I'm about to embark on a road trip of the NW. I'm heading from Portland to Seattle and ultimately up to Vancouver and then further east into Canada. This is my first trip to that part of the country and am very excited!
I'll be spending a day and a half in Seattle and then two nights with my uncle in Bellingham. We may take another trip back to Seattle for the day. I eat everything, but am very interested in food that screams Washington. I really want to try geoduck, lots of oysters, all types of salmon, clams, fresh fruit, Dungeness crab, breweries, good coffee, and anything else that I'm missing. I am also a big ice cream connoisseur.
I'm also looking for recommendations between Seattle and Bellingham and between Bellingham and Vancouver, as we will have to make some sort of food stop between the two cities. We always have to stop for food.
This is what I have come up with so far: happy hour at Elliott's Oyster Bar (is this 50 cent deal too good to be true?), Beecher's Cheese, Salumi, The Crumpet Shop, Matt's in the Market or Steelhead, Lunchbox Laboratory, Shiro's, Lowell's, Mallard Ice Cream (in Bellingham). We are all for doing a small little bite here and there to try as much as possible with maybe one full meal at dinner.
We of course will spending some time at Pike's Peak Market. We may also visit the EMP and hope to drive out to Mt. Rainier as well. We're very ambitious!
All help is greatly appreciated. And I promise a full report upon my return. Thanks in advance.
I have returned from my trip across the Pacific Northwest and the first word that comes to mind is "Wow!" Everything was so beautiful and everybody was so genuinely nice and helpful.
And now as promised here is my update on all the food adventures I found in Washington state. Thanks to everybody who gave advice and I'm sorry I couldn't make it to all the places you suggested, but I will be back...
ELLIOTT'S OYSTER BAR was our first meal in Seattle. We made it shortly after 3:30 for the oyster happy hour. The place was pretty crowded, but we beat the wait by snagging two seats at the bar. Aside from the view of Elliott Bay, these are the best seats in the house. It's very exciting to watch the shucker shuck each oyster to order. It felt like we were inside the kitchen and got to view all the drama. So it turns out that at 3pm, the oysters are 50 cents and then they go up 25 cents every half hour. I was pre-warned about that, but I was a bit disappointed to learn that they only offer one kind of oyster for the happy hour special. The day we were there was Dabob Creek so we ordered a half dozen of them. They were incredibly plump and creamy. We also ordered a variety of other Washington state oysters, which were all so amazing. I loved the iced mignonette sauce that it was served with. It was almost like a granita and really allowed the flavors of the oysters to stand out. We also became chatty with the oyster shucker who let us try an extra oyster since he thought they were exceptionally good this season. I also ordered some other of the happy hour specials - the salmon chowder (a bit too creamy and rich, but flavorful) and the rockfish taco (quite delicious, but slightly small). But no doubt the star of the show here are the fantastic oysters. Probably the best I ever had. They were all so fresh and varied. We really wanted to come back the next day, but had more things to see and eat.
SHIRO'S was really just a quick stop for us. We were on our way to dinner, but I had to try geoduck while in Seattle and it sounded like this would have been as good a place as any. It was pretty crowded, but somehow they found us a quiet table when we promised to be quick. The waiter seemed really enthusiastic about the menu. On his recommendation, we ordered the citrus marinated smelt, which was a few small lightly fried pieces. It reminded me of tempura. It was very flavorful, but extremely small for the price we paid. I think it might have been just one small smelt cut into pieces. We also ordered the butter yaki geoduck. This was absolutely incredible. It was my first foray into geoduck territory, but it won't be the last if I can help it. It was cooked with the perfect amount of butter and it just melted in my mouth. Parts of it were slightly chewy but it had such a rich, full flavor that it didn't matter. It reminded me of perfectly cooked scallops. It came with mushrooms and asparagus that was a perfect compliment. I'm betting the sushi at Shiro's is just as good as the appetizers and I wish we were able to stay and find out.
STEELHEAD DINER was our one big dinner in Seattle. It had a very hip, but relaxed vibe and did seem like the fanciest, freshest diner I've ever been to. There were so many great options on the menu and we ordered quite a bit. We started with their famous caviar pie, which was just that - it had five different types of caviar on top of a cream cheese pie. It was served with toast, capers, tomatoes, and onions. It was a great unique starter. I wish we had a few more people to help us out because it was quite filling and it was hard to stop eating it. We got two other appetizers - the Dungeness Crab Cake and the Mussels in Purgatory. The crab cake was awesome - it had lots of huge meaty crab pieces and just enough breading to keep it together. The mussels weren't as great for me. The meat was plump, but the broth and the chorizo didn't work so well with the mussels. We finished with a half portion (and it was big enough!) of the king salmon with grilled peaches and almond butter. The salmon was cooked perfectly and had lots of flavor, but the dish as a whole was way too buttery. It was drowning and I could feel my arteries clogging as I ate. But overall, we liked Steelhead. Great service, interesting food with fresh ingredients, and a warm decor.
ZEITGEIST COFFEE was our coffee stop since we can really get Starbucks everywhere. I'm not a huge coffee drinker but I figured I should try some local java. This was a very cute little spot and the coffee was delicious. I ordered an iced soy cappucino (but was corrected by the barista since iced cappucinos don't exist in "the real world"), so got an iced soy latte. The coffee was strong and flavorful, but not bitter at all. I think I would convert to a coffee drinker if I lived here.
THE CRUMPET SHOP is a small European type cafe above Pike Place. The sweet crumpets looked and smelled great, but I needed breakfast so I opted for a more savory option. I was a little put off to see they cooked the eggs in a microwave, but the smoked salmon, cream cheese, and egg worked well on the buttered crumpet and it satisfied a quick cheap breakfast snack.
PIKE PLACE MARKET is a foodie's dream come true. I feel a little overwhelmed in Farmer's Markets so I didn't know where to begin here. The best part, of course, were all the free samples. I had some of the best peaches of my life. We tasted great jams, olive oils, tea, pretzels, really interesting pasta, and smoked salmon. I could definitely live here. And from the homeless population, it seems like some people do.
PIKE PLACE CHOWDER is down in Post Alley and offers a sampler, which comes with four of their chowders. This is perfect for somebody as indecisive as myself. The portions were surprisingly generous and we didn't finish them between the two of us (we were saving room for lunch). The seared scallop chowder was my favorite. I'm a big fan of dill and there was plenty of it. The smoked salmon bisque was great (better than Elliott's), their classic clam chowder was well-done, and the seafood bisque featured some fresh, interesting flavors (basil, calamari, tomatoes).
LOCKSPOT CAFE is right next to the Ballard Locks, so we got to walk around there a bit and watch the salmon attempt to swim upstream. It was an interesting location for what felt like a dive bar. The take-out window was closed since it was late in the day, but we ordered from the bar. We got the fried cod and chips. The fish was fresh and the batter was well-seasoned, but nothing special. And the fries were undercooked and pretty soggy. Not sure this was worth the calories.
MOLLY MOON'S ICE CREAM in Wallingford seemed like a real gem. I enjoyed their location and most of their ice creams. I really loved their honey lavender, but felt like their salted caramel was overwhelmingly salty and needed more sweetness to balance out the sodium. For a more detailed account, visit my ice cream blog: www.heavenicecream,blogspot.com
BELLINGHAM AND VICINITY:
BOUNDARY BAY BREWERY seemed like the better of the two local breweries. It was certainly crowded for a Tuesday night. I ordered the beer sampler which was pretty great. The stand-out was their scotch ale. It had a deep malty flavor that hinted a bit at a scotch whiskey. If we hadn't closed the place down, I would have bought a bottle to go. The food was standard pub fare. I had the manila clam steamers which were in a rich, creamy broth. And I tried some smoked salmon and goat cheese pizza. They were both tasty but a little too rich for my tastes.
SAMISH BAY CHEESE COMPANY in Bow was a great little find. You could miss it if you're not looking for it. It's on a farm and doesn't really have a store, more like a room where a lady is wrapping the cheese. Four of us squeezed in really tight and admired the room that held all the cheeses. They offered us some tastes of their delicious varieties - loved the gouda and extra sharp white cheddar! We bought more cheese than we could eat, but felt it was well worth it.
SLOUGH FODS in Edison had a great selection of food and drink stuffs. The main reason we were there was to try Armadino Batali's salumis. We ate it along with the Samish Bay Cheese at a picnic at Deception Pass. We had two kinds of salumi - agrumi (orange and coriander) and mole (chocolate, cinnamon, ancho, and chipotle). They were both absolutely, melt-in-your-mouth amazing. The flavors were so intense. My mouth is watering now just thinking about it.
TAYLOR'S SHELLFISH FARM off the Chuckanut Drive (which was so beautiful - thank you everyone!) was our stop for dinner. We bought some kumamoto and totten virginica oysters for grilling later that night - both were great although I'm not sure kumamotos should be grilled. They're so small that seems to be a waste not to eat them raw. The pre-cooked Dungeness crabs were also awesome. The workers weren't terribly friendly here, but there was so much to look at in the small shop and I wanted to buy a little of everything. Thankfully, my friend and relatives kept me under control.
MALLARD ICE CREAM is the kind of ice cream shop I hope to own one day. The flavor options were a nice combination between interesting/creative and traditional. And the vibe of the place (I was surprised at how big it was) was warm and comfortable. And it seems like the business is well-mixed between college kids and local families. I did a lot of tasting and had some amazing ice cream flavors before deciding on espresso coriander. I'm a sucker for coffee ice cream and this was great. And the texture was perfect. I have much more to say about Mallard so if you're interested, visit my blog at www.heavenicecream,blogspot.com
I was so impressed by the wide variety of options and the fresh ingredients in Washington. It made me want to live on a farm (or at least close to one). There was so much more I wanted to see and taste in the Seattle/Bellingham area, so I will have to return soon.
Pike's Peak: Colorado. Pike Place Market or just "the Market" (never Pike Market): Seattle. Molly Moon's in Seattle for ice cream. Unless you're hungry, one scoop is plenty! Fish 'n' chips at Little Chinook's at Fisherman's Terminal or at Anthony's outside fish bar along the downtown waterfront (avoid Anthony's sit-down restaurant or Big Chinook restaurant ). Head on down to the Market or any of the neighborhood farmer's markets for fresh berries and cherries, apricots and peaches. For a delicious berry pie, go to Simply Desserts in Fremont for take out. Try Seafood Garden, among others, in the ID (Int'l District) for fresh crab, clams--Chinese seafood restaurants give you the best bang for the buck on fresh seafood. Buy smoked salmon or smoked halibut most anywhere--the Market, neighborhood farmers markets, or any well-stocked grocery or at one of the two best fish markets in town: University Seafood & Poultry near the University of Washington or Mutual Fish Company in the Rainier Valley.
I drive from Vancouver to Seattle for work frequently, and there isn't much worth stopping for north of Bellingham - all the great stuff is south or just near Bellingham. When driving ot Canada just keep going until you hit the border. See the Vancouver board for details, but once across, the chinese food is fantastic - Richmond should be your first stop.
Between Portalnd and Seattle don't miss Xihn's in Shelton, and you can stop at the main location for Taylor Shellfish - home of the totten v's mentioned above- voted best oyster in america or something by someone who's opinion matters more than mine.
Have to disagree about Chinook's and Anthony's to a lesser degree.
There's better seafood out there (Ray's, WSG, Ponti), but I wouldn't call either an "Avoid".
I think they both good midlevel/value seafood places.
I was actually at Big Chinook's last night.
Wonderful little rockfish dish. $17.
With a couple of drinks and apps I we each hit about $45 a piece.
Travelling north from Seattle, in about Burlington exit at the first Chuckanut Exit, I think it's highway 11. Head north, set your GPS to take you off that road momentarily to the town of Edison. Edison consists of two art galleries, a homey wine and cheese shop of great sophistication called Slough Food, the best bakery in two counties next door (the Bread Farm) and a biker bar. At Slough Food you can buy imported and local cheeses, local chocolates, French and Washington wine, and Armandino Batali's fanf---ingtastic salumi, the best I've ever had. With this and a baguette from next door you are now armed for a picnic which you should enjoy once you're back on highway 11 and heading north to Bellingham on what is probably the most scenic road in Washington State. Once you get up to some elevation there are some turnouts where you can stop and enjoy your feast while drinking in the incomparable beauty of the San Juan Islands. Honestly, you'll kill yourself later if you don't do this.
On the way you can stop at Taylor Shellfish Farm which is right on 11 at about the point where the road starts to wind up to some elevation, and buy fresh oysters and just-cooked Dungeness crab to enjoy once you get to Uncle's place.
Mallard's you've got on your list, which is a must. On the same street as Mallard's (Railroad Ave) are several other local instituations. Namely, the Bagelry, where the bagels are truly authentic and wonderful and you can order cool bagel sandwiches. Also Fiamma Burger (order onion rings instead of fries), and at the north end of the street (up a block from Mallard's, that is, on the same side of the street) on the corner of Champion, I think it is, D'Aagio's for the best coffee in town by a mile. There is no other in town as good, both for the perfection of the roasted beans they use and the artistry of the foam they'll lay on your cappucino. There are international contests for such things, and these people win. You won't get that at Starbucks.
Boundary Bay Brewery is also on Railroad, but maybe two-three blocks the other way (south) of Mallard's. Great local brew, decent food. And they have an outdoor space. In this heat, you'll appreciate that.
I was going to suggest a stop in Edison, too.
I'd choose Matt's over Steelhead Diner. And yes the oysters are 50 cents at Elliots but only at 3--at 3:30 they are 75 cents, then $1 at 4...
The farmer's markets of course have lots of locally made food (cheese, fish, jams, etc). The smoked salmon at Wilson Fish at the Ballard Farmer's Market (Sundays) is very good.
Edison is a great idea. It's just so darn, well, precious, in its way. And the Breadfarm goodies can't be beat. However, I think Quel Fromage in Bellingham rates more of a picnic/fancy goodies stop than Slough Food. (Quel Fromage also gets the salamis, and they seem much fresher.)
If Mallard's has the basil when you're here, try it. My sweetie looks forward to it all year. I love the raspberry ice cream. But it's allllll good.
I think the best bang for your buck seafood wise, on this side of the border, is to hit Taylor's on the way to Bellingham as suggested and to blow the budget there. (And The kumamoto and totten virginicus are big hits at my house (RAW!) as are the steamers. Taylor's occasionally has geoduck, too.
I think the chocolate shop on Railroad also merits a stop. It's a few doors down from Mallards, and the owners are just a hoot.
Sweeney, Looking at your list, you've done your homework well. All are excellent. If you visit Mount Rainier via the Ashford entrance, don't miss the Copper Creek Inn for lunch or dinner. Driving north through Tacoma, exit at Fife and experience the Pick Quick--one of America's great outdoor hamburger stands. (They have a park with picnic tables.) Fries are made from scratch--no frozen potatoes. The strawberry shakes are made with fresh strawberries. True Americana.
if you're going out to Mt Rainier, stop at Wapiti Woolies outside Enumclaw for ice cream (ps Second Burroughs from Sunrise visitor center is a good day hike). Do some gelato at Bottega Italiano or Gelatiamo in Seattle (after a cornmeal catfish sandwich at Matts or a geoduck tostada, Dungeness crab cake, fried smelts and gumbo at Steelhead diner). Try to get some Totten Virginica oysters if you can, these can be super plump and creamy if you get a good batch.