*See Also Seattle Weekly's Snackdown Returns
Hanna Raskin is fond of Bainbridge, Vashon and the Kitsap Penninsula.
As cruise directors know, a boat voyage can sharpen the appetite. But the outstanding restaurants that await beyond the ferry terminals on Bainbridge, Vashon and Bremerton are so good that they could thrive on the mainland (which is a fancy way of saying that Seattle wouldn't mind if the restaurants listed here opened in-city locations.)
Vashon has always been a food community, but it's long been hard for visitors to appreciate it. Since the island's rich with farmed fruits, vegetables and meats and foraged berries, mushrooms and sea creatures, the best dinners have always been served in private homes. But non-Vashonites can now appreciate the island's bounty without filling their tote bags at the excellent Saturday farmers' market, thanks to a recent surge of quality restaurants. La Boucherie, the sit-down offshoot of Sea Breeze Farm, serves extraordinary charcuterie in a wonderfully romantic dining room attached to a butcher shop. It's nearly impossible to score a reservation at the new May Kitchen + Bar, but its curries are so good that diners shouldn't mind eating at 4:30 p.m. Zamorana, which earned accolades for its tacos and tortas while operating as a truck, recently opened a permanent location, and Zombiez has lately won over burger fans.
Music editor Chris Kornelis, a Bremerton resident, swears by Hi-Lo's 15th Street Cafe and Toro Lounge, a satisfyingly trendy tapas bar serving lamb sliders and grilled pear salads. Toro also offers a smart line-up of cocktails in a town that's better known for the ales poured at Silver City Brewing Co.'s newest taproom and Der Blokken in Manette. While Manette is rapidly turning hip, Bremerton is still a reliable source of old-school sweets, including the pink champagne cake at McGavin's and the cream pies at the Airport Diner, also renowned for its fish and chips.
Over in Bainbridge, a farm-to-table philosophy reigns at the acclaimed Hitchcock, where the name-your-price, chef's choice menu is one of the best and most affordable ways to experience high-end cooking in the county. Since island jaunts are synonymous with picnics, Bainbridge has also cultivated a few great bakeries and sandwich shops, including Blackbird and Fork & Spoon. But the island's defining dining experience right now is a meal at Greg Atkinson's lovely Marche, where the vegetables are prepared with grace and skill, followed by dessert across the lane at the always terrific Mora Iced Creamery and a ferry ride home.
But she's got warm feelings toward Tukwila, Seatac, Federal Way, Des Moines and Burien too.
I recently booked a hotel room near the airport so I could make a quick eastbound getaway on a 6 a.m. flight. My plan had nothing to do with eating: All my culinary hopes were pinned on the Doubletree's free chocolate-chip cookie.
But since I was in the mood for sushi, I ventured out for dinner at Miyabi, a restaurant I liked so much I added it to my review list. After dinner, I crossed the street for dessert at Unicone, the outstanding Japanese crepe stand that's maintained its Southcenter Mall location even though it's now back in the International District. My low expectations were obviously unfounded.
As my expedition suggests, there's an impressive Asian food scene in Tukwila (other favorites include Mali Thai Cuisine and Seafood City), Seatac (home to Mango Thai and Uwajimaya's in-airport teriyaki counter) and Federal Way, perhaps the local epicenter of Korean cuisine.
For fans of kimchi and seafood soup who'd prefer to cook at home, the terrifically well-stocked H Mart specializes in all the necessary ingredients. But it's hard to resist the temptation to eat out when nearby restaurants including Youngwol Noodle, Traditional Korean Beef Soup, Palace BBQ, Kokiri and Korean fried chicken emporium Hanmaum do such a bang-up job.
While the incredible array of Korean offerings in Federal Way tends to overshadow its other restaurants, the city's culinary scene is far more diverse than some residents of Seattle realize: Alongside a Korean strip mall, Afghan Cuisine & Banquet Hall serves stupendously delicate mantoo, while Blanca Rodriguez grills a gorgeous (and elegantly compose) steak at Pimentia Bistro.
Over in Des Moines, the leading kitchens are oriented east, toward the Sound: Wally's Chowder House & Broiler and locations of Salty's and Anthony's HomePort are probably the city's most popular restaurants. But serious eaters flock to this corner of the county for restaurants which find their influences further south: Taqueria La Estacion, Tortas Locas and El Fogoncito in Burien help make this district the neighborhood of choice for devotees of Latin cooking.