Seattle vs. Boston?
- Sgt Snackers May 8, 2010 05:35 PM
We are considering relocating from Boston to Seattle and are wondering about the relative merits of the food scenes in each city. We're big foodies and love diverse ethnic food of all kinds: favorites being *authentic* Mexican, Thai, Ethiopian, and Sichuan but also a real love for fresh local ingredients and good produce. Some of our favorite spots in Boston include Craigie on Main, Rendezvous, and Deep Ellum. We're also big fans of craft cocktails and good beer (Drink and Lord Hobo being good spots in Boston).
Before coming to Boston we lived in the SF Bay Area so know a lot about the tremendous food scene there. While Boston has some great chow, it pales in comparison to SF which is a total foodie mecca.
We're wondering how Seattle stacks up - what will we find there that we can't get in Boston, and vice versa? Anything we'll miss in Seattle? Mainly we want to know if we can get a decent burrito there :-)
IMO it's inbetween. (Caveat: I've only been to Boston on vacations, but my vacations were very food-centric and involve tons of resarch/reading/etc). The Seattle metro area is less than half the size of th e SF Bay area, so you can't expect it to measure up there. But it's quite good for a city it's size. I think we have great Sichuan--it's one of my favorites so I eat it frequently on trips to NYC, SF (well, SF doesn't have good Sichuan but Oakland and Albany and other suburbs do) and we measure up very well. I like Bellevue's Bamboo Garden better than current NYC foodie favorire Szechuan Gourmet.
Mexican is not going to be as good as California for obvious reasons but there are a number of very good taquerias/taco trucks. There are more average places, so you have to know where to go to find the good stuff, but I have a hard time believing Mexican could be better in Boston, given how bad it is in NYC.
Thai places are a dime a dozen, practically as ubiquitous as Starbucks, but we're always lamenting how they don't measure up to places like Las Vegas' Lotus of Siam. But there are really very few (if any) other Thai places that are THAT good--IMO it's hard to find top notch Thai anywhere in the US, besides LOS and in LA's Thai Town. Noodle Boat in Issaquah is very good and authentic, definitely try that.
Cocktails--Seattle is consistantly called one of the best cocktail cities in the US so you have no worries there. You also have no worries with getting fresh, local ingredients--our climate means lots grows here and the growing season is long compared to New England. Our farmer's markets are great.
Don't mean to sound like such a booster--there are certainly things that are lacking in our food scene (fine dining, for one. And no doubt you'll miss the seafood you get in Boston, like lobster) but given your favorites I don't think you'll have issues.
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Christy, one of the Greater Seattle Board’s best posters, pretty much nailed it. My two best meals during a recent trip to Boston were at Craigie on Main (a truly extraordinary experience) and Neptune Oyster. I haven’t had a meal in Seattle that is as good as the one I had at Craigie on Main, although there are plenty of very good, ambitious, high-end restaurants in the Seattle area that use fresh, local ingredients. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed in this aspect of our local food scene. There are also some interesting restaurants that, as far as I know, have no equivalent in Boston, like the wonderful Korean-French influenced dishes served at Joule. You will miss Cherrystones on the half-shell, but Pacific Northwest oysters are wonderful, and there are many places to enjoy them. My personal favorite is Elliott’s, and I have several posts on the Greater Seattle Board about my preferred approach for enjoying the bounties of the oysters at Elliott’s. Although I don’t know much about the ethnic food scene in Boston, my sense is that neither Boston nor Seattle is particularly noteworthy in this regard, particularly as compared to San Francisco, Los Angeles, or New York. As Christy notes, Thai restaurants are ubiquitous in Seattle, but almost all of them serve dumbed-down American-style Thai. Seattle’s best Asian restaurants are Vietnamese and Korean. Ethiopian? Yes. Mexican? A decent burrito? Mostly no, even including the taco trucks, but I’m perhaps too fussy about Mexican food since I lived for many years in the Los Angeles area and, having been taught by Diana Kennedy and others, think I do a pretty decent job of cooking Mexican food myself. Then, again, where do you get great, authentic Mexican food in Boston? What will you miss in Seattle? Well, the depth and breadth of Italian restaurants and bakeries, for one. You won’t find good sfogliatelle like you can get at Modern Pastry, for example. You’ll also miss good fried belly clams and lobster rolls (like those at Neptune Oyster). But there are compensations in Seattle, like Columbia River spring-run or Yukon River king salmon. We also have some good sushi restaurants, even though not the equal of those in Los Angeles or New York. On the whole, as compared with Boston, I think you will find the food scene in Seattle very acceptable, especially given the growing number of good farmers’ markets for fresh, local, seasonal produce unique to the Pacific Northwest, like nettles, fiddlehead ferns, miner’s lettuce, wild mushrooms (e.g., morels, chicken of the woods, chanterelles), and unique local seafood like geoduck, cockles, and Dungeness crab. If you like to cook, you can whip up things spaghetti with green garlic, fresh Alaskan halibut with wild nettle pesto, or Kung Pao geoduck with chicken of the woods mushrooms. Speaking personally, I’m very happy with the food scene in Seattle.
I think between Christy and Tom, it's mostly been covered, but I moved back to Seattle from Boston 5 years ago (from here originally though) and the things I miss the most are whole bellied fried clams, pizza, old-school fine dining, and Italian bakeries, actually Italian in general..
On the other hand I'll take Seattle in beer, seafood (salmon, oysters, crab, especially), ethnic food (SE asian, non-Americanized chinese, ethiopian/eritrean), cocktail bars, innovative cuisine and (i hate to say it, but...) "fusion" type dishes and restaurant.
Also, the food and beer at Safeco is 20 times better than Fenway (even including sausage guy outside the park)
OP - in general I think you are going to be very pleased. I've lived in SF, Boston, and the Northwest each for extended periods of time. Seattle is definitely a much better food scene - especially from the locavore aspect. Produce is better and fresher (aside from maybe tomatoes and corn, which would be a push) than anywhere on the east coast.
Mexican in Boston was a joke (even Anna's - which is from an SF Mission expat), and you'll find loads of better options from some humble food cart setups. Asian specialties will be generally better, but as other posters have mentioned, you might need to travel to BC or other west coast cities to find some of the top spots.
Some things I do miss from Boston:
Lobster rolls from James Hook or B&G
Neighborhood Italian restaurant basics like saltimbocca or veal parm subs
occasionally Americanized Chinese (think Golden Temple or Billy Tse's)