A Food Tour of Seattle
By Amelie Valdes, Jackie Le, and Ricardo Gurango
There are many BIPOC restaurants in Washington that have been struggling during the pandemic to continue to exist and serve good food to customers all around the state. A few months ago, The South End Stories Youth Blog editors - Jackie, Ricardo, and Amelie - wanted to venture throughout the streets of Seattle and visit some of these restaurants and try their food, with the ultimate goal of spreading the word about them and giving them some of the recognition they deserve. Here are some of the editors’ favorite restaurants, along with some words about their experiences at these places and reviews on their food.
KFresh is a small Korean-owned business in Hewitt Ave, Everett. They offer “Customize Your Own” hot stone bibimbap bowls, where you can choose from a variety of proteins (they have vegan beef and chicken!) and a large array of toppings to choose from - from Korean potato salad to fresh veggies to japchae noodles. All of this is mixed with rice in a hot stone bowl, resulting in a warm and cozy meal that’s perfect for a rainy day. If you get thirsty, you can also choose from a variety of vegan milkshakes. They have ordinary flavors like chocolate and strawberry, and also some unique milkshake options like eggnog and matcha!
I highly recommend visiting this place when you need a warm and stomach-filling dinner. When I go, I always order the hot stone bibimbap bowl and choose white rice, vegan beef, Korean spinach, pineapple, edamame, japchae noodles, and carrots. I also always make sure to grab a vegan chocolate milkshake as well as a serving of Korean potato salad to complete the meal. Overall, I highly recommend KFresh to those who want an authentic and cozy Korean bibimbap experience.
Araya’s Place is an all-vegan Thai restaurant that serves healthy, authentic Thai food. I remember when it was just a small business located a few blocks away from my family’s apartment in Bellevue almost ten years ago. We used to visit all the time and enjoy their buffet of pad thai, spring rolls, and more. Since then, it’s grown into a large Thai business with multiple branches across Washington.
Araya’s promises a hearty and healthy Thai meal when you order, and they deliver on that promise spectacularly. They have a very broad menu, where you can choose from an array of Thai dishes like curries, noodle dishes, and different types of fried rice. When my family orders from Araya’s, we order online where there is an option to get the “Family Meal.” Araya’s has an option on their online menu for when a large group like my six-person family wants to order enough food to feed a lot of people. You can choose an appetizer, a soup or salad, a curry, a noodle or fried rice dish, a stir-fried dish, and a serving of rice, as well as choose the spiciness level for the whole meal. My family always gets the Basil Fried Rice, the Crispy Spring Rolls, and the Pad Thai or Phad See Ew.
It easily fills up my family of six with leftovers for the next day. Recently, I’ve also started to try their soups and curries. I never used to be a big fan of hot soup, but ever since I tried the Tom Kha at Araya’s I’ve made sure to order one every time we visit. I highly recommend a visit to Araya’s Place anytime.
Located on Rainier Ave in Hillman City, Amy’s Merkato is a café selling Ethiopian and Eritrean cuisine, with European and Mediterranean baked goods and pastries. According to the South Seattle Emerald, in 2000, Yodit Seyoum and her husband Filli Albdulkdra purchased Amy’s Merkato (named by a former owner), the Ethiopian merkato (market) in the Central District that was the first ever in Washington state. The cafe established their current location after a year of permitting complications and setbacks.
Their menu is broad, including sandwiches and injera, food for day or night. I ordered the vegetarian combo, which has red lentil wot, yellow split pea wot, Eritrean-style shiro wot, spinach, collard greens, cabbage, carrots, and their house salad. I made sure to get their chicken sambusas and baklava, too. I really enjoyed the texture of the injera and the flavor in all their dishes. Highly recommended for anyone looking to get some varied eats in a cozy atmosphere!
Phở Bắc is the restaurant I grew up walking to a block over on Rainier and Byron every Friday, near Franklin High School where my brother attends. During COVID-19 closures, we began bringing our food home to eat, complete with wooden chopsticks and little packets of Sriracha and Hoisin sauce. Their buildings’ walls cycle through different photo-worthy murals, but the view is often obscured by the constant cars parking to grab their famous phở. There are times where I see people I know (more times than necessary). But, that’s how you know the restaurant is a true community space.
The Vietnamese phở powerhouse was started by Theresa Cat Vu and Augustine Nien Pham in 1982, operating out of the bright red boat-shaped building that’s now a landmark of Little Saigon. The shop is now owned by their children Quynh and Yenvy Pham. The phở place was also formerly co-owned by their brother, Khoa Pham, who suffered a heart attack and passed away in March of 2021. It’s a restaurant best described as multigenerational, the current owners imparting modernity on a business once in the vision of their older parents. Their menu serves other Vietnamese dishes like crispy egg rolls in addition to the classic phở, and their Súp Shop on Jackson is complete with a bar, wine shop, and even a photobooth! Lucky cats lining a shelf of wine bottles, a repurposed food cart, and a “Phocific Northwest” fluorescent sign are some of the chosen decor. My go-to order is the Phở Tái. Other phở are chicken and vegetarian. Make sure to add their complementary bean sprouts, Thai basil, and lime!
If you want a savory and flavorful phở with countless drinks and appetizers to go with, head on over to one of Phở Bắc’s four locations.
Located on 15th Ave in White Center, Best Roasted Corn Stand is a truck stand with Mexican beverages and snacks. The main attraction is, of course, their corn on the cob that can be eaten in many ways. You can decide if you want it plain or with add-ons and, just like their other dishes, you can choose the spice levels, making it enjoyable for anyone.Their menu also includes corn in a cup and things like chicharron, fruits, vegetables and mixtures that will surprise your taste buds. Strawberries with cream, cucumber with mango, and many more.
A food truck might be a small space, but they make it work. Reviews show how much people enjoy this place and will travel from far away to get a taste of their refreshing foods and beverages. This place is accessible and brings me joy with their food as well as their kind and attentive service. When I go on a hot day, I make sure I get their Mangonada, which is a Mexican frozen beverage that combines mango with the spicy Tajín and saltiness of Chamoy. I get a corn on the cob with everything - mayonnaise, lemon, cheese, and lots of spice.
I can sit and eat in the eating area next to the truck, walk around in White Center, go to a nearby park, or simply take it home (even though most of the time it's so good I finish it in the car). This food reminds me of growing up in Mexico and has become a place that I take friends to show them something new that brings me joy and might bring them joy as well. I highly recommend this place when you're in White Center or just need a taste of quick Mexican snacks.