From homestyle cooking to pop-ups with fusion flavors, here’s what our city’s Filipino food looks like, tastes like and means to the people who eat it.
Throughout the month of September, we will be surveying the best places to eat Filipino food in the Seattle area. Along the way, we will be asking Filipino-Americans to review a dish at each place.
We have chosen 13 places to write about, which are marked in blue on the map below. Other Filipino restaurants, pop-ups and grocers that serve hot food are listed in yellow. Got a spot we didn’t include? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment on this story.
Location: 21230 84th Ave S, Kent, WA 98032
What to order: Something big, for yourself or to share
Yelp says: “Comforting flavors and a good portion … The smell of garlic rice will make your mouth water … YOU MUST COME HERE IF YOU ARE IN THE AREA.”
I’ve been thinking about what home means for me a lot lately, and how food often recalls the memories of weekends at home or breakfast amidst the humid air in the Philippines. When I arrived at Big Boys Kainan, I felt as if I was walking into my auntie’s restaurant. It was a feeling like you didn’t have to hide or feel out of place. The sharpied names and messages throughout the building reminded me that I’m not alone here in the Pacific Northwest, longing for the warm breeze and ocean smells. It reminded me that I wasn’t alone in missing the islands from which my family left.
I wasn’t sure what to order, so the cashier suggested one of their more popular plates: the “Adobo Moco.” This plate consisted of rice with some fried chicken and an egg, covered in adobo gravy, and you know I had to get the garlic fried rice with it. The meal held notes of Saturday mornings growing up at home with my Dad making adobo fried rice. The smell of garlic brought back memories that were magnified with the flavors of the adobo gravy and Muchiko Chicken pieces.
I ordered a couple of other things that immediately reminded me of my Lola. I remember back home in Quezon City, when the sun was blazing, she would give me and my cousins some ube ice cream inside a warm piece of pan de sal (Filipino bread roll). My mother would do the same when I grew up in San Diego. The bread was toasted and powdered sugar was spread across the top. The flavors brought back images of sitting under a banana tree amidst the tricycle noises while the shade and cold ice cream fought off the heat overseas.
Lastly, to balance the salty and sweetness, I had the calamansi juice. The sour notes allowed my fingers to remember squeezing calamansi fruits in my Lola’s kitchen, until we had enough for the family to enjoy. I don’t particularly like sweet things, but this juice is more refreshing than sweet.
Overall, Big Boys Kainan captured feelings and memories of home in a creative, delicious way. I can tell that each item was prepared with love, and their intention to remind us of home shows with each dish. I’ll be back more to reminisce and enjoy over a meal real soon.
—Enrico Abadesco, ’13, is part of the music duo Sendai Era and works with youth at Filipino Community Seattle.
Location: Pop-up (see website for locations); Catering
What to order: Chicken adobo
Yelp says: “The service was fantastic, the food delicious … For someone who hardly ever has Filipino food and desperately misses mom’s cooking, I was just happy to have Salu-Salo bring some adobo to the area … Salu-Salo put Fillipino food on the map for me, and thank god for that.”
Filipinx people take great pride in sharing meals and inviting others to spend time together and bond. When we’re lonely—when college starts to feel both too big and too small—food gives us a sense of familiarity. It gives us home.
Salu-Salo’s chicken adobo did this for me. Chicken adobo is a dish comprised of basic ingredients. With every ingredient I am reminded of my upbringing: the white vinegar my mother poured for me to eat with chicharon (fried pork dish); the occasional bay leaf I picked out of my food, the copious amounts of garlic I added while cooking with my Tita.
Chicken adobo is bursting with comfort and warmth, the same comfort and warmth that my culture provides me. Regardless of where I go, I can carry a piece of home in my baon, just by packing a small tupperware of adobo.
—Isabella Katipunan Dalmacio is the president of the UW Filipino American Student Association.
Location: 622 5th Ave S, Edmonds, WA 98020
What to order: Longanisa (breakfast sausage)
Yelp says: “Been coming here since their opening and they still got me hooked. I’ve followed Brian since his days at Tom Douglas. … Adorable spot in downtown edmonds that is a bang for your buck. … Party for my taste buds!”
Barkada (which means “a group of friends” in Tagalog) is a casual, Filipino-Hawaiian restaurant in Edmonds. I grew up in Los Angeles on homemade Filipino food and I was eager to try Barkada’s version of longanisa—a breakfast sausage inspired by the flavors of Vigan in the Philippines.
My family is from the same region (what up, my Ilocanos!). Barkada serves the savory, garlic and vinegar-marinated sausage with the typical features of any Filipino breakfast plate: garlic rice, freshly sliced tomatoes, and onions, and two eggs. The three sausage links are shorter and more bulbous than your average skinny American hot dog.
The special Barkada twist? The eggs are made sous vide, laid on a slice of banana leaf, and cooked at 62 degrees. If you are not used to the cottage cheese-like texture of the eggs, I recommend mixing them into the garlic rice. With this trick, I gobbled up every bite like a dutiful Filipino.
—Myra Flor Arpin is a middle school counselor in Everett.
Location: 607 SE Everett Mall Way, Everett, WA 98208
What to order: Tapsilog (meat and egg dish on the skillet at center in photo below)
Yelp says: “The food is great, authentic but a slight Westernized twist. … So. Damn. Good. I swear I don’t normally request another helping of rice but I sure did this time. … A hidden gem in Everett.”
I can cook Chinese food, Korean food, Thai food—I can cook anything. But I choose to cook my own cuisine because I know I have something to offer. A lot of people think that Filipino food is bland tasting. But I know if they try this they’re going to say, “Wow, I’ve never tasted this before."
I was born in the Philippines, and my story will be different than the rest. I used to have a restaurant called Adobo Express here in Everett—at the same location—but when I got divorced last year, I had to give it up. I said, “I’m gonna come back and I’m gonna make it right.” I opened Gracie’s Cuisine.
Every region in the Philippines cooks in a different way. My dad’s hometown is Bicol, my mom is from Guagua. So it’s a combination of different regions that I offer on my menu. It’s the best-of-the-best. Gracie’s Cuisine brings that out and combines them, but the authenticity is still there. We don’t cut corners.
What I offer is what I would want to eat if I was a customer. Filipino is underrated, and I want to put it out there in a way that competes with pho or Thai restaurants. Chinese cuisine has dominated for 40 years. Now I think it’s time for Filipino.
–Grace Correa is the chef and owner of Gracie’s Cuisine in Everett.
Location: 15206 Aurora Ave N, Shoreline, WA 98133
What to order: Some of the best Filipino food comes from grocers like Fil-Am Market. On Saturdays, stop by for fresh lumpia (it’s not an egg roll!), and try to get there before it’s gone. If you’re too late, you can also buy frozen lumpia in the freezer, as well as all sorts of Filipino snacks.
Yelp says: “Your one-stop shop for all things Filipino … They make great lumpia, nice hot & greasy. They are pretty large & sell for $0.79 each so I bought three, which I promptly ate before leaving the parking lot.”
My parents’ store has been in business for 24 years, and I’ve worked there for almost as long. While I can’t divulge any secrets, I can say my mom’s filling is 100% homemade, with no pre-mixed or processed ingredients. It consists of diced potatoes, carrots and a protein, which is then delicately seasoned with salt, pepper and a little bit of her Filipino spice. She has spent years perfecting the lumpia filling in her recipe. When anyone compliments my mom’s lumpia, I feel a sense of pride because she’s sharing a part of herself with everyone who appreciates Filipino home cooking.
—Christian Santos is the son of the owners of Fil-Am Market in Shoreline.
Location: 504 5th Ave S Suite 107A, Seattle, WA 98104
What to order: Quiche with ampalaya (bitter melon)
Yelp says: “I came here to support my fellow Filipinos and it did NOT disappoint! … The Buko pie was bommmmb … This place is pretty darn busy, for good reason.”
I feel indebted to Filipinx food. I can trace this feeling to a particular meal with my Ilokano mom when I was 12. We shared itlog na maalat (salted egg salad) and leftover pinakbet (vegetable stew), including the ampalaya. Our joy during that dinner almost made up for my classmates bullying me earlier in the day for having a nose and lips big enough to cover the surface of their pale knuckles when they punched my face.
So, of course, when I eat quiche with ampalaya sitting at Hood Famous’ eponymous bar, the joy I feel is rooted in nostalgia—the nostalgia of Filipinx flavors fueling resilience in the aftermath of white people’s violence.
—Allison Masangkay, ’18, is the managing director and co-founder of Kapatid Kollective, a group of Filipinx artists and community organizers.
“That’s what I want folks to take away when they have our food and experience our space—that our legacy is one of survival, innovation and adaptability. We bring our traditions with us and develop new ones, changing the landscape and being changed by it in the process.”
Geo Quibuyen, ’13, co-owner of Hood Famous
1. You opened food establishments in both Ballard and Chinatown-International District. Has your perspective on Seattle changed in the process?
Geo Quibuyen: It’s been surreal jumping from the music industry to the food and hospitality industry, all while the city has undergone big changes. It’s always been changing, but the change curve has been more dramatic in the last four to five years than the previous 15 to 20.
If anything, all the things that I believed and felt for a long time, I now believe and feel even more intensely. Things such as addressing and combating displacement, organizing for equity for working-class people, centering POC and marginalized community narratives, linking the struggles of our homelands with the diaspora, etc. The ways and mediums through which I engage with these issues might’ve shifted, but the issues remain front and center as ever.
2. What kind of Filipino influences do you want to be part of the Hood Famous brand? What do you want the customer to take away from the culture?
Geo: I’m eclectic, and always have been. I can’t shy away from that. Some people see it as a lack of focus or commitment to one thing, but it’s my reality. I grew up in a Filipino household, surrounded by other Filipino families, but my crew has always included people from all kinds of ethnic backgrounds and personalities. I grew up in the mass-media, consumer-based pop-culture era, and witnessed a proliferation of new media and interactions with all kinds of culture.
I’m fascinated—and overwhelmed—by it all. We moved around a lot. And I’m not alone. The Filipino diaspora and global labor migration wave is one of the most wide-reaching, and everywhere our people go, we’re changing and being changed by the locales we become a part of. That’s what I want folks to take away when they have our food and experience our space—that our legacy is one of survival, innovation and adaptability. We bring our traditions with us and develop new ones, changing the landscape and being changed by it in the process.
3. How does being in Chinatown-International District inspire you?
Geo: Being in the CID means a lot to us. I became familiar in my late teens/early 20s with its deep history for many marginalized and immigrant communities, its ever-changing present and uncertain future. It’s become the neighborhood I’m most familiar with, perhaps even more than the ones I’ve lived in. Even before we opened our first brick-and-mortar in Ballard, we scoped out the neighborhood, unable to find a spot back then. When the opportunity came to open a spot, we hustled in every direction possible to make it happen.
So many things had to fall in place for us, and it did. The Filipino presence in the neighborhood, once thriving, has dwindled during our generation and we wanted to honor the legacy of folks who lived, worked, ran businesses in the hood long before we did. We’re currently the only Filipino-owned restaurant in the district, but we hope others open shop nearby, too.
Everything you see in the space is intentional—from cultural artifacts to the visual design inspired by materials, patterns and colors in the Philippines, and black & white archival photos of the community on the wall courtesy of Filipino American National Historical Society. The vibe is all about the present moment, but inspired and informed by history and building a foundation for the future.
Location: 1506 Pike Place Market, Seattle, WA, 98101
Website: N/A (It’s not that kind of place)
What to order: Salmon sinigang, a tamarind-broth soup that soothes with sour, salty flavors.
Yelp says: “You’ll get side-eyed if you start crying about bones in the truly exquisite salmon sinigang, the best comfort food if you’re feeling lonely, blue, or homesick. This soup is liquid love.”
Behind the counter of Oriental Mart, located in the heart of Pike Place Market, you’ll find a wall of colorful, hand-written signs in all caps—words of advice for potential customers. One sign screams, “WIFI? PASSWORD: TALK TO EACH OTHER!” Another: “IF YOU’RE OFFENDED BY OUR SIGNS… STOP READING ‘EM AND KEEP ON WALKING!”
And my favorite: “IF U DON’T KNOW HOW TO EAT OUR SALMON SINIGANG DON’T ORDER IT.” I’m well aware of the sharp bones I need to eat around, so I accept the challenge and order my bowl of sinigang from Oriental Mart owner Leila Rosas, who is more casually known as Ate Lei.
Sinigang is a sour, savory soup, usually made with a tamarind broth, vegetables and a type of meat. O-Mart’s popular version features fresh salmon collar delivered from fellow market vendors.
Rosas opened the food counter in 1971, and it’s since been a pillar in the Seattle Filipino food world. When I moved to Seattle in 2014, I was surprised to find a Filipino restaurant in the middle of one of the city’s most crowded tourist destinations. It was the first time I saw non-Filipinos in America casually enjoying pancit, longanisa, adobo and dinuguan.
As Rosas scoops up my soup, she’s laughing in the kitchen with her relatives and making sure her customers—a mix of tourists, locals and regulars—have enough to eat. The buzz around the counter reminds me of the energy and warmth of Filipino family gatherings. When she presents my bowl, I dig right in to enjoy the broth while it’s hot. Each salty-sour spoonful feels medicinal, and surfaces memories of the people and places I’ve called home.
–Jovelle Tamayo is a visual journalist, a teaching artist and a founding member of the Authority Collective, which advocates for underrepresented groups in the photography, film and VR/AR industries.