Ignite your five senses, get out there, eat, shop & play in Seattle neighborhoods this holiday season.
By Bao Nguyen
Updated by Tammy Deets
November 19, 2018
Sure, you could play the jostling game on Black Friday to hunt for bargains. Or you could use your fingers to shop on cyber-Monday while at work. Either way, you are missing out on the fun of shopping in person at small businesses where you will likely get helpful advices. Seattle offers a plethora of retail small shops and bustling restaurants in almost all of its neighborhoods. You can easily turn a shopping ordeal into an experience that feeds your five senses. Get out there and shop small!
To help you get started, we have freshened up our “One Day Guide to Chinatown – International District”. These are just some of our suggestions. We hope you’ll have fun exploring!
Chinatown International District
The CID is steeped in history, not all of it good. In fact, the current location of Chinatown is not the original. When Chinese laborers came to Seattle in the early 1800s, they established a Chinese district in the area that is now Pioneer Square. But as tension caused by work shortage and racism spilled over, the Chinese were violently displaced to where Chinatown now stands. Since then, Chinatown has grown to embrace many subsequence immigrant communities and now, along with Japantown and Little Saigon, it makes up the neighborhood known as the International District.
// SHOPPING //
International Model Toys: If you are into Japanese pop Culture, this is the place to visit. Tom Deng, the owner puts in many hours meticulously hand-paints many models.
Kobo Seattle: An artisan gallery featuring Japanese and Northwest fine crafts. KOBO specializes in both traditional and contemporary works, offering a selection of objects and functional forms in clay, fiber, metal, wood, textile, and paper.
MacPherson Leather: Everything you need to know about leather working is available at this family-owned retailer of leather products including saddles, horse tack & shoe supplies.
Moksha: Clothing store providing Seattle with fresh streetwear and progressive fashion from local designers as well as international finds.
Momo: A shop with where you can find many things including clothing for men & women, vintage & modern, Asian & European, home & personal, near & far. In Japan, they call a store like Momo, a “Select Shop,” because the owners handpick everything within.
Plank & Grain: Furniture gallery specializing in hand-made wood furniture using old-growth lumber reclaimed from deconstructed buildings and warehouses around the Pacific Northwest.
Seattle Martial Arts Supplies: Have a Bruce Lee in your life? This store carries uniforms, equipment, and replica weapons of all kinds.
Sun May: Tucked into Canton Alley and only open Friday & Saturday, this variety store requires some luck and planning to visit, but inside are treasures hard to find elsewhere. The store is a story in itself.
// Dining //
It is nearly impossible to make restaurant recommendations for the CID as there are so many great places. Rest assured, it’s hard to go wrong here. Instead, this guide will focus on different types of food you might encounter and a few popular places where you can find them.
// BREAKFAST //
Dim sum, which means “to touch the heart,” is an extravaganza for the senses. Small plates, usually served inside bamboo steamer baskets, come bearing bite-sized portions of food with all kinds of colors, textures, fragrances, and flavors. Dim sum originated in Southern China and is typically eaten for breakfast but because good food is good any time of the day, you can now find dim sum around the clock. Most major Chinese restaurants in the CID serve dim sum daily from morning through lunch. Hong Kong Bistro recently started made to order dim sum throughout the day. This means you order from the menu. If you’d rather order by pointing at the dim sum in the carts, you can go to Jade Garden, Harbor City, Honey Court, Ocean Star, and Purple Dot.
It can be intimidating for newcomers to the Vietnamese delis. No host for a guide, no waiter to answer questions, just a dazzling array food, snacks, drinks, and people seemingly arguing with each other. But these delis offer something restaurants often don’t: fast and delicious home-styled food. That and they also have banh mi and Vietnamese coffee, the best breakfast combo there is.
// LUNCH //
Pho, & Noodles
The earliest written record of noodles dated back between 25 – 220 A.D. and there have been reported findings of noodles as old as 4000 years in China. I’m sure it was just as yummy thousands of years ago. Pho, the ubiquitous beef noodle soup from Vietnam, doesn’t need much explaining. But noodle houses are always good for a bowl of soul warming.
While dim sum is a delicacy from Southern China, dumplings are from the Northern region. For me, I pick the restaurant based on the delicate wrappers. You can order any fillings from meat, seafood, to vegetables. A lightly pan-fried version is my favorite, but I won’t turn down good dumplings that are cooked in the traditional way – hardboiled and then drizzled with vinegar and hot chili oil.
// AFTERNOON PICKUP //
French pastries may be most well-known but here in the CID, you’ll discover that Chinese & Japanese baking is just as refined and delightful. Soft buns are often stuffed with fillings of both the sweet (coconut, custard) and savory (beans, meats) kinds. Cakes are also a little different, usually fluffier and uses lots of fruits.
Consider yourself lucky if you’ve never had bubble tea before. That’s because you are about to discover a wonderful invention. Most drinks start with fresh brewed tea, hot or cold, which can then be blended with milk or sweetened, up to you. Last are the fun toppings: soft chewy tapioca pearls, fruity gels, silky grass jelly or egg pudding.
// DINNER //
Sushi & Poké
Sushi certainly can go without explaining now but Poké (po-kay), a newcomer in the raw fish food market, is definitely getting a lot of attention. Typically described as a “fish salad,” poké usually consists of raw cubed fish (tuna, salmon) or cooked octopus mixed with seasoning sauces (soy sauce, sesame oil, or spicy mayo) and other ingredients like sweet onions, green onions, seaweed.
The ultimate do-your-own-cooking experience, a hot pot meal consists of a simmering pot of broth at your table and an array of ingredients ready to be added and cooked. Order things like thin sliced meats, seafood, leafy vegetables, and wontons/dumplings to add to the broth. Once cooked, pluck them out enjoy with a savory dipping sauce. Best enjoyed as a group but can also be a two-person thing.