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The Best Restaurants In Rainier Beach

The very best places to eat in Rainier Beach.
The Best Restaurants In Rainier Beach  image

photo credit: Nate Watters

Rainier Beach is a small but mighty sliver of the South End. And while it could take you less than 15 minutes to drive through the entirety of the neighborhood, there’s a ton of great food squeezed between Martin Luther King Jr. Way and Lake Washington Boulevard. The best spots here help us recover on a Sunday morning, make weeknight dinner plans a no-brainer, and serve a crunchy car snack we can't help but immediately pull over (safely) for. 

THE SPOTS

photo credit: Nate Watters

Japanese

Rainier Beach

$$$$Perfect For:Quick EatsSerious Take-Out OperationCheap EatsLunch

Umami Kushi specializes in okazu pan, and they do it well. These light and fluffy panko-fried dough balls are stuffed with fillings like citrusy lentils, kimchi pork, and jerk chicken. The beef curry pan is consistently our favorite, but seasonal flavors like coconut curry chicken and a five-spiced short rib keep us coming back. Their dough ventures don’t stop at savory—Umami Kushi also serves beignets dusted with powdered sugar. 

Now that robot baristas exist, going to a cafe that feels like you’ve just stumbled into someone's home is pretty refreshing. And Redwing has the kind of warm neighborhood energy that a titanium arm steaming your milk just can’t provide. Plus, they serve great vegetarian and vegan food here too, like biscuits topped with thick thyme gravy that screams “November.” Or vegetable hash that involves a hodgepodge of whatever’s in season, finished off with a drizzle of vibrant herb-infused oil. Come here for a sit-down brunch, or a quick coffee and pastry if your Saturday morning becomes busier than expected.

photo credit: Nate Watters

While you could pop into this mini-mart and head straight for the Chex Mix and Snickers bars, the glow of hot lamps and strong deep fryer smell inside will lead you to the real good stuff—fried chicken wings. These crispy full-size wings with flaky paper mache-like skin are constantly being fried fresh. So if the display case looks a little empty at first, just do a quick browse of the gum section and come back.

For some of the best Jamaican food in Seattle, you’ll need to head to this Speed-E Mart along Renton Ave South and look for the green- and yellow-painted food cart in the parking lot. The menu varies daily (check out their Instagram for updates) but it doesn't matter if you end up with a spicy jerk chicken plate, a handful of beef patties, or oxtails smothered in a decadent brown gravy—the food here is worth stacking to-go containers in your car and risking possible curry spills. 

photo credit: Nate Watters

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New Orleans is over 2,000 miles away and a 948-hour walk from Seattle—so popping over to The Big Easy just to get our hands on a quick pot of gumbo and freshly powdered beignets is out of the question. Good thing Jude’s exists. This Cajun restaurant does feature classics like gumbo and beignets, though they also have dishes like smoky blackened shrimp served over fluffy grits, and dirty rice loaded with tons of spices and juicy ground pork. Stop in for a simple weeknight dinner that involves snacking on hushpuppies and sipping bourbon.

When you spring awake on a Sunday morning thinking of loaded home fries, bowls of buttery grits, and crunchy catfish, head to Drae’s immediately. This comfort food spot serves what your subconscious was looking for all along. And while the breakfast here rules, they also excel at fried chicken—so much so that the last four digits of their phone number spell out “WING.” It doesn't matter if you get them naked or breaded—these are the kind to scarf down by the pound, no sauce necessary. But if you do fancy a dip here and there, you’ll find tasty options like maple aioli and spicy sweet chili.

As you’re heading down Rainier, promptly pull over as soon as you see a red-glowing sign that says, “Wood Fire Pizza.” That means you’re at Pizzeria Pulcinella. While there are a few clunkers here (looking at you, dry eggplant parmesan), it’s their Neapolitan-style pizza that we’re sending you for, like margherita pies with delicate globs of mozzarella and char-freckled crust. Sit inside with a glass of Nebbiolo and bask in the ambient oven heat, or just call in your order for pickup—the food travels well, and they run a smooth takeout operation.

This renovated taco bus has booths, red tablecloths, and lacy curtains that make this sit-down spot feel more like a tiny home than a former mode of public transportation. The extra cheesy quesadilla supreme and verde enchilada here are both worth a trip, but it's the torta de alambre that has us rethinking everything we once knew about tortas. This wonderful mess of grilled ham, bacon, carne asada, finely chopped green peppers, and charred onions all topped with melty pepper jack has us oddly grateful for flattop grills that fit in small spaces. Just note that it’s a fork-and-knife kind of sandwich.

There isn’t much ice cream on the South End at all, and yet, we’d still prioritize Creamy Cone if it were one of eight scoop shops on the same block. You’re coming here for two flavors in particular, which taste great alone or stacked up in the same waffle cone: lemon raspberry cheesecake and banana pudding. The cheesecake is tart and tangy, with swirls of jammy raspberry and hunks of graham crust to complement the fruit. Then there’s the banana pudding, which tastes like a frozen replica of the real thing, with chunks of frosty banana and vanilla wafer cookies. The staff is really friendly, too, which is kind of a prerequisite if you’re going to open a dessert establishment.

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