It’s a new year — with some of us possibly feeling a little underfunded after the holidays — so here’s a fresh batch of the best Seattle-area cheap eats.
Aviv Hummus Bar on Capitol Hill: You will remember the moment you ate falafel from Aviv. You might even become a snob and shun other falafel after this experience. Fried to order, these chickpea fritters are moist and fluffy, coated in a crispy shell, a satisfying crumbly, herbaceous bite. Also, don’t miss the garlicky half-mashed hummus made to order. 107 15th Ave. E., Seattle (206-323-7483, avivhummusbar.com). — Tan Vinh
B-Side Foods on Capitol Hill: This tiny sibling to Capitol Hill’s beloved Analog Coffee has a short menu and keeps funny hours, but the food is mighty. Jake Vorono, formerly of the great Il Corvo, runs the show, and his fancy toast is completely worth it, piled high with delicious savory or sweet stuff. And B-Side’s egg sandwich has just the right amount of ham (or mushrooms, if you must), Beecher’s Flagship cheese, house-made daikon pickles (genius) and aioli (get it spicy!). The mimosas and micheladas: also strongly recommended. Thursday-Friday 7 a.m.-2 p.m., Saturday-Sunday 8 a.m.-2 p.m. 421 E. Thomas St., Seattle (facebook.com/bsidefoodsseattle). — Bethany Jean Clement
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Barbecue Smith in Maple Leaf: Jason Jacobs was a plumber who finally ditched his day job this summer to follow his hickory-smoked dream. Some impressive Central Texas-style briskets, fatty cuts with a pronounced smokiness. The restaurant often sells out by 8 p.m. Ribs are your next best option. That his business partner is the owner of Chuck’s Hop Shop didn’t hurt. The smoke house boasts a stellar craft-beer list to wash down that finger-licking barbecue. 7919 Roosevelt Way N.E., Seattle (206-257-1333 or barbecuesmith.wordpress.com). — T.V.
Betsutenjin on Capitol Hill: Part of an international ramen chain, with a dozen branches in Hong Kong, Betsutenjin does a Hakata-style broth that appears milky and tastes so dreamily creamy that the cooks have to keep reminding customers no dairy was added. It’s just a rich, pork-bone broth that will have you slurping the entire bowl. 954 E. Union St., Suite 102, Seattle (facebook.com/BetsutenjinramenUSA) — T.V.
Carnitas Michoacan on Beacon Hill: Taco alert! The Santacruz family’s handmade corn tortillas are excellent. Get them with carne asada, garlicky and grill-charred just right; lengua, mild and melty-soft; carnitas, tender with rendered fat (though beware of bones); and more. Non-taco options are ample in portion and amply delicious: a giant carne asada platter, bowls of caldo des res, great quesadillas and super-tasty guacamole. 2503 Beacon Ave. S., Seattle (206-323-3688 or on Facebook). — B.J.C.
Choice Deli & Grocer in West Woodland has been under the same ownership for the past 15 years but reinvented itself this past winter as an IPA haven with teriyaki and greasy grub. It’s some of the best teriyaki chicken in Seattle — charred bites of caramelized white and dark meat, over copious amounts of white rice. It’s not as syrupy sweet as other teriyaki takes, more smoky. Its yakisoba is something you would easily find in the best msg-haunts in the Chinatown International District — noodles slicked with oil, perfumery with wok hay and served with so much beef that there’s lots of leftover meat for the side of rice. 6415 Eighth Ave. N.W., Seattle (206-789-0211 or (ballardchoice.com). — T.V.
Community Table in South Lake Union: Amazon has a heart, and it’s Community Table from FareStart. The gigantic online retailer donated the South Lake Union space for this lunch-only place, and the fantastic nonprofit runs the restaurant as part of its Foodservice Apprenticeship Program, helping Seattle’s disadvantaged get jobs in the industry. And the food at Community Table — huge salads, barbecue with actually spicy sauce, sandwiches on cushy potato rolls, healthy but not at all boring bowls — tastes great. 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Friday. 399 Fairview Ave. N. (in Amazon’s Houdini North building), Seattle (206-588-4028 or farestart.org/community-table). — B.J.C.
Conscious Eatery in Georgetown: You’ve heard about the razor-thin profit margins in the restaurant business. Conscious Eatery makes big, beautiful sandwiches and salads, and if you “Make it a meal” — add two sides, including extra-tasty coleslaw or potato salad, a drink or a cookie — they give a meal to a homeless person, every time. Ingredients are local and high-quality; meats are roasted on-site, dressings made from scratch, cookies fresh-baked. Prices are completely reasonable. They don’t get donations from suppliers, nor a special deal on rent. They just take it from the bottom line, leaving a profit margin of nothing. We should all eat at Conscious Eatery all the time. 7:30 a.m.-3 p.m., weekdays only. 5620 Sixth Ave. S., Seattle; 206-659-4098; consciouseatery.org. — B.J.C.
Dough Zone in Chinatown International District and other locations: Is local favorite Dough Zone better than the mighty international Din Tai Fung?! Some dumpling fanatics do contend that Dough Zone’s extremely tasty specimens come out faster, hotter, juicier and more tender. D.Z.’s xiao long bao, or soupy dumplings, absolutely stand up to D.T.F.’s, with just the right ratio of giving, elastic wrapper, to soft, savory, porky filling, to hot, delicate, marvelous broth. They’re also cheaper. Wherever your loyalties lie, this important debate demands much, much more research. 504 Fifth Ave. S., Suite 109, (Chinatown International District) Seattle (206-285-9999 or facebook.com/pg/DoughzoneSeattle). Also at 15920 N.E. Eighth St. and 14625 N.E. 24th St. in Bellevue, 7625 170th Ave. N.E. in Redmond and 1580 N.W. Gilman Blvd. in Issaquah. — B.J.C.
Fremont Bowl in Fremont: The main draw is the Instagram-friendly chirashi bowl, a collage of sashimi with different colors, textures and flavors. This Japanese spot is one of the most talked-about openings in recent months. Portions are huge. And the sashimi is neither fishy-smelling nor slimy like many cheap chirashi bowls and happy-hour sushi. Those who hate sushi (is that even possible?!) can always go for the teriyaki or katsu chicken. Note the restaurant uses Canadian Atlantic salmon instead of wild salmon for its rice bowls. 4258 Fremont Ave. N., Seattle (206-504-3095, fremontbowl.com) — T.V.
King Philly Cheesesteaks in Rainier Valley should add an ampersand with “Wings” to its name. It serves some of the best chicken wings in the south end. But that namesake sandwich — chopped rib eye, peppers, jalapeño and onions binded with cheese sauce or melted provolone — is a gooey salt bomb. It will taste even better after your rec league game. 7820 Rainier Ave. S. Unit A, Seattle (206-722-2434 and facebook.com/kingphillycheesesteaks) — T.V.
Mean Sandwich in Ballard: After living the fine-dining dream back East — working at Momofuku, then running their own restaurant, Thirty Acres — Alex and Kevin Pemoulie are making magical sandwiches in a tiny spot in Ballard. Their signature one sounds weird — with corned beef, pickled red cabbage, yellow mustard, fresh mint and maple syrup — but it tastes like sandwich genius. The Steak Tartare Club is also a thing of beauty. And get the Skins & Ins, an unholy potato skin/homefry hybrid that might be better than French fries. 1510 N.W. Leary Way, Seattle (206-789-9999 or meansandwich.com). — B.J.C.
Qin on Capitol Hill: With mismatched chairs and a lot of the laminated menu casually crossed out, Qin’s a welcome change-up on increasingly upscale Capitol Hill (There’s also a branch in Edmonds, plus another sibling, Miah’s Kitchen, in Redmond). What’s important here isn’t the design or the décor — it’s the house-made noodles, and some of them aren’t even on the menu. What to get: the biang-biang noodles (try the pork sauce ones), the hand-shaved noodles (in rich, spicy beef broth) and the hand-pulled noodles (in the same hot soup, or served cold and refreshingly tingly). Oh, and the broccoli with garlic sauce is also extra-good. 1203 Pine St., Seattle (206-332-0220 or miahskitchen.weebly.com). — B.J.C.
Sizzle & Crunch in the University District: It’s the joint all college students wish they had on campus. Dinner for under $8 and big servings. Think Chipotle meets Vietnamese comfort food. In 2017, several Asian restaurants adopted the fast-casual model, none better than here. A prepper assembles your rice bowl or banh mi behind the counter. The rice bowl is the better deal. You can’t go wrong with the grilled pork chop, pork belly or pork shoulder. It’s an oinky affair. 1313 N.E. 42nd St., Seattle (206-547-2723 or facebook.com/SizzleandCrunch). — T.V.
Standard Brewing in the Central District: This is what a place to drink beer should be: friendly, comfortable, handsome in an understated way, funny enough to give its beers names like Body Massage, serious enough to win awards for them. The menu of sandwiches and snacks doesn’t look ambitious, but the results are way above standard, like an extra-good tuna melt (gloppy but not too gloppy), a muffuletta that’s up there with New Orleans’ best (plus spicier!) and coleslaw that seems to have a secret ingredient (one that makes it disappear fast). 21 and older only. 2504 S. Jackson St., Seattle (206-535-1584 or standardbrew.com). — B.J.C.
Supreme in West Seattle: This is the pizza version of Mark Fuller’s wildly popular New Luck Toy, complete with the same streamlined bar setup with cocktails and slushies on tap (all $9 or cheaper). Instead of Chinese takeout, Fuller focuses on New-York-style pizza, giant, foldable slices for as cheap as three bucks. The special slices are at the whim of the kitchen. It might be gorgonzola-egg-bacon-arugula combo one night or chorizo-and-potato the next. No matter. Just get it. The “Double Pepperoni” is as souped-up as advertised, salty, tangy and meaty and best downed with any of the two dozen beers on tap or in cans. 21 and over only. 4521 California Ave S.W., Seattle; supreme.bar. — T.V.
Wood Shop BBQ in the Central District is part of the new wave doing Central Texas-style brisket in Seattle. The brisket topped with the mac and cheese for $13 might be all you need. The cheese sauce tasted more like an Austin queso, a béchamel texture of six different cheeses coating the al dente elbow pasta, with smoked jalapeño to cut into the rich cream. Request the fatty instead of the lean brisket. It’s the only way to go. More than other barbecue newcomers, Wood Shop BBQ remains the most consistent: solid Kansas City-style ribs that’s been smoked over hickory and post oak and some of the juiciest pulled-pork sandwiches around. 2513 S. Jackson St., Seattle (206-557-8090, thewoodshopbbq.com). — T.V.
9 more good ones to try:
BB’s Teriyaki Grill in the U-District, Cycene in Pike Place Market, Happy Grillmore in the Central District, Little Lago on Portage Bay, Pittsburgh Lunch & Superette in Pioneer Square, Plum Chopped on Capitol Hill, Ramen Danbo on Capitol Hill, Teinei in South Lake Union and Wicked Chopstix in Rainier Valley.