I know a lot of you don’t get takeout and then drive it sometimes upward of 40 minutes back to your house, but it’s something I regularly do on the Neighborhood Eats beat. Some days I try to squeeze in stops at a few restaurants, making my car smell like a food court for the drive home. I’ll be honest, it’s not always a great idea. However, this week I was down in Tukwila and the scent emanating from the containers I picked up from Juba Restaurant & Café was tantalizing enough that I almost wrestled open the packaging for an illicit bite before I even made it on Highway 99 headed back to Seattle.
I ordered the kadaafi with beef suqaar ($13), a deeply spiced rice dish with warming spices and bay leaves, sauteed with tender beef strips, and the kati kati with chicken suqaar ($13), a turmeric-laced dish that tosses chicken, onion and green pepper with thick slices of a Somali flatbread. Both dishes come with a small blistering green hot sauce and a lemon slice for squeezing (definitely squeeze it!). Portion sizes are quite large, enough to feed two hungry adults with plenty of leftovers.
The dishes at Juba are simple but incredibly comforting and perfect for blustery winter days. The restaurant is at the end of a strip-mall complex just across the street from the new Spice Bridge Food Hall. The interior has been completely cleared out to make way for potential lines for takeout orders, and the place runs like a top. If you call in an order, the last four digits of your phone number are automatically recorded and used as your order number, which is what you give upon pickup.
There are blue tape X’s placed 6 feet apart on the floor, with three designated lines; orders fly out the door in quick fashion. The gentleman who slid my order under the plexiglass partition separating us performed a graceful dance, pumping hand sanitizer, handing me a credit-card slip to sign, and beckoning to the next person in line in a way that suggested he’s got this dance down and nothing’s going to break his stride.
Juba also serves a handful of Ethiopian dishes among its Somali fare, as well as savory breakfast items like goat liver suqaar and Somali injera served with sweet tea.
Juba Restaurant & Café: 9 a.m.-10 p.m. daily; 14223 Tukwila International Blvd., Tukwila; 206-242-2011; juba-restaurant-cafe.business.site
Additionally, here are two other spots in Tukwila that I visited and loved.
11 a.m.-8 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday; Tukwila International Boulevard and South 152nd Street, Tukwila; 206-582-8896
This mustard-yellow food truck is situated at the edge of a Chevron parking lot just minutes from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. The menu is large — tacos, tortas, tostadas, burritos, quesadillas and more — but the thing I found completely irresistible was the pupusas. An order comes with three ($7.50 or $2.50 each), and you can mix and match.
I got an order of revueltas (pork, beans and cheese), bean and cheese, and spinach and cheese. I could hear the slap, slap, slap from inside the truck as the masa was formed and flattened around the fillings. The end result was some of the thinnest, crispiest pupusas I’ve ever had, obviously made with expert care. The cheese oozed out the sides onto the griddle, creating a lacy, browned edge and gooey, cheesy middle. The spinach and cheese was my favorite, the spinach chopped fine and sprinkled evenly throughout. Also lovely was the oregano-heavy curtido slaw — a perfect vinegary bite to cut through the richness of the pupusa.
9:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Wednesday-Monday, 9:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday; 17348 Southcenter Parkway, Tukwila; 206-508-2181
Located in the food court for Lam’s Seafood Market, this is the second location for the longtime Chinatown International District restaurant. I ordered the cha gio ($7.99), two substantial fried pork egg rolls that stayed light and crispy even after a long drive, and what I’m considering to be the grand-slam supreme of broken rice dishes: the com tam suon bi cha op la ($11.99). A succulent fried pork steak, a fried egg, a slab of baked egg laced with mung beans and wood ear mushrooms, a heap of thinly sliced pork and pork skin, a few stray slices of cucumber and a tub of nuoc cham all accompany a heap of broken rice. It’s a feast of flavors and textures, and while I don’t think the pork skin or the fried egg benefited from the Styrofoam container, the rest of the dish fared incredibly well.
While I waited for my order, I swung across the hall to Golden Daisy — unable to resist the smell of roast pork — and picked up a half pound of barbecue pork for under $5. I’ve got my eye on the duck for next time, and definitely another round of broken rice from Vietnam House.