After graduating from college, I did what all good young journalists do and moved far away from home to find work. But I got lucky–while my friends moved to Middle-Of-Nowhere, New Mexico (with a job lined up) or to New York City (without a job), I got the best of both worlds. I moved to Seattle with an editorship all lined up.
But while I had a productive time in the Great North Left, there was something wrong, something that made me deeply miss Orange County. Seattle's food, it kind of sucks, and these are the five things about Orange County food I'm thankful to have again.
5. Real, Actual Spice
Seattleites will tell you that they have spicy food, that, even though seasoning isn't at the core of their cuisine, they can hang with anyone from Thailand, Southern California or Mexico.
Boy, are they wrong. The sort of thing that passes as spice up in Seattle (which attracts a lot of its transplants from the bland-as-bread Midwest) wouldn't have a five-year-old down here breaking their sweat. By the time I saw someone struggling to get their way through a bag of Hot Cheetos, I knew I was in trouble.
When I'd asked for “more spicy,” I'd get some red food coloring. I once emptied an entire bag of red pepper flakes from Seattle Thai-standby Little Uncle (a Bourdain-approved eatery) on to my pad thai only to notice a slight warmth. I swear, even the Huy Fong Sriracha tasted less spicy up there.
If it weren't for the bottles of Gringo Bandito that I smuggled from Weekly World Headquarters, I might not have survived.
4. Actual “Ethnic” Food
Seattle is one of the whitest metropolitan cities in the United States, though the region does have a steadily growing ethnic population. Unfortunately, the city's ethnic restaurants are either located away from the city core, where immigrant populations can afford to live, or targeted towards the bland Seattle palate (and tech-centric Seattle wallets).
I was lucky enough to work in Chinatown-International District, but if I wanted soondubu? All the good Korean food is half an hour away in Federal Way. Feel like a taco but didn't feel like paying $10 for three “street” tacos? Off to South Seattle to buy tacos from a bus. There was literally a day two weeks after I had moved back that I had eaten more tacos than spent days back in Orange County.
And, don't even get me started on Vietnamese food. The poor Seattleites think Vietnamese food is amazing, but they also put plain cucumber in their bánh mì.
3. Not Having To Hear People Call Soda “Pop”
It's soda, guys. I don't get why you're trying to make “pop” happen, you don't even call them “pop” fountains for goodness sake.
2. Quality Fast Food
No In-N-Out, no Del Taco and only five Taco Bells in city limits? What's a guy to do when he wants to just grab something at 2 a.m.?
Dick's Drive-In (a well-deserved Seattle favorite) is great, but for how it treats its employees and customers, not for its food. Seattleites go on and on about how many Dick's they have in a big and how many Dick's they've had in their mouth, but a Double-Double it ain't.
1. Big Meat
Orange County's not known for its barbecue, but the big meat in Seattle (at least the non-Chinese kind) is straight-up bad. I've eaten "amazing ribs” that would've seen the bin at Tulsa Rib Company, brisket made by people who couldn't tell the difference between hot smoke and cold smoke, and pulled pork that I've had to work to chew.
OC cuisine might not have the hype that the Pacific Northwest's does, but it's got a lot more genuineness, and thank goodness for that.
Bonus Entry. Coffee
BOOM. Alta remains the best coffee I've ever had.