When most people think of Kent they don’t typically think of it as a foodie destination. On April 17th, Seattle Southside set out to change this perspective and hosted a Culinary FAM Tour of Kent, WA. Local hoteliers, a travel agency and the Kent Downtown Partnership (KDP) were able to sample and sip scrumptious gourmet foods, desserts, and beverages from 6 of Kent’s tastiest boutique restaurants. Read on as I take you through our food journey.
It all began at the Seattle Southside Visitor Center where we were promptly whisked away by Corey in his glorious Customized Tours shuttle. He was our official chauffeur for the day and took very good care of us.
Our first stop found us at the Kona Kai Coffee shop where we were transported to a tropical island. All of Kona Kai’s coffee is from Hawaii, and they feature exclusive flavors such as Macadamia Nut and Guava! Their gourmet sandwiches are not only appetizing, but also budget-friendly. We were able to taste a moist and tart Lemon bread that looked just as good as it tasted and we finished with a flavorful and a savory baked quiche. Kona Kai is a lot more than your average coffee joint. The owners founded and promote the HALO Network Foundation. This is their way of giving back to the community by transforming the lives of homeless, disadvantaged, and at-risk youth to achieve a more self-sufficient life through education and life and job training in the competitive espresso and food service industry. Mychal and Maryum have created a great service to the Kent community, and they encourage the rest of us to give our support to their Culinary and Youth Barista Training Program. For more information, please go to www.halonetworkfoundation.org. Go Kona Kai!
After some light bites and coffee we walked through the Historic Downtown Business area where Barbara Smith from the KDP pointed out parks, shops and additional eateries worth mentioning. Did you know that there is a Koi Pond in the Downtown District? And right across the street from it is a quaint park, where you can enjoy a light picnic with family or co-workers, or even to take your dog. Everything is within walking distance from Historic Downtown Kent to Kent Station; from a full grocery market, bakeries, antique stores, a children’s educational toy store and a lot more! A couple blocks later our tummies were grumbling in anticipation for the second stop on our tour, Cal's Classic American Kitchen.
Cal’s is one of the new kids on the block and has been a local favorite from opening day. It was no surprise why after sampling their Baby Back Pork Ribs, mini Corn Dogs (a true American classic), “Cod Fritters,” and mini Pork Belly sandwiches with jam on a biscuits. Mmmmmm pork belly, I am getting that mouthwatering sensation all over again. Everything on the menu is made fresh to order and the only thing that comes out of a freezer is their homemade ice cream, with rotating flavors like Oatmeal Raisin Cookie and Salted Peanut Butter. They even have their own fisherman for the restaurant; whatever fish he catches that morning is featured the same day in the restaurant. But one of the Cal’s most unique and possibly best feature is not food at all… it’s their beer tap tables. Cal’s will be the only West coast restaurant featuring the Beer Tap Tables for the next 2 years, so make sure to check it out! One of the women in our group called her husband from the tour and they made plans to meet there for happy hour the same day.
Feeling very satisfied on some good home cookin', we moved on to the nearby Airways Beer & Bistro. We were greeted by a smiling staff and wafting aromas of flatbread pizzas. You get the best of both worlds at Airways, since beer and pizza is the finest combination of food known to mankind! Their flatbread pizzas are all handmade, including their Artichoke Pesto and Bacon, Tomato, and Arugula, and what makes it even better is that their own beers are brewed right in Kent at their Brewery and Tap Room. Make sure to stop in for a brewery tour. They also included a finger Caesar Salad with whole Romaine spears, which was more flavorful and crunchy than a normal Caesar.
We were halfway through the FAM and extremely full at this point. Luckily, the next destination would provide us and our tummies with more information than gluttony (or so we thought!). ShoWare Center is home to the Seattle Thunderbirds Hockey Team and one of the region’s best concert venues. It is also the First LEED GOLD sports and entertainment facility in North America, meaning that the ShoWare is extremely green and environmentally-safe and friendly. For example, they save over 40% of water consumption per year because of the features in their restrooms – 2-way handles for the toilets. ShoWare also features not your typical “ball-park food.” They offer pretty much make anything you can think of, a including Prime Rib carving station at most events. To encompass their gourmet foods, the tour was ended with a sweet treat, devouring Chef Rich Carlone’s famous Bananas Foster al a mode (and that is where the gluttony kicked back in!)
Coming down off our sugar high we ventured over to Mama Stortini’s. Waiting for us was a beautifully set table of white linen topped with their red and white house wines, bread and Mama’s special homemade Marinara sauce. Soon after we sat down, we were presented with giant Tuscan Meatballs, out of this world Bruschetta, and mouth-watering Hot Dungeness Crab Melts. If you love crab and cheese, you definitely need to try their Melt. Some guests were lucky enough to take some home. Chef Steve promptly followed to explain the menu in more detail, unfortunately leaving out the secret to his handmade meatball recipe.
The last stop was Reds Wine Bar and Craft Beers. They featured a bruschetta, fresh mozzarella and tomato salad and their own “Cowboy Caviar.” The cozy, red atmosphere is perfect for a date night or catching up with friends. The wine bar is owned by husband and wife team from Kent and they recommend trying the sparkling wine flight.
After such a fulfilling day, I think we all came to the conclusion that Kent is DEFINITELY a foodie destination (and that we will be back for Round 2)! Once again, HUGE thanks to all of the participating restaurants and venues who donated their time, hospitality, and delicious foods; to Barbara Smith, who co-hosted our tour; to Corey for being a driver, and of course to the attendees of the Kent Culinary FAM Tour!