The Best Bites for Every Price: $15 and Under
Rock Cod and Pumpkin Congee
Mike’s Noodle and Congee House, $13
Vats of spitting rice porridge steam furiously in the back kitchen window of Mike’s Noodle House on Maynard Avenue in Chinatown-International District. The women behind the straightforward operation speed about in sensible black shoes and aprons fastened at the waist.
“We are cash only,” they say again and again to customers, with no excess affect nor sentimentality. Nowadays, it’s rare that the Chinatown-International District has spaces that legitimately feel in touch with its heritage of immigrant labor, when single men across diasporas occupied one-room hotel accommodations and found sustenance in the ingredients of their motherlands, which gave them access to memory.
In Chinese, the idea of a hometown is encapsulated in the term, “家乡,” (jia xiang)—a homonym for the second character is “想,” or “to think, remember, to miss.”
As in Western culture the motif of “daily bread” resounds, and so does that of rice in many Asian American and Pacific Islander diasporas, in which a treasured portion of the simple starch was fuel for the grueling daily work of populations who often faced incredible poverty and the traumas of war. So here is an honorific ode to the grounding cord of congee, which emerges through iterations across many cultures and nationalities, but nevertheless represents something more hardy and resistant in the people that it has fed so generously. ANN GUO
Mr. West, $14
Two boiled eggs that are soft inside. Slices of thick and smoky bacon. Two thick slices of toasted bread. A fan of avocado slices. Chunks of light-brown roasted potatoes. Bring all of this together and you basically have everything a breakfast could mean to me. It’s that simple, but breakfasts of this kind are, for reasons that I have to properly understand, hard to find in Seattle. (The same cannot be said about Portland, OR—and, by the way, Renton has an underappreciated breakfast joint, Uncle Mo’s Bar and Grill.) Mr. West has three locations in Seattle. The one I visit to enjoy a cup of coffee and breakfast, which is served all day, is at the border between downtown and South Lake Union. CHARLES MUDEDE
Cycle Dogs, $11
The vegan food scene in Seattle is under attack. We lost Fremont’s Galaxy Rune, home to the best non-dairy milkshake I’ve ever had the pleasure of tasting. We lost Wayward Vegan for months and now that it’s back, I’m sorry, but I miss the tofu scramble. Now, Cycle Dogs, the place to be for fast-casual vegan comfort food and fancy cocktails in Ballard and the city as a whole, is on the chopping block. So this is not a suggestion, it is a call to arms. March your ass to Cycle Dogs right now. If it’s brunch, you’re eating the French Tourist and you’re gonna like it. Imagine, a hot, sloppy sandwich with juicy vegan sausage patties, perfectly seasoned tofu scramble, onions grilled golden, a combination of cheese and mayo that you won’t believe will spare you IBS symptoms, all on a buttery brioche bun. If you go for dinner, you’re getting the Elote Dog. There have been times I eat this hot dog twice in one week. I do not live in Ballard and I do not drive. It’s that fucking good. Basically, it’s a Field Roast hot dog between a bun with a crisp outside and soft inside. But wait, there’s more. The cooks cover that dog in a pile of street corn, a drizzle of mayo, a sprinkle of cayenne and green onions. If you’re feeling fancy, add pickled jalapenos and Tapatío. The dog is so loaded, I recommend eating it with a fork and knife like a filet mignon at a Michelin-star restaurant. That’s the respect it deserves, after all. HANNAH KRIEG
Angry Beaver, $13
Few plates of food can fill the belly the way a big ol’ plate of poutine can. At the Angry Beaver in Greenwood, the Canadian classic comes six ways, with a pile of fries and squeaky cheese curds smothered in your choice of beef gravy, country gravy with sausage, andouille sausage and jalapeno gravy, beer cheese, vegetarian yellow curry, or vegan mushroom gravy. I always go for the curry. It’s still flavorful and stick-to-your-ribs hearty, but something remarkable happens when that flavorful mix of spices—turmeric, coriander, cumin, ginger, cardamom—dance with the greasy starch of the fries. Add in melty, chewy cheese curds and you got yourself a pinky’s out kind of junk food, a messy meal that feels at once refined and utterly, delightfully ridiculous. Can’t decide on the gravy that’s right for you? The Angry Beaver understands. They also offer a poutine flight, where you can choose three of the six toppings for $20. MEGAN SELING
Kathmandu MomoCha, $14.95
Originally a food truck that haunted the breweries and farmers markets of North Seattle, Kathmandu Momocha recently moved into a brick-n-mort in the Amazon Village. The menu has some noodle and rice dishes, but their momos—filled purse-like dumplings that are popular in the Himalayan countries—are the point here. Perhaps one catches oneself being sneery about vegan food sometimes, demanding more flavor and more fat, and it’s tempting when reading the simple description of the vegan momos. But a non-vegan friend swore up and down that these grass-green dumplings are by far the winners of this whole menu, and I had to hard-agree. Inside the swirly little pouches, a loose mash of potato, carrot, garbanzo, and cabbage is accented with ginger, turmeric, garlic, and probably other stuff that I didn’t notice because I faced my half of the order in about 90 seconds. These plump little fatties are actually quite filling as well, but that doesn’t mean you won’t wish you’d gotten a whole order to yourself. You will. MEG VAN HUYGEN
Saint-Géron Mineral Water
Penelope & the Beauty Bar at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel, $14
If it’s been a little while since you set foot inside the Fairmont Olympic, there’s been a fairly massive update to the hotel’s lobby bar and restaurant offering. Some of it is quite good; almost none of it is achievable for the $15 range. But hiding out downstairs on the hotel’s arcade floor, tucked away behind a glass refrigerator door within Penelope & the Beauty Bar (the Fairmont’s luxe spa situation), there is, quelle surprise, the city’s best selection of imported mineral water.
I know, I know, mineral water gets a bougie rap in America, something that flies in the face of the more egalitarian perception this stuff has abroad. But it’s some of the most delicious liquid you can drink—culinary, textural, surprising, undeniably healthy—and for less than the cost of an espresso martini, you’ll be armed with a generous bottle to enjoy upstairs among the fashion show madness and sophisticated rush of the Fairmont lobby. The spa stocks bottles from hard-to-find brands like Vichy Catalan (Spain), Saratoga (Upstate NY), Saint Geron (France), and Gerolsteiner (Germany), each with its own unique mineral composition and subtle expression of place. You can drink it from the bottle, pour it into a wine glass, or enjoy it over ice in a nice lowball. I am aware that people look at me like I’m fucking crazy when I say it, but water is not just water, not all waters are created equal, and site-specific mineral water can be every bit as nuanced and delicious and impactful to drink as a glass of wine or a nice cocktail (and in fact, it can *amplify* the pleasures of many such drinks when enjoyed alongside them). You need no appointment to shop for water from Penelope & the Beauty Bar, and the spa is open until 9 pm seven nights a week. This is someone’s idea of a perfect night: a really nice bottle of mineral water and some fancy hotel people watching from atop the mezzanine. (That someone is me.) JORDAN MICHELMAN
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