While you may not consider Tukwila a city known for its cuisine you would be surprised to note that we had anything and EVERYTHING you can think of, and probably even more! We even had a “Coconut Prawn” competition (read on to see who won best overall, best sauce and best coconut flavor). The Tukwila restaurants that hosted us included: Grazie Italian Ristorante, Billy Baroo’s Bar and Grill, Basil’s Kitchen and Bar, Bahama Breeze Island Grille, Rainforest Café*, Duke’s Chowder House, and California Pizza Kitchen. It was a very busy and FULL-filling day as each restaurant seemed to be more generous with the proportions than the next.
First stop, Grazie Italian Restaurant. Talk about a hidden gem; Grazie is located next to The Men’s Warehouse on Southcenter Parkway and has been established there for 24 years. We were warmly greeted by owner, Maria Downey who detailed the restaurant's history and her desire to serve an authentic Italian food experience. She can be found here most days sharing stories and serving her customers. Maria has a very dedicated and enthusiastic staff who she takes to Italy every other year to enhance their service experience and give them a first-hand look and feel into real Italian food, wine and cooking. While she was enchanting us with her passion we were served a dessert called Strawberry Marsala and fresh brewed cappuccinos. Maria’s husband roasts all of the restaurant's coffee beans at home, and we were given a bag of fresh ground coffee as a souvenir. (Fun fact – Grazie is the official coffee roaster for Harbor View Medical Center.) The Strawberry Marsala was the most indescribably mouth watering delicious thing I have ever eaten. It reminded me of the creamy layers in tiramisu: rich and thick in texture, bursting with flavor. As we savored our dessert, Maria shared with us their delicious and genuine menu, including wine pairings. Did I mention there is no oven at Grazie and that EVERYTHING is made from scratch? If you haven’t been to Grazie, you have to go; it is definitely a must! I think I’ll go there tonight….
Second stop, Billy Baroo’s Bar and Grill! Billy Baroo’s is located at the Foster Golf Links (yes, Tukwila has a golf course, if you did not know). It is located off of Interurban Avenue, north of Family Fun Center. Upon entering the building you are immediately taken into an oasis of green. The restaurant runs parallel to the golf course and has huge picturesque windows allowing full views of the beautifully kept grounds. There is a lovely outdoor seating area complete with water features for those warmer summer months and a large banquet room for small parties to large weddings. The bar area is sprawling and has several wall mounted flat screens for those die hard sports fans who can’t watch just one game at a time. Once seated, we were introduced to Billy Baroo’s owner, head chef, special events coordinator, and restaurant manager. The owner welcomed and thanked us for coming and the chef explained the menu we would be sampling -house smoked pork ribs, gumbo with a kick, and coconut prawns with a twist. The ribs were fall off the bone tender in a light sauce that added to the smokey flavor of the meat. Is your mouth watering yet? Mine is, just remembering it! The gumbo was hearty and in true southern style had chunks of shrimp, okra and spicy Andouille sausage. Lastly, we had their coconut prawns paired with an apricot chutney. The batter was crispy, the shrimp was tender, and the chutney was out of this world, making Billy Baroo’s the winner of the best overall coconut prawn! In addition to amazing food, the restaurant also offers live jazz, beer tastings, New Year’s Eve parties, and growler fill-ups on any of their 20+ beers on tap. This is definitely not your typical club house hang out.
Third stop, Basil’s Kitchen & Bar. Any guesses on where this restaurant is located? Basil’s is actually located at the Embassy Suites Tukwila-Southcenter, right on West Valley Highway. While the restaurant is located inside the hotel, it is owned by a separate management company, making it possible for other hotels’ staff to refer their guests. Basil’s is the only Mediterranean-themed restaurant in the area. The dining room has lovely understated blue and green toned decorations, while the white linen tablecloths exude a feeling of class. There is a separate bar area that offers happy hour from 4-7:00p.m. and has a special NLF menu on game days with a coordinating drink for each team. Basil’s also has special holiday options, including a Thanksgiving and Christmas menu. When we arrived to Basil’s, we were seated and served gorgonzola pear crostini, scallops mornae presented in a soup spoon,and coconut prawns with Thai curry peanut dipping sauce (this prawn won best coconut flavor). Though the real show stopper here was the chef's special work station that was set up next to our table. There, he prepared an amazing braised pork shoulder over garlic mashed potatoes with pancetta brussel sprouts, covered in a reduced balsamic vinegar demi gloss with mushrooms. It is just as much of a mouthful to eat as it is to say! Everything we were presented was so delectable and tender; it was truly a delight! Basil’s has a very romantic restaurant setting, while maintaining a more casual bar. With its diverse food menu and excellent drink menu, it really is a great place to eat for everyone.
Half-way through our day and nearing full bellies (if not, already), we came to our fourth destination, Bahama Breeze Island Grille… aka A Feast for Royalty – Caribbean Style! Bahama Breeze has been around for 9 ½ years and is located on the north side of Westfield Southcenter’s parking lot, next to Nordstrom. The restaurant is designed to immerse your senses in a tropical destination, complete with palm trees, fake parrots and a live steel drum band. There is an indoor/outdoor patio that has a huge gas fireplace in the center that operates year-round. If you have never tried cuisine with a Caribbean twist, you are surely missing out. Bahama Breeze brought out their menu's show stoppers; seafood paella, buttermilk fried chicken with garlic mashed potatoes, jerk chicken pasta, fire roasted jerk shrimp served in a cast-iron skillet with a pool of butter and herbs, grilled chicken tropical fruit salad and of course, coconut prawns with citrus mustard sauce. There was so much food and so much goodness going on that I have a hard time putting into words what it was like. This could have been our one and only stop and the FAM would have been complete! Everything was delish! Seriously, no matter what your taste buds are like, you will certainly be able to find a favorite here. After our smorgasbord, Bahama Breeze sent us home with to go boxes of the leftover feast and their signature Key Lime Pie. This is one of my all-time favorite pies.The crust had just the right amount of sweetness to balance the tartness of the key lime. Our stomachs were incredibly full by the end of our visit at Bahama Breeze, yet we still had 3 more stops to go!
Next, we waddled over to the Rainforest Café, located in Westfield Southcenter Mall, between Nordstrom and Sears. The ambiance at this restaurant is like none other, there is a thunderstorm every 30 minutes and most of the life-size animals move and make noise. It’s like a free show with your dinner! The Rainforest Café is a great place for the kid in all of us; consider it for your next birthday party, play date, or any other kind of family friendly group activity. Not only is this place a restaurant, it also has a full bar with drinks and happy hour and a souvenir store. Everything, including the restrooms, is decorated like a real tropical jungle. We were warmly greeted and entertained by the Manager, Mike Miller. He was very informative and also very sociable! Refreshing frozen slushies were waiting for us at our table. The group was then presented with the awesome appetizer sampler, which features Chimi-cha-chas, spinach & artichoke dip, cheese sticks and chicken tenders. We were also given R.C.’s own version of a chicken quesadilla, a fresh Asian sesame salad, and once again, coconut prawns! I personally liked what we were served last, which was Rainforest Café’s Chocolate Volcano dessert! It was served just like a volcano, with a warm chocolate brownie cake forming the volcano, and then vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup flowing out from the top like lava, completed with a sparkler at the top that made it look like it was actually erupting! In addition to being a really fun place to eat, it is also good for the environment. The Rainforest Café participates in conservation programs, non-profit nights, and is a destination for educational field trips. They also offer a referral incentive program to the local hotels. We left with smiles, fully bellies and goodie bags.
Not sure how we were going to make it to two more stops at the pace we were going,we came to Duke’s Chowder House. Chef Bill Ranniger spoke to the group in detail about the restaurant's core values and sustainable pride. Duke’s owners encourage a strong responsibility on community partnership and involvement. They will only use locally sourced produce and dairy; none of their products carry trans fats; the beef is grass fed; and only wild caught salmon and prawns are used. Duke’s also participates in multiple local charities. In addition to being good stewards to the environment and community they also happen to have really freakin' good food. Their award-winning clam chowder is so good that they are no longer allowed to enter the original recipe into competitions. Now they judge the competitions! Duke’s also has one of the best voted happy hours around. After sampling their chowder, beef sliders, coconut prawns, grilled pesto salmon on ciabatta, and ahi tuna quesadillas with a wasabi mayo, I can see why this place gets so much hype!
Our last and final stop for the day was California Pizza Kitchen or CPK, which is in the business of delivering smiles. When you walk into the restaurant your senses are welcomed with bright colors and an open concept kitchen. There is a separate curbside to-go window that allows people to pick up and pay without entering the restaurant. Think fine-dining with a fast food perk! CPK is another restaurant that believes in giving back to the community in which they belong and has strong fundraising and compost/recycle programs. They also host parties for children who want to build and create their own pizzas that they can take home. Everything on their menu is fresh and innovative. It is more than just another pizza joint, serving up spicy quesadillas with a homemade ranchero sauce, arugula and quinoa salad with a lemon vinaigrette, non-fat yogurt smoothies, roasted artichoke and spinach thin-crust pizza, the signature Original BBQ chicken pizza, and one of my favorite entrees of the day: shrimp scampi zucchini fettuccine, which was sautéed with lemon, garlic, and white wine and tossed with zucchini ribbons, fettuccine, parsley and parmesan. Each plate was served with fresh ingredients and an appetizing taste, bringing out bright flavors that all complimented each other. California Pizza Kitchen was the first public establishment to serve a barbecued pizza, making claim to the original recipe! Also available on the menu are gluten free, vegan and vegetarian options. And, if you have any other special dietary needs the staff is more than willing to accommodate your special order. Each staff member is well trained and understands the importance of good customer service. Even head chef, Jesus, had a story to tell; he has been employed with CPK for over 10 years and worked his way up to Head Chef!
If I was able to, I would have liked to be pushed and rolled out the door. Seven appetizing and delicious restaurants all on in one day. I am for sure going back to these, bringing friends and relatives. I hope you do the same!
* Restaurants now closed