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PacNW tour - Olympia/Seattle help

This is the second leg of our tour. My family will be touring the Pacific Northwest at the end of this month by car, starting in Portland with a couple of days in Cannon Beach before venturing northward (I have a previous post for that).

On July 1st, I plan on having lunch at La Tarasca in Centralia, tootling over to Olympia, and then having dinner at Xinh's in Shelton. I was here slightly over a year ago, and was pointed to these fabulous stops by fellow CHers.

My focus will be on good food, regardless of the ethnicity although somewhat tempered by price, since it will be me and my wife as well as my 10 year old son and 8 year old daughter. My kids enjoy good food (hence the price thing) and are adventurous (but don't like hot spice yet). They are well-behaved, so I'm not too worried about making scenes.

So, probably no true intimate fine dining, but upscale casual to hold-in-the-walls are fair game.

And again, if there are raw oysters to be found, please guide me to them!

Comments on where I plan to go are appreciated, especially if kids and the restaurant aren't a good mix.

Jul 2 - would like a lunch place in Olympia or possibly Tacoma that shouldn't be missed. Will probably go to Elliot's Oyster Bar this day.

Jul 3-6 - will be in Seattle, more specifically at the Silver Cloud Inn by Lake Union.

Will spend Friday grazing Pike Place - I think I have enough info from the board to fend for ourselves for the day. Probably go to Steelhead Diner for dinner. I'm not sure if we should head to Matt's in the Market for lunch or not.

Independence Day will be spent shopping (as promised to wife) at the Premium Outlets north of Seattle. Any good places for lunch there? For dinner, we'll probably go to Shiro's for sushi.

Sunday, there seems to be a whole host of places for brunch, so I'm a little unsure of where to go around where we are staying. Suggestions appreciated for this.

Or we could go to Bainbridge Island and hit Cafe Nola.

Would like to go to one of Tom Douglas' places for dinner. Which one is more appropriate with kids?

On Monday, would like to hit either Salumi, Paseo, Baguette Box for some sandwiches - which would be more convenient for us?

Finally, I would like one dinner that either screams Seattle or is just unique in and of itself, regardless of which city it is in.

July 7 - will probably drive up to Vancouver, via Chuckanut Drive to Bellingham and stop off at one of the view restaurants or Oyster bars there for lunch. I'll have Vancouver mapped out already!

Appreciate all the information I've found on the board already and any future help!

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  1. Salumi is closed the week after the 4th of July for their annual family vacation.

    Along Chuckanut Drive I recommend the Rhododendron Cafe.

    Your travel itinerary (with the exception of the Outlet Malls - not worth the drive, IMO) is spot on. Can I join you!

    1 Reply
    1. re: Simpatico

      Thanks for heads up about Salumi! Will probably do Paseo as per BallardFoodie instead then. Scenery is always appreciated, especially from a flat-lander...

    2. Lunch Oly or Tacoma: My suggestion would be Tacoma Szechuan which is located in south Tacoma close to Parkland. IMO, one of the best Chinese restaurants in the Puget Sound.

      I like Paseo better than Baguette Box. Paseo recently opened up a new location in Ballard. Grab some food and head on down to the Golden Gardens park for a good meal and scenery. Ray's Boathouse is near this Paseo's and I think that it is a pretty good reflection on what Seattle has to offer (view/seafood), but if you hit this Paseo, you've already knocked out the scenery side of that equation.

      1 Reply
      1. re: BallardFoodie

        I like Tacoma Szechuan a lot too, but if you are destined to have lunch in Oly, a good choice would be to take out sandwiches from Bread Peddlar, or even just some bread and cheese (cheese from somewhere else), and enjoy a nice al fresco moment. This could be along the boardwalk by the water, or you could pack up your stuff and head out to Woodard Bay -- you might end up with the one and only picnic table overlooking the bay. (It's about a half-mile walk from the parking to the bay, and it takes about 15 minutes to drive there from downtown. There will be salmonberries & thimbleberries along the walk, but not yet blackberries.)

      2. By the resounding silence, I'm assuming that there isn't anything worthwhile around the Premium Outlet Mall in Marysville/Tulalip?

        How is the buffet at the Tulalip Casino? Looks like it is right beside the mall. How about Ivar's Seafood Bar across the way? Chain I know...

        3 Replies
        1. re: ybnormal

          The buffet at the casino is, well, a casino buffet. Certainly not the worst I've eaten, but nothing to write home about. I read something a while back that they'd opened a new resto that does "modern American Indian" cuisine. Haven't been, but would like to check it out. The diner at the casino has decent steak & eggs (for the price).

          In Olympia, I'd go to Cicada. I generally catch Sat/Sun brunch there - the food is awesome. If this place were in Seattle the wait would be 2 hours long. Excellent. Some posters have said that the service isn't great, but I've never found that to be the case.

          Both Paseo and Baguette box (they have a Fremont location - there is free parking in the garage in addition to their capitol hill location) have their pluses, and are good take out, so you could do all of them, if you were up to it. With 4 of you, share two sandwiches at baguette box (their fries are ok, some people love them) and then head down to Paseo and share another sandwich or two. My fav at BB is the tofu (OMG) and the lemon grass steak. At Paseo (I vote for the Ballard/Shilshole location - easier parking, shorter (or no) lines and they don't run out of things as quickly as the Fremont location. I love the chicken thighs and the cuban roast sandwich (they changed their sandwich names - it's the one with caramelized onions, jalapenos, cilantro, etc. not the pressed sandwich or the pork loin). YUM.

          1. re: akq

            That cuban roast sandwich looks good!

          2. re: ybnormal

            If you are willing to drive about 15 minutes north of the Outlet Mall on I-5, I highly recommend Bistro San Martin in Arlington for dinner. It's really a gem of a restaurant and I'm surprised their isn't more chatter about the place on this board. (Fine with me. The easier a reservation is to be had).


          3. I would like to second the recommendation for Cicada in Olympia. We eat lunch there at least once a month and service is always good. We had Sunday brunch a couple of weeks ago and found a full house but still-great service.

            1. Welcome to the PNW, and please do tell us about lunch at La Tarasca, and about Xinh's. Change happens and it's always good to have a report of a recent experience.
              You've got oyster's here nailed, since you have Elliott's oyster happy hour in mind. Go early; order your fill...
              Friday might turn out to not be quite enough of grazing Pike Place. You will have a great time there, exploring the levels and nooks. If Texas border fare appeals, take the kids down the Pike Place Hillclimb, to the Seattle Aquarium, on the water, and hit El Puerco Lloron. Last time I was there, they would still serve me a dozen fresh tortillas, so ask for that.
              It's hard to guess if the best time to stop for Gelato on this route will be at Bottega Italiana, 1425 1st Ave, or down the stairs at Procoppio Gelati.
              Lat time I was there, Matt's was still a really great lunch. I was happy to enjoy a Catfish sandwich and a salad for 15 bucks. I was less happy at dinner, because the wallet is not a trifle, after all.

              About brunch:
              At the (good, but distinctly hotelish) end, see Brasserie Margaux in the Warwick Hotel, 401 Lenora Street.
              A long-time neighborhood joint, Julia's 14 Carrot Cafe 2305 Eastlake Ave E.
              To catch a trendier set, at a spot renowned for eggs Benedict, see Glo's,at 1621 E Olive Way. Go here to really get FED, if not altogether gracefully.
              The Crumpet Shop - 1503 First Avenue, offers a novel breakfast. Fresh crumpets with unimagined toppings. Come back for lunch, as they make fresher than fresh.

              Douglas with kids, probably Lola, though Palace Kitchen is fine, if boring for most kids.

              Most of the destinations you list (Salumi, Paseo, Baguette Box) are accessible by bus (free downtown, during the day - the kids will love the tunnel - catch the 73 at Fairview and Galer/Eastlake- it will dive under the city and once you are in the tunnel, you can hop on and off for free all you want. Go see the Settle Tower (most kids will not understand this at all, except for the escalators) .
              Geographically from your hotel, Baguette Box wins, but all are available, by easy bus (find the METRO Trip Planner on the web) though Paseo means venturing across (gasp) the canal.

              Fin(ish) dining with kids in Seattle is Lark, though Tamarind Tree or much of Chinatown will do. Panos Kleftiko is Greek and a fun dinner stop, because most sensible dinners are had from the (knowingly huge) appetizer menu. A lot of fun and you can see the Space Needle (If you go there, visit the observation deck, but skip the restaurant. The food is not worse than Denny's, no matter what they say, and sometimes quite OK, but do try to eat elsewhere). For a view rivaling that, visit the Volunteer Park Water Tower. It's nuts.
              Most especially Seattleish dinners can be had at Chinook's, with a view of Fishermen's Terminal, where the fleet docks, or Ray's, with a great sunset view of the Sound.

              1 Reply
              1. re: mrnelso

                Thanks for the suggestions and I really appreciate the tips for getting around, especially the bus. My wife will definitely make use of the brunch suggestions, as she will travel miles for a good Eggs Benny.

                And I was going to skip the Space Needle anyways - I'd rather have a nicer dinner somewhere - the Volunteer Park Water Tower is more our style - appreciate the tip!

                We'll see how the kids hold out - that'll be the limiting factor. And we'll just have to fend for ourselves at the Premium Outlet Mall... :-) I'll just get some goodies from Pike Place for lunch!

              2. I just realized that some of the roads will be closed for 4th of July near downtown Seattle. Since we'll be driving back from the Premium Outlet Mall, it might not be a good idea to go to Shiro's at that time.

                I probably don't feel like driving North on the I-5 after shopping (sorry Bistro San Martin), so are there any places between the POM and Seattle we could try?

                For example is Kisaku worth going to or get a reservation for 4th of July?

                2 Replies
                1. re: ybnormal

                  Just got back from 9 days in the Pac NW/Alaska and can only chime in about Elliot's- hit it the first night we got there and then had enough time during our layover to take the bus into the city for one last meal. It was that good to risk missing the flight. Can't beat the oysters, manilla clams, and mussels while sitting on the Puget Sound. The wild troll Alaskan salmon was no joke too. In terms of their happy hour, there was at least an hour wait around 3:30-4 on a Friday. Had tix to the Mariners game so we just got a regular table and ordered off the menu. A dozen oysters(sampler) for $23 is still better than what I'm paying in NYC. The 50 cent oyster special is great but not if time is limited and you're visiting. If I was a local it would be another story.

                  You mentioned Bainbridge Island- if you have some time and want to experience a great ride and get rewarded with one of the meanest Alaskan salmon sandwiches off a grill, head to the Port Townsend Farmers Market- only problem is that it only operates on Saturday- probably 30-40 minutes or so past Bainbridge Island. Along with the sandwich, great artisanal cheeses and incredibly fresh produce. And if you want to get your clam on, hit the area just to the right of the Hood Canal Bridge and go clamming and oyster digging- what kids don't enjoy that? Just throwing it out there.

                  1. re: HowfreshEats

                    Sounds like a you had a good time. Thanks for the heads up about Elliot's.

                    I love the idea of the Port Townsend FM, but unfortunately, that is the designated shopping day for my wife. I'm hoping to go clamming/oyster digging before I get to Seattle... Unless the FM is open Sundays...

                2. Finally able to document my journey through the Pacific Northwest.

                  Here's the thread for the first leg through Portland & Cannon Beach: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/625251

                  Another long post...

                  We ended up driving up the coast (July 1st) through Astoria before stopping off for lunch in Centralia at:

                  La Tarasca:

                  My favourite Mexican place outside of Mexico that I ate at through work while I was in Centralia. However, this time I introduced my family to the restaurant!

                  I ordered a bunch of my favourites - adobada tacos, pork tamales, carnitas, chile rellenos, with the kids having quesadillas and chicken tacos. Still the airy corn tortillas I remember, and the adobada tacos are to be savoured when eaten... And the carnitas is pure comfort food.

                  A ton of food though, yet we still finished with a large piece of flan. Is it still as good as I remembered it? Absolutely. And now my wife understands the appeal!

                  Outlet shopping one more time, before heading to Olympia.

                  Xinh's Seafood:

                  6:00 PM reservations at Xinh's in Shelton - 20 minutes away from Olympia. Again, another place I loved when I was here last. Xinh actually answered the phone when I had made the reservations, so she said that she'd make something special for us when we got there.

                  Turns out she made us geoduck (gooey-duck) sashimi - not served too often. An acquired tasted though - my daughter liked it - my son didn't.
                  We also had manila clams with black bean sauce - still the best dish around. The kids were soaking up the sauce with the bread.

                  I ordered a half-dozen raw oysters - she gave us 10 huge ones. Even my daughter tried one! She's still not sure if she liked it. And my wife actually ate 3 of them - mind you they were some of the best around, so she had a good experience.

                  We also had the baked oysters in hoisin and bacon, the marinated mussells in tahini, and the kids split a prawn fettucine. A big feast! The baked oysters were terrific.

                  And for dessert, my daughter had the lemon mousse, my son had the chocolate mousse, and my wife and I split an Apple crumble with ice cream. All were fabulous in different ways. The lemon mousse was lemony and light. The chocolate mousse was dense and rich. The apple crumble was like Mom's apple pie.

                  My experience here still reigns supreme...

                  July 2nd, my kids wanted to go to the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, plus the breakfast at the Phoenix Inn is pretty good for being included, so we had to forego Cicada this time around (I'll get there one day!


                  My wife and kids were too full for lunch, and my wife wanted to check out Bellevue Square, so off we went.

                  Bellevue Square is pretty nice, so we settled on a light lunch at...

                  Nordstrom's Market Grill:

                  Actually, I was quite impressed, despite this being an upscale cafeteria for all intents and purposes. The food was reasonably fresh, plus they actually had servers - never seen that in a cafeteria! Believe it or not, it was very good. They even made my mixed-berry chicken salad with caramelized walnuts right in front of me. And the kids had their mac & cheese baked and served with a cup of fruit! Not necessarily cheap, but good!

                  I needed the sustenance, since my wife spent the afternoon shopping! Plus - Pottery Barn for Kids? - who knew?

                  The shopping messed up my schedule, since we totally missed Happy Hour at ...

                  Elliot Bay Oyster Company:

                  We just had a regular dinner, albeit the most expensive of the trip. It was also crazy busy, and we weren't lucky enough to get a table with a view. I simply had oysters - a dozen for $30. They were very good, but too expensive comparatively, and smaller then the ones I got at Xinh's the night before. The kids had fish & chips (OK), chowder (good), while my wife had the alder-planked White king chinook (very good). We shared the Dungeness crab cakes (excellent), and the oyster stew (way too salty). The desserts were terrific though and large - we shared the strawberry shortcake, the caramel sundae, and the truffle sundae. That put us over the edge... I didn't feel the value was there. I took it in stride though - I'm on vacation! Got to hit at least one tourist trap!

                  No pictures though, since I had forgot the camera...

                  The 4th of July actually shifted our schedules quite a bit. Since we were staying at the Silver Cloud Inn at Lake Union, we didn't know that the only major fireworks in Seattle was in...Lake Union!

                  The hotel warned us that although parking was included, it wasn't guaranteed for the 4th of July, unless we just left our car the entire day.

                  And July 3rd, everyone took it off...We ended up going to Pike Place first thing in the morning, waiting for the Seattle Aquarium to open (and I highly suggest doing it at 9:30 AM to avoid the little ones underfoot later).

                  We got done before 11:30 AM, so we walked back to Pike Place for lunch. We settled for the...

                  Steelhead Diner:

                  It wasn't busy yet, but it looked pretty big. Impressive looking menu - it uses all ingredients found in the market.

                  The bread basket they provided was outstanding. The kids shared the baked macaroni and poutine. My son declared it the best macaroni ever.

                  Marisa loved the poutine with squeaky cheese curds and crisp fries.

                  My wife and I shared the Kasu Marinated Oregon Black Cod, w/ baby bok choy and parsnip/ginger salad. The cod melted in your mouth in a complex flavour explosion.

                  They were all for dessert, so the kids shared a Callebaut Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse, with we split the Ligurian Lemon Cake w/ lemon curd and vanilla whipped cream. The kids liked theirs, while the lemon cake was nothing short of amazing - light and lemony and just the right amount of sweetness. One of the best meals of the trip for sure.

                  I highly recommend this place!

                  We shifted our Premium outlet shopping to this afternoon instead of July the 4th. Traffic was horrible though, and it took about an hour and 15 minutes to
                  get there.

                  Pretty much closed the place down - at least traffic was good going back to Seattle.

                  We were craving sushi, so we stopped off near the University and went to...


                  A smallish, modern looking place, this was one of the latest meals we had all trip - about 9:20 PM. Another oddity - no udon soups here which our kids like. Oh well - roll with the punches. I started with 4 raw oysters (Hood Canal) in a Ponzu sauce, which were excellent. We shared a calamari (very good) and a tempera (very good), which the kids ate most off.

                  The kids each had a salmon roll, while my SO and I shared some sushi and rolls. A spicy tuna roll, a spider roll, and a Wallinford roll with either 4 or 6 big pieces were the order of the day.

                  They were good, but the outstanding part was the nigri sushi (2 per order). The fresh water eel was best I've had - I had to order another one, since the kids each had one. We had a king salmon, tuna, and regular salmon as well. Since we had gotten there late, they had run out of the chu-toro and o-toro. That upset me later, since I'm sure it would have been outstanding...Finally, we all shared the homemade peach sorbet for dessert. I would definitely recommend this place for traditional sushi.

                  On the 4th of July, we all slept in for a change and took it easy. A ton of hustle and bustle happening - I noticed event parking at $20-35$ for the fireworks - outrageous!

                  We took a shuttle from the hotel to Pioneer Place to explore a bit. Had a couple slices of pizza at the Mario's by Underground Tours to tide us for.

                  Thanks to suggestions from this board, we took the bus tunnel to the International District/Chinatown. Loved exploring Uwajimaya, which was only a block from the bus tunnel (too bad we were too early for the light rail transit). And as a bonus, there was a Beard Papa (Japanese cream puffs) in the food court!


                  We explored more of downtown and took the Seattle Streetcar back to Lake Union. We walked across to the waterfront at Lake Union - lot of people claiming spots to watch the fireworks. Also lots of big chain restaurants and tourist traps.

                  We settled on...

                  I Love Sushi:

                  A goofy name, but apparently one of the better sushi spots. Not exactly cheap, we got some rolls, some nigri again, and some appetizers. It wasn't bad, but I
                  would definitely only do rolls again. Its more contemporary roll type of place, rather than a traditional sushi place.

                  Nothing to write home about, and too expensive. Kisaku was way better. But since we were limited in choices this evening, it was OK.

                  Sunday - the day after the 4th of July. Chaos in the hotel since everyone was checking out. The breakfast room was nuts, so we quickly ate, and drove down to the Washington Ferries by Pike Place. I found a spot for the day, and we ran for the 9:35 ferry to Bainbridge Island.

                  The kids had never been on a ferry, so it was just a short, cheap jaunt over to Bainbridge Island - about 35 min. A quaint little town was there with lots of artsy stores and such, and quite peaceful compared to the hub-bub of Seattle. Almost no one was going to Bainbridge that early in the morning. A pleasant, uneventful trip to the island - lots of people were going the opposite direction though. The town built a little waterfront trail from the ferry landing to the town centre which we took - only about a 10 minute walk.

                  At around 10:45 AM, we went for brunch at a place called..

                  Cafe Nola:

                  We dined outside since it was nice. My son and I shared the Caramel Pecan French Toast with bacon, while my wife had the Dungeness crab eggs benedict, and my daughter had the kids meal of a cheese quesadilla. Food has been great so far, and no reason to let up on that - the French Toast was terrific as was the eggs benny (a terrific hollandaise sauce).

                  We then walked to Pike Place Market, but I think we over-exhausted my daughter since it was uphill most of the way. The kids were in no mood to walk around the packed Pike Place on a Sunday, which was too bad, since it was hopping. After an ice cream break and a mini-donut break, we explored some more. Picked up some pastries from Le Panier, some bagels from Market Bagels, some BBQ Hum Boa from Mee Sum Pastries (huge ones), Rainier and Bing Cherries from one of the local farmers, and some peaches and tiny heirloom tomatoes - all for a dinner back at the hotel, so we wouldn't have to go out. I noticed quite the quality difference. I ended up getting the cherries from a Washington grower in one of the outside stalls - her cherries were large, juicy and sweet. It was also a bit more expensive, but the quality was there. Still, Pike Place is my kind of place...

                  To supplement our haul at Pike Place, I picked up a couple Vietnamese-style subs from...

                  Baguette Box:

                  Paseo was closed on Sundays, and we didn't want to drive around much more, so I stopped off if Capitol Hill. Essentially, its an upscale vietnamese sub place, but with fusion type of ingredients. I got a Berkshire pork belly sub, and a Braised tofu with avocado for Donna, as well as truffle fries. Weren't disappointed by any of the choices. I love fat, so the pork belly sub was terrific. Sorta expensive, but I can't get this stuff back home, so I had no problem with it.

                  Unfortunately, we had to pack, since we had to take off on Monday instead of Tuesday. Turns out some of my wife's family were leaving Tuesday from Vancouver, so we arranged for dinner Monday night with them.

                  On the trip up to Vancouver, we detoured onto Chuckanut Drive for a nice drive through pastoral farmland and coastal environs. We stopped off at:

                  The Oyster Bar:

                  What a hidden and gorgeous location. And parking was a challenge! We got a view booth of the Samish Bay and San Juan Islands, and the oyster farms along the coast. The food was just as terrific as the view.

                  We started with the baked oysters, mussels in white wine and pistou (my daughter loved this) and Calamari (my son devoured this), while my wife had a cup of velvelty smooth asparagus soup. The kids shared the Alaskan Halibut Fish and Chips (sweet potato fries), my SO had the Fish Tacos (with Ono tuna) and I had the baker's dozen of raw oysters. My favourites were the kumamotos, Fanny Bays, and the enormous Royal Miyagi. Amazingly, we were too full for dessert!

                  Service was terrific too! This was probably the fanciest spot that we hit up on our journey...

                  So, a lot left uneaten for me - just another reason to make another visit back. I would have liked to have tried more spots in Pike Place such as Matt's in the Market or Le Pichet. The Tom Douglas places will have to wait as well... Maybe I'll come back without kids and ask for suggestions!

                  Pics to follow! Now to lose the 5 lbs I've gained this trip!

                  10 Replies
                    1. re: ybnormal

                      Pics from La Tarsaca - Part 2 (I did an oops)

                      1. re: ybnormal

                        Sorry - file size limit - one more time for La Tarasca

                        1. re: ybnormal

                          Pics from Xinh's - Part 1

                          1. re: ybnormal

                            Pics from Xinh's - Part 2

                            1. re: ybnormal

                              Pics from Steelhead Diner

                              1. re: ybnormal

                                Dessert Pic from Steelhead, plus pics from Kisaku

                                  1. re: ybnormal

                                    Finally, pics from The Oyster Bar

                                    1. re: ybnormal

                                      You know, I thoughtI loved oysters until I read the details of a trip of someone who TRULY LOVES oysters. Sounds like you had a great trip full of wonderful food. Thank you for the details.