Brief reviews of half the restaurants in the U District
I just finished a nine-month evening program at UW. Every Wednesday before class, I ate at a different restaurant in the U District. Brief reviews of all of them.
Thai Tom: It's more fun watching them frantically prepare the so-so (if pleasantly spicy) Thai food than it is to eat it, but the show is probably worth at least one visit.
Thanh Vi: The pho is supposed to be good, but the vermicelli bowl was lacking in just about everything but vermicelli (for example, sauce to make the noodles taste like something).
Ugly Mug: The "California BLT" isn't anything wildly exciting (want to guess what "California" means?), but it is huge for the price. I would probably return to try one of the Asian-seeming sandwiches.
Garam Masala: Cheap Indian food as far as Seattle goes, although not a great bargain relative to the rest of the Ave. Decent, but not life-changing.
Burger Hut: The Burger Hut Special is a bit over-the-top, but I regret nothing. The window seat is a good place for people-watching.
Malabar: Gone. Chilie's was better anyway.
Ruby: Sort of an upscale version of a standard Ave restaurant. Decent curry, but LOUD thanks to all of the concrete.
BBQ Chicken: The preparation method is great, but they waste it on the cheapest, ugliest chicken they can find. I noticed a lot of Korean dishes on the menu, so I may give that a try at some point.
Shalimar: "Spicy" really means spicy here, but the spicy chicken korma's other flavors mostly disappeared under the heat (if they were there in the first place).
Northwest Fish and Chips: Succeeds at its namesake, which is important. Not all that expensive, either.
Lounjin: If you manage to show up when it's actually open, they have good ramen (curry and miso).
Samir's: Like Cedars across the street, but tastier overall.
Chili's: Pretty good South Indian food, but you'd better not expect much as far as atmosphere is concerned.
Shawarma King: Probably the best Middle Eastern place on the Ave. Yum.
Bratz: I'd already been here but cheated and visited on a day I'd left work early. Probably my favorite place in the U District, and maybe yours, too, if you like German sausage and schnitzel.
Korean Tofu House: Delicious banchan, tasty soup. Probably the best Korean option in the Ave.
Samurai Noodle: They really blew it with the service during their opening, but things are probably better now. I wasn't that impressed by the tampopo ramen's broth, but I keep seeing specials in the window that make me consider visiting again.
Jimmy John's: It's really as fast as people say, and it's certain better than Subway. That counts for something.
Tokyo Garden: It's owned by Nepalese folks, so you can order momos. I ate at Himalayan Heritage in DC a few weeks later and, well, this place isn't as good.
Utopia Cafe: Gone. Drat.
Chipotle: I have to admit that the contents of my burrito were decent...I just wish there had been a more favorable filling to tortilla ratio.
Green House: Another actual Korean restaurant. Not as good as Korean Tofu House, but cheaper.
Po Dog: The wasabi dog, fries, and Mexican Coke were at least as expensive as a similar meal at Shultzy's despite the lack of table service, homemade sausage, or even real plates and utensils. Po Dog's fries are better, though.
Hurricane Spud: Gone, apparently. Making a meal of a pornado and a corn dog was not a good idea.
Madeleine: I don't think the person who made my sandwich had ever made a sandwich before, but I have to admit that the flavors (and the use of really unhealthy Asian bread) almost made up for the sloppiness of my chile chicken sandwich.
Orange King: Not as good a burger as Burger Hut, but getting dukboki instead of fries was fun.
OK Noodle (formerly Bangkok Noodle, What the Phad, Veggie Veggie...): The bean thread noodles were tasty, and the price was reasonable. I'd go back.
Taqueria Mi Charrito: The menu suggests quality, but they don't seem to try very hard. I can't imagine the average UW student is very particular about Mexican food.
Agree? Disagree? What are your favorite places in the U District?
Guanaco's tacos is pretty good and a good value. It's salvadorean, so Pupusas and fried Yucca are the stars (and they will put whatever you want in them). Many good vegetarian options.
Nobody has the 90 minutes it takes to eat at Samurai, although once it arrives the food is decent.
Thanks for the awesome reviews! Chipotle is a little bit of a guilty pleasure for me, but I occasionally branch out.
I really like the Gyrocery, so I would definitely recommend checking it out. I also like Guanaco's, although not enough to drive all the way to the UD. There is a great block of places on the Ave between 50th and 51st, including my fave teriyaki place in Seattle.
31827 Pacific Hwy S Ste A, Federal Way, WA 98003
Wow, the undergrad memories are flowing back...teriyaki burgers at Orange King... You didn't mention what is IMO the best current spot on the Ave--Pam's--but maybe you intended to get there eventually.
Kudos for this thorough breakdown. lavaca seems a strong candidate for SEA rookie of the year.
1411 NE 42nd St, Seattle, WA 98105
My wife just finished her 9-month program at the U too, so we dined there once a week, but did not enjoy the wide range that you did (mostly due to my wife's taste restrictions).
The thing about U-Dist restaurants is that most of them fail relatively quickly. The storefronts look completely different every 2-3 years.
Taqueria Mi Charrito was probably the biggest disappointment in my mind. Good thing there was a decent taco truck in Wallingford. When we have time before class, we sometimes opted to drive over to Wallingford and Fremont instead, or even just over to Taste of India. I have an irrational seething hatred of Thai Tom (for their food and service), and found Thaiger Room and much better alternative.
I think my Ave favorites are Aladdin's, Tandoor, and Jewel of India. Shwarma King too - I especially like their baklava. One or two Korean places were pretty good for the Ave, but never managed to stay open for very long. The key is to hit those newly-opened ones that try a little too hard to please customers - where they give you 8 large plates of banchan to go with your $8 order. :-)
4543 University Way NE, Seattle, WA 98105
Taste of India
5517 Roosevelt Way NE, Seattle, WA 98105
4228 University Way NE, Seattle, WA 98105
Jewel of India
4735 University Way NE, Seattle, WA 98105
My wife was there for 4 years at "Yoo Dub". Which gave me ample opportunities to eat many meals, often by myself, which can be even more fun as I eat as if I were a secret food critic ;-) However 90% of the places I ate at I forget the names to now, and like you said the turnover on The Ave is so high that even within a 2-yr timeframe many restaurants either close, change ownership or get re-branded.
I'd often drive to Univ. Village Mall for some grub. Or Fremont. Or Wallingford (Dick's + Winchell's .... a perfectly-balanced meal). Rarely did I bother going into downtown and put up with the hassles of parking. One particularly memorable yet humble grilled pannini meal I had at Great Harvest Bread Co. in Sandpoint Village.
Great Harvest Bread Co
2218 NW Market St, Seattle, WA 98107
I would like to add to this that a great new sushi place opened up, called University Sushi, it is excellent and has two very nice chef's working the sushi bar, they know what they are doing, great presentation/ cooking and they don't short you of fish/ quality. I highly recommend this!
I agree with you about Samir's and Shwarma King. Need to try Chilli's. Did you ever try Thaiger Room? I have lunch on the Ave every saturday and I am undertaking a similar adventure as you...
Ever get to Pam's? Mandarin? Aladin Gyro-cery? Hawaiian BBQ? All recommended...
4228 University Way NE, Seattle, WA 98105
Sounds like a lot have changed since I last did my culinary expedition 2000-2004 on "The Ave", when much of the fare was crappy Chinese and Vietnamese.
Good to see Burger Hut is still around ! There was a little /Thai shop (forget name) around 42nd on the west side of The Ave that had some pretty serious wokking (flames shooting up 2-3 ft) that cranked up some damned good spicy fare, wonder if they're still around.
Flowers ..... fond memories of the veggie buffets for $6 or so.
An Indian place (Tandoor something) further north by the old schoolhouse had some decent fare.
Cedars ....... legendary. They still do the bottomless chai thing ?
Much of the fare still is crappy Chinese and Vietnamese. However, I made sure to avoid all of those places.
There is a Thai restaurant on 42nd (downstairs , next to Korean Tofu House) called Little Thai. Is that the one?
The biggest change in recent years seems to be the increase in restaurants serving Korean food (while remaining nominally teriyaki/burger/fried chicken/etc joints). In an ideal world, I would be able to walk into somewhere and get banchan with, say, a burger, but we haven't quite reached that level yet.
Little Thai Restaurant
4142 Brooklyn Ave NE, Seattle, WA 98105