How To || eat cheap (but good) in Seattle
Seattle used to wear that distinction proudly upon its twill lapel.
Now, thanks to the Burlap Revolution, the Emerald City is jogging unceremoniously behind its downstairs neighbor, entertaining its citizenry with the obligatory roundup of artisanal doughnuts, craft cocktails and what-have-you.
All of which might be really, really delicious. However, we were too busy eating sushi to find out. Because sushi is what you should be eating in Seattle. It's like the bagels of New York or the burritos of El Paso.
Except, of course, when it comes to price point.
Maybe this isn't anything you have to worry about, you lucky stiff. But try living on a writer's salary, and see how quickly you start calculating your hunger for unagi rolls now against the quesadilla you can make at home.
My point is that man cannot live on raw fish alone. It's just too damned expensive.
In light of that, it has been our pleasure to compile this here shortlist--a Venn diagram where all of Seattle's unlikeliest, best and cheapest food come together in one highly savory intersection.
Thanks to the combined efforts of Fremont's 9 Million whiskey bar and the International Districts Saigon Deli, I learned the perfect hangover food: banh mi.
The warm grilled pork slathered with mayonnaise, spiked with jalapeños, pickled onions and whole sprigs of cilantro, and encased in a demi-loaf of French bread comforts even as it revives.
Saigon Deli makes these sandwiches as big as your morning-after headache...and sells them for $3. Three. Dollars. Get a couple.
Saigon Vietnam Deli 1237 S Jackson St. Banh mi sandwiches $3-3.75
Market House Corned Beef
We'd never have found this place if we hadn't taken a wrong turn down out of Capitol Hill and wandered down Howell Street on our way back to the 5 onramp. Once there, however, the sign was immediately arresting--CORNED BEEF in red letters six feet high. There was something David Lynchian in the glaring obviousness of this anomaly that begged for investigation.
I guess you'd call this place a butcher shop, though really they just serve a a few variations on beef--corned beef, pastrami, and barbecue. You write your order down on the piece of paper, hand it to the guy at the counter, choose between a Guinness and an Amstel in the refrigerator, and wait until a styrofoam tray is handed to you. Brace yourself--it weighs about five pounds.
The meat inside tastes of slow, patient, loving attention, and should be appreciated this way. Actually, you can't help but eat it slowly, because it's served hot as all hell. If you don't want your car to smell like reuben for days, take a seat at the street-facing counter. Trust me, you won't remember the view.
It's served with potato salad, a cute little cookie, and a swab of horseradish that you're better off wafting under your nose, mixology style, as opposed to spreading it on your sandwich.
I got the Reuben, which was perfect--pleated mounds of pastrami painted generously with Russian dressing and sauerkraut, the malty rye bread barely held together by all the melted Swiss. Bryan ordered the barbecued brisket, which he said was the best food he'd eaten in Seattle--this from a fellow whose favorite food is sushi.
Market-House Corned Beef 1124 Howell St Sandwiches with potato salad and a cookie $7.95
Ezell's Famous Chicken
Esquire magazine declared this "the most life-changing fried chicken in America." You heard right--this family-owned chain in the Great White North edged out major contenders from Dallas, Memphis, and New Orleans.
If this bruises your regional pride, a juicy, crunch-coated bite from an Ezell's drumstick will go far to console you. So will their cream-dream potato salad, the rolls you can smell baking from all the way up the block, and their cooked-to-order livers and gizzards. (Don't knock them until you've tried them, Yankee.)
It's said that Oprah regularly has Ezell's chicken flown to her Chicago residence(s). Her signed photo hangs over the cash register, looking, um, let's just say a lot less Oprah-like. Maybe it's for the best that we're not on a Fed-Ex-me-my-fried-chicken budget.
But while we're here, throw in an order of gizzards.
A mere $6 will buy you a hefty basket of "Crack"--the name this tiny burger joint gives to its combination of hand-cut French fries paired with a demitasse-sized milkshake. This isn't a shake meant for slurping. Instead, it's a direct channel to your inner 8-year-old, who got your first taste of subversive joy by dipping your fries in a milkshake.
(If you didn't dip your fries into a milkshake when you were a kid, I've got nothing to say to you.)
Resist the urge to dither when you see all the tempting menu options here. (The Pendleton burger in particular had us rethinking our policies on cholesterol.) The real reason to visit here is the strange alchemy of the fries-milkshake combo. On their own, the fries can be a little soggy...and who of us over 25 can drink a whole milkshake? Bring these two together, though, and something happens that is more than the some of its parts. You have to try it to understand.
It's also fun to hear the line cook call out "Chocolate crack!"
Li'l Woody's 1211 Pine St. Crack (hand-cut fries with a bit of milkshake to dip in) $6
Ramen makes me get why people live here. Ramen makes the dreary weather worth it, with its melange of weird shapes and bright colors ensconced in a pork scented steam bath. Ramen makes you want to live in Seattle. It should get a medal from the civic recognition committee.
We got to Tsukushinbo on a Friday twenty minutes before it opened, having been warned that the line forms quick. It was already wrapped around the corner when we arrived. This is the best ramen in town, by all accounts, and they only serve it on Fridays, and only until the pot runs out.
Tsukushinbo is located on a noisy corner in the international district, with only the Smith Tower and the back end of Century Link Field to look at. It's also at the bottom of a wind tunnel--what with Friday being trash day, and the crew of college freshmen in front of us in line, the wait was a little rough. The only thing that eased my angst was reflecting on how much worse it would be to wait for Friday ramen in standard Seattle weather. Especially with no assurance that you'll get what you came for.
I'll finish by saying simply that it's worth it. Just get in line by 11am and you'll be fine.
Tsukushinbo 515 S Main St. Pork ramen with rice and gyoza $8.95, Fridays only
That gum you like...
A short trip out of the city is all it takes to satiate a very specific flavor of nerdery. If sometimes your arms bend back, you already know the landmarks of which I speak. Whether you're that 42-year-old who was naturally wise enough to watch the show during its original airing, or just a normal any-year-old with really good taste in directors, heading due east of Seattle brings you further into the land of Twin Peaks.
By now, all of us know that the gum we like is coming back in style, thanks to the great David Lynch. What I didn't know is how easy it is to get from Seattle to the land of Ben Horne and Norma Jennings.
First, you will head to Snoqualmie Falls. A beautiful natural sight for any pair of eyes, the falls are immensely more special to those initiated into the world of the one-armed man. Hardly anything has changed since Lynch shot the opening scene for the show:
The falls and their surroundings are unchanged enough to make you hope Bob is currently inhabiting the soul of someone far away.
After you see a few hundred thousand gallons of water pour over the edge, make your way to the Double R. Purists will sigh at seeing the name of Norma and Shelly's serving grounds changed to Twede's Cafe, but you'll still go in search of...excuse me...a damn fine cup of coffee.
The staff is friendly and the food is good, but make sure to go to the bathroom! It's the small hallway leading to the bathroom that houses the greatest gems to be discovered at Twede's. Local photographs of Lynch and the cast mix with newspaper clipping to reveal more secrets than Laura ever wrote in her diary.
Twin Peaks nerdery is definitely the main reason to visit this place, but the cherry pie they're making these days isn't half bad.
Twede's Cafe 137 W North Bend Way Coffee and cherry pie - $6.35