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ISO a lunch stop near or in Seattle but before Tacoma and a dinner stop on the way back

We are setting out from Vancouver, BC at 9 am on a Wednesday next month. Sadly, no time to do any justice at all to the local eating scene. But we *should* arrive on the outskirts/Sea proper around about lunchish and would sure appreciate some assistance. Since we need to get to Portland by late afternoon, we can't go too too far off the I-5 (sigh) and thought we should stop before we hit the section of road that can be congested btwn Sea and Tacoma. We'll be reversing the trip and looking for dinner on the way back.

We're pretty flexible apart from needing to find some gluten free dishes for one passenger for the lunch only. We'd be thrilled with a good Mexican option, cart or whatever, and don't mind holes in the wall at all. The goat at La Conasupo sounds great but apparently it's only available on Sunday and the rest of the prepared food is just okay. Any other ideas to save us from a roadside stop at a chain? TIA.

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  1. How about dim sum somewhere in Chinatown. It's easy to get to right off the Dearborn exit from I-5. Different people will pick different places as a favorite. Jade Garden is kind of the default (and it's good), but I'm a fan of Tea Garden (especially if you get in at an "off-peak" time, since they will do stuff to order) and New Kowloon on Jackson.

    Couple of nice spots off the Swift and Albro exit in Georgetown too. Hangar Cafe would be a nice light meal (although I don't what they do for gluten free...) and Jules Mae does some nice food.

    If you want to be adventurous, take the Kent-Des Moines road exit, hang a right, and then a left at the light to cruise down International Blvd/Pacific Highway until you find an authentic looking Vietnamese or Mexican spot. I'm willing to bet you'll have a damn good meal as good (better?) than anything a "foodie" would tell you about in Seattle proper.

    1. Grayelf, I suggest Vuelva A La Vida in Tacoma for authentic Mexican. (Lots of seafood on the menu including oysters.) They are located at 5310 Pacific Avenue which is an easy off/on from Interstate 5. I am a big fan of their Ceviche and also their goat tacos. (Don't expect any chips and salsa--this is not Americanized food.)

      2 Replies
      1. re: Leper

        Thanks both of you for your replies. Hadn't thought of dimsum which is funny as it's such a staple here at home. Will have to check if it passes the gluten-free test. Also may prefer to go for something we can't get at home such as one of your Mexican suggestions!

        Leper, since we don't know what the border will be like I'm a bit chary about waiting for Tacoma for lunch as I've heard the road btwn Sea and Tac can be slow. Can you tell I don't drive in your area??? We're happy with non-Americanized, especially me, as I've spent a bunch of time in Mexico and we can't get anything decent north of the border.

        1. re: grayelf

          Also, I'd add that mid-day on a Wednesday I can't imagine the drive from Seattle to Tacoma would be too bad...

      2. Greyelf, knowing your level of high standards on Chinese food, I'd steer you away from the dim sum in Seattle...

        Our Vietnamese food on the other hand....You could do Green Leaf or Tamarind Tree in the ID, just off the Dearborn exit, or go a little further to my personal favorite, Ben Thanh, on Rainier.

        The Salvadorean Bakery in White Center is good, though it takes a little while, so perhaps the nearby Rosteceria El Paisano?

        2 Replies
        1. re: dagoose

          Thanks for the additional tips, dg! Vietnamese would be good on two counts: it's gf friendly for our gluten avoider, and the SO's current favourite cuisine is Vietnamese. We have a lot here but it tends to be the same dishes repeated so would be cool to see what yours have to offer.

          Sadly, I am so unfamiliar with Sea restaurants. Will deffo research all the choices offered here more thoroughly, as it has occurred to my slow brain that we will need sustenance on our way home (Sunday early dinnerish, no gf restrictions then though as our friends are taking the train back) as well. Much appreciated, all who answer :-).

          1. re: grayelf

            You might consider the Ba Bar for some nice Vietnamese with higher end ingredients. It gets mixed reviews here, but I think the food is fabulous.

        2. Everyone here seems to want to send you towards Asian food for some reason...if you're set on Mexican, you might want to think about Poquito's in Capitol Hill (it's maybe 10 min from I-5 near downtown, but the directions are kind of complicated...google it) or if you want something more like street food, there's a food truck immediately adjacent to the freeway at the Northgate exit that many people like (Exit Northgate and turn right, it's on the left in the gas station/Starbucks parking lot).

          If you're into food trucks, you might also want to check out Seattle's highly regarded Marination, they now have moved from the truck to a permanant location, but the same food, kind of Korean/Mexican/Hawaiian fusion. It's at Broadway / Pike, close the fwy but like Poquito's via a roundabout route -- nothing you can't probably handle.

          1. Just south of SEA proper, is Burien; easily accessable from I-5 at the airport exit.

            Head to Taqueria La Estacion. Definelty not fancy, but fabulous food. In a building that had a former life as some kind of fast food place, but man - the salsa bar, the huaraches (hard to find), excellent tortas. Great carne asada, good looking 9have not tried) roasted chicken meals. Super horchata.
            It's always full of mexican families eating, and very few gringos when I go.

            This is a 10 minute drive West on highway 518 from I5. Freeway dead ends at Burien. Go straight through the lights at 1st ave S, and up to Ambaum. About 1/3 mile. Go right. It will be up on your left about 4 blocks. Your welcome, really:)

            Taqueria La Estacion
            14820 Ambaum Blvd SW
            (between 148th St & 149th St) Yum!
            Burien, WA 98166

            7 Replies
            1. re: gingershelley

              Perhaps Chinese is not the best choice with our scene at home but I'm really okay with Vietnamese options (SO fave, good for gf travelling companion) and Mexican is great too, so thanks for the additional ideas. I think I can talk my little gang into a small detour for really good food :-).

              Would the places mentioned so far on this thread also be options for our trip back which will involve an earlyish dinner on Sunday? I was reading about this place on a local blog and it rather appeals, appearing to be nearish the I-5: http://www.chowfoods.com/five/menu.aspx

              1. re: grayelf

                5 spot is part of a small local chain. Nothing to write home about. Popular for late breakfasts... you can do WAY better. It's kind of over-priced too. Maybe the location rent, but whenever I have eaten there (breakfast), I always feel my meal should have been at least $1-2 less.

                1. re: gingershelley

                  I wouldn't go out of the way to hit the 5 spot. Honestly, the thought of sitting in a car for 2.5hrs after a 5 spot meal is not very pleasant, so to speak. If you want to eat on the early side, you could stop before Seattle for the best Mexican around in Chehalis (or on the way down if you hold out) at Taqueria Juquilita.

                  If you're coming through Seattle though...the world is your oyster--almost everything will be open, so it's just a matter of what you want to eat.

                  1. re: dagoose

                    Dagoose, who I absolutely respect,
                    You meant for grayelf to stop at Taqueria Juquilita as a 'on the way back" destination for mexi, non? Not on the way down... that would be too far for any CH tummy to wait:)

                    Good to know about that spot, as I regularly go to Cannon Beach a few times a year, and find that my peckishness on the route has less great options than I like.

                    1. re: gingershelley

                      I just googled and Chehalis is 4 hours from Vancouver, so Taqueria Juquilita might be a bit far for us once you factor in a likely pause at the border and the slight possibility of traffic around Seattle. But I plan to include it as a second choice, and if that doesn't work out, it appears to be only 1.5 hours from Portland for the way back. I'm getting more determined about chowing on as many antojitos as I can on this trip, dang it.

                      1. re: gingershelley

                        Or as an additional stop, since like all good hounds, I'm confident greyelf could convince her buddies one more stop wouldn't hurt ;)

                        I just thought I would put a plug in for it, since it's absolutely fabulous and right on her route...

                    2. re: gingershelley

                      Argh, the $2 rule! Thanks for the warnings, both of y'all. Juquilita is deffo on my list for Mexican. And catfish tacos sound interesting, akq, especially with a view (this is a holiday, after all). It doesn't have to be authentic as long as it tastes good!

                2. If you aren't looking for totally authentic Mexican, maybe consider Aqua Verde for some yummy catfish tacos and a really cool view of the water. It's pretty close to I5, the food is pretty tasty and it is kind of Seattle institution.

                  1. Reporting back. We hit La Conasupo for lunch which turned out to be less than five minutes off the freeway. This unassuming loncheria at the back of a grocery store served up gigante platters for muy poco dinero. The carnitas were tasty, I enjoyed my carne de res sope (as big as a dinner plate) and the tacos were good but very big. $50 all in including pops all around.

                    On the way back, we stopped at Taqueria Juquilita for lunch in Chehalis, much improved from descriptions I'd read of the setting, owner Sra Julia from a small village near Oaxaca, bought place from landlord and fixed it up, just reopened with fully functioning loo, jamaica was a bit weak, flautas were great, good huarache though missing the promised beans and red enchilada ($13 total with a Mexican pop). Really handy to be able to order a la carte from "side orders" with only two of us, and very nice to be offered half/half on the huarache to try more meat options.

                    Another quick stop at Tecalitlan #2 trailer and quonset hut at Burlington, great carnitas, crunchy and porky, fine double tortillas $1.25, toppings were fresh, hot sauce was on point, even the radishes were delicious -- this would be a must stop for me in future, and so convenient too just off the Burlington "clover leaf."

                    Then La Gloria in B'ham for three tacos with only one tortilla $1.50 each carnitas (good flavour, lacking crunch) chorizo and fish (tilapia, not great), pozole 8.99 a bit bland/oily/tomatoey but more than passable with added lime and hot sauce… flautas 5.99 with rice and beans sadly flour tortilla, huge tamarind agua for $1.99 -- I'd stick to the tacos in future I think.

                    Thanks all for your suggestions and rest assured they have all been captured for future trips. We had such a grand time in Portland we're already planning another round in May.

                    Quick note on traffic for other food travellers: None on the way home what with HOV/express lanes and Sunday, but had a 20 min delay on the way down in Seattle because of an accident (Wednesday day)

                    8 Replies
                    1. re: grayelf

                      Pix from La Conasupo

                      1. re: grayelf

                        Pix from Juquilita

                        1. re: grayelf

                          shot of reno'd interior of Juquilita
                          Tacos from Tecalitlan plus menu

                            1. re: grayelf

                              Is this the La Gloria in north B'ham, that's also a store ?

                              Did you hit that taqueria off of The Guide near the pro golf shop ?

                              1. re: LotusRapper

                                Yes and maybe. There is more than one Tecalitlan truck and I think maybe one of the others is located on Meridien, saw that somewhere IIRC.

                                1. re: grayelf

                                  Oh right, I forgot there are two of them.

                                  1. re: LotusRapper

                                    We did another eating trip to Portland mid May and thought I would tack a report on here since y'all were so helpful last time.

                                    On the way to Portland, we stopped about 10:45 at Tacos Tecalitlan truck #2 at Burlington (exit 131) for a couple of carnitas tacos each (to which they are now adding fried onions as well as raw, see pic where I've extracted them!) and a mandarina Jarritos for the SO (all $1.25 each). This little snack was enough to tide us over till we got to Tacoma where we took the 56th Street exit (Exit 130) and located Vuelve a la Vida easily (well, just one wrong turn!). The tostada de camarones ($3.50) was the weakest dish with the shrimps a bit tough and overmarinated and the sauce too tomato-ey sweet. The three tacos (fish, tripitas and carnitas, $5.75 for three -- $2.25 for most, $2.75 for fish individually) were good and quite large, especially the tripitas which was very crunchy and a fine example for the SO's first taste of it. We were lucky to be there on Thursday when they do chiles rellenos ($6.50 for one, $8.95 for two, pictured, huge!) which were excellent, soft inside with creamy cheese and a light crunch to the batter. Beans and rice were solid too. The SO had a bottled Victoria by Modelo ($3.50) and I drove after lunch :-). I'd go back for the chiles rellenos if it were Thursday.

                                    On the way home from Portland, we held out till Bellingham as we had a huge brunch at Helser's. Tadeo’s was our choice for a late lunch at 3ish. Jamaica ($1.80) was tasty and giant (we shared one), sope de picadillo ($3.95) was the standout, tamal Sinaloaense de puerco ($3.25) was very good with lots of masa flavour, taquitos dorados de pollo ($5.95) were the best I've had in ages – crazy amount of food for $16, ate way too much but it was soooo good, especially the sope with perfectly spiced meat and really savoury frijoles refritos. I'd come back for everything, and to try out one (or three) of the all day breakfasts which looked really great in the photos (I've attached a shot which will likely be all but useless of the wall display detailing the breakie offerings). This is the finest Mexican food I have found yet along this corridor and the service was perfect to boot.

                                    first three photos: tacos from Tecalitlan x2, interior of Vuelve a la Vida

                                    next three: tostada de camaron, chiles rellenos, three tacos

                                    final four: giant agua de jamaica at Tadeo's, breaky offerings on wall, taquitos, sope and tamal