8.5
SEA

Marination Ma Kai

Perfect For: Big Groups Casual Weeknight Dinner Classic Establishment Impressing Out of Towners Outdoor/Patio Situation Screaming Children
PHOTOS: Nate Watters

Your childhood likely involved some iteration of a terrible seaside snack shack. 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 bottle of blue gatorade 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). This place makes a trip to Alki worth it every time, from the second you step on the deck, take a seat outside, and take in the Kodak-moment view of the Seattle skyline.

Instead of frozen food that was not-all-the-way reheated in a microwave, at Marination you’re getting excellent Hawaiian meets Korean meets Mexican meets coastal stuff - like tacos with bulgogi-style-marinated meat, a kimchi quesadilla, and a pork katsu sandwich that’s so good it makes us want to order a second one and eat it shamefully in the bathroom with the lights off. But the best part about Marination’s menu its namesake: the proteins that have been marinated for who knows how long in who knows what seasonings and sauces. The spicy pork and kalbi beef are the way to go if you’re a carnivore, but don’t underestimate the meatless option, which is probably our favorite (and in this case, actually deserving of its “Sexy Tofu” name).

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 date. Outside is definitely the place to sit - grab a picnic table under the string lights and let the lychee margaritas flow while you take in the best waterfront view in the city. We know you’re thinking that you don’t want to schlep to West Seattle, but know that the other locations (Marination Station and Marination 6th and Virginia) don’t come close to Ma Kai. Everyone knows it’s way better to each beachy food on an actual beach.

Food Rundown

Nunya Sauce

This 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.

Mac Salad

We’re pretty far from both Hawaii and a New York deli, but this cold macaroni salad would be a slam dunk in both places. Al dente elbow mac, mayo-based dressing, shredded carrots, and little spam surprises, which totally works. Always get an order for the table, because it tastes good and it’s only $2.50.

Fries

Double-fried fries should be a requirement by law. Get these naked with nunya sauce for dipping, or if you have nothing to lose, get them with “aloha,” which is an onslaught of kaluha pork, kimchi paste, mayo, green onion, a fried egg, and a heap of furikake on top. Either way, get a basket for the table and use your fork.

Kimchi Quesadilla

The kimchi quesadilla is like David Schwimmer on Friends: good, but not everyone’s favorite. It’s filled with kaluha 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.

Kaluha 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.

Tacos

These Korean tacos make carnitas and chicken tinga jealous. Each taco comes with your choice of meat, slaw, jalapeno, nunya sauce, and sesame seeds. Get one with each kind of protein or live with regret.

Loco Moco

A classic Hawaiian burger patty cooked well-done (the temperature, not the compliment) 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 spicy snuggie. Get it (with the kalbi beef) for yourself if you’re starving or as a side for the whole crew. This would be equally as great for take-out and eating alone with a cereal spoon in bed.

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 and pieces of slaw plop out of the ciabatta bun and our faces become covered in breadcrumbs and euphoria-induced fatigue. Get this sh*tshow of an amazing sandwich.

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