Pacific Northwest | November 16, 2003Pacific Northwest MagazineNovember 16, home
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 Dining Out 2003

Time to eat: Feeding old hungers, new passions and everything in between
Willie Turner, co-owner of Willie's Taste of Soul on Seattle's Beacon Hill, starts some days at 4 a.m., working with cherry and alder to produce his beloved Louisiana barbecue. When Willie's not busy dishing up victuals, you might find him in back, reading the Good Book.
Afternoon Delights

Have A Nice Time

Sometimes, a girl just wants to sit down to a nice lunch. I like to arrive early enough to snag one of two window tables at tiny Barbacoa, sip an agua de jamaica (or a margarita, if there's no need to get back to work) and tuck into a plateful of enchiladas verdes. Layered with love — and a salsa made with tart tomatillos and green chilies — this afternoon nap-inducing treat involves barbecued chicken and melted Jack cheese sandwiched between corn tortillas: The kicky, beer-enhanced borracho beans are a bonus. (2209 Queen Anne Ave. N., Seattle; 206-352-6213)

When a French accent, a view and a ladies-who-lunch date is on my agenda, there's always Maximilien, home to a buxom-breasted chicken whose luxurious, butter-drenched pan jus and crisp accompanying pommes frites are as heavenly as the Elliott Bay view. (81 A Pike St., Seattle; 206-682-7270)

Romance is always on the menu at Serafina, where I'm easily seduced by the kitchen's signature dish, melanzana alla Serafina — a delicate composition of thin-sliced eggplant rolled with ricotta and basil, layered with Parmesan, baked in tomato sauce and draped over angel-hair pasta. Pair that with the house salad (butter lettuce cavorting with champagne vinaigrette), and lunch becomes a luscious luxury. (2043 Eastlake Ave. E., Seattle; 206-323-0807)

At fun, funky Blue Onion Bistro, I'm always in for a bellyful of goodness, along with an incredible bang for the lunchtime buck. Exceptional food — and too much of it — means there's no room for dessert, and no need for dinner. While I give the big nod to everything on the ever-changing menu (those fish tacos! that gnocchi especiale!), I'm mad for the signature Blue Ribbon mac and cheese, a heart-stopper if ever there was one. (5801 Roosevelt Way N.E., Seattle; 206-729-0579)

Sandwich It In

When I want something simpler, and Old Hunger has me in its clutches, there's only one thing to do: Assuage it. This Philly girl takes her taste for cheese steaks to the only place in town that does it right: Philly's Best. Here the chop-chop-chop of man-handled minute-steak sizzles on the grill, the cheese is white and ooshy, and the classic Italian rolls come from Philly's own Amoroso's bakery. (Their motto: "We make the rolls that make Philly's sandwiches world famous.") Throw on some hot cherry peppers, and honey, I'm home. (1400 23rd Ave., Seattle; 206-860-5000)

Ballard is home to the city's finest hot-pastrami sandwich: a classic New York-style reuben served at Roxy's Deli at CasCioppo's. This sandwich-deli extraordinaire shares space with the butcher (CasCioppo Brothers), resides next door to the baker (Larsen Brothers), and its reuben features thick-sliced brisket, fatty where it ought to be and spiced to impress. Heaped high with homemade kraut, melted Swiss and Thousand Island dressing, the grilled meat comes lodged between slices of good rye, served with a half-sour pickle. (2364 N.W. 80th St., Seattle; 206-784-6121, ext. 3)

Speaking of rye, nobody does it better than Trudi Kahn White and her talented crew at Sweet Lorraine's Bakery. Their rye bread has turned this little corner of Interbay into a dream destination. Worth mentioning: Sweet Lorraine's babka, rugalach and poppyseed strudel — among other Jewish and Eastern European pastry specialties — make this place a godsend. (3055 21st Ave. W., Seattle; 206-301-9100)

Woman Bites Dog

... and I bite mine at Matt's Famous Chili Dogs, where two dogs are always better than one. Its fame notwithstanding, I have little interest in Matt's chili-wearing dogs (but you should feel free to go right ahead), opting instead for his Cubs-fan classic, the Old Fashioned. I bark with enthusiasm after downing this tube of Vienna Beef cozying up to poppy-seed bun, lavished with mustard, onions, sweet neon-green relish, tomatoes, dill pickles, searing "sport" peppers and a sprinkle of celery salt. (6615 E. Marginal Way S., Seattle, 206-768-0418; 699 110th Ave. N.E., Bellevue, 425-637-2858; 7600 196th St. S.W., Lynnwood; 425-776-3220)

While Matt's is great for a quick stop, when I've got a hunger to settle in and hang with the, er, Dawgs, there's no better spot than Shultzy's Sausage, where it's you, a brew and the U-crew downing hot dogs and burgers, hot links and my main attraction: The Shultzy. This gonzo housemade sausage patty smacks of fennel and black pepper. Grilled with onions and sweet peppers, it's offered up on a French roll swiped with garlic, olive oil and butter. Ordered as a "basket," its supporting cast includes a mess of crunchy fries and a side of mighty fine slaw, leading me to ask: Who let the hogs out? (4114 University Way N.E., Seattle; 206-548-9461)
At Willie's Taste of Soul, Jasmine Winston serves up chicken and ribs with sides of sweet potatoes and greens to Mike Toomey, left, and Tom McQuaid. Smart customers know to save room for sweet-potato pie.

Dining on dogs may be the great American knock-it-back pastime, but surely barbecue, pizza and other fun fast food vie for the pennant.

In the case of barbecue, the fight rages on. Depending on one's state of origin, that fight can get fierce. I stay out of the fray, preferring to do battle with my own inner-barbecue demons, hungry little devils whose fires are fueled by my state: of mind. Which shall it be? Chicken and ribs? Korean bulgogi? A Texas-sized sandwich? Sky's the limit! When the Southern-style 'cue jones comes calling, it's likely to send me to Beacon Hill for a visit with Willie Turner, whose custom smokehouse, Willie's Taste of Soul on Beacon Avenue, remains a beacon for folks like me. We seek satisfaction in soulful Southern style: a combo plate heaped with tender smoked chicken, pork ribs with some tooth left to them, and homemade hot links (among other options). "Dinners" like these are supported by a side of sassy beans, potato salad or slaw — though it's always a good idea to mine the "Sides" menu for candied yams or greens in pot likker. (Do save a sweet spot for sweet-potato pie.) (6305 Beacon Ave. S., Seattle; 206-722-3229)

A constant craving for Chinese barbecued duck sends me directly to King's Barbeque House in the Chinatown/International District. Clean and compact, King's, which has a twin in Beacon Hill, is a takeout-only spot beloved for its butchers' careful work with the cleaver, bargain-priced box-lunches (with rice, nice), glistening heads-on ducks, soy-basted whole chickens, glazed spareribs, hunks of pork tenderloin and various innards and appendages sold by the pound. (518 Sixth Ave. S., Seattle; 206-622-2828; 303 12th Ave. S., Seattle; 206-720-4715)

Pecos Pit BBQ has long been the answer to my barbecue-sandwich prayers: tender slabs of alder-smoked beef anointed with "medium"-hot sauce, embraced by a soft-yet-sturdy onion-spiked bun. Prayers answered when I pat my full belly, promising not to eat another bite for at least a week.(2260 First Ave. S., Seattle; 206-623-0629)

A Slice Of Pizza

Nothing beats it. Scratch that: A terrific whole pie beats a fraction thereof, but the economic justification (monetary as well as physical) of a slice or two allows a "little" pizza to go a long way. East Coast sensibilities sway my direction, sending me in search of a thin-crust, quality mozzarella and tomato sauce neither too spicy nor sweet. Oh — I give extra credit to joints (and they must be joints) whose pies ooze just the right amount of oil and whose condiment counter houses a shaker of dried oregano.

At A New York Pizza Place, Brooklyn-born owner Todd Peltz tawks the tawk and wawks the wawk, adding aural ambiance to go along with a slice of classic cheese pie. (8310 Fifth Ave. N.E., Seattle; 206-524-1355)

Up in Edmonds, Old Milltown Pizza provides a much-needed local alternative to the popular pizza chains and a quick stop for shoppers and day-trippers. This street-side hole-in-the-mall also appeals to locals whose only quibble is that owner Ricky Andrews (a former pro-football player and Husky team captain) and his pie-producing boys don't deliver. What they do deliver is consistently good pizza by the slice or pie, with swell options including my favorite, the Greek. (in Old Milltown, 201 Fifth Ave. S., #4, Edmonds; 425-670-6702)

Long-lived, much-loved Piecora's New York Pizza beckons with its neon likeness of Lady Liberty, inviting the huddled masses in for a slice of the best New York-style pizza in town (says me). I'll take two, please, with sausage, and could you bring me a beer with that? (1401 E. Madison St., Seattle; 206-322-9411)

Good, Cheap, Fast

With apologies to the International Slow Food Movement, I'm a sucker for cheap fast food. And it doesn't get much faster, more enticing or less expensive than the Vietnamese takeout at Seattle Deli. Here, it pays to peruse the goods piled high in cases and on counters, and only a fool would leave without grabbing a pair of salad rolls, a half-dozen sesame-sprinkled sweet-bean balls and a trio of hot, crunchy spring rolls. Seattle Deli's bahn mi (baguette sandwiches) are so good and so cheap I can buy a bagful and barely dent a 10-spot. Best of all are the steam-table offerings — a mesmerizing display of Vietnamese home-style eats dished up and piled high in Styrofoam containers. (206-225 12th Ave. S., Seattle; 206-328-0106)

Pike Place Market is full of terrific fast-food enterprises, but my kid's affection for chicken adobo and hardworking "Aunties" Lila and Joy, coupled with my affection for their mother, Mila "Mom" Apostol and bowlsful of bony fish soup, lead me to the kitchenette counter at Oriental Mart, where the Apostol family has been plying Seattle with Filipino foods for 30 years. (1506 Pike Place Market; Seattle 206-622-8488)

If you think the words "cheap" and "great sushi" should never be uttered in the same sentence, then you've never shopped at Maruta Shoten. Though this Japanese supermarket boasts an adjoining Asian food takeout, I head straight for the refrigerated case inside the market for the best cheap sushi around. (1024 S. Bailey St., Seattle; 206-767-5002)

The way I see it, we all need a Persian grandmother — a mamabozorg whose kitchen is scented with saffron and dried Persian limes, whose torshi (pickled vegetables) is homemade, whose bademjan (roasted eggplant) is kissed with mint and topped with creamy kashke, and whose hand-rolled dolmeh (stuffed grape leaves) leave a sweet taste in your mouth. Which is why I love Pacific Market, where I frequently stop for a Persian food fix. I could take a seat at a cafe table, sip chai and practice my fractured Farsi with the hardworking mamabozorg. Instead, I inevitably opt for takeout, knowing that her handiwork will taste every bit as good at home as part of a quick, something-different dinner. (12332 Lake City Way, Seattle; 206-363-8639)

Even those who choose to sit and eat may end up taking out at Gordito's, where the Burrito Grande is a meal for two or two meals in one. Oversized tortillas work as lunch and dinner, arriving stuffed with a choice of grilled chicken, steak, pork or tofu (I'll have the beef), a scoop of black beans, another of rice, a healthy hit of lettuce, salsa, sour cream and guacamole. I'm happy to avail myself of the complimentary salsa bar and warm tortilla chips while waiting in the spacious, dual-level dining room for this gut-blasting exercise in excess. Got leftovers? Styrofoam and paper bags are stocked along the back wall. (213 N. 85th St., Seattle; 206-706-9352)

Getting My Just Desserts

The sweet tooth can start aching at any time. When it does, let me eat cake ... and please let it be the green tea tiramisu at Hiroki, whose layer of sponge, soaked with green tea and plum wine, makes this little slice of heaven lighter-than-light and translates as Japan's answer to the ubiquitous Italian-dessert question. (2224 N. 56th St., Seattle; 206-545-8472)
The cow kitsch is thick and so are the milkshakes at Theno's Dairy in Redmond, where Anne Healey of Bellevue takes an ice-cream break with her daughters, Xin and Lauren Fenner, and niece Maura Davenport.
If chocolate's in order, Simply Desserts rises to the occasion — as it has for more than 20 years — with a luscious lineup of layered lovelies (make mine a slice of chocolate espresso cake) that beg for a tall glass of milk. (3421 Fremont Ave. N., Seattle; 206-633-2671)

When my eye's set on pie instead, there's nowhere I'd rather be than the Dahlia Bakery, where Triple Coconut Cream Pie — a cloud of coconut, pastry cream and flaky crust — may be had by the bite (really), the slice or (be still my beating heart) in its entirety. (2001 Fourth Ave., Seattle; 206-441-4540)

It's hard to stop screaming for ice cream once you've tasted Vivian's Pride Gourmet Ice Cream at Theno's Dairy. Back in the days when the suburbs were still considered country, this rural sugar shack made its superior product from its own dairy cows. Then, as now, Theno's had "Sunday drive" written all over it. But suburbanization has its costs, and I'm not talking about the traffic on Bell-Red Road. Though the ice-cream recipe still relies on all-natural ingredients and hormone-free milk, that milk comes from a small farm residing elsewhere. Today, Theno's bovine beauties offer only kitsch-appeal: toy cows and other tchotchkes decorate the storefront at this ramshackle candy store-cum-dairy-stop. But Theno's still draws crowds for its season's greetings: ice cream made with Washington peaches, Oregon huckleberries and (the local fall favorite) pumpkin, all blended with care and sold for a relative pittance. Sure there's vanilla and chocolate, and ready-to-go quarts packed in the deep-freezer. There are also friendly scoopers who'll offer tastes of caramel coconut cashew, raspberry blast or mocha almond fudge, and picnic benches on which to enjoy a couple scoops in a big waffle cone. (12248 156th Ave. N.E., Redmond; 425-885-2339)

If all I need is a quick espresso and a sinful cup of gelato — offered separately or married as affogato (two scoops plus a shot of espresso) — newcomer Bottega Italiana has it all. Using a traditional gelato base and seasonal fruits, owner Luca Guerrieri — recently transplanted from Milan — offers dreamy inspirations at his minuscule gelateria just south of DeLaurenti's in Pike Place Market. I'm mad for the pistachio, the amaretto, and ooh, that lemon sorbetto! Better still is the charming, stately presence of his scoop-wielding mamma. (1425 First Ave., Seattle; 206-343-0200)

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