you to play the piano so you can go out to play public concerts.

                                                                                Of course - what I'm talking about here is if you're interested in making top-end XLB. However, given the state of XLB in Seattle, I'm sure your $10k plan could get us something that would still be vastly superior to what we currently have.

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                                                                          4. re: barleywino
                                                                            rumgum Apr 28, 2008 06:18 PM

                                                                            Curious about Shanghai Garden. I've never been. But my neighbor's swear by it and bring their out of town visitors there. I miss Doong Kong Lau. The owner's relative owns a Chinese restaurant in Mukilteo that isn't nearly as good. Sad to say.

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                                                                              HungWeiLo Apr 28, 2008 07:38 PM

                                                                              Shanghai Garden is just alright. Nothing near special or spectacular. Way overpriced for what they give you too.

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                                                                                fooey Apr 28, 2008 07:42 PM

                                                                                Agreed. It's good, not exceptional, but it's priced at exceptional (Chinese).

                                                                                I do love the barely shaved green noodles something fierce, however.

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                                                                                  HungWeiLo Apr 28, 2008 10:45 PM

                                                                                  Yes - without the green barley shaved noodles, they'd be out of business in a week.

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                                                                      3. re: hhlodesign
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                                                                        laurahutch Apr 29, 2008 02:39 PM

                                                                        I LOVE this thread, Fooey! This is making me think of the realizations that I've had in regard to watching theater and ballet. (Seriously, go with me here.) I started seeing plays regularly about ten years ago and attending the ballet about three years ago. When I first started watching ballet, it was pretty and all but I didn't really get it. Over the years, I've begun to learn the vocabulary and it's a whole other experience now. With the theater, my play buddy and I have realized that we have much more interesting conversations when the play's mediocre or bad because we're trying to figure out why. Directing? Acting? Casting? etc. It's the same thing with food maybe? We're more discerning because we can be.

                                                                        I think, too, that along with recruiting chefs to come and open a restaurant devoted to our faves9as was mentioned below), we Chow-ists have another job to do which is spreading the good food word. I am not a proselytizer by nature but until reasonably intelligent people stop thinking that Olive Garden is an excellent way to spend a Friday night, we're fighting an uphill battle. A really vibrant restaurant scene, like a vibrant arts scene, can't be sufficiently supported by a handful of culinary aesthetes.

                                                                        Maybe we should an initiate a "Take Your Chain-Restaurant-Loving (Insert-title-here) to Union/Crush/Veil" Day!

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                                                                          allisonw Apr 29, 2008 06:11 PM

                                                                          I'm sorry guys, I really can't agree with the "chain-loving" thing here in the city. Yeah, there's an Olive Garden at Southcenter, but Tukwila is a planet away from Seattle. There are a few exceptions (Rock Bottom, Beppo, Oceanaire) but compared to most mid-sized US cities I've been in, we are doing juuussst fiine. We're not SF, but thankfully we're not Dayton or Sacramento either.

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                                                                            SauceSupreme Apr 30, 2008 12:59 AM

                                                                            Hold on, now, Sacramento has a vibrant Vietnamese scene, so while it's still cow country, it's also a very Chow-friendly place to eat. I make the drive from Portland to LA and always stop in SAC because of the price difference versus, say, stopping anywhere in the South Bay.

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                                                                            1. re: SauceSupreme
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                                                                              HungWeiLo Apr 30, 2008 10:50 AM

                                                                              Sacramento has actually pretty decent Chinese too. It's considered by many commuters as a suburb of the Bay area these days anyways.

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                                                                            2. re: allisonw
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                                                                              Lauren Apr 30, 2008 10:05 AM

                                                                              While we may not have that many actual chain restaurants in the city, there are plenty that are chain-like: Icon Grill, Capital Grill, Palomino, Daily Grill, Taphouse Grill, Waterfront, Elliot's, Wild Ginger, etc. Maybe we should distinguish between small, independent chef-owned places versus the ones owned by larger restaurant conglomerates.......

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                                                                              1. re: Lauren
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                                                                                GreenYoshi Apr 30, 2008 10:17 AM

                                                                                I think people make too much of "chains vs. independents" thing.
                                                                                You can find good food on any menu, it's just harder at some places than others.

                                                                                That said, it always feel nice to support the little guy...

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                                                                              2. re: allisonw
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                                                                                HungWeiLo Apr 30, 2008 10:49 AM

                                                                                Tukwila is only a 10-15 minute drive from Seattle. Hardly a planet away.

                                                                                I've worked in downtown Seattle for a good number of years, and it's not uncommon to have coworkers suggest get-togethers at chains in the 'burbs. You have to realize that a good number of people who live within Seattle proper are "afraid" of non-chain restaurants. Just depends on your crowd.

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                                                                                1. re: HungWeiLo
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                                                                                  bluedog67 Apr 30, 2008 11:03 AM

                                                                                  I agree. This is why Oceanaire is doing well. I personally won't ever go there again, becuase I don't like the fact that the food would taste the same whether in minneapolis or seattle, but a lot of people find comfort in that. Cheesecake factory and PF Chang's are packed every single day.

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                                                                                  1. re: HungWeiLo
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                                                                                    Lauren Apr 30, 2008 01:04 PM

                                                                                    I was meeting a friend at Moxie and she got lost trying to find it. Her explanation was "that's right, you only go to restaurants with small signs." I had no idea what she meant until I started noticing that chains and chain-like restaurants have large signs!

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                                                                                2. re: laurahutch
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                                                                                  SeaGal Apr 30, 2008 11:06 PM

                                                                                  In addition to the 3 that allisonw mentioned there are quite a few big chain places in Seattle. Downtown there are Ruth's Chris, Morton's, Cheesecake Factory, Il Fornaio, Gordon Biersch, PF Changs and Outback (not actually downtown, but near Lake Union and other locations in Seattle). Then at Northgate there are Stanford's, Romano's Macaroni Grill, The Ram, California Pizza Kitchen, Red Robin,(several locations around town), Marie Callendar's and Tony Roma's. I'm sure I've missed some and this doesn't even get into the fast food outlet chain category.

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                                                                                  1. re: SeaGal
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                                                                                    jaydeflix May 1, 2008 11:14 AM

                                                                                    Melting Pot in Lower QA (which I'd say is as close as SLU's Outback/Bonefish/Jillian's). Fox Sports Grill should count, too. Does Johnny Rocket's count as a fast food chain, or just skirt the line? Todai should be on the list as well.

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                                                                                    1. re: jaydeflix
                                                                                      terrier May 1, 2008 11:41 AM

                                                                                      Palomino is a chain, though mentioned above as merely "chain-like."
                                                                                      Other downtown chain spots of ill repute: Rock Bottom, Benihana

                                                                                      Then there are regional chains like Taphouse Grill, Purple, McCormick & Schmick (though I guess that one's been national for a while.)

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                                                                            MyNextMeal Apr 21, 2008 03:10 PM

                                                                            I think one of the reasons there is less Portland / PDX traffic is because there are two in depth Portland-centric restaurant and food websites that are used/viewed by Portland locals.

                                                                            That, and I find a certain Portland chowhound commentator a little annoying even if I am in agreement with that commentator's opinion. If it annoys me...it might annoy others.

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                                                                              cocktailhour Apr 21, 2008 03:11 PM

                                                                              It is interesting to read about everyone's must haves. I am a Seattle transplant, but I love it here. Doesn't mean I can't mourn some specific food from back when. I agree that Seattle is not very diverse. And I laughed at hhlo and good food for Mom--it's so true. We don't know Szechuan so well to have that particular preference, but for some favorite, there's stuff that will do, even if it's not at the top of the genre and I wouldn't want to take my mom.

                                                                              I do love tasting menus, have eaten them the world over. I have made the transition easily to small plates though. I am not saying a muti course at a Michelin-starred place is the same, just that I have been able to enjoy other things that I think Seattle does really well, like local and seasonal.

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                                                                                lemiller610 Apr 22, 2008 12:38 PM

                                                                                The optimist I am, I would like to respond in reverse.
                                                                                In my opinion, Seattle has superior:
                                                                                1. espresso bars - Boston (where I'm from) is mostly Dunkin Donuts
                                                                                2. Vietnamese food
                                                                                3. fresh seafood dishes in a variety of restaurants (upscale all the way down)
                                                                                4. as someone mentioned earlier, brewpubs with many local brews
                                                                                5. for the home cook, more frequent access to fresh ingredients (local or foreign)
                                                                                6. and bakeries (bread) - many to choose from here, I was amazed when I moved... Macrina, Tall Grass, Essential, Boulangerie Nantaise, etc.etc.

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                                                                                1. re: lemiller610
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                                                                                  bluedog67 Apr 22, 2008 05:23 PM

                                                                                  You rock lemiller!

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                                                                                  Marco P Apr 22, 2008 04:31 PM

                                                                                  There is no good Italian restaurant in Seattle (I am from Italy). In my opinion, a good Italian restaurant has to be small in scale with everything from the pictures on the wall, to the wine list, music etc able to make me think of Italy; I understand that not all the staff can be Italian but the owner/chef should be directly from Italy.
                                                                                  Why in Seattle, Chinese or Indian restaurants are generally operated by Chinese or Indians while Italian restaurants are generally operated by non-Italians? I am starting to be tired of vaguely ‘inspired’ Italian restaurants with menu full of typos and food that is, in the best case, some sort of eclectic fusion.

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                                                                                  1. re: Marco P
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                                                                                    bluedog67 Apr 22, 2008 05:20 PM

                                                                                    Marco, even stranger are the Italian restuarants run by Greek families, when we are also in need of good Greek food!

                                                                                    Have you tried Mondello in Magnolia? Everyone is Italian, and their non-English speaking grandmother sits at the counter directing them. I think the food is wonderful, but my time in Italy is a very toursity experience, so you would have to judge for yourself. I also adore Tribunali.

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                                                                                    1. re: bluedog67
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                                                                                      Marco P Apr 22, 2008 05:25 PM

                                                                                      I will try it. Thank you!

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                                                                                      1. re: bluedog67
                                                                                        rumgum Apr 26, 2008 09:44 AM

                                                                                        I've noticed that too about Italian places run by Greek families. My friends always look at me funny when I bring it up. Thanks, I'm not the only one.

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                                                                                        1. re: rumgum
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                                                                                          bluedog67 Apr 28, 2008 10:28 AM

                                                                                          I am from the east coast, so i thought it was just me at first, too. I get suspicious when I see feta on putanesca or dolmades & baklava on the menu. usually if you chat up the staff, they are in fact greek. I suppose they think americans will dine at an italian more likely than greek, but we are in need of both authentic italian and authentic greek - this results in americanized "mediteranean style" food, which we have too much of!

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                                                                                          1. re: bluedog67
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                                                                                            christy319 May 1, 2008 09:21 AM

                                                                                            Marco, how many good Italian restaurants have you found in the US at all? It seems like there are very few places that are like something you would actually find in Italy. Most of the time when you hear people rave about "Italian" restaurants they are actually Italian-American, with caeser salad and chicken parmesan, and bear no resemblance to a restaurant in Italy.

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                                                                                            1. re: christy319
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                                                                                              Marco P May 1, 2008 11:48 AM

                                                                                              Christy, honestly, I have not found many good Italian restaurants in the US. I generally avoid restaurants with menus full of Italian typos or list including dishes such as alfredo, piccata, chicken parmesan, marinara sauce etc. Most Italians would not even know what those are! I tend to prefer independent to chains and small to big restaurants....I also like restaurants where somebody is able to speak Italian in the front.

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                                                                                      2. re: Marco P
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                                                                                        HungWeiLo Apr 28, 2008 11:20 AM

                                                                                        The same reason why most Koreans own and operate Japanese/teriyaki restaurants instead of Korean restaurants - they're a lot more popular and profitable.

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                                                                                        1. re: HungWeiLo
                                                                                          bbqboy Apr 28, 2008 11:43 AM

                                                                                          what's wrong with KimChi sushi? :)

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                                                                                            fooey Apr 28, 2008 07:43 PM

                                                                                            *cringe* *toes curl*

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                                                                                            1. re: fooey
                                                                                              fmed Apr 28, 2008 08:02 PM

                                                                                              Kimbap - don't knock it till you try it! Great stuff. ;)

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                                                                                          2. re: HungWeiLo
                                                                                            rumgum Apr 28, 2008 06:11 PM

                                                                                            Is that the reason? Hah, another thing I can explain to my friends. They just think Koreans make better teriyaki. I actually don't mind a side of kimchi with my teriyaki.

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                                                                                            1. re: rumgum
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                                                                                              HungWeiLo Apr 28, 2008 07:35 PM

                                                                                              It's simple arithmetic. If you take $10-$15 from your customer, would you rather give them a full meal with meat, rice, soup, and 8 chanban side dishes, or just give them a scoop of rice, some cole slaw, and a few pieces of chicken?

                                                                                              And plus, bi bim bap is just not quite sweeping the flyover country off their collective feet.

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                                                                                          3. re: Marco P
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                                                                                            FrankR Apr 28, 2008 01:42 PM

                                                                                            Marco, try tidbit bistro on North Capitol Hill. The owner is from Italy and he is a nice guy. They have great food but you may not like the fact they mix Spanish and Italian (that for me is a plus).

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                                                                                          4. The Chowhound Team May 2, 2008 12:04 PM

                                                                                            This type of 'there is no good X in Y' thread, along with 'Y's food scene is better than Z's' are generally off topic for Chowhound, since they tend to devolve into arguments and hurt feelings. We'll leave the thread up, since there are a few good chow tips in it, that we don't want to lose them, but we've also removed some unpleasant and argumentative posts from this thread, and we're locking it now.

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