Dick’s Drive-In and Other Seattle Eatin’

This week’s NYT article on sense of place and food — the idea that it is more meaningful to eat, or at least purchase, food at its point of origin rather than by mailorder even though most things are available via FedEx these days — made sense to me. Many local favorites lose a bit of value now that you can get most any product anywhere in the country. Like many people, I still crave certain foods from my younger years; there’s no place like home. Our recent visit to Seattle was, among other things, an opportunity to visit a couple of old favorite restaurants and discover new ones.

I’m not sure a Dick’s Deluxe would taste as good if I didn’t first drive up to the delightfully retro-garish orange-and-white-and-glass box, place my order at the walkup window, wait and watch the perpetually in-the-background burger assembly and potato slicing, and finally walk back to my car with my paper sack full of fabulosity. Visiting Dick’s Drive-In in person and soaking up the atmosphere along with the grease is kind of the main point, beyond burgers. Some people diss Dick’s because you can’t have it your way (no picking and choosing condiments or toppings; they offer four burger options with no micromanaging allowed), but if you’re willing to relax and eat it they way they make it, that’s some mighty fine fast food burger-and-fryage, just as good as it has been for decades and still an excellent value. I had a Deluxe and a cheeseburger, and fries, and a couple of tartar sauces, and yes yes yes.  That should keep me going for a couple more years.

Other Seattle culinary adventures after the jump (sans photos as lamely usual):

  • Burger #2 was from Time Out (5807 244th Street SW in Mountlake Terrace), not too far from the ancestral home; they have a large menu of Greek and American diner food featuring superb, large, juicy burgers and breakfast all day. Greek fries were a surprise salty hit, real (and really good) potato shards topped with semi-melty feta. Total hole in the wall right on a busy road with great food.
  • Also in the ‘hood, Lake Forest Bar & Grill (17535 Ballinger, in the LFP Mall) is a fine neighborhood option, only somewhat remodeled from its days from my youth spent as a Coco’s (think Denny’s but less hip). We were a little early for trivia night, which a couple of my old high school friends apparently dominate most weeks. Nachos were okay, steak salad good, a fine variety of regional beers on tap.
  • Burger #3 was at Safeco Field via Kidd Valley, but unfortunately the ballpark outlets don’t have bacon so I had to settle for a regular cheeseburger at twice the normal price — still good though. Mariners got rolled by the Rangers but fun was had by all.
  • I hadn’t been to the venerable Uwajimaya (600 5th Avenue S.) since its relocation (many years ago!), what an incredible pan-Asian buffet of groceries, prepared foods, and household goods, plus a Beard Papa’s onsite if the world’s best cream puffs is your thing. Uwajimaya is to H-Mart as the New York Yankees are to the Bowie Baysox, except more aromatic and less obnoxious (and H-Mart is very good!). I wanted to pitch a tent and spend the week there. Giant tank of live Dungeness crabs! I settled for decent pad thai and a banh mi, but I wish I had weekly access to those meats, fish, and vegetables. Variety, quality, freshness, just amazing. Pike Place Market is a more popular tourist attraction, but Uwajimaya should be on any visiting food fan’s radar.
  • Lunch at Tsukushinbo (515 S. Main), just blocks from Uwajimaya in the International District, was a smash success; we all ordered the Wednesday Special, a big bowl of udon and a second big bowl of two large tempura shrimp shrouded in delicately fried egg and resting on a bed of steamed rice with a rich dark sauce, all for like $7.50. I wanted to try their sushi but too much food. Tiny dive, maybe eight small tables in the place, well worth seeking out on its little side street.
  • Uwajimaya sells lots of sushi but we got ours with friends at Kisaku (2101 N. 55th) in Wallingford; very fresh and tasty assortment of all kinds of fish; we went omakase and I was actually a little disappointed the chef didn’t throw anything unusual on the plate; we got unagi with quail egg at the end, best bite of the meal. Ambience okay, great neighborhood, super-engaging sushi chefs and staff.
  • Had excellent, hoppy IPAs at Hale’s Ales (4301 Leary), good stuff. Food was also above average for a brewpub: solid pear salad, expertly grilled grilled cheese, good potato salad.
  • Even better and more varied beer options at Cooper’s Alehouse (8065 Lake City) but alas I lost my notes and I forget what we tried: Ninkasi Tricerahops, maybe? Whatever it was, was great. A small sample of the New Belgium “Trip III” sour was enough, it tasted like cider, not bad though. Cooper’s rocks. Still haven’t tried the food.
  • Zao Noodle Bar (University Village) was meh, we went because, like Mallory, it was there. I took our server’s recommendation of dan dan noodles over kung pao, she seemed happy to be asked. Nothing wrong with Zao, just…meh. Fun to say, though. Zao! Kaprow!
  • Maltby Cafe (8809 Malby Road, Snohomish) wins Best Breakfast awards all the time; we went for brunch with my parents (who had been before) and although we appreciated the rural 1930s schoolhouse ambience, right down to original (replica?) mud-and-straw walls, the food was good-not-great; their famously large cinnamon roll was indeed nearly a foot square and glistening with icing (and too many raisins), but not necessarily the best ever; all portions are huge; chicken-fried steak was subpar meat quality and the softball-sized buttermilk biscuit was arid and bland; other breakfast items (eggs, thick bacon, home fries) on plates other than mine looked quite good and mostly disappeared despite being enough food for all of Maltby.
  • And finally, Wallingford Pizza (2109 N. 45th, wedged between the Guild 45th and the Guild 45th — if you don’t know, don’t ask) was Mrs. Me’s favorite meal of the visit; they do classic Chicago pizza, meaning simultaneously deep dish yet thin crust, and we tried the whole wheat crust to boot. Verdict: very very good quality, quantity, and service, plus the usual Pacific Northwest array of on-tap beer options. Mrs. Me was on the verge of placing a takeout order a couple of nights later so she could eat another pizza on the plane on the way home, but this brilliant idea was ultimately not acted on. Next time in Seattle, WP will likely join Dick’s and Cooper’s on the must-visit list.

I hadn’t realized how much we ate until just now, compiling this list…

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