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Aug 28, 2012 12:08 PM

Unusual Ethnic Dining Options, Downtown Area

Hey Everybody,

My very-shortly-wife-to-be and I will be honeymooning in Seattle (as well as the San Juans and Vancouver) in the next weeks, and I have been using these boards to check up on interesting places to eat, we appreciate all the good information.

The big question we have at this point: We have a tradition of trying to eat in as many interesting ethnic restaurants as we possibly can when we travel. We have heard of a Senegalese restaurant, we will be hitting Ethiopian as often as we can, is there anything else we should try? Kurdish? Guatemalan? Sri Lankan? South Carolina Gullah? We would love to be surprised. Of course suggestions for anything else are also most appreciated, Seattle is going to have options in every category that Anchorage can't touch.

We are staying downtown, but would be willing to travel a bit of something really appealing appeared.

Thanks in advance,


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  1. I don't believe any of Seattle's many Ethiopean restaurants are downtown--rent's too expensive. We like Cafe Soleil in the Mt Baker neighborhood. Downtown is just a short bus ride from Seattle's ID where there are plenty of Asian options. I recommend Tsukushinbo for Japanese--order off the specials menu or have sushi. Green Leaf for Vietnamese. Green Leaf has also opened a new branch in Belltown but I have not yet been there. Pike Place Market has several ethnic choices but more for snacks or a quick lunch. Piroshky Piroshky has yummy piroshkis to takeaway. Turkish Delight has excellent baklava. There is an El Savadoran restaurant in the University District--the ensalada fresca beverage is wonderful. There's also a bakery/cafe in White Center, but that would really be far out of your way. Ballard has La Carta de Oaxaca (Oaxacan cuisine obviously), the Golden Beetle (North African), and Senor Moose (various regional Mexican). I had the most delicious Argentinian empanadas at the U District Farmers Market (Saturdays, 9-2 only). Malay Satay Hut for Singaporean/Malay, but their just above the ID (i.e., Little Saigon) branch is a bit hit or miss on hours--try the roti canai and char kway teow and the green bean belachan if you can find them open. Or go to their Bellevue/Redmond branch for more stable hours.

    2 Replies
    1. re: PAO

      This is the difficulty with downtown ethnic dining in general--rent is just too high for these types of places. There are good choices just south of downtown in the ID--Green Leaf (Vietnamese; also in Belltown), Huong Bihn (Vietnamese; caters to a Vietnamese clientel but they do mostly speak English), Szechuan Noodle Bowl, Seven Stars Pepper (Szechuan), Jade Garden for dim sum, Thai Curry Simple...none of these are particularly unusual, but it's all good ethnic food, walkable from downtown.

      You might take a look at Seattle Weekly's Top 100 list--there are some unusual dishes on it. If something piques your interest we can advise on how accessible it is from downtown.

      1. re: christy319

        With offshoots of Tamarind Tree and Green Leaf now downtown in the form of Long Provincial and the Belltown Green Leaf, this isn't totally true. But yeah, generally right.

    2. In Wallingford (easy by bus or cab), there's Kabul Afghan Cuisine.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Jeri L

        I forgot about Kabul! I love going there--especially for the pilaf dish and the firni for dessert!

      2. Capitol Hill isn't exactly a bastion of interesting ethnic food but we enjoy Annapurna, which is Tibetan/Nepalese/Indian. The spinach momo (dumplings) are very tasty!

        1 Reply
        1. re: Bax

          +1 on Annapurna (and the spinach momos!). Love that place.

        2. Just came back from vacation in Seattle. +1 on La Carta de Oaxaca! It was highly recommended, and more than lived up to expectations. Totally worth the bus ride (or whatever other means) for the black mole!

          1. For downtown qua downtown options:

            There's a good Ethiopian restaurant on Minor Ave between Stewart & Howell - Habesha - that still qualifies as downtownish (west of I-5, south of Denny) - easy walk.

            Pan Africa Market is unfortunately closed temporarily as they move across 1st Ave.

            Long Provincial and Green Leaf Belltown have already been mentioned. There are also options in the market, like a Filipino stand in the corner market building whose name escapes me and a Bolivian restaurant - Copacabana - with mediocre food and great views.

            South Asian food is sorely lacking downtown - though unexpectedly, the generic steam table Indian place in the Westlake Plaza food court does make an adequate masala dosa (I believe it's the only thing on the menu that they prepare to order, in the back)

            Cafe Paloma in Pioneer Square used to do decent Turkish meze; it's been a couple of years since I've been, don't know if it's still good. (To be honest, I prefer Lola for Mediterranean-influenced food downtown. Zaina is regrettable.)

            You might try looking up food trucks - Where Ya At Matt does very serviceable cajun food (poboys, gumbo, jambalaya) for this end of the country (I have pretty high standards having grown up 2 hours outside of NOLA on the Gulf coast.) and they're in walking distance from downtown on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

            I'm not wild about it, but Off the Rez is a frybread truck that's also up in South Lake Union on Wednesdays. (Native American-themed, though frybread has very little to do with the historical diets of any native tribe of this region - planked salmon at McCormick & Schmick would be more famliiar to Chief Seattle than "indian tacos," though I guess it might be comfort food for a South Dakotan.)

            There are tons of options if you're willing to go beyond walking distance either via public transit or car. One really unique experience that doesn't get mentioned much here is the Friday dinner at the Polish Home Association ( up in Capitol Hill.

            I'll let others chime in on other ethnic favorites. Some of the less common ones require a bit of a drive (eg there's some decent Salvadorean places in Burien and White Center.


            If you find a Sri Lankan joint around here, let us know. I still dream of the meal I had at Rashnaa in Toronto a decade ago.

            4 Replies
            1. re: terrier

              These are great responses. I will echo the sentiment that downtown is not the best for a wide variety of ethnic food. Better to be had in the ID (Asian), CD and south Seattle (Viet, Lao and African cuisines), Bellevue (Chinese, Taiwanese and Indian), Burien/Renton (Central American, including Guatemalans called Sabor Chapin and Chapinlandia Bakery, neither of which I have tried yet), Lynnwood (Korean), White Center (Mexican/Salvadorean, Cambodian, etc.) If you are up for travelling, I would reply here or search posts focused on those areas.

              My favorite Ethiopian/Eritrean are Altaye, Meskel and Dahlak. I like the Senegalese at La Teranga in Columbia City. You can find some decent Somali in Tukwila (right near the airport) at the market adjacent to Marwaa.

              Sri Lankan is a tough one. You might find a few items at Spice Route in Bellevue or Chilis Deli in the U-District.

              Turkish/Kurdish, also quite limited (I often cook this at home). There is a nice little place in Madrona, Bistro Turkuaz, which has really expanded its menu since my last visit.

              1. re: equinoise

                Note: Bistro Turkuaz will be closed until September 10th. I went to their website to see how they've expanded their menu. It's the same as I remember on the website. Can you elaborate? It's been a while since we've been there, but confirm your recommendation.

                1. re: Jeri L

                  My last visit was probably 3-4 years ago, and that comment was fairly impressionistic. It appears from the current site they have about 20% more meze/app items and maybe 30-40% more entrees than I can recall (I don't remember guvec, balik, manti for example). Don't hold me too those exact figures, my recollection is not entirely clear.

              2. re: terrier

                Off the Rez--it was hard to get a sense for the "10 hour" pulled pork taco because it was smothered in BBQ sauce, a sweet style that I personally don't care for. The chicken taco was really good, sort of a green chile sauce. Off the Rez reminds me of Marination with all the polyglot flavor, with a bit less attention to detail. I am not as a big a fan of fry bread as many, FWIW, but I thought it made for a satisfying lunch, certainly more heft than two tortillas.