All Hail Orange King: Ruler of the Ave

Anonymous burgers, cups of coffee.

University Way (aka "the Ave") has long been something of a paradox. On the one hand, there's not a street in Seattle that offers a more dynamic variety of multiethnic dining options; the Ave is probably the best place in town to visit if you're in an indecisive mood, on a tight budget, and simply want to put yourself in an environment where you can follow your stomach's spontaneous whims. On the other hand, you'll rarely find an individual Ave restaurant name-checked on anyone's best-in-the-West list. It's the sum—not any one part—that makes the Ave a destination of sorts, with each living cell benefiting from the overall health of the organism. The restaurant that perhaps best epitomizes this ethic is the indestructible Orange King, actually positioned a half-block off the Ave, across 42nd Street from the equally durable Magus Bookstore. You'd think with a name like Orange King, the restaurant would be thematically akin to Orange Julius and offer fruity stuff, but it doesn't (save for lemonade). Rather, it's the arthritic granddaddy of Seattle's burgeoning Asian-operated burger-teriyaki hybrid macro-niche that's been noted at least a couple of times before in this space. Without fail, these places have decent burgers with iceberg lettuce; thin, supergreasy, McDonald's-style fries (admit it—you love them); and huge scoops of rice and teriyaki chicken at incredibly affordable rates. At Orange King, the food is pretty good, the wood-paneled decor bland and frozen in time, and the service speedy and impersonal. It's the sort of place Harlem drug lord Frank Lucas (portrayed by Denzel Washington in the film American Gangster) would have gone to take refuge from a sea of junkies, hangers-on, and rival dope-slingers over an anonymous cheeseburger and cup of coffee. Orange King isn't there to be trendy; it's there to be reliable, like an old Toyota pickup truck that doesn't go very fast but always starts up in the morning. Until Lucas showed up at a championship prizefight in a flashy chinchilla coat, this is a metaphor that could have been applied to his business model. The chinchilla brought the heat that eventually brought Lucas down. Orange King doesn't stand to make the same mistake anytime soon. Orange King isn't going anywhere but where it's always been. mseely@seattleweekly.com

 
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