Brilliant Flavors of Barrio

21 Nov

Last Saturday morning, the last thing I wanted to do was wake up early, but the boyfriend was finally completing the move and I had to meet with a few of my MCDM’ers to work on a group project. When one of them suggested we meet for brunch at Barrio, I was totally on board. I’d heard rumors of a vast tequila selection, great guacamole [How have  I not been here before!!!], and all around great food. Those rumors did not disappoint. While I didn’t partake in a tequila flight, the well stocked bar piled high with bottles told me I would have been in good hands. I did however, order the gut-busting “best thing on the menu” (as told to me by our friendly waiter) — the Pork Belly Benedict (chile braised pork belly, toasted brioche, poached eggs, habanero hollandaise sauce, fresh tomato salsa and fried jalapeño served with papas bravas). Holy hell…. Let me first say that I don’t even like eggs benedict. If I order it, I get the hollandaise sauce on the side because I usually find it to be bland and pretty gross. Barrio’s version was a brilliant union of savory with a hint of sweet. The pork belly was expertly prepared and cooked perfectly. The eggs were exquisitely poached with no weird runny “is that going to make me sick?” sections. The real brilliance came wit the habanero hollandaise sauce — an expertly crafted rich heat that perfectly complemented the sweetness of the brioche. If you get the chance to stop by for brunch, do not miss this amazing dish at Barrio. I’m going to move on to the take-out part of my order but to hear more about this amazing brunch (& more fabulous Seattle brunch spots!), check out Seattle Weekend Brunch!

After getting through a few bites of my brunch, I knew I had to get some take-out to bring to my boyfriend to celebrate the move. Since I was there early in the day, the full menu wasn’t available but that wasn’t a problem. Fortunately, Barrio’s brunch menu has a great combination of both breakfast & lunch dishes to satisfy just about any palate. I ordered a Chicken Verde burrito (jack & oaxaca cheeses, rice, frijoles, salsa verde & crema) and a full sized Barrio Chopped Salad (romaine, red cabbage, pickled red onions, avocado, corn, tomatoes, queso cotija and pumpkin seeds with buttermilk-cilantro dressing), guacamole with chips, as well as a side of biscuits with honey butter. [The boyfriend is a sucker for a good biscuit.] I even ended up with at least half of my brunch left over since it was so filling!

Fast forward a few hours, add some exhaustion and you’ll find where I was at by the time we were ready to stop & inhale our take-out. In the flurry to get everything onto our plates, I forgot to photograph each dish in its container. I can honestly say that it was well packed, with the dressing carefully placed in the salad box as to not crush the ingredients. Everything was labeled & ready to enjoy!  We decided to just split everything and boy was I glad we did!

The guacamole was divine! Freshly made-to-order at Barrio every time! By now you’ve realized the love affair I have with guacamole, and this was definitely one of the best in Seattle.  The only disappointment was that I had forgotten to ask for some of the amazing salsa they put out on the table with chips while you wait for your food. The chips were super fresh, crispy and salty… the way they should be! The portion was ample and we had enough to eat with dinner and snack on the following day.

The burrito was delicious and appropriately sized. It was surprisingly filling for the size. [I’m used to gorging myself on taco truck burritos that  resemble a small brick.] This is definitely not that kind of place, but what Barrio’s burrito lacked in size they made up for with flavor. The chicken was seasoned well and the ingredients were fresh and flavorful. They’ve captured an amazing blend of ingredients so they didn’t need to add a lot to it. To complement the burritos, they serve escabeche slaw on the side. Unfortunately, the slaw that came with our food didn’t make it to our plates. It had an untimely death by my klutzy hands. It did look delicious though!

The salad was fresh and full of sizable chunks of avocado, corn, tomatoes, cheese crumbles and pumpkin seeds. I was pretty surprised it still looked as good since it had been sitting in my car for a few hours. For that reason we didn’t want to take any chances with the creamy dressing it came with and added our own, but again it looked good! All in all it was a great (couple of) dining experience(s) at Barrio and I’ll definitely be back.

Here’s the breakdown:

Food: GREAT! Fresh, carefully selected, and brilliantly executed!
Price: On the nicer side so the price shows. My breakfast, take-out order & a cup of coffee came to a little over $50 before tax or tip on the brunch menu so lunch/dinner/drinks would likely run higher.
Overall: Good for special occasions or when you can afford to spend a little more. Will definitely be back to Barrio!

What they think:

Yelp

Barrio Mexican Kitchen & Bar on Urbanspoon

Want to visit Barrio online? Check out their website or find them on Facebook!

You love me, you really really love me! (That’s what this means right?)

15 Nov

Today I had the fabulous surprise of learning that Jessica over at More than a Military Spouse nominated me for a Liebster Award.  Liebster is a German word meaning dearest, and the award is given to up-and-coming bloggers with less than 200 followers who deserve some recognition and support to keep on blogging.

Here’s how it works. There are 4 steps to receiving this award:

1. List 11 things about yourself.
2. Answer your nominator’s 11 questions.
3. Choose up to 11 bloggers with less than 200 followers and ask them your own questions.
4. Inform your nominees of their award nominations.

11 Things About Me:

  1. I’m a gadget junkie, and can be found constantly drooling over the latest devices, apps & other geekery.
  2. I was born in Hawaii, grew up in New Jersey and have made Seattle my home for the past 5 years.
  3. I used to drive a VW Beetle nicknamed the Death Bug since it liked to break down in sketchy locales.
  4. I love condiments. I’m what you’d call a condiment connoisseur.
  5. I wore a coconut bra & grass skirt to a close friend’s wedding in Maui… and still only won 2nd place for most outrageous outfit!
  6. I recently (re)watched the entire Law & Order: SVU series from the beginning… then started on Criminal Intent. While I dig Eames & Goren, there’s no better duo than Benson & Stabler.
  7. My favorite dish is eggplant parmesan… especially when it’s made by one of my best friend Marissa’s mom or grandma…. it doesn’t get much better. It’s one of the things I miss most about living on the East Coast.
  8. I talk a lot of trash in my fantasy football league, even when I’m losing pathetically…. which happens weekly.
  9. I’ve lived in lots of neighborhoods in Seattle in my short time here — Ballard, Fremont, South Lake Union & Queen Anne.
  10. Last Christmas I boycotted a traditional menu and made Beef Brisket with Bacon & Blue Cheese, on Rosemary rolls from the Essential Baking Company. It was the best brisket I’ve ever had (though Salt Lick near Austin, TX is a pretty close 2nd).
  11. I spent my summers on the Jersey shore and can’t believe the devastation that Sandy brought. I encourage everyone to help out this battered region however you can! Check out the Red Cross or Jersey Shore Hurricane News (if you’re in the area) for volunteer & donation opportunities!

Jessica’s questions:

  1. What sparked your blog idea? I really loved the idea of having a food blog but a) don’t have the time to go out to dinner all the time and b) wanted to address a huge challenge I always had… finding out if a restaurant’s take out is worth it! I’ve made quite a few BAD take out decisions and hope my blog can help steer people toward a GOOD takeout experience. Hopefully I won’t have to give too many bad reviews!
  2. What’s been the most difficult part about blogging? TIME! There’s just never enough of it!
  3. What have you learned in the process of blogging? Slowly but surely I’m getting more comfortable writing & publishing things without giving each post a million reviews!
  4. If you’re on Twitter, whose your favorite person to follow? If not, favorite Facebook page? @Oatmeal or @ImTheCurmudgeon
  5. What’s your favorite food? Since I talked about my favorite dish in my list, I’ll give you my favorite ingredient — avocados! Everything is better when you add avocado! (ok maybe not everything…)
  6. If you could only make one trip, where is the one place you want to visit in the world? Hmm… a tie between Tahiti and Australia
  7. What are you most looking forward to this holiday season? The fireworks off the Space Needle at New Years! I just moved to a new place in Queen Anne with a perfect view from the roof!
  8. What’s that last book that you read (for fun)? Game of Thrones. Amazing. I’d recommend watching HBO’s show before reading it if you’re bad with names… there are a LOT of characters, all with long, confusing names.
  9. What do you think about Pinterest? Love it & hate it. It’s super fun but I have no self control so I need to limit my sessions or I’d never get anything done! There’s so much fun stuff out there!
  10. What’s your favorite magazine? W… gorgeous!
  11. Holiday cards: a do or don’t? I do, but mostly because I’m far away from a majority of my family & the people I grew up with. It’s possibly the one tradition I do consistently.

The winners!

These are some of my fellow MCDMers’ blogs, foodies, and friends! In no particular order, but I hope you all enjoy their blogs as much as I do.

  1. Sautéed Garlic & a Veggie Box 
  2. Seattle Weekend Brunch
  3. Globalization Ramen
  4. The Swombardi Chronicles
  5. Restrictions Turned Creative
  6. Women and Advertising
  7. Ten Thousand Takes
  8. Digital Noms
  9. Purple Rosemary
  10. Vintage 1969
  11. Dog Gone Seattle

My questions for these bloggers:

  1. How did you choose your blog’s theme/topic?
  2. What will you be most thankful for this Thanksgiving?
  3. What’s your favorite restaurant and why?
  4. If you could eat just one thing for the rest of your life, what would you choose?
  5. What’s your dream vacation?
  6. What’s your favorite website?
  7. If you’re on Twitter, whose your favorite person to follow? If not, favorite Facebook page?
  8. Where are you from?
  9. If you had to change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
  10. What’s your favorite Seattle spot?
  11. (Sorry had to do it) Where did you have your best take out experience and what did you have?

So that’s it! Who are some of your favorite bloggers? Thanks again to Jessica for the award! Check out her blog, More than a Military Spouse!

Split Personality in the Admiral District of West Seattle at Brickyard BBQ… or is it Guadalajara?

13 Nov

We’re still in the process of moving the boyfriend out of his apartment in West Seattle into our new Queen Anne digs, and were working hard over the weekend getting things packed and loaded into our cars. As a treat, we thought we’d grab some delicious barbecue from Brickyard BBQ before heading back to Queen Anne. All afternoon we talked about what we were going to order & how great it was going to taste while relaxing after our packed day. I was probably daydreaming about ribs every 30-40 minutes! [Anyone who knows me, knows I take my ribs seriously!!!] After loading up our cars, the boyfriend took off and I headed over to Brickyard to grab our dinner. It was a pretty miserable day so I wasn’t surprised that the outside seating was empty and it was an off time (4-ish) so I didn’t think twice that only the bar was busy. [By busy I mean there were maybe 8-10 other people in there, but it’s a small bar area.] The building was plastered with Brickyard BBQ signage, including what looked to be a new beer-sponsored banner near the entrance, as well as a sandwich board promoting the daily special — a pulled pork sandwich with fries. You can imagine my surprise when I walked up to the bar and asked if I could place a take-out order and was handed a menu that said Guadalajara full of Mexican food. [Mind you I also had to ask for the menu, I just got a “sure, what do you want” when I asked about take-out.]

Chicken “Super” Nachos from Guadalajara

Frustrated & disappointed that I wasn’t going to get my rib fix but exhausted enough not to leave, I decided to give this place the benefit of the doubt and placed an order. After telling the bartender my order (Chicken fajitas, Steak burrito, & Chicken Nachos) he chuckled and remarked that I was probably going to “clean him out of cheese”.  I wasn’t quite sure how to take that comment. It made me very uneasy that my 3 items were going to clean out a Mexican restaurant of cheese. I shrugged it off and told myself I was being silly. Five minutes later, the bartender came back from the kitchen and told me they didn’t have chicken. He explained (rather poorly I might add) that the “grilled chicken” was “still in the big pack and not separated” so it would probably take an hour if I wanted that…then mumbled something under his breath about that’s why they had the pulled pork on special. When I asked if they had already started cooking anything else and explained that the boyfriend had given me strict instructions to bring him something w/ chicken, he said that they did have the shredded chicken used in the nachos, just not the chicken breasts. With the exhaustion setting it, I asked to see the menu again and said I’d choose something that used the shredded chicken… unfortunately none of the chicken dishes were made with that. To compromise I asked if I could just get the fajitas but have the shredded chicken since I couldn’t wait an hour for this food to be ready. He looked perplexed and said, “Are you sure?” which really made me nervous but I was in it to win it at that point.

Fajitas made with shredded chicken from Guadalajara

Ten to fifteen minutes later I got the bill, which the bartender had graciously taken 50% off of the chicken fajitas, so I paid and tipped generously. [I really appreciate when restaurants try to make things right when a snafu like this pops up!]  A few moments later my food was ready. Usually I check everything right away to make sure I don’t leave without something important but I was anxious to get home by this point (and it would have required me trying to untie the plastic bags).  After getting back to Queen Anne, I unpacked everything and realized that they forgot the tortillas for the fajitas… a pretty essential piece of that dish. Too tired to go back out again, the boyfriend & I just split the steak burrito & nachos and figured we’d get some tortillas the next day and have leftovers.

Steak burrito from Guadalajara

I learnedThe food was just ok. Nachos were decent, but the guacamole served with each of the dishes was really dark like it had been left out in the air for hours. The beans tasted like they came from a can. The burrito wasn’t terrible but certainly won’t bring me back there. Obviously the fajitas were a wash since we didn’t get the tortillas. Plus, he was right, it didn’t really work with the shredded chicken… All in all it was a pretty disappointing dining experience, even for Americanized Mexican food which can be hit or miss on its own. What’s most frustrating is that I learned that Guadalajara took over Brickyard BBQ in early September… it’s now almost November and NONE of the signage has been changed??? It doesn’t sound like this business is off to a good start and the only place I can find this new Guadalajara location [they actually have another West Seattle location and possibly another, but no business website I can find to confirm!] acknowledged is by these random posts by the Stranger and West Seattle blog.

Here’s the breakdown:

Food:  Mid to low quality Mexican. If you’re in the mood for a burrito find an El Camion truck for a great one!
Price:  Not a great value for the price. The burrito was $10.95, Fajitas $13.95 (minus $6.98 for the discount he gave me), $8.50 for the Nachos. Normally this would make me happy but I can get better quality food for less at my favorite taco truck.
Overall:  Disappointing. I hope that this is just a result of some growing pains of starting a new restaurant. If I’m back in the area, I’ll probably opt for Mission if I have a Mexican craving since they’re right across the street AND offer one of my favorite things — plantain chips & guacamole!

What they think:
Yelp*
Guadalajara Restaurants on Urbanspoon

*Had to use the other Guadalajara location for these because no one has reviewed this one yet!

Want to visit Guadalajara online? I can’t find their website or Facebook page, but did find a Google+ page! If you know what their website is, let me know & I’ll add it!

Fajita fixins (sans tortillas) from Guadalajara

Dick’s Drive-In, Dangerously delicious…

9 Nov

That was way too easy…

Last night I got a hankering for some good ‘ol fashion grease and succumbed to the temptation of Dick’s Drive-In. I recently moved to Queen Anne, just a short 2 blocks away from the gloriousness that is Dick’s…. which is a dangerous combination for a spontaneous diner like myself. It’s going to take a whole lot of self control to keep this from becoming a habit because it was just too easy.  [I literally rationalized going because we were already taking the pup on a walk…] I convinced the boyfriend he needed a shake and we were off.

Two orders of fries, a Dick’s Deluxe, and 2 shakes (chocolate & strawberry) later we were settled cozily on the couch enjoying our greasy fix. Let me begin by saying I really, really, REALLY love french fries. What I love even more than fries are the condiments to dip them in. I keep a well stocked fridge of ketchup, BBQ sauce, dressings, etc. but nothing could prepare me for the brilliance that my boyfriend introduced me to. I grabbed a tray to bring our tasty treats over to the couch and my boyfriend (as if this was the standard thing to do) stopped me,  then placed a ramekin filled with chocolate shake on the tray with a look that said “how dare you try to leave before the chocolate shake dipper was ready”.

Fries about to be dipped in chocolate shake… brilliance

Wow. Fries dipped in chocolate shake. It doesn’t get much better when you really want a grease fix in Seattle, and it’s definitely a result of both ingredients already being so delicious on their own. The fries are touted as 100% real potatoes that are hand cut daily, which begs the question – What are those other burger joints feeding us??? You can taste the freshness of the fries and I really appreciate that, especially when they’re available for a mere $1.50 per order. [Again… this is TOO easy!] As for the shakes, they’re amazing as well. The fact that they use REAL ice cream, and actually make it soft enough to sip through a straw makes it a great experience. [Huge pet peeve of mine is when a shake is too frozen/hard to actually use the straw.] Both the chocolate and strawberry versions had great flavor that really complemented the fries & burger–  Not overly sweet, but just enough to play well with the salt and grease.

Moving on to the burger… I can’t fault the Dick’s Deluxe (double 1/8 pound grilled patties with melted cheese, lettuce, mayonnaise and pickle relish on a fresh, locally made bun) for anything. It’s a great burger, and even better dipped in a little ketchup if you ask me! Dick’s uses 100% real beef (so keep on truckin’ if you’re looking for pink slime!) and brags that their burgers are delivered fresh and never frozen. I wish more fast food joints would figure out that this is the type of thing that keeps customers coming back again and again. Earlier this year Esquire Magazine did a poll for the “Most Life Changing Burger” and expected the usual suspects (national chains like In-n-Out, 5 Guys or Steak ‘n Shake) to claim the title but Dick’s won by a whopping 56%!

Esquire Poll Results

With results like that, it’s no surprise that Dick’s has also claimed a spot on Eater’s list of the top 20 most iconic dishes in Seattle and topped the list of local celebrity chef, Tom Douglas’s favorite burgers in Seattle. [Tom agrees that they’re best when paired with a shake! Wonder if he’s ever dipped his fries…] While I would certainly agree that Dick’s is a great burger joint, and easily a front runner in Seattle, this conversation often spurs another… Is Dick’s better than In-n-Out? Having had the pleasure of enjoying both, I still can’t decide. I love them both, but in different ways. I love In-n-Out’s secret menu, and enjoy being able to get my burger ‘animal style’, my fries ‘extra crispy’ and a Neapolitan shake (vanilla/choc/strawberry) but Dick’s is a great experience too, and I’d wait in a pretty considerable line to get my fix. [That’s my personal litmus test since I’m rather impatient.]

What do you think? 

Since I’m sure by now you’re also thinking of reasons you need to stop by Dick’s, here’s the breakdown:

Food:  High quality greasy goodness. Definitely better than you’ll get at Mc Donald’s or Burger King, but don’t mistake this burger joint for a gourmet dining experience.
Price: CHEAP! $1.50 for fries, $2.70 for a Dick’s Deluxe burger, & $2.15 for a shake — you can’t go wrong for a quick bite!
Overall: Tasty, quick and cheap without a sacrifice on quality. A pretty dangerous combo for your waistline if you’re in walking distance to a Dick’s location!

What they think:
Yelp
Zagat
Dick's Drive-in (Queen Anne) on Urbanspoon

Want to visit Dick’s online? Find them on Facebook and Twitter!  Since they’ve been a notable part of Seattle’s history, enjoy this video full of memories from their website!

Domino’s Exceeds Expectations… No, really!

27 Oct

Domino’s Pizza Tracker with Romance skin

When my boyfriend suggested Domino’s for a quick dinner solution while packing up to move I reluctantly agreed (mostly out of pure exhaustion). I remembered hearing they had an app where you could place and track your order easily so I quickly downloaded it. I figured this would be our most efficient way of ordering and boy, was I right. A few years ago I attempted to order from Domino’s from Ballard, and was dismayed when the two closest locations told me I was out of their delivery area, so I was hoping we wouldn’t run into that problem again. The app made all of that a breeze. From automatically choosing the Domino’s that serviced my address, to making it easy to opt for coupons and special promotions and the most important of all, making it easy to customize my pizzas exactly how I wanted them. I was also impressed that there are now new options like gluten-free pizza crust and and expanded topping options.

We chose a special for 2 Medium 2-topping pizzas for $5.99 each. After selecting the coupon through the app, we were given the opportunity to select the crust, sauce and toppings for each pizza. I opted for a thin crust, default “savory” sauce, spinach and “premium” grilled chicken. He went for hand tossed crust, default “savory” sauce, pepperoni and mushrooms. Since my pizza included a “premium” topping, it was about 30 cents more.  In about 5-10 minutes, we had placed our order and got to watch the ‘pizza tracker’ (also available via web browser) and had the option to ‘send a note of encouragement’ to our pizza team.

In the last screen shot, you’ll notice that the app actually saves your address for future orders too! The pizza tracker is something Domino’s is obviously having fun with, by offering special ‘skins’ you can chose when viewing via web browser. It’s also very helpful, you know exactly what’s going on with every step of the process including the first name of the people working on your order! As soon as your order is deemed ‘completed’ you also have the opportunity to rate the process and send feedback to the location that prepared your order. In my opinion, Domino’s really excelled at using mobile technology to create a great experience for their customers. The app is easy to use, well-designed and really offers a seamless experience for the user — which I think shouldn’t be overlooked. I work a lot with mobile apps and you’d be surprised at some of the crazy things people suggest that would never work in a mobile environment.

Enough about the app (since I’m obviously a fan), what really matters here is the food. I’ve never considered Domino’s to be great food, but I was pleasantly surprised by the quality and taste of everything we ordered. Even better, it came to less than $20 for what ended up being 2 meals for 2 people — something I especially appreciated since moving always puts a big dent in my checkbook. Let’s start with the thin crust.

Domino’s medium thin crust with spinach & grilled chicken

Domino’s thin crust pizza is definitely thin. It’s crispy and almost cracker-like, so I wouldn’t recommend piling on too many toppings. The grilled chicken and spinach were just enough to add flavor but not weigh down the crust too much so it falls apart. Since it’s on the thinner side, be prepared to eat more than you would with a ‘normal’ or ‘deep dish’ crust. (I basically inhaled it!) Another thing to remember is that it’s cut in squares (vs. slices) so it’s great for kids or if you just want to try a small piece. In fact, I’m considering getting a few different options for my next football watching get together since the form really lends itself to snacking!

Domino’s hand tossed crust with pepperoni & mushrooms

Moving on to the next pizza, a Domino’s ‘hand tossed’ version with pepperoni and mushrooms. My boyfriend will argue that this is (hands down) the best pizza topping combination, and even a mostly-wary-of-mushrooms kind of girl like me has to agree. Domino’s really gets toppings. The pepperoni was thinly sliced but abundant, the mushrooms were chopped in small but savory pieces and best of all, the toppings were spread evenly over the crust so every slice had the flavor you were looking for. As a person who spent a majority of my life in the tri-state area (NY, NJ, CT), I’m a little bit of a pizza snob and one of my biggest pet peeves is when the toppings are added without any rhyme or reason — that definitely didn’t happen here.

All in all, this was a pretty good take-out experience. Ordering was easy and efficient, delivery was prompt, and food was tasty. Here’s the breakdown:

Food:  Definitely above average. Tasty fresh ingredients and crusts.
Price: GREAT value.
Overall: Tasty, quick and cheap — my favorite!

Here’s what other people think:

Yelp (Link is to location that serviced my order, do a quick search to find out more about your closest location!)

Domino's Pizza (Lower Queen Anne) on Urbanspoon

Want to order from Domino’s? Download their app for iPhone, Android or the Kindle Fire! Find Domino’s on Facebook and Google+, and @Dominos on Twitter!

RU Hungry? Better get your Grease Truck fix before they’re gone!

10 Oct
RU Hungry by SeePatWalk
RU Hungry, a photo by SeePatWalk on Flickr.

This past Sunday, I had an insatiable urge for one of my favorite pre and post football game treats (and really anytime I feel the need for some artery-clogging deliciousness). A fat sandwich. Now most of you might be totally confused but my fellow Rutgers alumni and New Jersey natives know the glorious greasy goodness that is a Fat sandwich. Since I’m now living in Seattle, a trip to the infamous Grease Trucks wasn’t in the cards but I wasn’t about to let that stop me.

Parody on the Rutgers logo

Before I get to my pitiful attempt at satisfying my Fat Darrell craving, let me help you understand the amazingness that is the Grease Trucks. The Grease Trucks are a group of food trucks located in a parking lot along College Avenue on the New Brunswick campus of Rutgers University who have been feeding Rutgers and the surrounding areas since the early 19080s. Situated between Vorhees Mall (main classroom area on College Ave) and the unofficial ‘Frat Row’ and a block away from the main strip of bars in the area, they’re perfectly located for a quick fix between classes or to soak up the booze in your belly after a night out. The sad thing is, the Grease Truck’s days may be numbered due to construction projects popping up in the area.

Grease Truck menu, courtesy of Evil Jay on Flickr

Now what makes the Grease Trucks so special? Fat sandwiches of course. A plethora of often deep fried items like fries, chicken fingers, burgers, gyro meat, cheese steaks, bacon, mozzarella sticks… all held together with an Italian roll (or hoagie roll for my Philadelphians). It’s basically a meal shoved into a roll… and it’s amazing! If you don’t believe me, take it from greasy spoon connoisseur Adam Richman from Man vs. Food.

My homemade, all natural version of the Fat Darrell

Fast forward to Sunday morning, all I could think about was planning the menu to accompany my lazy day of football. With a distance close to 3,000 miles separating me from the Grease Trucks, I knew the only way to satisfy my craving would be to attempt to make my Fat Darrell, the #1 rated sandwich by Maxim Magazine in 2004. I popped into a nearby Whole Foods and grabbed a fresh ciabatta roll, frozen Alexia mozzarella sticks, frozen Applegate organic chicken strips, then french fries and marinara sauce from the Whole Foods hot food bar. Now Whole Foods gives this sandwich another dimension with organic and baked ingredients, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that the real thing is even tastier (and a whole lot cheaper to make). Did it satisfy my craving? Sure… but it also reminded me of a few other places to try in the area that might be up to the challenge of satisfying my greasy-spoon craving.

Are there any iconic take-out places in the Seattle area like this? If you have any great places you’d like me to talk about here, please let me know by commenting!

R U Hungry on Urbanspoon

Ayman Elnaggar, the owner of my favorite Grease Truck, RU Hungry?
Image courtesy of Karsten Moran for The New York Times

Quick and easy in Queen Anne with Genki Sushi

8 Oct

After a long day of apartment hunting and an awe inspiring visit to the King Tut exhibit at Pacific Science Center, we were hungry and exhausted. A quick search on Yelp & Urban Spoon wasn’t helping me find any nearby take-out gems so we stopped off at Genki Sushi on the way home. Initially, we were just going to grab some take-out but I knew once we arrived and I saw my boyfriend’s eyes light up at the sight of the conveyor belt we weren’t getting off that easy. I wasn’t too hard to convince since my stomach had been audibly growling for the prior 30 minutes and I already knew I was in for a treat, having been to a Genki location in Hawaii.

The conveyor belt passes our tower of plates & take-out container

For those of you unfamiliar with Kaiten Sushi, customers sit around a rotating conveyor belt and pick what they want as it passes. You also have the option of ordering special items but most people stick to the belt. The waitstaff takes beverage (and special) orders but really excels at keeping your plate covers cleared and tallying up your plate totals before you go. The great thing about Genki, and other Kaiten sushi places like Blue C, is that you can easily keep track of your spending with the easy color-coded plates. Each plate has a set price displayed on the menu. The menu is also a great place to figure out what is actually inside some of the interesting ‘Signature’ rolls you can find at Genki.

Spicy Tempura roll from Genki Sushi, courtesy of Sarah_Browning on Flickr

As exhaustion set in, we decided to inhale a few bites there and take some to go for later. There were SO many options. And even more if you popped open the menu! I love sushi, so I tend to like whatever is put in front of me but for those of you a little more conservative this is a great place to try new things! My favorites (outside of fresh nigiri options) from Genki were the Cobra roll (Shrimp tempura, carrot, cucumber, avocado & house special sauce), Dragon roll (BBQ eel, avocado, cucumber, Eel sauce, & sesame seeds), Spicy tempura roll (Shrimp tempura, spicy tuna, eel sauce, sweet chili sauce, & green onions) and the Genki roll (Spicy tuna, cucumber, albacore tuna, onion mix, Japanese ponzu sauce, & fine red pepper flakes).

The waitstaff was very accommodating and offered me multiple sizes of take-out containers to pack up whatever we weren’t going to enjoy at the restaurant. I chose to fill a few larger containers and opted against any soup to keep things easy. It also helped that with every bite I packed up another two were enjoyed immediately making my job much easier! Since this blog is about take-out, here’s what to know when visiting Genki for your to go needs:

  • Let them know you just want take-out and what types of containers you need, as well as if you want anything ‘extra’ (soups other sides like the edamame salad).
  • Make sure you don’t forget to pack some wasabi & ginger from the small jars/bowls directly in front of the conveyor belt. Genki will provide packets of soy sauce if you need them, so don’t risk spilling soy by trying to pack it up in your to go container.
  • Stack up your plates by color so it’s super easy to tally them up!
  • TRY NEW THINGS! The plates are small and make it easy to try new things without the risk of spending a ton of money at a fancy sushi place on a huge roll you won’t like!

Ok, here’s the breakdown!

Food: Delicious, interesting Signature rolls. Fish was very fresh & plates were refreshed constantly on the belt
Price: GREAT! While I can inhale sushi like it’s air so my bill is never that cheap, for a normal person this is probably a good deal. And if you’re watching the bank you can easily keep track of costs by the color coded plates.
Overall:  Try it! If not for take-out, a quick stop in will fill your Kaiten sushi craving! I’m a big fan of Blue C too, but what stood out about Genki was the wide variety of options and their Signature rolls. Oh yeah, and they’re open until 2am on the weekends :)

And here’s what other people think:

Yelp

Genki Sushi on Urbanspoon

Want to visit Genki Sushi? In WA, you’ll have to go to Factoria, Renton, Queen Anne or Capital Hill, but they’re also great for quick bite in Hawaii or California! You can find them on Twitter at @genkisushiWA or on Facebook!

Marination Station, serving up a side of Aloha with every bite!

5 Oct

Marination Station, located above QFC in Capital Hill at the corner of Pike & Broadway

I’ve always been a big fan of Marination Mobile but my schedule and location don’t always give me the opportunity to stop by for a tasty bite. Luckily, in April of 2011 they excited Seattle (especially me!) by opening Marination Station, a brick & mortar version of their popular mobile food truck. They feature a delectable fusion of Hawaiian and Korean fare, perfected by the amazing marinades crafted by co-owner Kamala. Don’t take my word for it, try it yourself…not convinced? Well, Anthony Bourdain, as well as a slew of foodies agree and ABC’s Good Morning America even voted them America’s Best Food Truck!

Marination Station Feast!

I admit, I might be a little biased — I’m half Hawaiian, and this food takes me on a little vacation back to my grandmother’s kitchen every time. On this visit we opted for two tacos, a slider, quesadillas, mac salad (a must if you ask any Hawaiian), and slaw. Let’s get one thing straight. While this sounds like I’m visiting another Mexican joint, the brilliant blend of flavors you find at Marination are definitely Hawaiian and Korean. Options like Kalua Pork, Spam (don’t knock it ’til you try it!), and Kalbi Beef would even impress my discerning grandmother!

Tacos & Slider from Marination Station

For our tacos, we opted for the nationally-recognized spicy pork and Kalbi beef (a personal favorite). Each taco is made with two warm corn tortillas, stuffed with your choice of meat (or “sexy tofu”) and topped with Marination’s signature Nunya Sauce and tangy, crunchy slaw. The spicy pork is a “progressive version of the classic Korean bulgogi” and definitely packs a little heat. The Kalbi beef is made from tender short ribs marinated in Kamala’s version of the iconic Korean recipe, a splendor of soy, garlic & citrus. (They also have Kalbi tofu for the non-carnivore customers.) For those who like a little extra heat (yes please!) a few jalapeno slices are included on the side.

Moving on to the Kalua pork slider, I must begin by saying that when it comes to Kalua pork, I’m a snob. I’ve been to countless luaus and family parties where they prepare this in the traditional way, using an underground oven called an imu lined with ti and banana leaves. Most mainland recipes call for liquid smoke which does NOT replicate the true flavor well (in my opinion). Marination does not disappoint. Perfect flavor, juicy and delicious, coupled with a bit of Nunya sauce and slaw, all tucked into a warm bun make this one of my favorite ways to enjoy Kalua pork. (And possibly the fastest…. I could marathon eat these!) For those of you feeling adventurous (or already aware of how delicious SPAM can be) they also offer SPAM sliders. According to their website, “you wouldn’t know it was SPAM if we didn’t tell you” and that’s probably true. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying all SPAM is great… they have some questionable varieties in Hawaii (and Uwajimaya sometimes) but once again, Marination does it right.

Marination Station’s take on mac salad

Throughout the meal we dove into the tasty macaroni salad and slaw which did not disappoint. For anyone who has had the pleasure of visiting Hawaii, you know that a traditional ‘plate lunch’ isn’t complete without a scoop of macaroni salad. Again, Marination hits it out of the ballpark. Delicately coated and mixed with shredded carrots and tasty chunks of SPAM then topped with some green onion make this macaroni salad a great complement to the menu. The slaw also complements the menu but in a different way. It’s used on all the tacos and sliders, as well as available on the side. What I really enjoy about this slaw is that it’s super fresh and not drowning in mayonnaise or sauce like traditional American coleslaw. There’s a hint of flavor but it’s not wet and soggy, making it almost a salad-type side. This is definitely the side to chose if you’re watching the waistband or prefer to dedicate your calories to something a little more decadent… like the quesadillas.

Marination’s delicious Kalua pork & Kimchi Quesadilla

Oh where do I start with these quesadillas… they’re like a party in my mouth. Cheesy kalua pork goodness inside, topped with expertly chopped kimchi, drizzled with Nunya sauce and finished with a generous handful of sliced jalapenos. These are certainly filling and probably not the healthiest thing on the menu but MAN are they delicious. I’m usually happy to share this with someone so I can enjoy a taco too, since this option can certainly be a gut buster.

A few other options we didn’t indulge with this time but I wholeheartedly endorse are the Kimchi fried rice (I always add Kalbi beef) and the Spicy Pork Torta (I think this is only available at the Station, but don’t quote me on that).  Now that I’ve made your tummy start to rumble, here’s the breakdown:

Food: Delicious, quick & easy! A few veggie options but much more for my fellow carnivores. They’re also one of the few places in WA where you can get delicious Hawaiian juice drinks (love me some Passion-Orange-Guava!)
Price: I definitely don’t feel ripped off here, prices are average and certainly reasonable for the yummy food you get. Love that there’s a parking lot (30min free!) a few steps away.
Overall: TRY IT!!! I love this place and will certainly be back….again and again. AND they do catering…

Since I raved so much about packaging in my last post, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention it. As you can see by the photos, Marination goes with simple paper trays in various sizes. For taking it away, they cover with foil and pack in a box when you have a larger order. Sufficient since the sauces are already on the food.

Want to know what other people think? Here’s what they’re saying:

Yelp

Marination Station on Urbanspoon

Check out Marination online here: http://marinationmobile.com/ or @Curb_Cuisine on Twitter or on Facebook!

Mexico!

2 Oct

On Monday, October 1st, all I could do was think about what I’d be having for dinner. While I certainly love food, this intoxication of my mind with thoughts of these tasty morsels was driven by another means. I had been eating a very restricted diet for days, followed by 24hrs of liquids only in preparation for a medical procedure. For days all I could think about was this meal so it had to be good. Fast forward to 4pm Monday. I was positively ravenous and decided to head to Mexico.

Mexico Cantina y Cocina is a (quite random) mexican restaurant on the top floor of the Pacific Place mall in downtown Seattle. By now I’m sure you’re thinking “she must be crazy, wanting mall food this bad”. You’d be right. This is no suburban mall food court cuisine, Mexico uses fresh ingredients and has some of the best salsa I’ve found in Seattle. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not claiming that Mexico is uber-authentic or the best mexican in town, but it does take-out right.

Usually I’d call my order in, and walk over from my apartment in South Lake Union but today was different. I was still a little woozy from my procedure so I had a chauffeur for the evening (my boyfriend). We opted for the more expensive route of paying for parking at Pacific Place while we waited for our order. Unless you’re already shopping at Pacific Place, I’d opt for walking or a street spot nearby. After our order was taken at the host’s counter, we waited for a few minutes at a booth in the front of the restaurant. Because we showed up at 4pm, the restaurant was pretty slow (bar area was a bit livelier) so we got our food in a quick 15 minutes. In another 10 we were ready to enjoy our fajitas, burrito, guacamole, chips & salsa.

Take out from Mexico Cantina y Cocina

One thing I really appreciate about Mexico is that they use good packaging for take-out. One of the most disappointing things about take-out can be the result of a bad packing job. For this meal, Mexico did it right, which included handwritten labels on containers to easily identify them and mindful packing of the food. They took special care to include all of the ‘extras’ that come with the meals, which some restaurants tend to skimp on. For instance, it was a treat to find a small box of plantain chips in our package since we only ordered a “half order” of guacamole (8 oz.) since I couldn’t rationalize the full order (16 oz.) for two people… since I knew we’d devour it.

Take out burrito, rice and beans from Mexico Cantina y Cocina

Another element that showed the extra care Mexico took while packing up my take-out was with the burrito. Like most burritos, it was covered in a delicious medley of sauce and cheese that easily could have been lost by a bad pack job. Instead, they used a small layer of foil (with long enough edges) so I could easily transfer the burrito, beans and rice onto a real dish without sacrificing any of the delicious flavors.

I was also happy to see a majority of the packaging were recyclable/compostable containers. But enough about packaging — let’s talk flavor! The meal was just what the doctor ordered (not really). Everything tasted fresh and delicious, and one of my favorite things about Mexico is the chips and salsa. The chips are freshly made with a hint of lime and light dusting of salt. Their salsa, also fresh, is some of the best I’ve found in Seattle. I had a combination of chicken and steak fajitas that were perfectly grilled, and accompanied by rice and beans (each in individual containers) as well as flour tortillas and ‘fixins’ like sour cream and pico de gallo. My chauffeur opted for the delicious chicken burrito. Both of us had more than enough to enjoy AND pack up for lunch today. One of my favorite things about take-out — leftovers!

Since I’m sure you’re all getting hungry just thinking about all this, here’s the breakdown:

Food: In my opinion, pretty good and lots of veggie options for those of you who aren’t carnivores!
Price: A little high for take-out but high quality ingredients. If you can avoid paying for parking, it’s reasonable.
Overall: Thumbs down for no delivery service but overall a good dining experience both in and outside the restaurant. Wish they had parking available for quick pick-ups!

Here’s what other people think about Mexico:

Yelp

UrbanSpoon
Mexico Cantina Y Veracruz on Urbanspoon

Why Take Out?

25 Sep
Take Out by AMERICANVIRUS
Take Out, a photo by AMERICANVIRUS on Flickr.

I love food. The tastes, the smells, the textures.. I can’t get enough! Unfortunately, working long hours along with going to school doesn’t give me as much time as I’d like to dedicate to cooking or trying out new restaurants, so I often succumb to take out. From Chinese food delivered to my door to tacos from my favorite food truck to the fine dining to-go approach, this blog will examine the trials and tribulations of a take out queen — me! I’ll look at ways to save money, finding take out options, how to maximize the “foodie” experience at home,  my favorite types of take out for certain situations, and of course my to-go experiences with local restaurants. I want to prove that a great dining experience doesn’t need to happen inside a restaurant.

Is there a restaurant you want me to try? Anything special you want to hear about? Let me know!

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