The Best Local Spots for Cuisine from Nepal, Indonesia, Laos and More

Expand your horizons beyond Thai, Mexican and Chinese
| FROM THE PRINT EDITION |
 
 

BALLARD
[Cuban]
Geo’s Cuban and Creole 
 
In the shadow of massive waterfront restaurants Ray’s and Anthony’s sits Geo’s, another eponymous eatery, but without the Olympic Mountain view. The Cuban joint, where you order at the counter, doesn’t need to rely on fancy sights; the sandwiches speak for themselves: pressed Cubanos stuffed with roasted pork, sliced ham, yellow mustard and pickle slices; all-day breakfast sandwiches; and The Tribute ($9), roasted pork shoulder piled with caramelized onions, garlic and cilantro aioli, lettuce and jalapeños on toasted Cuban bread, whose description sounds suspiciously like the sandwich that put Paseo on the map. Coincidentally, Ballard’s newly reopened Paseo is just across the street—though folks familiar with Cuban cuisine tend to prefer Geo’s over that other, mega-popular sandwich. 6301 Seaview Ave. NW; 206.706.3117; geoscuban.com

BELLEVUE
[Taiwanese]
Facing East
Where Taiwanese superchain Din Tai Fung excels at dumplings, Facing East excels at all else in Taiwanese cuisine: savory sweet potato flour pancakes with oysters ($7.95), twice-cooked beef tasting of five-spice ($10.95), and complexly flavorful beef noodle soup ($9.25). The dish you’ll notice on everyone’s table, however, is the Taiwanese pork burger ($3.25), traditionally called gua bao, featuring a slab of tender pork belly set off by pickled veggies in a steamed bun. It’s worth the occasional wait to get in to the clean, modern space in a strip mall. Bellevue, 1075 Bellevue Way NE; 425.688.2986; litadesign.wix.com/facingeastrestaurant 

CAPITOL HILL

[Indian, nepalese & tibetan]
Annapurna Cafe
There are no windows in this cozy downstairs spot, but the colorful, atmospheric decor makes up for the lack of daylight. Sure, Annapurna’s menu offers Indian standbys such as chicken tikka masala, but the specialties here are Nepalese and Tibetan: dishes such as spicy sipen luk tentuk, a Tibetan noodle soup with minced lamb ($11.95), and the Annapurna curry ($10.25), a traditional Nepalese vegetable curry. Many of the dishes are vegan, but the lamb options are exceptional. Don’t miss the saffron-infused vodka cocktails from the bar—you’ll need something to cool the food’s heat. 1833 Broadway; 206.320.7770; annapurnacafe.com 

CENTRAL DISTRICT  
[Somalian]
Dur Dur Cafe

There are a few things to know prior to having a meal at this nondescript Somali restaurant, with its pea-green walls and piles of prayer rugs: There will be no host to greet you, no menus and there are frequently more people sipping sweet, milky chai and hanging out in the kitchen than eating in the dining room. But rather than be intimidated, give this place a shot, because it’s good—really good. Sit down at a table and the kind cook will come to tell you what she’s making that day: likely your choice of goat, beef, chicken or fish stewed with myriad spices and served over luscious basmati rice or thin spaghetti ($11). The plates are actually platters, served alongside a fresh salad with house-made hot sauce and a banana. Bring cash, and an open mind. 2212 E Cherry St.

COLUMBIA CITY  
[Senegalese]
La Teranga  
The flavors of Senegal, like the colors of the textiles that hang on the wall of this narrow, high-ceilinged eatery, are bright and bold. On a first visit to La Teranga, one must order the thiebou djeun: white fish cooked with tomatoes, carrots, cabbage, cassava and eggplant and served over broken rice, which is rice broken in the milling process, resulting in a finer texture ($13.50). This national dish and house specialty is available only on Friday and Saturday because of its time-intensive preparation. Vegetarian visitors may prefer the couscous, studded with raisins and topped with caramelized onions, veggies and olives ($12). 4903 Rainier Ave. S; 206.725.1188; Facebook, “La Teranga” 

EDMONDS  
[Indonesian]
Waroeng Jajanan  

One of the best—although often overlooked—aspects of traveling abroad is shopping in foreign grocery stores. We’ve found a place close to home with all the intrigue of a Bali market excursion. Waroeng Jajanan is a family-run Indonesian shop in a Highway 99 strip mall, a mini-mart-like destination for tempeh, instant mi goreng (a sweet and spicy cousin to Top Ramen), and all manner of sauces and spices from the archipelago nation. But those unfamiliar with cooking Indonesian food at home will want to head straight to the back of the store, where a bounty of prepackaged food made in-house—for example, ayam bakar pedas, spicy grilled chicken and nasi bungkus, a rice dish wrapped in banana leaf—is ready to heat in the microwave and enjoy at one of the few tables, or to take home and eat later. Go early, since prepared dishes sometimes sell out by early afternoon. Edmonds, 22315 Highway 99; 425.412.7025; waroengjajanan.com

FREMONT  
[Turkish]
Café Turko 
 
Shuffle past the assortment of tchotchkes and racks of scarves and to grab a table at this popular neighborhood Turkish haunt. Though it would be easy to make a meal of the beautiful mezze options—the rainbow hummus plate ($14), with yam, beet, spinach and standard hummus, is especially worth ordering—you’d be remiss not to order the warm, fluffy pide bread “pizzas” ($8–$14) or one of the kebab plates ($11). As in Turkey, no café experience would be complete without a coffee—get the version here with cardamom, or opt for an iced mint tea instead. 754 N 34th St.; 206.284.9954; cafe-turko.com

GREENWOOD  
[Canadian]
The Angry Beaver  
 
Where many of these restaurants emphasize authenticity, The Angry Beaver unapologetically plays up every Canadian stereotype: hockey paraphernalia abounds, there’s poutine and Canadian whiskey cocktails on the menu, and the regulars are a jersey-sporting, rowdy bunch on hockey-game nights. Although this place, owned by a Winnipeg native raised in Toronto, is a bar first and foremost, the food is legit, particularly the generous plates of poutine ($7.99), french fries topped with Beecher’s cheese curds and a choice of house-made beef, turkey, curry or mushroom gravy. Save room for the Nanaimo bar flight ($5.95)—four flavors of Canada’s most recognized dessert (a sort of layered brownie on steroids, cut into squares, with flavors such as coffee/mocha, Irish cream and peanut butter)—served here with chocolate sauce and a toothache to follow. 8412 Greenwood Ave. N; 206.782.6044; angrybeaverseattle.com 

[Egyptian]
Hummus Café    
 
It’s easy to lump Middle Eastern food together and not know whether your falafel is made by someone from Lebanon, Israel or Palestine. But Hummus Café, with its cheery golden walls and checkerboard floor, is proudly Egyptian. The crisp, house-made falafel here is green from the addition of fava beans—a traditional preparation in Egypt—and best served in a wrap with creamy eggplant ($7.49). Try the koshari ($7.49), a street-food dish of rice, lentils, macaroni and tomato sauce topped with a heap of caramelized onions so addictive that the owner’s son, who helps wait tables, says he used to sneak them as a kid when his mom wasn’t looking. The family vibe is alive here, spreading from the open kitchen out to the customers. 8420 Greenwood Ave. N; 206.706.9300; hummuscafe.net 

LAKE CITY   
[Mediterranean]
Man’oushe Express    
For now, this humble eatery is but a window, a pizza oven and a few stools at the back of Goodies Mediterranean Market—follow the intoxicating smell past hookah pipes, baggies of spices and dozens of olive varieties. But Goodies owner and Lebanese native Jay Hosn has big plans for Man’oushe, which turns out Lebanese-style flatbreads called mana’eesh, which come either open-faced like a pizza or folded over like a sandwich and are topped with everything from spinach and soft feta ($4.50) to ground lamb and tomatoes ($4.95). Word has it that the teeny restaurant will soon be expanding to include breakfast and actual tables—a great thing, since the bread is so perfectly crispy out of the oven that it’s a shame to let it become soggy on the way home. 13721 Lake City Way NE, Lake City; 206.362.2694; goodiesmedmarket.com 

MOUNT BAKER   

[Laotian]
Viengthong    
Their geographic proximity makes the cuisines of Laos and Thailand naturally similar: big flavors, lots of spice, heavy on the herbs. And while you could stick to recognizable Thai favorites such as tom yum goong (spicy, sour shrimp soup) or pad thai, clearly these dishes are just afterthoughts at Viengthong. The standouts are Laotian dishes, such as whole fried fish topped with chiles ($11.75), marinated grilled chicken ($8.25), and nam kao ($9.75), deep-fried balls of rice and sour pork wrapped in lettuce leaves, and topped with chiles, ground peanuts and fresh herbs. Order the nam kao with sticky rice and eat it, as they do in Laos, with your hands. Make sure the kind waitstaff knows you’re interested in the Laotian preparation of dishes such as papaya salad, which is popular (though made slightly differently) in both countries. 2820 Martin Luther King Jr. Way S; 206.725.3884

PINEHURST   
[Filipino]
Isla Manila Bar & Grill    
The salty, vinegary dishes of the Philippines may be best enjoyed on a Palawan beach but lunch or dinner at sunlit Isla Manila will do in a pinch. The restaurant coined the term “flip sum” for its dim-sum style service of Filipino dishes, such as dinuguan (deep, rich pork blood stew), pancit bihon (stir-fried thin rice noodles), kare-kare (stewed oxtail in peanut sauce), commonly known pork adobo, and delightfully crisp fried garlic chicken. Portions are small and served from a cart—$15.99 on weekends ($11.99 for lunch and $15.99 for dinner, weekdays) buys all you can eat, plus a few tiny egg-roll-like lumpiang and dessert, such as a sticky sweet cassava cake. 11740 15th Ave. NE; 206.365.2500; Facebook.com, “Isla Manila” 

QUEEN ANNE    
[Swedish]
The Swedish Club    
A flight to Sweden costs somewhere in the ballpark of $1,000. A Swedish breakfast at Queen Anne’s Swedish Cultural Center? Just $9 for adults ($5 for kids ages 5–7, and $7 for members). The vaulted ceilings and Swedish kitsch—weaving looms, doll collections, books to borrow, etc.—make it clear you’re at a cultural community center, but the views from the Swedish Club downstairs rival those of Canlis, and the thin, crêpe-like Swedish pancakes topped with lingonberries and unsweetened whipped cream are among the best in the city (available on the first Sunday morning of the month). Swing by on Fridays for happy hour, which includes open-faced sandwiches known as smörgås, Swedish Meatballs and freshly baked goods by club members. 1920 Dexter Ave. N; 206.283.1090; swedishclubnw.org 

SOUTH LAKE UNION     
[Trinidadian]
Pam’s Kitchen     
With her full-service University District restaurant closed, owner Pam Jacobs is running her Trinidadian operation exclusively from this casual Eastlake Avenue joint, where the menu is more limited in both scope and availability—it’s only open for lunch—than the original location. But the jerk chicken, still fiery and still delicious, is served here in a coconut fried bread sandwich ($6.50); curried beef and chicken roti wraps are popular orders as well ($10–$11). The service is friendly, the ambiance is tropical, and the hibiscus or peanut punch, if you order it, adds to the island flavor. 609 Eastlake Ave. E; 206.420.2320; pams-kitchen.com

WHITE CENTER     
[Cambodian]
Queen’s Deli      
Similarly to Laotian food, Cambodian cuisine draws largely on neighboring Vietnam and Thailand, and you’ll notice some familiar dishes—spring rolls, banh mi, lemongrass-scented beef skewers—at Queen’s Deli, even though its specialty is Khmer cooking. Don’t spend too much time examining the café itself—it’s not terribly organized—and keep your eyes on the goods: bowls of noodles, thin crêpes called banh chaoy ($5) served with ground chicken and veggies, and nom khong, sticky rice doughnuts topped with a crunchy, caramelized sugar glaze (three for $1.25), among other foods premade and packaged to go. There are a few tables, but takeout is more common here. 9808 14th Ave. SW; 206.767.8363

[Salvadorean]
Salvadorean Bakery      
Blue tables add a pop of color to this unassuming, well-lit Salvadorean spot, although it hardly needs it; the piñatas overhead and rainbow-hued cakes in the display case take care of that. There’s more than just sweets at the Salvadorean Bakery, however; look for traditional handmade pupusas (a sort of thick rice or corn tortilla, $2.60–$2.75 each) stuffed with pork, chicken or loroco, an edible flower common in Central America; tamales ($2.60–$2.95); deep-fried plantains ($3.50); and an assortment of tasty soups. If you save room for a piece of tres leches cake, you won’t be sorry, but the savory here is just as good as the sweet. 1719 SW Roxbury St.; 206.762.4064; thesalvadoreanbakery.com