Quick bites and carts that reach new heights

Here are five quick bites, culminating with news about a national champion.

Ivar’s is a Seattle institution. No doubt about that. And that institution was in the news this year, with stories about its underwater billboards. For me, the story is whether its food warrants a stop or not. This past year, I had chances to try the fish and chips, clam chowder, clam strips, and the like. It is what it is. Fairly fast food that’s fun for those who like their fish fried. For me, nothing special, though the chowder isn’t bad on a cold, wintery day.

If you’re on 15th in Ballard, as I was one trip to Ivar’s, I recommend driving a little further north and turning right on 70th, where you’ll find Honore Artisan Bakery. That’s a sweet plate of sweets, eh? I stared at the showcase, and couldn’t decide what would be best for my coffee break, so I decided to try three goodies: (clockwise from the top) a canelé, a coconut/salted caramel macaron, and a kouign amman. All were delicious, especially with that coffee. And note the caramel theme in the confectionery trio. I liked the macaron best, which means that next time, the challenge will be choosing from the ten or so flavors that Honoré offers.

Speaking of sweets, I find it sweet that 2009 was the year that food carts/trucks took off in Seattle. Perhaps sweetest of them all is Parfait, where Adria Shimada dishes out ice cream made with the finest, most local and organic ingredients – with no corn syrup, no added stabilizers, and no preservatives. Look for Parfait’s return in the spring, and while it’s hard to choose from the many tempting flavors (that are always subject to change), I’d highly recommend the fresh mint stracciatella made from mint leaves that give it a natural, refreshing taste.

Hallava Falafel is another food truck, but one that’s parked in a permanent position down in Georgetown. You’ve basically got two choices: the falafel sandwich, and the shawarma. (Hallava spells it “shwarma.”) Both are healthy-sized sandwiches, and both are adorned with beets and other goodies. Both are worth trying, though I think the shawarma edges out the falafel, which was just a little dry. Good deals at $6.50 each!

But the best food truck now roaming the streets of Seattle (and about the only mobile truck operating through the winter) is Marination Mobile. Take the wonderful forms of Mexican food, and amp up the flavor with Korean and Hawaiian influences, and it’s a whole new ball game. Tacos are just two dollars, and they’re available in four varieties–trust me when I say kalbi beef is the best.

What impresses me most, though, was the Kalua kimchi quesadilla. Oh, I enjoy the fermented veggies in the kimchi fried rice bowl ($5), with a fried egg adding its usual magic. But in the quesadilla, kimchi elevates what I usually see as a throwaway dish to something spectacular. The kimchi has more zing than in the fried rice, playing nicely with the Kalua pork, and a smattering of slaw and jalapeno slices on top finished the dish in fine fashion.

And in case you’re wondering, the spam sliders are surprisingly delicious.

Marination Mobile is proof that curb cuisine is catching kimchi-like fire in Seattle. How hot are the Marination mavens? They recently won Good Morning America Weekend‘s national Best Food Cart Challenge. Great job, Marination! And here’s hoping 2010 brings us even more great street food…

Ivar's Restaurants (Ballard) on Urbanspoon

Ivar's Seafood Bar on Urbanspoon

Ivar's Salmon House on Urbanspoon

Ivar's Seafood Bar on Urbanspoon

Ivar's on Urbanspoon

Ivar's - Mukilteo Landing on Urbanspoon

Ivar's Acres of Clams on Urbanspoon

Ivar's Restaurants on Urbanspoon

Ivar's Restaurants (Bothell) on Urbanspoon

Ivar's Restaurants (Northgate) on Urbanspoon

Ivar's Restaurants Commissary on Urbanspoon

Honore Artisan Bakery on Urbanspoon

Parfait Organic Artisan Ice Cream on Urbanspoon

Hallava Falafel on Urbanspoon

Marination Mobile (locations vary) on Urbanspoon


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