In restaurants and stores, as in life, looks can be deceiving.
The chicken wings are better than the fried snapper (or snaper) at Foulee.
Beacon Hill's Foulee Market, for example, is like the house the fourth pig built--the house completed with structural integrity somewhere between straw and sticks. It's a hodgepodge of design, as half the store is an open-air market with a sort of makeshift roof, aluminum siding, and a dangerously sloping concrete floor, and the other half has a Costco-like warehouse feel thanks to exposed wires and tubes overhead. The building looks as if it might fall over any minute, but that doesn't seem to stop people from flooding through the doors . . . if there were doors.
Located at 2050 S. Columbian Way, Foulee's rough exterior houses an amazing selection of Asian groceries, predominantly Filipino, and a walk-up food counter for to-go Filipino dishes and catering orders. The line at the registers is consistently five people long, at least.In the aisles, you'll find a mix of generic Asian staples and specifically Filipino delicacies. Produce is limited to just a few bins of potatoes and citrus out front, and one narrow aisle of okra, bittermelon, Chinese eggplant, bushels of mint, and a few leafy greens. Jars and cans are filled with a variety of shrimp pastes, fermented fish, diced fruits, and Kraft cheeses. Bottles of soy sauce, vinegar, banana ketchup, and hot sauces are just a few steps away from boxed bibingka, instant palabok, calamansi juice, and other things I'm entirely unfamiliar with--and entirely dying to try. Should you find yourself in the market for parts of the pig that you may not be able to get readily at your neighborhood store, Foulee's got it all, head to tail, plus a respectable selection of fish and housemade sausages. There are even a few beauty products, though I personally want to avoid "placenta soap with moisturizer."
As is generally the case, the grocery assortment only serves to make me hungrier than when I arrived. When I walk up to the food counter, two older ladies are arguing with the employee--pointing and tsking--over which of the fried fish they're choosing from has the crispiest tail. Not exactly the conversation you'd hear at a Safeway food counter, but that's precisely the point, and this one has an entirely better selection. Slabs of lechon kawali, fried pork belly with salty crisped skin, hang like roast duck in a Chinese takeout window, above baskets of fried shrimp, whole baby octopi, and the ladies' fish. Combos, with rice or thin pancit noodles, are available with your selection from the dozen or so hot dishes like pork adobo, beef kare-kare, and fried chicken wings. There are also premade Vietnamese sandwiches and a plethora of desserts, including fat wedges of flan and sweet pan de leche buns.
Since Filipino food, particularly cheap Filipino food that's ready to eat, is fairly scarce in Seattle, the bar is set low for Foulee's chow. Of the dishes I take home for dinner, the chicken wings are my favorite--crispy even after the drive back to Ballard, meaty and delightfully salty. The lumpia are sadly a little dry, though that's likely from sitting out under a heat lamp. At the register, I pick up a still-warm dessert labeled "tupig cake," which turns out to be a delicious few bites of steamed mochi-like cake that tastes of coconut and the banana leaves it's steamed in.
The shop also offers catering; I can only imagine how good the food is when it's warm and fresh and you've got a big family of hungry Filipino-food fans to enjoy it with.