Seattle's Top 5 Versions of Meat on a Stick

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Meet your meat (on a stick) at Showa in Fremont.
Perhaps the only Midwestern carnival axiom that carries over to life in general: Everything tastes better on a stick. The insertion of that simple piece of wood makes anything--deep fried mac 'n' cheese, frozen bananas, mini-pies, and most of all, meat--instantly portable and exponentially more enjoyable. For an international assortment of the city's best meat on a stick, try one of these five favorites:

5. Satay.

One of Seattle's few Malaysian restaurants, Satay in Wallingford opened this year with a small menu of street-food basics inspired by the owners' travels through Southeast Asia. While the laksa is a dish recommended for its rarity in Seattle (and not necessarily for this being the most authentic version ever), the eponymous dish is worth an order. Each order of satay includes three skewers of a grilled protein--choose from chicken, lamb, beef, or tofu--paired with rice and a simply dressed salad. The chicken is particularly delish, marinated in lemongrass, palm sugar, and spices, and best dipped in the housemade peanut sauce.

4. Unicorn.

Staying true to the fair food theme, Capitol Hill's most festively decorated bar and restaurant thoroughly embraces food on a stick in all its forms. The menu at Unicorn reads a little like a stoner's dream feast: Cap'n Kirk grilled cheese, fried Twinkies, the inexplicably named Narwhal Balls, and half a dozen variations on the corn dog. The monster-sized original is hand-dipped and arrives at your table dangerously hot from the fryer. The adventurous types--or anyone so drunk on Jell-O shots they need something serious to soak up the booze--should go immediately for the chorizo corn dog, made with spicy sausage from Rainshadow Meats.

3. Plaka Estiatorio.

This family-run Ballard Greek restaurant isn't the sort of grab-and-go gyro shack you'll find in the U District. Expect a more upscale dining experience at Plaka Estiatorio, and the prices to match. I'm a firm believer in the saying "you get what you pay for," though, and it certainly rings true for the souvlaki: tender grilled skewers of chicken, pork, or lamb available for either lunch or dinner. The plates come with the usual sides like pita, salad, and tzatziki, but the meat is so humbly delicious you need little else.

2. Pho Cyclo.

Seattle's got no shortage of pho joints--good ones, at that--but to find a place that makes a commendable bowl of noodle soup and other Vietnamese delicacies is a bit more elusive. Enter Pho Cyclo, with locations in both Capitol Hill and SoDo that serve some of the tastiest thit nuong you'll find this side of Hanoi. The grilled, skewered pork dish is heavy on the lemongrass, the extremely flavorful meat complimenting the accompanying pile of rice, sweet/salty nuoc cham, and simple slices of cucumber nicely. Take the time to remove the stick prior to eating for the least chance of injury while shoveling food in.

1. Showa.

Finding Showa on the second floor of a multi-use building in Fremont is not easy; staying and putting back a few chu-hais (shochu and fruit juice) and half a dozen small plates is easier than I'd like it to be. The menu is limited to Japanese bar food in true izakaya fashion--coarsely salted edamame, miso soup, kalbi, macaroni gratin, and the like--but the meat on a stick is really where the bar/restaurant shines. Try the yakitori and butabara--grilled chicken and pork belly respectively--for a simple taste of Japan: charred exterior giving way to moist meat with just the right amount of salt, even better with a squeeze of lemon and a dash of shichimi togarashi, a blend of Japanese spices from a shaker at your table.

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