In recent weeks, we made the rounds around town and found a new spot in Issaquah that warrants its long lines and a Ballard institution that changed its name but (whew) didn’t change its food. In Portage Bay, a deli did change hands in ownership but kept its great pizza. The best part? All these takeout options are substantial enough to serve as family meals that won’t break the bank.
Item: The roast pork ($12.99 per pound)
1802 12th Ave. N.W., Suite C, Issaquah (Pickering Place shopping center); 425-657-0478; famous-kitchen.square.site
On the Eastside, in a strip mall between a GameStop and a Supercuts, stands a tall ceiling box of a room with the unlikely name Famous Kitchen, promising much. If you eavesdrop on everyone’s order (“I’ll take a pound of roast pork.” “Roast pork, one pound.”) you would think they only serve pork belly in this Cantonese barbecue cafe. That popular roast pork is a two-part winner: The crunch on that crispy skin is so loud, I could hear that potato-chippy-like chomp from a dining table 5 feet away. That bronzed, blistery skin encases an interior of white meat that’s the best of a porchetta — moist and succulent, with a floor of fat that melts on your tongue. At $12.99 per pound, it’s enough meat to fill three to four hoagies for a picnic. Take note: The roast pork often sells out by 2 p.m. Doors open at 11 a.m. If you’re a late riser, your consolidation prize is the honey char sui ($11.99 per pound), salty pork coated in a shiny gloss of sweetness. If you score the burnt ends, hell, that’s just as good as its signature roast pork as far as I’m concerned.
Little Lago Grocer
Item: Pizza ($9-$15)
2919 Fuhrman Ave. E., Seattle (don’t confuse this grocery and deli shop with Café Lago); 206-922-3324; littlelago.com
The news that owner Carla Leonardi had sold her share of this wonderful neighborhood deli in April alarmed me enough that I picked up the phone to ask, “That pizza will still be around, right?” William Steinway, who took over full ownership, assured me that the pizza menu will not only remain but expand this summer. This is one of the best value pizzas (many are between $9 and $13) in the city. You won’t find many 12-inch artisanal pies this good in this price range in Seattle. The pies here are less expensive than the pizzas served at its older sibling, Café Lago in Montlake; the former has a chewier crust made from pastry flour and high-gluten flour. The pizza’s circumference gets nicely blistered, its base leoparded with dark isles indicating they know how to use a quick, hot oven. The sauce was tangy. The blend of fontina and smoked mozzarella adds some welcome depth on the cheese side to what’s usually just a vehicle for bland gooeyness. I would be happy with just a $9 cheese pizza and a bottle of Lambrusco. Those who like to pile on the toppings should go for the salsiccia pepperoni ($13) with pepperoni, sausage and the pleasant pops from the slivers of Mama Lil’s peppers.
Item: Family taco kits ($52 -$92; feeds four to eight diners); must be ordered a day in advance
5242 Leary Ave. N.W., Seattle; 206-784-5568; elmoose.com
The family behind this Mexican restaurant used the down time during the pandemic to give its brand a face-lift: a name change from Señor Moose, a new al fresco dining section plopped on the sidewalk and a service window hawking street tacos. But the best addition were the three taco kits: 12 tacos ($52) for four people, 18 tacos ($65) for six or 24 tacos ($92) for eight — one of the best meal deals if you need to feed a Brady Bunch-sized family on a budget. Each tray comes with your choice of steak, chicken and two versions of pork: al pastor and carnitas. In the beef taco kit, the bits and edges of the chopped-up skirt steak were nicely charred from the griddle with just the flavor of salt and smoke. Comes with the usual taco fixings (jalapeño, diced onions, radish, lime, cilantro and salsa); sides of rice and refried beans and a bag of fresh tortilla chips and three different salsas. If you order after 3 p.m., you get an additional spicy peanut salsa that’s made for the dinner rush. The $52 taco kit can feed a couple with two small children.