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Seattle: Help a Homesick Texan

Looking for suggestions of Tex/Mex, chili, BBQ, etc. in or around the Seattle area.

So far I've found the smoked meats at Frontier Room in Belltown and Dixie's BBQ to be quite authentic.

I've struck out in the Tex/Mex and chili department. I tried Austin Cantina, but it's really more of a PNW spin on Mexican food.

Are there any other Texans out there who have found a taste of home? Please only respond if you've actually had Texas-style food. It's very distinctive.

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  1. Take a drive on U.S. 2 past Monroe until you hit the Reptile Zoo. No, don't go to the zoo, but check out the school buses parked out front. It's the home of Old School BBQ, IMO, the best BBQ in the region. They smoke their meats on-site over mesquite (the ribs and chicken are standouts). Topped with a glistening of zesty, not-too-sweet pepper-based sauce (none of that treacley shellac job found on most Q in this region ), served with a side of peppery, jalapeno infused whole pinto beans simmered with bits and pieces of leftover trimmings, and a side of moist corn bread, you might just think you're back home.

    Oh yes, the owners are transplanted Texans who opened up their roadside attraction when they couldn't find any decent BBQ in the area

    1 Reply
    1. I am originally from Texas, have lived in Seattle for 4 years so far, and have long since given up on finding Tex/Mex here, sorry.

      Rosita's in Green Lake is the closest I've found and it's not that close.

      I have also never had any BBQ I'd consider edible here, except for an occasionally passable pulled-pork sandwich. Forget brisket.

      1. I moved from TX a couple years ago, and boy howdy do I feel your pain... :) The food here is awesome - however, lacking in the TexMex and BBQ arenas. For TexMex, Rosita's isn't bad, but I prefer El Sombrero's in Columbia City - not as crowded, really good 'ritas... Not as good as anything in TX, but it's the closest we've been able to find, and actually does satisfy the cravings (more or less). Their Weds special (green enchiladas) are actually really tasty. I think it might be a daily item, but it's "special" (lower price?) on Weds. The other stuff is pretty standard.

        For real Mexican, there's a pretty good Oaxacan place - La Carta de Oxaca, but you need to get there at like 4pm when it opens to get a table.

        As for BBQ- we've tried a bunch. <sigh> Haven't been able to quench that craving - we end up smoking our own meat. Haven't tried the school bus place suggested; it'll be next on the list. But we tried places in Seattle, way in the East side (like Snoq, I think), even over on Bainbridge. The only thing we've found is Roy's in Columbia City that makes a pretty good pulled pork sammie. Granted, we haven't tried *every* bbq joint in town, but just those that were "recommended". I still yearn for good TX BBQ, though - might break down and mail order some Salt Lick. :)

        1 Reply
        1. re: veveg

          The Pecos sliced beef is a pretty good version of the lean smoked brisket.
          (everything else of theirs is overrated, and they over sauce everything)

          If you like a fattier brisket, Gabriel's fire does an ok job if you get it fresh. (they sometimes leave it out a little too long though... )

        2. You are going to have to buy a smoker and cook yourself--I have been here for 10+ years, but grew up and lived in Houston and a bit in Austin. I crave Tex Mex the most, and there is nothing here that comes close. There is no queso in this entire town, they hardly like cheese, it seems. Food I like that is Mex/SW: Cactus in Madison. It is more southwestern, but it's all right, and the margaritas are good. la Carta de Oaxaca in ballard. Real Mex, but I like most dishes. We also like El Camino in Freemont, Pesos on Lower Queen Anne (sometimes). If you try to compare it to Texas Tex-Mex you will be disappointed. Rosita's was ok, but I haven't been in a while.

          I don't have any better ideas for BBQ than what others have said. I like Pecos alright.

          I like the gumbo at Hilltop Ale House, cousin to 74th Street and Columbia City Ale Houses. Has some spice and flavor. Chili--I actually buy chili occasionally at Met Market. It's not real--it's mostly beans, but at least they add a decent amount of chili powder.

          2 Replies
          1. re: cocktailhour

            I agree that La Carta has good authentic Mex and a nice selection of tequila. El Camino is okay, but they don't offer the obligatory chips-n-salsa before the meal. You'd get laughed out of Houston if you opened a Mexican restaurant and neglected that detail.

            A tip for chili con queso...I've found it on the menu at only one Seattle restaurant: Red Robin. And it isn't half bad.

            I've had the gumbo at 74th st alehouse, one of my favorite pubs, but I just don't care for it. For starters, they put one pickled okra in the serving. It should be fresh okra and lots of it. I've also tried the gumbo at Steelhead Diner which I had high hopes for since the chef cooked in New Orleans for a while, but it didn't taste like home, either. I get my fix at Pappadeux when I'm traveling through the Houston airport.

            As for chili...I make my own (beanless) chili. Owning a smoker isn't an option for me...alas, I live in a condo with no balcony. :-(

            1. re: frygirl

              I love that pickled okra--I wish they put more on it! Absolutely on El Camino. We always get the plantains, although of course not the same, and I like the bistec that comes with cheese enchiladas--the sauce is really good when it's spicy. it's been dulled down lately, though.

              I usually eat Pappasito's at the airport. :)

          2. Frygirl, The Steelhead diner makes an authentic, from scratch chicken fried steak. However, it is on and off the menu. (I think if you call in advance, they might make it for you.) Every other Puget Sound restaurant buys frozen Sysco dreck and deep fries it. Branks BBQ in Sumner (Hwy 167, 20th Street exit) are displaced Texans serving very good ribs. (Better than any I have found in the region. The quality of the pork is amazing.)
            For Mexican, try some of the dives in White Center. Generally they rock--just be careful.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Leper

              I love the chicken fried steak at Geraldine's Counter. (My cardiologist's feelings are a bit more ambivalent.)

              1. re: terrier

                Ooo, those are excellent chicken fried steak recommendations. Thank you!