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!
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!
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.
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.
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: