Sunday, August 13, 2023

Eating on the road: My Seattle food roundup

 I spent a lot of time on ferries during my Seattle trip as, in search of semi-reasonable hotel prices, the Swifties made me flee town for Bremerton. But all my extensive pre-trip research wasn't entirely wasted as I did get to try some local delicacies and culinary specialties. It's a far from comprehensive review of the Seattle food scene, but here's what I did manage.

Piroshky Piroshky Bakery, Pike Place Market

I was a little apprehensive to go to this tourist mecca on a Saturday when Seattle was invaded both by baseball fans and Swifties, but it's a foodie must-visit and I was determined to start the day at Piroshky Piroshky Bakery, a Russian bakery known for its selection of sweet and savoury piroshky -- basically, a version of the famous Scarborough patties.

There was a deceptively long line outside but it moved quickly and efficiently. There was a staff member keeping it moving and telling jokes. And there were menus outside so you could just step into the very small establishment, get your pastry and move along. On my way I did pass by another location, but it was closed and seemed designed to cater to the local breakfast business crowd.

They have many different varieties but I decided on one of the classics, the beef and cheese. It was tourist priced, but it was warn am and fluffy and flavourful, and got my day started off right. I wouldn't have objected to some spice, but this was Seattle and not Scarborough.

Jackson's Catfish Corner

A lot of my Seattle food research focused on fish and seafood, as it often does when I'm visiting somewhere ocean adjacent. And that led me to Jackson's Catfish Corner, which was well recommended for catfish and other authentic southern specialties. 

It's outside of downtown proper and the wait for transit was too long, so I hopped in an Uber for the drive. It's an unassuming place on a street corner across from a strip mall and was fairly empty, although it was doing a steady take-out business on a Saturday evening. 

I decided to dine in, of course, being a long ways from my distant hotel, and ordered the half-pound of catfish strips with hush puppies and cole slaw. There were other fish on offer -- I do enjoy snapper -- but it wasn't Snapper Corner so I went with the namesake.

It was fried fresh and they were kind enough to bring the tray to my table. I passed on the tartar in favour of ketchup, although I did sample them naked first. The cole slaw was cool and crispy and mayo-based. The fish and hush puppies were fried in a corn meal batter. It was definitely a generous portion of cat fish.

It was OK, but I think I'm not a big cat fish guy. Was a little bready and could have used more flavour. But it was an enjoyable dinner off the tourist path.

Seattle Dog # 1

Many cities have their own take on the classic American hot dog. And in Seattle, apparently that's their namesake Seattle dog. Based on my food research, the Seattle dog is a classic hot hod on a bun with some toast served with fried vegetables and cream cheese. I know, right, cream cheese? The Chicago people must be losing their minds. But when in Rome...

I decided to grab one on a Sunday morning when I had time to kill before the ball park opened. There's a long long of food stands outside the stadium, some offering seating, so I ordered a Seattle dog and a water and plopped myself down on a picnic table.

I have to say, this was not a good introduction to Seattle's namesake hot dog. The toast was minimal, the bun was falling apart, and the mixed veg was only onion -- usually peppers are included as well. But they had a cream cheese gun, which was really cool. And the cream cheese did add an interesting creamy element. More a single than a home run -- I would need to try again somewhere else.

Ivar's ballpark fish and chips -- hold the chips

Ivar's is a Seattle-based fish and chips chain with a few locations in the city and stands at the ball park and the football stadium next door. Not being wholly satisfied by the pre-game Seattle dog, I decided some fish and chips were in order.

Hold the chips, though. No need to again belabor my lack of enthusiasm for french fries. They are empty carbs I can do without. I get annoyed when, if I want chicken strips, I need to pay for the fries as well. So this day I decided they can charge me if they want but I do not want the fries, and I made this clear on ordering.

To my delight and surprise, they told me well then you get an extra piece of fish. I declared that a great idea and gladly accepted. For ball park fish these were pretty good. Probably cod if I had to guess. And there were even a few rouge fried included.  Definitely a welcome change from strips, and I would trade the fries for more fish any day and twice on Sundays.

Ivar's on the pier for chowder

Long story short, getting out of Seattle's stadium district on Sunday afternoon was a nightmare. I had planned to dine at a fancy seafood place back in Bremerton, but I missed the ferry I wanted. So with a long wait for the next state ferry, I went down the waterfront to another Ivar's location

I ordered a cup of chowder and a water, as hydration is important, and took it to the glass-enclosed pier-side table area to enjoy. It was enclosed to protect from the seagulls but also made it feel like a greenhouse, which probably did help with table turnover.

Anyway, the chowder was creamy but not overly chunky and seemed pretty processed coming out of a big bag. Still, it was tasty.

Seattle dog #2

On my last day in Seattle, an overcast Monday, I dropped my bag at the clipper terminal so I didn't have to drag it around until my afternoon ferry and went to the Space Needle area to check things out. Most of the ticket machines were out of order, but finding a functioning one the price to go up was more than I was willing to pay. So it was on to plan two.

The claimed originator of the Seattle Dog was supposedly a Space Needle-adjacent hot dog stand, and I found it next to a souvenir store between the Space Needle and the Museum of Pop Culture. Conforming that they had proper grilled veg, I ordered the namesake Seattle Dog.

I still don't feel like they executive it perfectly. The bun held somewhat together bit just barely and needed more toast. While there was a variety of grilled veg it was a little overdone. No cream cheese gun this time; they smeared it on the bun. All together though, s satisfying lunch but not one I will seek to replicate at home.

Pike Place Chowder at Pacific Place Center

Finally on Monday, before heading back to the clipper terminal I had to try what my research claimed was the city's best chowder: Pike Place Chowder. And rather than brave the masses at the Pike Place Market, I took the monorail to the Pacific Place Center Mall in the heart of the commercial district.

The mall was dead but the top floor, with an AMC Cinema and several restaurants and food stands, was not. It was around lunch time on a work day and working Seattleans were hungry for chowder.

They have a few different varieties but I went for the original clam chowder, which came with a slice of plain sourdough bead. I could have gotten it with a sourdough bread bowl but honestly, that's just a mess.

The slice of bread did nothing for me. I'm not a dipper, so I could have used some butter. But the chowder itself was excellent. Miles ahead of Ivar's the day before. Rich, creamy, and more substantive. I polished it off and turned for the ferry in a satisfied stupor.

So that was the food I managed in Seattle. I only really scratched the surface, but I did have some good chowder.

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