Seattle to Bellevue for Newcomers
SF 'hound here. Some relatives of mine are moving to Bellevue, and I'll be visiting around Thanksgiving. None of us know anything about Seattle, so any and all help is greatly appreciated! We are a family of omivores, raised on Chinese food but with a deep love of exploring all kinds of cuisine. I'm going to ask for two kinds of advice here.
-as a visitor from SF, what should I not miss in Seattle? I'm looking specifically for coffee and whatever it is types of food that Seattle does best.
-are there food-centric neighborhoods to just wander?
-what are the best places to shop for groceries? Is it mostly farmers' markets (even in the winter?), Whole Foods type markets, or national chains like Safeway?
-is Bellevue well equipped to supply an Asian kitchen, or will they need to plan a lot of long weekend drives?
-what's the food scene like in and around Bellevue? Does anyone have some favorites?
-they are moving from Rowland Heights, a heavily Chinese-populated Los Angeles suburb. Should they expect culture shock in terms of the availability of cheap eats?
Please be aware that Bellevue and Seattle are very far apart from each other due to the traffic situation in our region. It's very difficult to leave Bellevue at 5pm and make it to Seattle for a 6:30 or 7pm dinner on weeknights, without being frustrated and stuck in traffic on one of the two bridges.
Would your parents also like shopping at Trader Joe's? Much less expensive than Whole Foods, and often less expensive than regular grocery stores, with much attention paid to quality of the foods, little use of high fructose corn syrup, etc.
There's one just up the street from Uwajimaya.
I hate to say it, Bellevue is a culinary wasteland compared to Seattle. I live in Seattle, and work in Bellevue. There is always a complete dillema about where to eat.
The Bellevue farmers market is really small, and not that great, and not year round. Best bet there is drive into the Seattle Ballard district on a Sunday.
Bellevue is VERY chain store oriented. Lots of Safeways etc. They do have a decent sized Whole Foods (or Whole Pay Check as we like to call it).
Cheap eats - that is tough. Bellevue development is pushing most cheaper places out, and getting higher end shops and more chain restaurants in. My favorite place for cheap eats in Bellevue is "Facing East".
The Uwajimaya's in Bellevue really isn't great, the veg section is terrible - only a few more unique items. The one in Seattle is far better.
Coming from Rowland Heights, this will be a huge dissappointment.
The best place to shop for Chinese staples would be 99 Ranch in either Edmonds or Kent. Locally in Bellevue, there is a smaller Chinese mart in Sternco center on NE 20th and 148th NE. Also a Paldo for Korean and the Uwajimaya (more expensive).
As for restaurants:
Yea's Wok, 6969 Coal Creek Pkwy - Very good Taiwanese, but serves other things well. Their clams are great.
Szechuan Chef, 15015 Main St. - Good Szechuan, hot pots and crab.
Bamboo Garden - Another Szechuan.
Facing East - small, homey Taiwanese.
Cafe Ori - Hong Kong style "cafe", ok in a pinch.
Top gun - OK dim sum, gets very crowded on weekends.
The dim sum that I'd recommend is in Seattle - Jade Garden. Its the best locally but it gets very crowded. Opens at 9AM daily.
The Bellevue Uwajimaya will be more convenient, but make sure your relatives check out the Seattle store too - it's much larger and has a better selection. It's located in the International District. Be warned though, Seattle's Chinatown is very small, don't expect it to compare at all to SF's.
Pike place market is a great place to wander and nibble. Some of the highlights are Oysters on the half shell at Jack's fish spot, Lunch at matt's in the market, Donuts from daily dozen, and really whatever smells like it needs some sampling.
For coffee I think the best is Vivace and Zeitgeist (and stumptown but they are not from seattle.)
For them: In Bellevue Uwajimayas is an "asian" market that should have most necessary items. Bellevue food is okay, not great. One place they may enjoy is malay satay hut. \
Bellevue is much different than Rowland Heights; lots of white people. But their is a growing indian community in bellevue that is putting out some decent restaurants. My favorite is spice route.
I'm sure others may be more helpful who spend more time in Bellevue.
I loved Spice Route until the last lunch I had there. The buffet was half the size, everything was soupy and the restaurant was empty. Kanishka in Redmond goes up and down depending on who is in the kitchen - its been pretty good lately. Also, don't forget Szechuan Chef in Bellevue at 148th and Main. The Eastside is definitely not where the most interesting food is found.
Most of the Farmer's markets are closed in the winter. Whole Foods has a presence in Bellevue and Zupans is supposed to be opening. Also there has been mention of a Metropolitan market opening in Kirkland. QFC and Tops are local chain type stores, a step above Safeway. The QFC in Bellevue is quite upscale - trying to compete with Whole Foods. A bit farther north there is a 99 Ranch market (I think in Lynwood and an HMart is also going in. I don't think there will be a problem finding Asian Foods on the Eastside.
Actually, Bellevue has a higher percentage of non-whites than Seattle. 25% of the population is Asian (Chinese and Indian mostly) Of course, this fact alone doesn't make Bellevue less of a bedroom community...although that seems to be rapidly changing.
In addition to Uwajimaya, there is a Asian Food Center on 148th and 20th. They have much better prices than Uwajimaya, and the quality is pretty good. Whatever you don't find can be found in Chinatown stores or down in 99 Ranches in Renton or Lynnwood.
In Bellevue, Top Gun near Factoria Mall is adequate for dim sum. There is also dim sum around the 148th corridor near Redmond - Ming's, Noble Court, and Jeem's. Cafe Ori on 20th is the closest to the HK cafes that you find in Rowland Heights. Others have already been mentioned by others.
And...Vancouver is just 2hrs north.
FYI, Uwajimaya is mainly Japanese focused. Best bets at Uwajimaya are the fresh vegetables and the fish.
Other Asian and Southeast Asian foods are available, but not in the varied quantities available in other larger cities with large Chinese communities.
The drive from Bellevue to the International District in Seattle, across the bridge is not too horrible of a drive.
After rush hour travel time, your folks might consider a drive up to Ranch 99 Market in Lynnwood, on highway 99. It's "about" a 30 minute drive on 405 N. Ranch is definitely geared towards Chinese, rather than Korean or Japanese.
Not much info, but I hope this helps.