I love reading negative reviews on Yelp, Amazon, Rotten Tomatoes, etc., especially restaurant reviews for places I've enjoyed eating at. A feeling of self-righteousness fills me: well, I had a good experience there. You must have done something wrong, ordered incorrectly, or just plain don't have good taste if you didn't enjoy it. My favorites are reviews like, "I went to a super popular brunch place on Sunday at 11 am and we had to wait forty-five minutes even though the hostess told us it would be forty minutes!!!! One star!!!" or "There were no healthy options at [restaurant known for its decadent menu options and has all menus available online for a preview]. I couldn't eat. One star."
I rarely trust Yelp reviews. The majority of people, like those examples above, are idiots, and there's no way to filter out their reviews. I prefer recommendations from friends or have them take me to places when I'm in town. This works because my friends are mostly chefs, foodies, or trustworthy individuals with relatively good taste who fear my wrath if they recommend something awful.
For the past three years, I have managed to find my way to Seattle. Seattle is not only full of friends, but it is also the best food city on the west coast aside from the Bay Area. I have never eaten a terrible meal in Seattle and only one mediocre one (a highly-rated on Yelp restaurant, ha!). Seattle has the best seafood available on the west coast, hands down, and I would say is the best breakfast city in the United States.
Here is where you should eat the next time you are in Seattle.
Portage Bay Cafe - Ballard
The Portage Bay Cafe in Ballard has so much going for it: excellent eggs benedicts, a pancake and waffle topping bar, and a location next to the fascinating Hiram M. Chittenden Locks and Carl S. English Jr. Botanical Gardens. Before meeting up with our friend, we watched small craft go through the locks and wandered around the botanical gardens. But enough about the location!
Portage Bay Cafe was incredibly busy when we showed up to our ten (or was it eleven) am reservation on a Sunday. They were able to seat us right away inside with two kids. We were worried about sitting inside with the littles as this definitely looked like a brunch spot for hungover twenty-somethings, but there were other families with noisy kids.
I ordered the Seattle Benedict which is two poached eggs, dungeness crab, arugula, avocado, hollandaise, and dill on a yukon gold English muffin. The eggs were perfectly poached, the crab was sweet with a hint of the sea, and the benedict was rich and punchy with lemon. The side of herb roasted potatoes was crispy and well-seasoned.
Al ordered the classic pancakes which includes a trip to the breakfast bar; he was super happy to add tons of whipped butter, brown sugar, berries, and maple syrup to his pancakes. The girls shared some of his fruit, pancakes, and my potatoes most of which ended up on the floor.
I'd heard about Biscuit Bitch before my January 2017 Seattle trip, but it wasn't until my second trip to Seattle a year later that I checked it out. Originally, my plan was to hit up Bedlam Coffee with its creatively flavored lattes, when I walked past the Biscuit Bitch Belltown location and saw the complete lack of a line on a Sunday. I knew I had to get in on some obscenely good biscuit eating. Did you get that? I bet no one has ever made that pun about this restaurant before.
I surprisingly felt a little uncomfortable ordering my "Canadian Bitch," a biscuit sandwich with crispy Canadian bacon (so many do not realize the transformation Canadian bacon can actualize when a little heat is applied and caramelization can occur), maple peanut butter, and honey. I'm not opposed to swearing, at all, and I gave myself the job title "kitchen bitch" when I worked for a catering company. It must have been the morning and lack of coffee. Just didn't feel kosher tossing around "bitches" before the sun was over the horizon.
Along with my Canadian Bitch, sans optional banana, I ordered a non-fat latte. I didn't even look to see if they had more creative drinks on offer; I was blinded by biscuit. I took a seat at the window and only a couple minutes later, my biscuit sandwich and latte were in my hands.
A couple of criticisms: my biscuit came in a paper bag, even though I ordered to eat in. I'm not sure if this is standard operating procedure at Biscuit Bitch, but it felt wasteful, and I would have liked a basket or plate. My latte also came in a paper cup and was flavorless.
Now, onto the biscuit. I misread when I originally ordered: I didn't see the "peanut" before "butter." I find unexpected peanut butter unsettling. The combination of maple and peanut butter, while tasty, has a sticky viscosity that made for an unpleasant mouthfeel. The maple and honey were battling for dominance. If I were to make a version of this at home, I would pair the Canadian bacon with whipped maple and chipotle butter then add banana; it definitely needs the body provided by the peanut butter or bananas.
I loved the crispy Canadian bacon on this sandwich. My biscuit was hot and buttery with a crunchy outer layer and a fluffy but slightly underdone interior, which is how I like my biscuits. The whole sandwich was a bit of a pain in the butt to eat: it was incredibly sticky, and I do not like sticky on my hands.
Now, what would bring me back to Biscuit Bitch is not the food, which was overall solid, but the atmosphere. I grew accustomed to hearing "bitch" get cheerfully slung across the counter, and the music selection of oughts and early twenty-teens uncensored hip hop was fantastic. When Nicky Minaj's "Beez in the Trap" came on, I could only wonder if it was the Biscuit Bitch anthem.
The Wandering Goose
Casual ambiance and decadent eats, The Wandering Goose is a Capitol Hill eatery known for its biscuit sandwiches. Independent travel means eating a lot of meals alone, but the order at the counter dining style of The Wandering Goose does not lead to any awkwardness that can come with eating alone. I asked the cashier for a recommendation, and he told me that the Aunt Annie's or The Sawmill were both good choices if I wanted fried chicken. Well, who can pass up fried chicken? The Sawmill, a fried chicken, gravy, and cheese biscuit sandwich, was too much for me so I ordered the Aunt Annie's: fried chicken, bread and butter pickles, house mustard, and honey.
Cup of coffee and biscuit sandwich ordered, I sat at a wood table to read the morning news. Okay, well, not the morning news but a feature story on the changed migration path of the three-pronged elk on High Country News. Because elk migration is what's important in this Cheeto powder covered Russian puppet threatened the world. What arrived at my table ten minutes later was a crispy fried pile of deliciousness on top of a fluffy layered biscuit. With a ladle of hot sauce, this sandwich achieved near breakfast perfection. I would have been happy with this at any time of day.
Wrist throbbing and frustrated with the lack of answers from the urgent care and the closed radiology lab they referred me to, I stumbled in a daze from the Westlake transit station to Pike's Place Public Market and into Beecher's cheese store. At Beecher's you can watch people making cheese while you eat a grilled cheese sandwich or a bowl of macaroni and cheese. I went for the classic grilled cheese and a Boylan's cola. I needed something hot, greasy, and simple. The sandwich was merely there for me to get down a necessary dose of ibuprofen.
Thai Tom's has a plethora of negative and indignant reviews on Yelp. They claim the server follows people out of the restaurant demanding a higher tip. Other complaints include small portion sizes, charred food, an insolent waitress, lack of transparency with prices, a long wait, a smoky interior, and numerous health code violations. Oh, and that it's cash only.
I'm going to address each of these. We waited at least half an hour to be seated, but once we were seated the server took our order immediately and served our food promptly. It was a Sunday at lunch in a small restaurant; I would expect there to be a wait.
The middle-aged female server with the bleached hair did not follow us out of the restaurant for a higher tip. She was too busy getting food to people and seating them. We put the money down and walked out, so we didn't have time to know whether or not she was dissatisfied with her tip. I don't doubt this happened to these Yelpers, but it didn't happen the hour and a half we were there. The service reminded me of the service I've received everywhere else in the world: get the order, drop off food, take empty plates away, and drop off the check. They don't interrupt you during your conversation, they probably won't bring you more water, and this isn't the French Laundry, the server is not there to give you an experience with your meal.
Did you know that restaurants are not required to give you so much food that you feel sick or have enough for another meal the next day? You are not entitled to leftovers. I cleaned my plate at Thai Tom without feeling like I was going to explode. I felt satisfied.
I loved the caramelized noodles and vegetables. The high heat open fire cooking leads to a char on the noodles that was absolutely delicious. The noodles were perfectly chewy, the sauce sweet and salty, and the two-star spice level just the right amount of heat. It was some of the best Thai food I've ever had.
The health code violations and smoky atmosphere are totally true. That never stopped me from drunkenly chowing down bean burritos from the Taco Bell on Santa Cruz's Pacific Ave.
Luna Park Cafe
I dig diners, so how could I not like a diner named after a historic (and now destroyed) seaside amusement park? I lived in Santa Cruz for over a decade, so diners and seaside amusement parks are etched on my soul. The Luna Park Cafe is a funky diner located in the West Seattle neighborhood. It's a busy place with table and counter seating. They serve diner classics like melts, burgers, and shakes. I think they might even have a guy whose entire job is making milkshakes.
Unlike my beloved but kind of awful Santa Cruz Diner, Luna Park Cafe is not a 24-hour diner; they're open from 7 am to 10 pm. My friend and I went for lunch on a Saturday, and we sat at the counter because it was a long wait for a table. I ordered a "Luna Dip" with roast beef, pepper jack cheese, and grilled mushrooms and onions with French fries. The roast beef wasn't the greatest quality, and I don't recall seeing a single grilled onion. But it was a satisfying sandwich nonetheless. You have to try hard to disappoint me with a dip. We also got a free vanilla milkshake with our meal because they had made extra. Oh, and you get a free sticker with your meal!
My friend described Dick's as something akin to In 'N Out in California, a straightforward menu that hasn't changed for years. I ordered a cheeseburger, fries, and a diet coke. The cheeseburger was deliciously simple: beef, cheese, mustard, and ketchup. I liked it better than any burger I've had at In 'N Out. The fries were slightly over fried, but crispy and well salted. And we only got approached by one person for money while eating in our car.
Coffee and Snacks
Wayward Coffeehouse advertises itself as a coffee haven for geeks, and it definitely delivers with its B-movie trivia nights and popular sci-fi themed coffee drinks. Located in the Roosevelt/U-District area of Seattle, this coffee shop offers organic, fair-trade coffee, pastries, and specialty drinks like Mudder’s Mocha. I can’t remember the name of what I ordered, but it involved blueberry, white mocha, and it was delicious.
The last rainy day in Seattle, I went in search of crumpets at Pike's Place Market. But no, the crumpet place was closed. I was denied my crumpet again. To sooth my crumpetless rage, I went upstairs to Storyville Coffee and ordered an espresso and a chocolate chunk cookie. I sucked down the deep, bitter espresso and tried to take my time with the cookie but it was hard. So deliciously hard. And just as I was leaving, they were giving away slices of chocolate ganache cake.
Seattle is a food destination, and I can't wait to try more when I go back. I have to go back. I didn't even eat a hot dog while I was there.