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Sep 7, 2010 08:52 PM

Seattle for Japanese visitor

If you had a Japanese visitor, what are the most classically American-style places you would take them to in Seattle?

Our story: I just moved to Seattle this week (originally from Portland), so I haven't had much time to explore. My Japanese boyfriend, a professional Italian chef back in Osaka where we've been living, is hoping to follow and possibly work in Seattle before too long. So when he comes to visit next week, I'm hoping to give him a good taste mainly of American-style cafes/sandwiches/casual lunch/diners & happy hour places and of Northwest-y-esque Italian or French influenced restaurants. We probably won't want Asian food this time around, although I'd like to introduce him to a couple of foods that are hard to find in Japan, like Lebanese and Mexican.
We'll be staying at my place in the Wallingford/Greenlake area and won't have a car (yay urban biking Japanese-style!), so we won't want to go too far out. Also, he's not broke but I sure am (yay grad school!), so we can't eat at expensive places every night.
We've been to Seattle together once before for one day and went to Pike Place Chowder, which was a huge hit, and Steelhead Diner, which was less of a hit (I loved it, but I'm not the chef).

This is what I'm thinking so far, based on other Chowhound posts:
Day 1 (Sat): Dick's on 45th for lunch (it's American!) or Rancho Bravo tacos, Tangletown Brewery for happy-hour/dinner.
Day 2: U-District farmer's market for breakfast, Mariners game so whatever for lunch at the stadium, Pink Door for drinks after.
Day 3: Agua Verde for lunch and kayaking, Art of the Table for Monday happy hour.
It gets more vague after that but at some point....

3-4 dinners: Spinasse, Poppy, Tilth, Spud Fish & Chips (Alki), Palace Kitchen, Corson Building, Cafe Campagne, or Crush. Plus Uwajimaya (if you tell your roommates your boyfriend is a Japanese chef, they'll expect some home cooking...)
Most of these places seem like special event spots ... I'm not sure we'll want to maintain that level for all 9 days of his trip. Some more casual places would be good...

4-5 lunches:
Ugly Mug Cafe for sandwiches, Ray's Cafe, Le Pichet, Serious Pie, Baguette Box

breakfast (we'll see...):
Portage Bay Cafe, Cafe Besalu

and: Puyallup Fair (super American!), Fremont Oktoberfest

Does that seem like a pretty representative combination of good American/Northwest stuff? Are there any particularly good Lebanese/Greek/Middle Eastern places in the U-District, Fremont or Wallingford? Any fun, retro experiences? (And if anyone has advice for getting a work visa, we'd love to hear that too....)

Thanks so much for any advice & for reading! This ended up being kind of long.

Palace Kitchen
2030 5th Ave, Seattle, WA 98121

Cafe Campagne
1600 Post Alley, Seattle, WA 98101

Le Pichet
Seattle, WA, Seattle, WA

Pink Door
1919 Post Aly, Seattle, WA 98101

600 5th Ave S, Seattle, WA

Steelhead Diner
95 Pine Street, Suite 17, Seattle, WA 98101

Seattle, WA, Seattle, WA

Serious Pie
316 Virginia St, Seattle, WA 98101

Cafe Besalu
5909 24th Ave NW, Seattle, WA 98107

Portage Bay Cafe
4130 Roosevelt Way NE, Seattle, WA 98105

Spud Fish & Chips
9702 NE Juanita Dr, Kirkland, WA 98034

Ugly Mug Cafe
1309 NE 43rd St, Seattle, WA 98105

Baguette Box
1203 Pine St, Seattle, WA 98101

Pike Place Chowder
600 Pine St Ste 404, Seattle, WA 98101

Art of the Table
1054 N 39th St, Seattle, WA 98103

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  1. Oh my goodness I agree with taking your boyfriend to some places but I would skip Dick's. This is American fast food at it's worst (except for Burger King, McDonalds and Wendy's). I would also skip Crush as I find the food mediocre, prices high and service merely okay. You can find better for less.

    Your other choices for dinners out are good. Spinasse, Poppy and Palace Kitchen all jumped off the page at me. You can't go wrong with any of them or all of them. Uwajimaya is terrific. Always fresh and always on top of their game. Your BF will love Pink Door. It's a Seattle tradition and a hoot and half. Report back on where you go and what you experience!

    Palace Kitchen
    2030 5th Ave, Seattle, WA 98121

    Pink Door
    1919 Post Aly, Seattle, WA 98101

    600 5th Ave S, Seattle, WA

    Seattle, WA, Seattle, WA

    Burger King Restaurants
    5901 100th St SW, Lakewood, WA 98499

    2 Replies
    1. re: firecracker

      Heh, yeah, I was thinking of Dick's mainly for the humor/milkshake value. He'll have just gotten off a plane and won't be ready for a real meal anyways...
      Crush, off the list. Thanks!

      1. re: jivingseaanemone

        Well, Dick's for an initial "taste of Seattle" milkshake would be fun, jiving. You guys will be off to a good start so long as your BF isn't expecting excellent cuisine (or any cuisine) from Dick;'s. On the other hand, the price is right!!

    2. I'm not from Seattle (although I lived there a year), and I would also take Dick's off the list (although they are cheap). For burgers, I just went to Lunchbox Laboratory (Ballard) that is a fun place to try. I've also heard that the Skillet burger is great.

      Btw, I would recommend Parfait, which is a "gourmet" ice cream truck. I had only tried their Meyer-Lemon, but they seem to be going for ice cream that emphasizes the (natural) flavor and while de-emphasizing the sugar and cream. I think all of these things would appeal to a Japanese palate.

      Also, FWIW, I loved Spinasse (but try to make reservations early; we had to settle for a 9 PM dinner). Besalu was really good, but I also love Honore. I enjoyed Portage Bay for breakfast, too.

      For sandwiches, I'd recommend the neo-Cuban sandwiches from Paseo.

      Lunchbox Laboratory
      1253 Thomas Street, Seattle, WA 98109

      Honore Artisan Bakery
      1413 NW 70th St, Seattle, WA

      Seattle, WA, Seattle, WA

      Portage Bay Cafe
      4130 Roosevelt Way NE, Seattle, WA 98105

      1. Seattle isn’t a rich source of either Mexican or Lebanese food. Agua Verde is okay, mostly for its location and the kayaking. How does it compare to the best seafood tacos I’ve had in Southern California or Baja California? Not terribly well. . . . but then. Dick’s may be “American,” but it’s bad American. Even for the novelty of a milk shake, why waste your precious time going to Dick’s? If you go to Tangletown for a brewski, why not go to down the street to Eva for dinner, instead of the Brewery. It’s much better food. Don’t miss the Cabrales flan with pear relish and walnut crisp. It’s a great appetizer. I’m beginning to sound like a broken record, but Spinasse is spectacular – the best meal I’ve had in Seattle this year – and since your boyfriend is a chef at an Italian restaurant in Osaka, he’ll really appreciate the skill and artistry of the chef there. I agree that you should make a reservation ASAP. The word is out on Spinasse, and it’s not easy to get a reservation. Your list for “3-4 dinners” is good, but I personally don’t think Palace Kitchen is in the same league as the other places on the list. Don’t limit Café Campagne to your dinner list. It serves a great breakfast/brunch. Café Besalu? A big yes if you want one of the best croissants made in the United States. They also make good coffee from a local roaster, Lighthouse.

        1. I suggest the Kingfish Cafe for traditional Southern American. Well worth the cab ride from Wallingford.

          1. Oo, some interesting recommendations. Kingfish Cafe looks spot-on and Eva does look a lot better than the brewery. Parfait sounds good too... most American desserts are too sweet for Japanese tastes (mine too, at least at the moment while I'm readjusting....). I went to Molly Moon's the other day and the flavor combinations were amazing, but so rich I could barely finish my single scoop sundae.

            9 Replies
            1. re: jivingseaanemone

              What the heck - why not include Dick's? It's a Seattle institution that has stood the test of time. Sure, Lunchbox Lab has great burgers, but they're pricey and not "typical," which is what it sounds like you're looking for.

              If you decide to take a ferry ride, Hitchcock on Bainbridge Island is worth a visit.

              1. re: Jeffo405

                If nothing else, a trip to DIck's will give your guest a data-point on the curve of what sorts of hamburgers Seattle will eat. Dick's has been steadily pumping "Deluxe and fries" into the arteries of students since 1954. Other data-points are useful, too, to get the lay of the burger scene herabouts: Lunchbox Lab, Palace Kitchen, Two Bells, Red Mill...

                Palace Kitchen
                2030 5th Ave, Seattle, WA 98121

                1. re: mrnelso

                  Right? Dick's is a real part of the history and culture of Seattle (before Microsoft, Amazon and Starbucks). It definitely the kind of half historical/half dining experience that you'd take a tourist.

                  Besides, it's not even a full meal (like the other burger places mentioned). Split a deluxe and fries as a snack or something. Or get it late night.

                  I suppose if you only going to get one burger and wanted to make it a gourmet experience, you wouldn't pick Dick's. But it's definitely a legit call as part of a food tour, especially as a place to take a tourist.

                  1. re: GreenYoshi

                    I was also going to suggest going to Dick's late night. Since you're in the Wallingford/Greenlake neighborhood there's bound to be one night where you need to eat before going to bed and Dick's is perfect for that!

                    1. re: Lauren

                      It's amazing the amount of love that Dick's gets on this Board. But if it's "Seattle culture" and history you're after, how come Ivar's so often gets overlooked? At least at the Alaskan Way Ivar's you get to sit outside, watch the ferries come and go, and you can throw the seagulls some fries. And, IMHO, the fish & chips are a lot better than Dick's burgers.

                      1. re: Tom Armitage

                        For a guest from Japan hitting the Ivar's Salmon House Happy Hour would probably be good bet. The building makes it worth a visit for out of town guests. It's also right in your hood.

                        Ivar's Salmon House
                        401 NE Northlake Way, Seattle, WA 98105

                        1. re: seattleviking

                          Thank you TA, for a great suggestion. The setting alone is a winner, and a Japanese visitor will surely find the local preparations engaging. The bar has good local taps and happy hour is feeding half the UW campus.
                          Expect and spend an extra half-hour in the visit to read and see local history on the walls. Avoid the oily "Spring Rolls," and prepare for oysters shooters to be mostly a smother of "cocktail sauce," but get the chowder, fish-and-chips and fried halibut bites, for local color. We've not seen Ivar's to offer eel, which might be a good reference point, but often enjoy squid rings ('calamari') breaded and fried.

                          1. re: mrnelso

                            Actually, I was thinking about a daytime visit to Ivar’s Pier 54 Fish Bar on the Puget Sound waterfront, next to the downtown ferry terminal. But the suggestion of the Salmon House is a great idea for something “uniquely Seattle,” where getting the very best food Seattle has to offer isn’t the only goal.

                            Pier 54 Fish Bar
                            Pier 54, Seattle, WA 98101

                        2. re: Tom Armitage

                          Because you can't go to Ivar's at 1:30 in the morning and watch a parade of interesting characters go by your car window!