Tag Archives: Kid Friendly

Genki Sushi

Repeatable: Yes. Visits: 6+

Genki's conveyor

Genki's conveyor

For some reason, hot weather seems to bring out the sushi fanatics in droves. I’m not one of them, but my husband and kids are, so we found ourselves at Genki Sushi for the umpteenth time this weekend.

Convenience isn’t the only reason we go–Sushiland is right across the street, and I’ve never returned after my initial visit. Genki is actually the best of the kaiten sushi options in the Seattle-Tacoma area. Granted, that’s not exactly high praise, but kaiten, or conveyor-belt, sushi isn’t exactly haute cuisine.

Still, when it’s well done, kaiten sushi is fun fast finger food, and there are lots of interesting combinations at Genki, such as the very Hawaiian Spam musubi roll and the fantastic Ahi Poke roll–which, we learned today, was just taken off the Seattle menu because there’s not enough demand for it here.

This is truly a sad state of affairs, because the poke at Genki–a zesty salad of ahi bits, onions, garlic and soy-sesame dressing–is the best poke we’ve had outside the islands. Not enough demand, the Japanese sushi chef explained. The Genkis in Hawaii and Japan still serve poke–it’s one of the chain’s most popular items. But not in Seattle. Hello?

Aside from the freshness of the fish and great deals ($1 sushi at Happy Hour!), Genki also offers fantastic options for vegetarians and hard-core sushi eaters, which may explain why two-thirds of the customers are visiting Japanese. My hunch is that this place is just a wee bit too authentic for the likes of Seattle. Seriously, folks: Who was going to grab those big hand rolls of natto riding along the belt? (If you’ve never tried these slimy fermented soy beans before, recall what you did with your finger and your nose as a small child…Natto is eerily similar…)

Speaking of kids: Genki is a great place for little ones. First, there’s the instant gratification of the kaiten: My daughter ate eight tobiko rolls that she grabbed off the line with her tiny hands. So what if she went to bed smelling like bait.

Then, there are the a la carte menu items, conveniently served in appetizer portions for bar-style grazing. This means that the order of tempura udon or chicken teriyaki is down-sized to perfect dimensions for little appetites. Considering that these items are all priced well below $5, you’ll be extremely pleased with the final bill.
Genki Sushi on Urbanspoon

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Filed under Bar, Japanese, Kid Friendly, Lunch, Vegetarian Friendly

Tutta Bella

Repeatable: Maybe. Visits: 2+

Tutta Bella Pie

Tutta Bella Pie

Seattle is not New York or Chicago, so you can fuhgeddabout all the fine distinctions that make pies worthy of either the Big Apple or the Windy City.

Still, Seattle’s trying. Tutta Bella isn’t exactly news anymore, but it’s representative of the wave of artisanal pizzerias that have recently opened up.

Without naming additional names, let me say that there’s an eerie similarity to these pizzerias, and I’m just holding Tutta Bella up as the most obvious and established offender: paper thin crusts splotched by bubbles of black char.

Burnt dough simply doesn’t taste good–I don’t care how much sauce, cheese, or creative topping is surrounding or covering these ugly boils. And yet for some reason, the local fancy pizzerias insist on offering up these offenders. Why?

Until I actually experience a pizza that is not partially burnt, sooty, or charred, I cannot recommend Tutta Bella without reservations. That simply hasn’t happened yet. At best, I can salvage a piece or two from an entire pie. And then I wonder: Is it really worth the trouble and expense?

That rhetorical question makes me think of the ne plus ultra of American pizzerias, Pizzeria Bianco. Located in, of all places, Phoenix, Arizona, Bianco offers up the kind of pizza that I will gladly suffer a trip to the dessert just to eat–pizza that’s worth a great deal of trouble and expense. (And Phoenix is much closer than Chicago and New York!) In April, we ate there twice; I stood in line for an hour both times to hold our places. As we were boarding the flight back to Seattle, my husband and three children walked on carrying their own boxes from Pizzeria Bianco. “Is it really that good?” someone asked. My children nodded solemnly, clutching their boxes for dear life. They’re still talking about the experience wistfully, asking when we’re going back. “Mama, that pizza was the best pizza in the world.” “Not quite,” I say. “There’s a couple places in Italy I gotta show you…”)

South Lake Union
Tutta Bella Neapolitan Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Columbia City:
Tutta Bella Neapolitan Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Wallingford:
Tutta Bella Neapolitan Pizzeria (Wallingford) on Urbanspoon

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Filed under 15654811, Casual, Italian, Kid Friendly, Lunch, Pizza

Vios

Repeatable: Yes. Visits: 3+

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All roads lead to Vios. Especially if you’re driving a minivan with children in tow. The play area in the back of the restaurant is genius–as inspired as the house tzatziki, which is an infinitely repeatable yogurt dip that transforms a glass of wine, olives, and some bread into a satisfying meal. I dream about the tzatziki here–scooped up with triangles of pita, dipped into with a stick of souvlaki, slathered all over a sandwich, spooned up all by itself…The best setting for this creamy, savory yogurt sauce? The grilled eggplant sandwich, served at lunch.

I’ve eaten at Vios so many times I must confess to personal bias in my assessment: owner Thomas Soukakos definitely knows who I am. Still, that knowledge doesn’t affect the kitchen in any way–the food here is quietly delicious and well prepared no matter when I go. The salads are immaculate, thoughtfully composed and artfully dressed; any dish made with lamb is always amazing. Best of all, the children always eat well when they come here.

Stray off the regular menu into the specials on the chalkboard, and you’ll find some lovely surprises: perhaps some soothing avoglemeno, a lemony chicken soup that’s perfect for wintry weather, or a crunchy slice of baklava dripping with honey.

Vios Cafe & Marketplace on Urbanspoon

Note: Vios at Third Place is now open; the menu is very similar and similarly well-executed. Go for breakfast (french toast!), or meet a friend for drinks in the pub after the kids have gone down.

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Filed under Casual, Greek, Kid Friendly, Vegetarian Friendly

Fish Fry

Repeatable: Maybe. Visits: 1

Tucked into an alley off Pike Street, Fish Fry is the kind of place you can only find if you already know where it is. Or if you have a built-in homing mechanism for fried food. Or if you’re drunk or high and have the munchies.  Or if you’re a teenager throbbing with hormonal rushes.

Alas, not being able to lay claim to any of the above options, I got so lost trying to find the place that I asked a tattooed guy sweeping a doorway where it was. “Right here,” he answered. Doh.

I arrived early, at 11:30am, to escape the mad hordes I was assured would be there. The place didn’t really fill up  until 12:30, and the young hard bodies jamming the space were clearly of high school vintage–that is, old enough to be my children if I had gotten knocked up near their age.

My tasting buddy for this jaunt was an old-school type–a Republican who eats fish on Fridays and is possessed of a more forgiving palate and even-keeled disposition than mine. I needed all the help I could get as I can no longer tolerate fried food (or wine) as I once could.

My first bite of the fried catfish nuggets took me straight back to my college years in Boston, when I thought nothing of roaming the Eastern seaboard via rail or road in search of something good to eat. The batter was the same deep-fried chestnut brown of my memories: a thin crackling shell that encased the fish like a glossy lacquer. Mmmm.

When I complimented him on his frying, the cook answered that he had learned his technique in Boston (Coincidence? Not! Like wines, frying styles vary by region. IMHO, the ne plus ultra of frying is in the South. Red-hot epicenter: New Orleans, of course. Sorry, but the Northwest simply doesn’t fry very well. Nor can anyone cook beans properly. CUMIN DOES NOT BELONG IN BEANS!!! But that’s the subject of another post.)

The medium-cut fries that came with my four pieces of catfish ($8) were just OK. But the battered and deep-fried lemon slice? Tangy crunchy heaven. And the battered, deep-fried green beans ($5)? Addictive. The oysters ($9) were also pretty dang good–crunch outside, molten quivering flesh inside. (But in my dreams, I will forever crave the fried clams I used to eat during the summers I spent bumming around Martha’s Vineyard.)

The accompanying sauces–“housemade” tartar, lemon aioli, curry ketchup, smoked chili mayo–were not nearly as finger-lickin’ as their names teasingly suggested. In fact, these 2-tablespoon-sized portions were all rather one-dimensional and boring–and so NOT worth the extra buck charged if you asked for another flavor besides the one you get with your order. By the time I realized that there were complimentary containers of tried-and-true malt vinegar and ketchup on the counter, a heaviness in my gut kept me glued to the stool I was sitting on.

From this perch, I watched the flock of high schoolers all queued up for their chance to stoke their flaming pimples with grease and salt. I contemplated that fried foods are best left to the hardier guts of the young and free. Me, I knew I’d be paying for my indiscretion for the next few days as a black headache crashed around my ears the moment I lurched out of the tiny store. Too much grease, both eaten and breathed in.

Sometimes, it’s just no fun growing old. But if you’re young and fancy-free, Fish Fry is definitely a place worth visiting.
Pike Street Fish Fry on Urbanspoon

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Filed under Casual, Kid Friendly, Seafood