The Fare : Filipino-American
The Stop : Formerly located in the Central>"/>
The Truck: Sarap Cafe, 1520 S.W. 100th St., 253-709-2429.
The Fare: Filipino-American
The Stop: Formerly located in the Central District on Jackson Street, Sarap--which means "delicious" in Tagalog--is as of last month permanently parked at the Chevron Station on 16th Avenue Southwest in White Center, a touch south of its main business district. The neighborhood itself, tucked into the southwest corner of the city and often overlooked, is a down-home foodie hotspot, from the famed Salvadorean Bakery to the many excellent Vietnamese/pho restaurants in the area, reflecting the incredibly diverse, largely immigrant and working-class demographic it serves. And Sarap--which manages to offer Philly cheese steaks, waffle cones, lumpia, and fried rice through the same window--is all about catering to the neighborhood folks with remarkably affordable fare and genuinely friendly service.
Sarap is part deli--hot-dog combos, breakfast sandwiches, bagels, cold-cut sandwiches, and even nachos--of the NYC food-cart variety, and part pop-up Filipino homestyle kitchen. Everything is under $5. Deli sandwiches are $3.50 with additional chips and soda just $1 extra; their Philly Cheese Steak, served on a hot-dog bun, is $3.99. One scoop of ice cream is only 99 cents, and milkshakes (milkshakes!!!) are $2.50.
But I was more intrigued by Sarap's Filipino options, particularly what was advertised as "chicken noodle soup": $3.50 on its own, and only $4.75 for a complimentary three pieces of lumpia. I got the combo, which was served with two packs of saltine crackers. The soup is called sotanghon: mung bean-thread noodles with small pieces of chicken, celery, carrot slivers, and lots of green onion in a rich broth. A standard comfort food, my accompanying photographer remarked that it was the first time he had tasted, or even seen, sotanghon outside of someone's kitchen. "It tastes a little bland to me," he remarked. "But it's traditionally overseasoned . . . like way overseasoned." I personally enjoyed the fresh lightness of Sarap's sotanghon--although it was served just a notch above lukewarm--particularly as a contrast to the deep-fried lumpia.
The lumpia itself isn't the most spectacular, but hey: seven pieces of lumpia, with a soda, for $4.75 . . . if you're jonesing for lumpia and aren't a huge snob about it, it's probably the best deal in the city. It comes with a small serving of sweet chili sauce, and I was pleasantly satiated after consuming my soup/lumpia combo meal.
Sarap is open from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. on weekdays, until 7 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and is closed on Sundays. I arrived promptly at 11 a.m. to a shuttered truck, and concerned that the place was already closed for good, went inside the Chevron station to ask. As the cashier called Victor, the owner of Sarap, who was running a bit late, I made the delightful discovery that the Chevron itself sells BBQ pork bahn mi for $3.50 and piping hot hum bao for $1.50. So if you head to Sarap and find it closed, definitely check inside the mini-mart for take-away goodies.