CHeAp eATs Sure, it’s easy to spend $100 on a good meal, but in Seattle it’s just as easy to spend $10 on a great one. At these spots the culinary payoff is worth many times what you dish out: kedai Makan » Casual passersby like that it’s fast and fresh. Globe-hopping gourmands appreciate the spice and spirit of the Malaysianinspired street food. Together, they form a regular queue at the window of this takeout joint, twirling up curry rice noodles or duck hearts mixed into a stir-fry of local cucumbers and other creative delicacies from the rapidly changing menu. Marination Mobile » Saucy good-humor meets seriously good Hawaiian-Korean fare at the brickand-mortar outposts of what started as a food truck. Kimchi fried rice, kalbi tacos, and Spam sliders top the must-eat list at Capitol Hill’s Marination Station, while Marination Ma Kai in West Seattle has a bigger menu, including Loco Moco.
Pioneer Square Comes of age BY REBEKAH dENN
he city’s original downtown is in the midst of a restaurant renaissance. Chefs from hip neighborhoods like Capitol Hill are refurbishing stately old buildings, hand-cranking pasta, hearth-baking bread, and ushering in new stars. Now, the only thing square about it is the meals. The antique pasta machines lining the walls at Il Corvo Pasta are more than decoration: Owner Mike Easton sometimes uses them to create the changing-daily selection of fresh noodles, which he dresses with impeccably fresh sauces that might range from classic Bolognese to more adventurous combos, like red beets and basil pesto. It’s four-star dining in unfussy surroundings at bargain-basement prices. Matt Dillon, one of the city’s most celebrated farm-to-table chefs , is taking the lead on long-term in the Square. At Bar Sajor, a beautifully redecorated building with soaring ceilings and clean white wainscoting, all cooking is done in a wood-fired oven. Mediterranean meets Northwest, with platters like locally caught spot prawns grilled along with lobster mushrooms, both only briefly in season. Across the street, Dillon and business partner Katherine Anderson run London Plane in two storefronts, one a bakery, the
other featuring wine and small plates, cookbooks and housewares, and hefty rounds of the chewy country-style sourdough that has fans lining up for take-home loaves. Chef Brendan McGill, the 2013 winner of Food & Wine’s “People’s Best New Chef Award” for Bainbridge Island restaurant Hitchcock, brings a German beer hall to the Square with Altstadt. Sausages are made in-house from Washington state heritagebreed hogs and grass-fed beef (try them with house-fermented kraut and crispy Belgian frites), and McGill offers German classics like goulash—and lots of beer. At first glance E. Smith Mercantile would have looked right in place in the 19thcentury Pioneer Square. But the mercantile shop, apothecary, and gathering place has some sophisticated additions, like a cozy back bar featuring pre-Prohibition cocktails, modern specialty drinks, gourmet snacks and—the pioneers wouldn’t have recognized the term in this context—small plates. Building on their successful walk-up in Madison Valley, Wiley and PK Frank offer Thai shophouse food at this sit-down version of Little Uncle. Go for spicy cod wrapped in banana leaves, but be warned: Except for Fridays, it’s lunch only, and the food is meant to be eaten on the spot—don’t try it to-go.
Paseo » Bring cash (it’s all they take) and a voracious appetite for the hefty, juicy, Caribbean sandwiches here. What’s best is a toss-up: the Caribbean roast with its succulent marinated pork shoulder or the Cuban-style Paseo press with pork, smoked ham, cheese, and caramelized onions. Sorry, you won’t have room for both. Dick’s Drive-In » This classic is so linked to Seattle’s identity that grandparents cherish the memories of milkshakes here in the ’50s, and rap star Macklemore filmed a music video from the roof in 2013. What you’ll get is timeless: 1/8-pound fresh beef patties and fries cut each day from real potatoes rather than poured out of frozen bags. It’s cash only and ketchup costs an extra nickel. Salumi » Food this highly pedigreed—housecured charcuterie from the Batali family—rarely sells for single digits. Except at this Seattle sandwiches-and-Italian-specials hideaway. Lines form early (it’s lunch only). Order the oxtail sandwich if it’s on special and don’t worry if it’s not—it’s all molto, molto bene. —Rebekah Denn
PIOnEER SQuARE: Altstadt 209 First Ave S; altstadtseattle.com • bar Sajor 323 Occidental Ave S; barsajor.com • E. Smith Mercantile 208 First Ave S; esmithmercan tile.com • Il corvo Pasta 217 James St; ilcorvopasta.com • Little uncle 88 Yesler Way; littleuncleseattle.com • London Plane 322 Occidental Ave S; thelondonplane seattle.com • chEAP: Hdick’s drive-In multiple locations, including 115 Broadway E; ddir.com • Kedai Makan 1510 E Olive Way; kedaimakanseattle.com • Marination Ma Kai 1660 Harbor Ave SW • Marination Mobile various locations; marinationmobile.com • Marination Station 1412 Harvard Ave • Paseo 4225 Fremont Ave N; paseoseattle. com • Salumi 309 Third Ave S; salumicuredmeats.com • HFor more info on Visit Seattle dining partners, go to visitseattle.org/visitors/eat
Visit Seattle winter/spring 2013–14
FROM LEFT: OLIVIA BRENT, COURTESY dICK’S dRIVE-IN