The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

February 6, 2014

A Lot More Than 12 Men on the Field – The Seahawks Super Bowl Victory Parade

Filed under: Seattle, Sports — Tags: , , — Brian Lutz @ 10:50 pm

In 2012, it was estimated that there are 634,535 people living in the City of Seattle at the time.  Last year, the population of the entire State of Washington was estimated to be 6,971,406 people.  In Downtown Seattle yesterday, it was estimated that a crowd of over 700,000 people had gathered along Fourth Avenue to celebrate what is (currently) an unprecedented event in Seattle:  A Super Bowl championship.  This isn’t the first time that a Seattle team has won a championship (the Sonics won an NBA championship in 1979, and the Seattle Storm have won WNBA championships in 2004 and 2010) but aside from the Seahawks’ previous appearance in Super Bowl XL (and the controversial officiating that some believe adversely impacted the outcome of the game, which has remained a sore spot with Seahawks fans for years,) an NBA Finals appearance for the Sonics in 1996 where they mostly served as the token opponent for one of the Michael Jordan dynasty Bulls championships, and a few promising Mariners seasons that ultimately fizzled out in the ALCS, Seattle hasn’t had much to cheer about in the past decade in terms of sports.  The Mariners have typically been somewhere in the range of mediocre to terrible each year since the 116-win 2001 season, the Sonics are currently tearing up the league from their new home in Oklahoma City (and no, I really can’t hate the Thunder, mostly because Kevin Durant is so much fun to watch when he really gets going,)  and the Seahawks have made the playoffs a few times, but have usually managed to be defeated in dramatic fashion.  In recent years Sounders FC has appeared on the scene and developed a surprisingly loyal fan base, but has yet to have much success in their appearances in the MLS Cup playoffs.  Back in 2004, ESPN did a feature on the 15 most tortured sports cities in America, and Seattle made the list at #7.  Of course this was before they made it to Super Bowl XL in 2006, but the outcome of that particular game didn’t seem to do much to help things any.

Perhaps it is because of that history that so many people (at least double the amount of any of the estimates made prior to the parade) showed up to celebrate the Seahawks’ first ever NFL championship, won in emphatic fashion as the Seahawks blew out the Denver Broncos 43-8 in Super Bowl XLVIII on Sunday.  The parade route stretched along Fourth Avenue between Seattle Center and CenturyLink Field, and people arrived hours ahead of time to claim their spots.  I kind of figured that getting into Downtown was going to be a mess regardless of how many people showed up, but even though the 550 bus from Downtown Bellevue took twice as long as it normally does to get there, I was able to avoid the long lines of people waiting to board the bus by getting on at the first stop at the Bellevue Library.  The bus was completely full by the time it left the Transit Center, and ended up just bypassing almost all of its stops (each of which appeared to have a good 20-30 people waiting) due to lack of space for any more passengers.  I figured that I was going to have to make the trip into Downtown to go to work whether I was attending the parade or not, so I might as well see what all the hubbub was about.  And yes, I’m aware that I’m a really horrible sports fan, but if more than 10% of the entire population of the state is doing it, that probably counts as sufficient peer pressure.

To give you some idea of what kind of crowd came out for this parade in spite of freezing temperatures and semi-apocalyptic traffic, this is roughly half a block’s worth of people, looking northwest from roughly Fourth and Madison.  Now picture every single block of Fourth Avenue from Seattle Center all the way to CenturyLink Field, which was also packed with people (but not full, as some sections were blocked off due to preparations for an RV show going on downstairs.)  In addition to all this, Safeco Field was completely full of people watching the festivities on the big screen.  To get a better idea of just what the crowds looked like, you can find a number of other photos on this post.

And this is the view looking in the other direction.  Basically, any convenient ledge or patio people could watch from was jammed with as many people as would fit on to it.

It took some time for the parade to actually reach the location where I was watching from, but the crowd remained enthusiastic in spite of the delay.  When the parade did finally show up, the first ones in line were some of the team buses carrying a number of team personnel, several of which had managed to open up the emergency exit in the ceiling and get up on top of the buses to wave at the crowd.  Apparently safety is something that happens to Peyton Manning when you screw up the snap on the first play of the game (much to the chagrin of the Vegas bookmakers who presumably had to pay out some longshot bets on that one, I imagine.)

Elsewhere in the safety department (or lack thereof,) Marshawn Lynch decided to take in the parade from the hood of a duck full of Sea Gals where he threw Skittles toward the crowds.  I actually managed to catch a couple of them; I’m not sure if I should save them or try to sell them on eBay.

As the parade passed by, the running backs had the privilege of showing off the Lombardi Trophy.  I’m told that it was passed around between the various team members over the course of the parade, and these guys happened to have it at the time they were passing by.  Every time a group of players went by, the cheering was incredibly loud.  To be perfectly honest, the parade itself wasn’t all that exciting  (I can’t imagine you can put on too much of a show on three days notice) but seeing the sheer number of people who turned out was nothing short of breathtaking.  Seattle’s been waiting a long time (and has suffered through years of mediocrity, anguish and heartbreak) for one of its major sports teams to bring home a championship, and it shows.  Now if only we could get the Mariners to actually do something…

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March 31, 2013

The 30-minute Seattle Vacation

Filed under: Seattle, travel, Wanderings — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 11:03 pm

As I’m sure you’ve heard me mention and/or complain about a few times in my recent Blog posts, work for me has been quite busy lately.  This means that even as the weather starts getting nicer and Spring starts settling in over the land, I haven’t had a whole lot of opportunity to take advantage it.  Normally I try to get out of the office for a walk each afternoon to provide myself a bit of a break and to collect my occasionally scattered thoughts, but I haven’t been as good as I might like at doing this lately.  Then again, sometimes when you’ve been going at full tilt for a while there comes a point where you just need to get away from it all, even if you can only manage to do so for a half hour.  This is what I did a couple of days ago.  The weather outside was simply too nice to ignore, and the Spring blossoms have recently begun to come out in force.  Working in the more touristy part of Seattle means that several of the popular Seattle landmarks are easily within walking distance, so if I feel like getting away from things for a bit I can always just go wander out and impersonate a tourist for a little while.  Thanks to the miracles of modern technology I’ve even got a convenient camera built into my Smartphone to take a few photos (nobody is going to notice, right?)  This combination of ingredients makes for the perfect opportunity to go out and take a little 30-minute Seattle mini-vacation.

Naturally, in the tradition of seasoned tourists everywhere, I’ve come back with all sorts of pictures and a story or two, and I can’t wait to bore people senseless with them.  Since it’s kind of hard to find a slide projector these days. I figure I might as well do it here.  After the jump, you’ll find some of the highlights of my 30-minute mini-vacation in Seattle.

(more…)

January 8, 2013

Random Thoughts: Back to the Old Grind, Life in a Tourist Trap, and Causing Trouble with Tribbles

Filed under: Random Stuff, Seattle — Tags: , , — Brian Lutz @ 1:22 am

With the new year comes new resolve to do new things…  OK, forget that, that’s just cliché as heck,  but I’m still using this picture of the last sunrise of 2012 as seen from my apartment window, shopworn platitudes or otherwise.  On one hand, I’ve never been a big fan of having it dark so early in the evenings around this time of year, but one side effect of the later sunrises and later sunsets is that I get to actually see one every once in a while, even if I do wake up at a time that most of my siblings would consider ridiculously late (around 7:30, if you must know.)

Anyway, there really isn’t anything all that exciting going on here right now, so I thought I’d throw out a few random thoughts…

—–

Now that we’re a week past New Year’s Day, I think we can now well and truly call the Holiday season done and dusted.  All the Christmas decorations here are put away (not that I had a whole lot of them in the first place), most people are back to their usual routine, and things are generally back to normal (or in my case, since I somehow ended up starting a new job a week and a half before Christmas, things are starting to arrive at normal.)  As nice as the Holiday season is, there’s something that just feels a little bit off about the whole thing.  Perhaps it’s the fact that it seems like everything just has to be bright and cheerful with Bing Crosby crooning in the background, or maybe it’s the creeping sense of obligation in the background when you still have Christmas shopping to do (and, if you happened to be unfortunate enough to have to do your Christmas shopping at Southcenter the weekend before Christmas, perhaps the most ridiculous traffic I’ve ever seen at that place,) but it almost seems to be a relief when it’s all over.  Sure, it means that you’ve got another 2 1/2 months of Winter to slog through, and probably another four months after that until something resembling Summer happens to show up, but on the other hand it does also mean that there aren’t any major disruptions to the regular schedule of things until Memorial Day (barring the ones you add to the schedule yourself of course), and aside from the need for most people to do something at least vaguely thoughtful on Valentine’s Day and maybe do something for Easter, there aren’t a lot of holiday related obligations to deal with between now and the Fourth of July.  It doesn’t sound particularly festive, but it works in its own way.

—–

As I discussed in my last post, the job I started a few weeks ago has put me basically right in the heart of Downtown Seattle, just off the waterfront.  Of the various places that I’ve worked over the past few years, I would have to say that in terms of interesting things to see in the general vicinity, this one might be the one with the most choices.  I’ve found that Pike Place Market is an easy 10-minute walk from the office, and it’s not too hard to get over to Pioneer Square either.  The waterfront is, of course, a block away, and I suspect that as the weather gets better that should provide some nice scenery and people watching.  If I happen to be feeling ambitious enough to do it,  I can even hike up the hill (or cheat and find an escalator or two, even though that usually takes me several blocks out of my way) and get to various places in the Downtown core or make the trek over to Westlake Center and the shopping district.

Oh, and to top it all off, I’ve got one other thing at my new workplace that I haven’t had at any of the places I’ve worked in quite a while:  A decent teriyaki joint near the office.  There was one place that made passable teriyaki over near Amazon, and Downtown Bellevue one that was OK but mind-numbingly slow, but none of these places were anywhere near as some of the places I head over to Redmond for if I’m looking to get teriyaki that’s actually good.  There’s also at least three different Fish ‘n Chips places within a couple blocks of the office (including the original Ivar’s on the waterfront,) but that gets expensive in a hurry and is loaded with calories, so that’s something I probably shouldn’t  do too often.  If I’m feeling really ambitious over my lunch break I could probably even go try some of the places over at the Pike Place Market.  I hear some of them are supposed to be pretty good, but haven’t ever gotten around to trying most of them.

One of the things I’ve realized as I’ve wandered over to the Market a few times on my afternoon break is that it’s a lot less crowded than I’m used to seeing during this time of year.  Even as a local, it’s been fairly rare that I’ve had any reason to go over to the Market, and on most of the occasions when I’ve been there it’s been during some of its busier times.  Oh, and there was also that time when I got attacked by a cat, but I don’t like to talk about that one much (you’ll have to ask my girlfriend about that one.)  If you go to the Market on a Saturday when it’s really busy, the place can be wall-to-wall people, to the point that it can be tough to even get around in there.  If you go around this time of year it’s still reasonably busy, but at least you can actually get around.  You also don’t feel nearly as rushed trying to get from one place to another.  All in all, it’s a rather different experience than you might be used to if you’re the type of person who only goes when you’ve got tourists in tow, or when you’re trying to impersonate a tourist yourself for some odd reason.  If I get a chance I might do some blogging about some of the stuff I find there, as well as some of the more interesting sights in the general vicinity of my new workplace.  It’s certainly a lot more interesting neighborhood to work in than the South Lake Union neighborhood was, but then again that doesn’t exactly take much to accomplish.

—–

For some odd reason, recently one of my friends bought a pink Tribble off the Internet.  I’m not sure exactly what you’re supposed to actually do with a Tribble since it’s basically just a ball of fur that sits around, purrs every so often, and is occasionally prone to potentially disastrous quantities of reproduction, but for some reason she decided she needed one.  Normally It shares a shelf in her house with a couple of slightly deranged Furbies, but the last time I was over there, I thought it looked a bit lonely with no others of its own kind to hang around with.  After arranging a meeting with an only slightly shady looking trader, I was able to acquire a number of additional Tribbles, and one evening when she wasn’t paying attention, we brought them over to the house.

It didn’t take them long to settle in.  They seemed to like the place…

But for some reason they seemed awfully hungry…

…and pretty soon they were getting into all sorts of places where they weren’t supposed to be.  It’s probably a good thing my friend keeps the Quadrotriticale on the top shelf in the cabinet, otherwise things could have gotten out of hand.

On the other hand, these things don’t seem to have much of a sense of self-preservation.  Apparently there aren’t a lot of microwaves on Iota Gemorium IV.

Then again, it seems that the things can find their way into just about anything if you’re not careful.

By the time my friend discovered the Tribbles, things were getting just a little bit out of hand.  Eventually she was able to find most of the Tribbles and move them to a (somewhat) safer location, but not before taking this family portrait.  The infestation seems to be mostly under control now, but at the last report she is still finding Tribbles hidden throughout the house on occasion.  According to a recent estimate, at the current rate she should be able to locate all of the Tribbles in approximately 17.9 years.

Anyone know where I can find that weird-looking trader guy so I can request a refund?

December 29, 2012

Nowhere to Go But Up

Filed under: Seattle — Brian Lutz @ 12:11 am

It’s not a Stairway to Heaven, but it’s getting pretty close.

Once again, the Holiday season is all but done with at this point, and the long slog of Winter lies in wait.  As it always is, Christmas and the associated festivities that go with it were nice, although they were tempered somewhat by the passing of my Opa about a week and a half before Christmas, and the funeral that went along with it.  On one hand, the passing of a loved one (especially one as respected as my Grandfather and the patriarch of the Vanderhoeven family) is a sad occasion, but on the other hand it did also provide a chance to gather together the family (including some of its farther flung members) and showed just how close the family really is even when separated by distance.  Since I don’t feel particularly qualified to eulogize my Grandfather properly I think I will just link to this post that I wrote nearly three years ago talking about one of the legacies he left our family in the form of his life story in a book, and to the obituary published in the Deseret News.  I can only hope that I will be able to accomplish half as much in my own lifetime as he did in his.

Anyway, adding to the unusual circumstances that have attended this year’s Holiday season is the fact that I have also been in the process of starting a new job, one which puts me much closer to Seattle’s Downtown core than I was over at Amazon.  I am now working on a contract at Airbiquity on a project that involves allowing the use of various data services on automotive navigation systems through a smartphone data connection.  I’ve noted that there are a number of different companies, both in the Seattle metro area and elsewhere, who seem to be working on this type of thing, so I suspect you’ll be hearing a lot more about this type of technology soon.  As a result of this new job, I am now working in a building on Western Avenue in Downtown Seattle, just about a block off the waterfront (and, to be more precise,. roughly across from the Ivar’s.)  If you’re familiar with Downtown Seattle, you’ll know that this is also at the bottom of the hill that most of the Downtown core sits on.

And when you work down at the bottom of the hill, you quickly begin to learn that to get just about anywhere that isn’t right on the waterfront from there, you’ve got to go uphill.  And believe me, there’s no shortage of uphill in Downtown Seattle.  The two large and rather steep stairways you see in the photo above (located at the end of Union street, right next to the Pike Place Market and a few blocks from my new office) are just a couple of the many opportunities that Downtown Seattle offers for gratuitous quantities of vertical elevation gain.  And that big climb only gets you up to First Avenue, (Western Avenue is at the top of the shorter first set of stairs) with plenty more where that came from.  With as steep as some of the slopes are in Downtown Seattle, even the downhill portions of the walk from the bus stop to the office can be tricky.  The closest stop to my office for the 212 bus that I normally ride to work is at Fourth Avenue between Spring and Seneca streets.  This walk ends up being a bit less than 1/3 of a mile, but a quick estimate based on checking relative altitudes in Google Earth shows that there’s roughly a 150-foot difference in elevation between Western Avenue and 4th Avenue at Spring Street.  That’s taller than the building I’m working in (which is roughly 13 stories tall when the condos at the top of the building are accounted for.)  Fortunately to catch a bus out of Seattle at the end of the day I only need to go up to Second Avenue, which is “only” about 70 feet of climbing.  I prefer to think of it less as a walk to the bus stop and more as an intense five-minute Cardio session.  Either that or I just go to the other stop that’s a bit farther out but doesn’t require quite as much climbing.

Of course, if you know where to look, you can usually manage to find some ways to save yourself some climbing, such as this escalator in the Norton Building going from First to  Second Avenue between Columbia and Marion.  The hills actually do start to get significantly less steep as you move southward in Downtown (well, Southeast, given the angle of the streets) but as you can see here, you’re still dealing with a pretty decent amount of climbing anyway.  It’s one of those things that just becomes a fact of life if you live in Downtown Seattle.  Eventually, you start getting to the point where when you go to get lunch or to run some sort of errand you start to think of it less in terms of distance than in terms of how much vertical elevation gain is involved in getting there.

Nonetheless, working in Downtown Seattle, especially on the waterfront, does come with its perks as well, among them the scenery.  Back when I was working over at Motricity it was not uncommon to be treated to some spectacular sunsets from the big conference room in our ninth floor offices during the Winter, and the new office has already provided a couple of nice ones as well during the few weeks I’ve been there.  In addition to this, we also have the ferries to watch as they come in and out of Colman Dock.  The Seattle Waterfront and all its tourist-trappy goodness (or whatever it is they call the stuff these days) also happens to be just next door should we ever feel a sudden urge to go visit Sylvester the Mummy at Ye Olde Curiosity Shop while working on some test cases,  and the Pike Place Market is only a few blocks farther than that.

All in all, I’m pretty sure I can think of plenty of worse places to work than this one.  And I think I’ve been at a few of them too.  If nothing else, at least I should be able to get some exercise out of the deal, right?

August 10, 2012

South Lake Union Food Truck Project, Day 10: Off the Rez

Filed under: Food, Seattle — Tags: , — Brian Lutz @ 9:26 pm

Think he’s smoking something?

To bring the food truck project to a close (for now, I’ll probably try to hit a couple more here and there as time permits) I’ll try something that you just don’t see a lot of around here:  Native American food.

The Basics:

Food Ordered:

  • Indian taco, Chicken Chile Verde: $4.00
  • Naked frybread: $2.00
  • Total (with tip): $7.00

Speed:

  • Time to order and pay: About 5 minutes
  • Time to receive food after ordering: About 4 minutes

Over the course of human history, it seems that just about every culture has at one point or another gotten the idea of taking some sort of dough and frying it in oil.  In the case of the  various Native American tribes, it was largely out of necessity, as they worked with whatever they happened to have on hand (which, after the tribes were moved by the US government on to the reservations, was mostly government-provided flour, sugar, salt and lard.)  Although the ingredients are similar, there are almost as many different variations on frybread as there are tribes (this site contains an extensive list of these.)  From my childhood in Los Alamos, I recall frybread being served mostly at special events like the County Fair or the annual rodeo.  This frybread, presumably influenced primarily by the various Pueblos found in the area surrounding Los Alamos and Santa Fe, would usually be served either with butter and sugar similar to how an Elephant Ear would be served, or in the form of an Indian Taco, which basically involves putting the type of toppings you’d expect to find on a taco on top of frybread.  Tasty, but most Indian Tacos (at least they way they were served back in Los Alamos) could be serious contenders for some sort of “Messiest Food Ever” award..

Until I found this particular truck, it had been years since I have had frybread at all, so I thought this truck would be a good chance to reacquaint myself with it.  The menu here provides four different options for Indian Tacos, plus a number of options for sweet toppings to put on the frybread by itself, as well as Succotash, chili (which happens to be the same stuff that’s used as the primary topping on the beef Indian Taco,) and some sort of a burger (presumably to give the Gringos something they’ll actually recognize on the menu.)  There were a few people in line in front of me, but things moved fairly quickly.  I did have to wait a bit for the food after ordering, but not excessively long.  Having already tried both the beef and the chicken tacos on a previous visit,  I found at the time that I preferred the chicken, so I ordered that (I haven’t tried the pork yet, but I’m not big on the whole pulled pork thing right now after some of the other trucks I’ve been to over the last couple of weeks.)  In order to try out the frybread by itself, I ordered one naked as well, with no toppings added.

Based on previous visits to this stand I knew that one taco should be plenty to make a lunch out of, and two is bordering on too much food (but if you are so inclined, there are a couple of different 2-taco combos on the menu, as well as a 3-taco combo that’s bordering on just plain overkill.)   A good portion of the chicken (which is simmered in a chile verde sauce) is placed on top of the taco and topped with cheese, lettuce, a few pickled onions (had to look at the website to figure that part out) and a cumin crema sauce to top it all off.  As often seems to be the case with Indian tacos, if you tried to eat it by hand you’d most likely find yourself making a big mess, so a knife and fork seems to be the way to go here.  As you might expect, the chicken is the star of the show here, with a good flavor and just a little bit of spice to assert its presence.  Based on trying the beef taco previously I do have to say that if felt a little bit heavier overall, mostly because of the chili. 

As for the frybread by itself, it seemed to be mostly pretty good, although I will note that it seemed like it could have used just a little bit longer cook time, as it seemed just the slightest bit doughy in the middle.  Even so, once I took it back to my desk and applied some honey that I keep in my desk drawer (for various breakfast purposes) it was quite good, although at the same time it did make me kind of wish we has someone around here in the Seattle area making proper Sopaipillas the way you get them down in the Southwestern United States.  It’s not exactly native food,  but I certainly wouldn’t complain if Off the Rez decided to branch out a bit.  In the meantime, they’ve got some pretty good stuff that you’re not likely to find around here unless you happen to make a trip out to one of the reservations. 

Off the Rez menu

August 9, 2012

South Lake Union Food Truck Project, Day 9: Tacos El Tajin

Filed under: Food, Seattle — Tags: , — Brian Lutz @ 10:38 pm

To be honest, I kind of hesitated to do a review of this truck, mostly because it’s largely a known quantity for a lot of Amazonians and other people who work in the South Lake Union neighborhood.  Nonetheless, I feel like if I’m going to be reviewing the food trucks in the neighborhood I should include it, because the list certainly wouldn’t be complete without it.

The Basics:

  • Food Truck: Tacos El Tajin
  • Cuisine: Mexican
  • Website: None
  • Facebook: None
  • Twitter: None
  • Yelp: 4.5 stars, 20 reviews
  • Location:  Corner of Boren and Republican in front of the Amazon Fiona building
  • Days: Daily
  • Payment Methods: Cash, cards (Note that a $0.25 fee might get added for using a card)
  • Sales Tax included in menu prices: Yes

Food Ordered:

  • Taco salad, Carne Asada: $6.00
  • Total (with tip): $7.00

Speed:

  • Time to order and pay: About 7 minutes
  • Time to receive food after ordering: 1 1/2 minutes

A bit of a slow day at Tacos El Tajin…

One might be tempted to say that this taco truck, which parks every day in front of the building I work in, is one of the South Lake Union neighborhood’s best-kept secrets, but by now it’s pretty clear that it isn’t much of a secret.  If you happen to wander by this truck during the lunch hour, there’s a pretty good chance you’re going to be seeing a pretty long line in front of it.  This might scare off a few potential customers here and there, but the line here isn’t nearly as scary as it looks.  They’ve got the whole operation practically down to a science, and the line moves very quickly.  There’s a guy at the first window who takes people’s orders as they arrive, after which the food will arrive at a second window within a minute or two, and payment is handled at a separate table next to the truck.  It may not be as fancy or as slick-looking as some of the other trucks I’ve been to over the course of the nearly two weeks I’ve been doing this project for, but it’s fast, it’s reasonably priced, and it’s tasty.  Which, when you think about it, is pretty much everything most people will be looking for in their lunch  It’s not surprising that quite a few people seem to consider this taco truck to be their default lunch option.  This is so much the case that back in June when the taco truck disappeared for a few days due to a mechanical problem, half of the elevator graffiti (it’s an Amazon thing, long story) was people wondering where the heck the taco truck went.

I’ve been through most of the highlights of the menu by now across a number of visits to this truck, but my favorite item remains the steak taco salad.  Served in a flour tortilla bowl with a foundation of rice and beans, it comes with a generous serving of meat, and is topped with lettuce, tomato, cilantro and cheese.  After you order and pay, the sauces are found on another table off to the side.  There’s a fairly mild green sauce, a somewhat hotter red sauce (that also adds a nice flavor to the mix to go along with the heat) and a slightly orangish Habanero sauce that is reputed to be quite hot, although I’ve never actually tried it to confirm this. In addition to these, there’s also a bottle of what appears to be Crema Agria (basically a thinner version of sour cream) provided as well.  The portion sizes here are generous, and even with relatively low prices compared to a lot of the other food trucks, it’s unlikely anyone will be finding themselves hungry after lunch here.

I suspect that for a lot of people in the South Lake Union neighborhood, none of this will come as any surprise.  At least not if the lines in front of the place are any indication. 

August 8, 2012

South Lake Union Food Truck Project, Day 8: Hot Dog King

Filed under: Food, Seattle — Tags: , — Brian Lutz @ 7:18 pm

When I started out on this project, I believe I did mention the fact that even though I’m calling it the Food Truck project, I’m not going to necessarily limit myself to food trucks.  In addition to the usual trucks, there are also a handful of hot dog carts that appear in the neighborhood.  Having either already reviewed the available selections or just not being all that thrilled about the selection a couple of days ago, I decided to make a little detour to one of the more established ones.

The Basics:

  • Food Cart: Hot Dog King
  • Cuisine: Hot Dogs
  • Website: None
  • Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/thehotdogking
  • Twitter: None
  • Yelp: 4.5 stars, 3 reviews
  • Location:  Corner of Westlake and Harrison, next to Firestone (Also found in front of the  Triangle Pub on 1st Ave. near the stadiums for sporting events)
  • Days: Daily
  • Payment Methods: Cash, cards
  • Sales Tax included in menu prices: Yes

Food Ordered:

  • Louisiana Hotlink, topped with grilled onions and sweet relish and served with chips and drink: $6.00
  • Total (with tip): $7.00

Speed:

  • Time to order and pay: About 1 minute
  • Time to receive food after ordering: 4 minutes

One thing I’ve found about hot dogs over the years is that practically everyone has different ideas of how they like theirs.  Some people prefer to stick to the basics, others will settle for nothing less than a “dragged through the garden” Chicago dog, with most people falling somewhere in between.  It also seems like just about everywhere you go there’s some regional variation on the standard hot dog,. and Seattle is no exception.  Around here, the local variation is the Seattle-style dog, which is sold mostly by the various hot dog stands that set up shop around the stadiums for Mariners, Seahawks and Sounders games, and makes the somewhat odd-sounding addition of cream cheese to the standard litany of hot dog toppings.  Usually I tend to lean more toward the basics when it comes to hot dog toppings (although I do also enjoy a good chili dog every now and then as well,) but if there’s any place that might convince you to branch out it’s this one.  As you can see from the  photo above, the selection of condiments on offer here is extensive, with over 30 different kinds of mustard alone.  Admittedly, I’ve never been a big fan of mustard (the fact that my sisters would often eat it in suspiciously large quantities with just about anything while I was growing up probably contributed to that,) but I have found that I do use it a lot more than I used to.  Even so, I’ve never been all that adventurous about trying different varieties, and rarely venture much beyond the standard yellow stuff. 

Hot Dog King menu

And the customization options don’t end there.  In addition to all the sauces, they also provide a lengthy list of other toppings that can be added to any of the several hot dog options shown above.  In addition to the usual standbys and the local favorites, you’ve just about got the makings of what should be a reasonably respectable Chicago dog (although I don’t think they have the suspiciously green relish or the celery salt,) or you can just go wild if you would like.  In addition to these, there are also a number of specials that vary from day to day.  To top it all off, every sausage on the menu also comes with chips and a drink to make a complete meal out of it.

These days, I kind of suspect that Costco has kind of spoiled the whole hot dog experience for a lot of people.  Sure, selling $1.50 hot dogs with a drink probably isn’t making them much money, but I suspect it’s used more as a marketing ploy than anything these days.  At the same time, I think it’s led people to consider $5 or $6 for a hot dog to be rather expensive.  If it was just a hot dog we were talking about then they’d have a point on that, but they use premium hotdogs here, and I seriously doubt Costco will be matching them in the topping department anytime soon.  This particular one was a grilled Louisiana Hotlink with added grilled onions and relish, plus a bit of plain yellow mustard (hey, I already said I’m not particularly adventurous in the condiment department.)  The sausage appears to be stuffed in a natural casing to give it that nice little snap when you bite into it (best not to think about these things too much really) and had a nice spicy flavor to it, just what you would expect from something like this.  Although the hotdogs here aren’t ridiculously huge, when combined with the chips and drink you’ve got a respectable lunch here, and most likely won’t be hungry again by 2pm.

All things considered, this seems to be a pretty good lunch option, at least assuming you’re in the mood for a good hotdog (which, admittedly doesn’t happen all that often for me.)  If there’s one thing that’s missing from the menu here it would be a chili dog, and I hear that shows up as a special every once in a while.  Even so, it doesn’t matter how picky you are about your hot dogs, chances are that Hot Dog King will have something that will fit your needs.  And then some.

August 7, 2012

South Lake Union Food Truck Project, Day 7: Raney Brothers BBQ

Filed under: Food, Seattle — Tags: , — Brian Lutz @ 8:40 pm

If you ask anyone who comes from the South, there seems to be an unwritten law which states that it is physically impossible to make good BBQ anywhere outside of the Southern United States.  To put it mildly, they seem to regard  any BBQ created outside of that geographic area to be irredeemably terrible.  Not that it stops people from trying, of course.  For our next food truck, we’ll take a look at one truck trying to bring BBQ to South Lake Union.

The Basics:

Food Ordered:

  • The Dude (pulled pork sandwich with Cajun meatloaf): $8
  • Fries: $1.50
  • Total (with tip:) $10.50

Speed:

  • Time to order and pay: About 1 minute
  • Time to receive food after ordering: 2 1/2 minutes

This is one of the handful of trucks that parks in front of the building I work in, although until now I haven’t had a chance to actually try it out.  As you might guess from the name of the truck (and the potentially traitorous pigs depicted on the side,) this truck serves barbeque, mostly in the form of sandwiches.  In addition to the ones you see on the menu below, they also serve “The Dude”, a presumably pop culture-inspired sandwich that combines the pulled pork with the Cajun meatloaf found in the Cajun grinder on the regular menu, and adds cheese, grilled onions and the red cabbage slaw you see on the sides portion of the menu to the mix.  Since it seems to be the “signature” item on the menu (to the point that it gets its own special little menu board) and it wasn’t any more expensive than anything else I went for that, and added a side of fries to the order.  Once again I went just a little over my $10 limit once the tip was added, but that’s not a big deal.  Once again I got there a bit before the lunch rush, and once again I was in and out quickly.  At this point, it’s looking like the over 30 minute wait is more the exception than the rule, although there are other trucks (which I have not reviewed for this project) that have been prone to long waits in the middle of the lunch hour.

Given the fact that we are getting this particular BBQ from a truck in the middle of Seattle and not some old shack out in the woods of Carolina, I set my expectations accordingly.  And although I wouldn’t characterize this as being anything too special, it is reasonably competent BBQ with a good, slightly spicy sauce added.  The smoke flavor of the pulled pork is quite subtle, and it can easily get lost among the other ingredients in the sandwich if you let it.  It’s also kind of hard to tell what exactly makes the Cajun meatloaf Cajun.  Aside from these, the sandwich contains some type of cheese (I’m guessing Provolone, but it gets kind of vague with all the other stuff in there), grilled onions and cabbage slaw (something I’m still getting used to as a sandwich ingredient, but I think I’ve gotten the Tatstrami from Tat’s Deli over in Pioneer Square often enough that it’s not too unusual anymore) and the obligatory sauce which was reasonably thick and sweet, with a subtle hint of spice that kicks in a few seconds after you take a bite.  I’m told there’s also a hotter variant of the sauce, but the menu offers no indication of this, so I wasn’t aware of it when I ordered.  The fries are pretty run-of-the-mill, aside from being seasoned with both salt and pepper, which helps them to stand out just a little bit from the usual fast food fries.

All in all, I can’t really find anything to complain about here, but I don’t think I was really blown away by anything later.  Even so, this is definitely the type of thing I could go for on occasion, and the fact that it’s parked right in front of my building is good for some bonus points as well.  I’m sure I’ll be back at some point.

August 6, 2012

South Lake Union Food Truck Project, Day 6: The Grilled Cheese Experience

Filed under: Food, Seattle — Tags: , — Brian Lutz @ 9:47 pm

Over the years, Seattle has given us a number of famous experiences.  From one of Seattle’s most famous native sons came the notoriously brief Jimi Hendrix Experience, responsible for some of the greatest rock albums of all time.  From Paul Allen and architect Frank Gehry comes the distinctive yet controversial Experience Music Project at Seattle Center (which, unsurprisingly, contains an extensive permanent exhibit on Jimi Hendrix.)  And now, by way of the alley behind Lake Union Wholesale Florist at Harrison and Boren, we get the Grilled Cheese Experience. 

The Basics:

Food Ordered:

  • Classic Grilled Cheese, with bacon added: $8.00
  • Total (with tip:) $9.00

Speed:

  • Time to order and pay: About 1 minute
  • Time to receive food after ordering: 6 minutes

There are quite a things one might think of when they think of grilled cheese, but the chances are good that an experience isn’t one of them.   Sure it’s a simple, easy-to-make meal that probably earns a place in the top 10 list of things that a penurious dorm-bound college freshman eats for dinner, but at the same time it can be exactly the type of thing that hits the spot when you’re really hungry.  Even so, most people tend to eat grilled cheese sandwiches, not experience them.  It seems that The Grilled Cheese Experience, a relative newcomer to the neighborhood, is out to change that.

In addition to the standard-issue grilled cheese sandwich, this truck offers several deluxe models, as well as a Reuben sandwich, and various specials that presumably change from day to day.  Wanting to keep it simple, I opted for the classic version, but I also decided to spring for the two bucks to add bacon, bringing the cost to $8.  Service was friendly and food was received in a reasonable amount of time (I probably would have waited longer if I had gotten there a few minutes later though, as the line started to grow after I ordered.)   Given the fact that a grilled cheese sandwich tends usually to be one of the cheaper items on any given menu, it’s a little surprising that this one starts out at $6 and goes up from there.  Granted, when compared with the pricing at some of the other food trucks out there that’s pretty good (don’t even get me started on some of the overpriced hipster bait trucks out there charging $13 for a burger and fries),  but especially when you start wandering away from the basics, things start getting expensive in a hurry.  And although the sandwich I received was quite good, it wasn’t very big. By itself, you’d be hard pressed to make a full meal out of this.  If you’re looking to not end up hungry at 2pm, you could add either tomato soup or mac and cheese for $3 each, but I didn’t get the chance to try out either of those on this trip.  And by the time you start adding things, you could easily be getting dangeously close to $15.  On the other hand, it appears that the special does get served with soup.

The main problem with this truck is that even in the culinary wasteland (relatively speaking) that is South Lake Union’s fixed-location restaurant scene, there are several places that make a more than adequate grilled cheese sandwich.  Although I have yet to try the one at Blue Moon Burgers (if I’m going to spend the time and calories on a visit to Blue Moon I’m going for a proper burger),  the Great Northwest Soup Co. makes a pretty good grilled cheese, which can be had with a cup of a number of different soup choices for $7 and change, and adds a full menu of various Paninis on top of that.  Although I can see supporting the little guy here, I still have a hard time justifying spending that much money on something as simple as a grilled cheese sandwich.  In spite of this, I do think I will have to give this place another try to see how the tomato soup or the Mac and Cheese is.  I don’t think anyone around the neighborhood has really figured that one out yet…

The Grilled Cheese Experience menu

August 3, 2012

South Lake Union Food Truck Project, Day 5: Where Ya At

Filed under: Food, Seattle — Tags: , — Brian Lutz @ 6:35 pm

Today’s food truck takes us a little further out than I’ve gone for the other trucks, and down the garden path into the Cascade neighborhood.

The Basics:

Food Ordered:

  • Gumbo (small size):  $5.00
  • Begniets (0rder of 3): $4.00
  • Total (with tip:) $10.00

Speed:

  • Time to order and pay: About 5 minutes
  • Time to receive food after ordering: 2 minutes

Having been around for several years already, Where Ya At is one of the more established food trucks in Seattle, and one of the more critically acclaimed ones as well.  In spite of this, it’s out-of-the-way location in comparison to the rest of the SLU food trucks means that most people aren’t going to even know this one exists unless they have heard of it through word of mouth (which, admittedly, is something that this truck isn’t exactly lacking for.)  It’s also a fair bit out of the way when compared to the spots around Boren and Harrison where most of the trucks set up shop.  From the building I work in, it’s about an extra 2-3 blocks of walking to get here when compared to the other trucks I have visited so far.  That said, it’s not a bad walk, even if it does involve some extra uphill walking (after all this is Seattle, walking uphill just comes with the territory around here) and you get a bit of extra scenery here in the form of the well-maintained community garden that resides at Cascade Playground.

This scenery extends to the truck as well, as it parks next to the Cascade People’s Center (which actually sounds kind of scary, but it seems to be just a typical community center) in a spot that allows the people in line to wait under a nice plant-covered gazebo.  Given the fact that the average food truck in the neighborhood gives you all the ambience of a claustrophobic parking lot while you’re waiting, this has to go for some points in their favor.  Not that I had long to wait anyway, asa the food came fairly quickly once I ordered and paid for it.

Originally when I got here I wanted to try out the smothered chicken Po Boy sandwich, but by the time I got in line they had run out.  I briefly considered the pork, but soon realized that yesterday’s meal had puit me off pork (at least of the shredded variety) for a little bit, so I decided to try out the gumbo instead.  I had also heard a fair bit about the Begniets here (which seem to be the most popular item, and one that apparently sells out frequently) and decided to go for the smaller size on the gumbo and spring for an order of those too.  Even though the gumbo was a small size, the portion size was still pretty decent.  The gumbo itself was a typical chicken-and-sausage affair with a pretty good flavor with just a little bit of kick to it to let you know it’s there (they offer a decent selection of appropriate hot sauces for those who wish to spice it up a bit more.)  In spite of a decent amount of okra, it didn’t seem quite as thick as some of them that I’ve had over the years (some people have commented that it doesn’t seem to use much roux), and had a rather souplike texture to it overall.  I also felt it could have done with just a little bit more rice in it, but that’s just a minor quibble.  The Begniets, on the other hand, are pretty much exactly as advertised:  fried dough and powdered sugar, two of the most dangerous substances known to man.  And they don’t skimp on the sugar here either, I think there was at least a quarter of a cup of sugar still in the bag when the three Begniets had been removed.  I ate a couple of these with lunch, and saved the third one for later, based on the probably now discredited theory that putting a portion of something bad for you aside and saving it for later somehow makes it slightly less bad for you when you do actually eat it.  When the residual oil from the fryer combines with the powdered sugar, it forms a substance that bears a surprising resemblance to Oreo filling (which, from what I understand, isn’t actually that far off,) and which I should probably be down in the exercise room right now trying to work off.

The obvious comparison here is with Jemil’s Big Easy, another Cajun food truck which I already covered a few days ago.  Since I haven’t extensively covered the menu of either of these two trucks it’s hard for me to say that I can really recommend one over the other, but since they both show up on different days of the week (at least for the time being) it’s unlikely you’ll see both around at the same time anyway.  Both trucks serve up perfectly reasonable versions of the classic Cajun staples, but although Where Ya At is a bit of a hike for most people, their prices do seem to be better overall (especially given the fact that the menu prices at Jemil’s don’t include tax) and the variety on the menu seems to be better.  Jemil’s also doesn’t have Begniets on the menu, but that might be a good thing, since I’m currently trying to not die of a heart attack at an inconveniently young age.

If I keep up this food truck thing for too much longer that might just happen.  This puts us at the halfway point for the food truck project, with another week to go. 

Where Ya At Menu

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