Eating your way through Seattle - with a child in tow!

Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

Ah, Seattle - land of glorious weather (if you time it right), fantastic culture, and incredible food...

Join us on a recent trip to visit my brother in Seattle. We focused on family-friendly meals, since we have a 5-year old daughter.

Eating your way through Seattle - with a kid in tow!

Upon arrival, we headed straight to Dick's Drive-in. This is a Seattle institution, and there are several locations - we chose the Queen Anne location, because it has inside seating (although the plastic seating leaves much to be desired, it is *still* seating) and it was on the way home. Several Dick's deluxes, chocolate milkshakes, many ketchup containers (5 cents each - reminds me of Paris), and fries Seattle-style (soggy) got us ready to explore.

We grabbed a few Japanese snacks (not so common in the Midwest) and headed to the Golden Gardens beach. This is a lovely park - lots of winding roads to get to it, and a plethora of dogwalkers! This beach, north of downtown, is a calm oasis, sheltered by trees and alive with the sounds of gulls, waves, and the clink of ropes and clips on masts from the marina next door. The jangling claims of life and travel disintegrated, washed away by the waves and the cool salty breeze. Dark clouds hovered over the hills across the Sound, while the bright sun shone down and made jewels out of the sailboats.













Later, for dinner, we stopped at two restaurants for takeout. For Ed, the Fu Man Dumpling House was the answer to his lifelong search, nationwide, to find Chinese potstickers as good as those at the Golden Dumpling in New York City. The dipping sauce was extra-garlicky (the newspaper review called it a three-Altoid alarm, although Ed thought it might be closer to a ten-Altoid alarm), and he loved it. Although the owner had a surly attitude, many repeat trips were made. As well, Ed's been tinkering with dumpling sauce at home, to try to replicate it.

Ben, Lillie, and I stopped at an amazing and highly-recommended Japanese restaurant, Toyoda Sushi. You know it is perfect when you walk in and it feels like you're bakc in Japan. The owner, Helen Toyoda, was so very kind to us and recommended the newly-arrived wild albacore and yellowtail. These were delectable additions to our sushi selection. She talked with us while we waited and watched the two sushi masters prepare our order. We laughed at her two sushi clocks (I want one! as well as the sushi ruyg and sushi bandaids, from Archie McPhee, a local Seattle store). She also told us of a Japanese dollar-type store, called Daiso. There are several locations of this store in the Seattle area! We later went there and stocked up on $1.50 everything - pottery dishes, daruma-chans, lucky racoons, neko-chans, origami paper, bags, slippers, teapots...but I digress. The entrance of Toyoda was covered with letters, Christmas cards, and photos from happy Toyoda customers and friends. You can tell a great restaurant by its loyal following. The food was exquisite. THIS is why I love to eat in Seattle.

The following morning, we headed up the block to Mae's Phinney Ridge Cafe. Famous for their huge (and delicious) breakfasts, they are also known for their eclectic decor. The chicken fried steak breakfast with eggs over-easy, crispy potatoes, and fresh hot coffee for Ben and I (with biscuits on the side - I've rarely found a biscuit I couldn't resist), an overstuffed ham and veggie omelette for Ed, and scrambled eggs and biscuit for Lillie, had us rolling out the door, sated. (NOTE: NOW CLOSED, alas!)

Later in the afternoon, we stopped by my very favorite grocery store in the nation - Uwajimaya, a Japanese mega-market. Located downtown, they have everything: a huge grocery store, a food court representing various Asian cuisines, and even an outpost of the Japanese bookstore, Kinokuniya. We stocked up on goodies for a picnic - Mongolian beef and Vietnamese meatloaf sandwiches (delicious!), potato salad with Chinese bbq pork, mochi, yakitori, sushi, spring rolls, wakame seaweed salad, rice crackers, wasabi peas, pea crackers, and some hello panda cookies - and set off to catch the ferry to Vashon Island. Once there, we drove to Maury Island and had a spectacular picnic at Point Robinson. We dined to the quiet lapping of the waves, the imposing presence of the lighthouse, the enormous jumbles of driftwood, and the ever-present seagulls. Once again, Lillie picked up some shells and rocks. Sitting on driftwood logs, looking across to Seattle - what an enjoyable picnic!












lillie beach












sushi bento












A new day - we rose early and gloried in the fresh Seattle air, looking across to Mount Rainier. We took Ben to his Seattle firefighters pipes and drums practice. It was held at a firestation in the SoDO warehouse district. Several passersby stopped to enjoy the music. Of course! After practice, we drove Ben to his fire station to work, and got the grand tour. It smelled SO good there - bbq pork was being prepared for lunch. It made us hungry, so for *our* lunch, we stopped near Ben's house at Mr. Gyros for another highly recommended meal. Truly, the best gyros I've ever eaten! This is another small gem of a restaurant, with only a few tables and danceable Egyptian music in the background. The owner was both personable and knowledgeable. The hummus was extremely smooth and tasty, and the salad was crispy with a homemade dressing and a sprinkle of sumac. He shaved enormous slices of gyros meat off the spit, tossed it into the pan, and heated it up with panache over his open flame grill. It was very exciting! Try the french fries, which are crispy, hot, and sprinkled with feta and Greek seasoning. Delicious! Ed got more dumplings from the Fu Man Dumpling House, but we enjoyed our gyros meal so much that he got his own later, for dinner, while Lillie and I ate more from the many bags of Japanese groceries we'd gotten at Uwajimaya.


The next day, we had lunch in the U district, at Thai Tom. This is truly a hole-in-the-wall joint, with two waitresses that sidle between the five tables and the few coveted stools at the counter. The main attraction (besides the amazing food) is the rock star-like chef - his fluidity and moves with the woks on the open fire stove were something to behold. The decor was authentic Thai - dark wood walls and gorgeous wooden carvings scattered around. I got pad thai (zero flames), while others got the swimming rama (with spinach) , spicy chicken, and spicy noodles. The food was heaped up on oblong banana-leaf dishes. Incredible! We also got the spring roll appetizer, with the special dipping sauce - golden fried, crunchy, yet tender and moist inside. YUM! We walked out sated yet again, and the next people in line to be seated were glad for their chance.

After perusing the plethora of fun goods at Archie McPhee (hours can be spent there!), we stopped at Cupcake Royale in Ballard. How could one resist the lavender frosting with the real lavender flowers in it? We got chocolate cupcakes, mini cupcakes, carrot cake cupcakes - delicious! The shop was quite busy, yet each customer got a beautifully packaged box for their cupcakes.

That night, we dined in the International District at Kau Kau, renowned for their bbq pork. Again, we felt like were were in NYC's Chinatown! On the large spinning lazy susan in the middle of the table, we dined from roasted pork with noodles, soy sauce chicken, garlic sauce chicken, more dumplings, and the largest bowl of steaming hot and sour soup I've ever seen. Lovely!

The next day, after stocking up on yet more yummy Asian ingredients at Central Market - a regular grocery store with *3* extended aisles of Asian food! - we made yakisoba with fresh noodles, fresh (made daily!) tofu, organic chicken, baby bok choy, and other fresh vegetables. Delicious! We tried to eat lightly, to save room for the big dinner to come, but it was difficult.

Maybe you've seen or been to one of the Brazilian steak houses? What a treat! We headed to downtown Seattle, to a Brazilian steak house called Ipanema. There is a variety of over 15 salads at a time (60 salads, total) to choose from. I know, I know - who goes to a steak house to eat salad? That is what I thought, too, before I'd been there. My favorite salad was a carrot and onion salad, with a yummy vinaigrette and lots of fresh basil. The waitress brought over freshly fried plantain, rice, beans, and a bacon/breadcrumb mixture to put on top. Then the meat guys showed up with HUGE skewers of all kinds of meat - pork, lamb, beef, sausages - all marinated and freshly grilled in a variety of ways. There were garlic beef medallions, bacon-wrapped beef steak, tri-tip, flank steak, succulent beef ribs, juicy pork ribs, spicy pork sausages, filet mignon, etc. Each diner has little tongs to grab the meat as the meat guys slice it off the skewer, so the dinner is interactive! Brazilian music in the background completed the atmosphere nicely. We made room, somehow, for the finale - grilled pineapple, sprinkled with bubbling cinnamon. It was delicious!

There are a few small authentic grocery stores that you shouldn't miss. An Italian one, called Big John's PFI, is located near Uwajimaya, at the back side of an old brick warehouse. With hardly any signage, people have no idea the treasures that await inside - 30 kinds/mixes of olives, cheeses from all over the world, salami likewise, as well as dried, frozen, and canned imported goodies - pastas, sauces, teas, fruits, etc. They also have rows of bulk items - herbs, legumes, spices, mixes, and the like. It was glorious to lift the lids and smell (especially the dark cocoa).

South of town in the middle of a group of warehouses, Maruta Shoten is a working man's Uwajimaya - smaller and more homey, with lower prices and the same authentic goods, although the selection is quite a bit smaller. A whole cooler was devoted to the raw ingredients for sushi. Lillie was entranced by the octopus arms, complete with tentacles, coiled up on styrofoam trays.

When we were hungry again, we went to Smokin' Pete's BBQ, which was quite delicious! We bought tasty, juicy pulled pork and brisket, with sides (macaroni and cheese, baked beans, coleslaw, and corn muffins). There was a variety of bbq sauces to choose from, to sauce your meal. YUM! The funniest part was the rack of bones (for dogs) by the door. Mailman thigh bones were $10 each. What a deal.

mailman thigh bones

bbq sauce












We had incredible gelato from Bottega Italiana, near Pike Market. There were amazing fruit flavors such as pear, strawberry, pineapple, raspberry, lemon, lime, and orange. Sometimes they have honey rose, and they always have vanilla and chocolate. Ed got lemon, strawberry, and orange. Lillie got strawberry. Ben chose caramel and straciatella, while i got panna cotta, pineapple, and coconut - with a great dollop of Italian hot chocolate poured on top. So velvety and smooth! The gelato guy had an Italian accent and was hilariously responsive to our many requests for small sample tastes before we made our final decisions. He was so funny and really made the experience enjoyable - laughing and joking with us. He laughed loudly at my blissful sampling of the hot chocolate - and then he really poured it on, when i ordered it atop my gelato. As we left, Lillie exclaimed loudly, "Mama, that was SO GOOD!" A coulple walking by looked at her, laughed with us, and then did a u-turn right into the gelateria.

For our final meal the night before we left, we stopped at Dick's again (for Ed, since the dumpling place was closed that day, alas) and at Hana, a Japanese sushi and udon shop - well-recommended and inexpensive. We got takeout, and dined by sunset at Volunteer Park near the Seattle Asian Art Museum. The evening sky, with the space needle at the forefront, was just gorgeous, with purples, yellows, blues, and oranges glowing softly. The food was delicious! Ben got crispy, juicy tonkatsu with plenty of thick sauce, salad, and some gyoza. I got teriyaki chicken, also with crisp salad, 3 california rolls (wasabi just right), sauced veggies, rice, and tofu. Lillie ate from both of ours and I have to say, she got the choicest bites.

night sky












On the way to the airport, we stopped again by Uwajimaya for some travel food. We bought some chilled mugicha (the buckwheat tea that we drink at home all the time), spring rolls, sandwiches for Ed, hello pandas, inari sushi, sushi - and I felt like crying as we pulled away. I loved the plethora of incredible eating options in Seattle - both in restaurants and in the stores, allowing you to eat so very well at home. I can't wait to get back.



Dick's Drive-In - various city locations.

Fu Man Dumpling House - 14314 Greenwood Ave N; 206-363-0526

Toyoda Sushi - 12543 Lake City Way NE; 206-367-7972

Uwajimaya - 600 5th Ave S; 206-624-6248;

Mr. Gyros - 8411 Greenwood Ave N; 206-706- 7472

Thai Tom - 4543 University Way NE; 206-548-9548

Cupcake Royale - 2052 NW Market St; 206-782-9557;

Kau Kau Barbecue Market - 656 S King St; 206-682-4006;

Central Market at Shoreline - 15505 Westminster Way N; 206-363-9226;

Ipanema Grill - 1224 1st Ave; 206-957-8444;

Big John's Pacific Food Importers (PFI) - 1001 6th Ave S; 206-682-2022;

Maruta Shoten - 1024 S Bailey St; 206-767-5002

Smokin' Pete's BBQ - 1918 NW 65th St; 206-783-0454;

Bottega Italiana - 1425 1st Ave; 206-343-0200;

Hana - 219 Broadway E; 206-328-1187;


Other Seattle foodie finds:


Foodie Finds: 7 More Best Places to Eat in Seattle/Puget Sound

Foodie Finds: 5 Best Places to Eat in West Seattle

Foodie Finds: The 7 Best Places to Eat in Seattle



Please see our article on MBT.