Updated November 17th, 2021
Your childhood might have involved some iteration of a terrible seaside snack shack - or maybe you’ve seen one fictionalized on TV. You know, the kind of place where you got a paper cup with soggy french fries that seagulls nosedived for, a cheeseburger that reminded you of hot leather, and a flat fountain soda to wash it all down before shoving your head in the sand and taking a nap only to wake up with sun poisoning.
Marination Ma Kai gives you everything your half-assed beach concession stand never could (though we can’t guarantee you won’t get a gnarly sunburn if you sit outside on the patio). Whether you live in West Seattle or not, this place makes a trip to Alki worth it every time, from the second you step on the deck, grab a seat outside, and take in the postcard view of the Seattle skyline.
Instead of frozen food not-all-the-way reheated in a microwave, at Marination you’re getting excellent Hawaiian-meets-Korean cuisine - like tacos with bulgogi-style-marinated meat, kimchi quesadillas, and a pork katsu sandwich that’s so good it makes us want to order a dozen to keep in our freezers at all times. But the best part about Marination’s menu is its namesake: the proteins that have been marinated for just the right amount of time in seasonings and sauces. The spicy pork and kalbi beef are the way to go if you’re a carnivore, but don’t underestimate the miso ginger chicken, or the meatless option, which is more than deserving of its “Sexy Tofu” name, and undeniably our favorite thing here.
Marination Ma Kai is the move to make with friends when the sun’s out on a weekend, or as a casual after-work dinner, or an easy way to impress someone from out of town. Outside is definitely the place to sit - grab a picnic table under the string lights and let the lychee margaritas flow while you soak in the best waterfront view in the city.
This incredible stuff is creamy, a little spicy, a little sweet, and has a twinge of sesame flavor. It’s on the tacos, sliders, and served alongside french fries for dipping, and you’ll want to order extras.
Marination’s cold and creamy mac salad is always a great thing to have as a side for your tacos and sandwiches. They’ve stopped serving it with the cubes of spam, and it does slightly suffer for that - we miss those salty cured surprises in every bite. Regardless, get an order for the table.
Double-fried fries should be a requirement by law. Get these naked with nunya sauce for dipping, or if you’re a little hungrier, order the “aloha” version, which means it’s got an onslaught of kalua pork, kimchi sauce, mayo, green onion, a fried egg, and a heap of furikake sprinkled on top. Get a basket for the table.
The kimchi quesadilla is like David Schwimmer on Friends: good, but not everyone’s favorite. It’s filled with kalua pork, cheddar, kimchi, cilantro, and topped with a drizzle of spicy mayo and a cabbage slaw. It’s tasty but risky to order, because you must eat this the second it exits the kitchen, or suffer the congealed cheese consequences.
Kalua Pork Slider
Braised pork and some slaw on a sweet hawaiian roll and nunya sauce. Awesome. They come a la carte so there is literally no reason not to get one, unless you’re vegetarian.
Each taco comes with your choice of meat, slaw, jalapeño, nunya sauce, and sesame seeds - the sexy tofu is the best protein in the house, and keep in mind that the tacos taste just as excellent when you order them as a salad.
A classic Hawaiian burger patty cooked well-done on top of rice and brown gravy and finished with a fried egg. There are so many other exciting things here that you want in your stomach instead.
Kimchi Fried Rice
If you’re in an al fresco situation and it’s chilly enough for a jacket, the kimchi fried rice is better than a blanket - it’s like a warm and spicy Snuggie. Get it for yourself if you’re super hungry or as a side for the whole crew. This would be equally as great for takeout and eating alone with a cereal spoon in bed, and if you want the extra protein, we like it with kalbi beef added.
Pork Katsu Sandwich
This is the beautiful mess of a fried pork cutlet sandwich that we eat without inhibition as tonkatsu sauce and mayo drip everywhere, shreds of slaw fling out of the ciabatta bun, and our faces become covered in breadcrumbs and euphoria-induced fatigue. Get this.