El Rey Peruvian Restaurant in Lynnwood is one of the better South American restaurants to debut in the Puget Sound in the past five years. A good introduction to Peruvian food for newbies, El Rey serves Lima staples from stir-fried steak with fries and rice (lomo saltado) to the creamy potato (papa a la huancaína) along with excellent fried fish and roast chicken. Wash these dishes down with an Inca Kola or a pitcher of chicha morada, a purple corn drink. Portions are generous, with most dishes costing $15 or less. El Rey is an all-family affair, with the matriarch Yacira Mayta cooking and serving seven days a week, while her sister, husband, son and two daughters chip in. Be patient if things get busy. Go on off nights and/or avoid the peak lunch and dinner hours.
Elsewhere in the North End
Well, here is one way to deal with the labor shortage: The chain CaliBurger opened a branch in Shoreline and uses an automated assembly system to run its french fry station.
On the Eastside
Seoul Bowl, the fast-casual rice bowl concept with a bulgogi bowl that has been a hit with the college crowd on Capitol Hill, expands to Canyon Park Place in Bothell. Two miles north sits Patrona Mexican Cantina & Grill, which offers lunch combos for $15 or less, including its chili Colorado lunch special with rice, beans and tortillas. Also in Bothell, Jet City Pizza Co. opens its eighth branch.
Pint & Pie Public House may soon be a household name, as investors aim to open 20 branches. The first Pint & Pie debuted in Tacoma last year, followed by another in downtown Redmond last month. By next summer, the chain will add outposts in Edmonds and Issaquah, said co-owner Greg Steed, who is also the CEO of Northwest Brewing Company. Steed hopes to open up to 12 branches in Western Washington, including in Stanwood, Kent and Auburn. After that, look for more Pint & Pie branches in Oregon, Eastern Washington and Arizona. The business model is written in its name, a focus on craft beer with meat and dessert pies for a food menu. Pastry chef Carolyn Ferguson, who trained at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and owns Belle Epicurean in Seattle, will bake about a dozen different savory and sweet pies for the chain. The downtown Redmond location can hold about 85 indoors, and owners have plans to add a patio next year. The taproom is open to all ages.
In downtown Bellevue, the vowel-challenged DwnUndr Neighborhood Kitchen + Bar, inside Hotel 116, serves burgers, Philly cheesesteaks and other sandwiches, along with bar snacks such as poutine. A mile west sits Semicolon Cafe, which specializes in brioche egg sandwiches souped-up with veggies, meat and seafood, including ham, chicken and smoked salmon.
In the South End
Hotel Interurban in Tukwila rolls out its new restaurant Rendition, with shared plates and fancy entrees such as a 42-day-aged New York strip and a wagyu burger. The hotel restaurant near Seattle-Tacoma International Airport has 44 seats inside. If you prefer al fresco dining, there’s a cozy 38-seat patio with fire pit.
After a year of renovating her Tukwila space with her parents, owner Erica Rodriquez got La Esquina Cafe up and running, hawking tamales, tacos, tortas and breakfast burritos in a mixed-used building along East Marginal Way South with indoor and outdoor seating. The Mexican cafe has already won a lot of fans over in the neighborhood.
In Auburn, West Hill Deli serves Filipino fare, from ube pancakes and longanisa burritos for the morning commute to abodo pork belly and lumpia for the lunch rush.
Federal Way gets Seoul Hotdog — think corn dogs but coated in panko, potato and other flavored batters. For those with a sweet tooth, the Utah-based dessert chain Crumbl Cookies brings its signature milk chocolate chip cookie to Federal Way. In the past, this dessert shop has been known to do funky seasonal flavors such as pumpkin cookies.