The Best Bites

Local Chefs and Foodies Dish on their Favorites

Compiled by Ethan Chung | Photos by Jeff Hobson

We asked local chefs, writers and all around foodie folks about their favorite bites in the 425. Who loves chowing down on fried chicken livers? Who devours the juicy peanut butter bacon burger? Who burrows through a dish called “Other Parts of the Pig?” Read on to discover some of the best dishes on the Eastside.

Bobby Moore, Executive chef, Barking Frog
Torta Guadalajara
Taqueria Guadalajara, Bellevue
“My chefs turned me on to this place. This authentic Mexican sandwich has grilled ham, pork al pastor, shredded lettuce, tomatoes and sour cream all on a toasted hoagie. You have to get it with the pickled jalapeno and wash it all down with a Tamarinda soda. Delicious!”

Carol Dearth, Owner, Sizzleworks Cooking School
Bartlett Pear with Pine Nuts, Parmigiano-Reggiano and White Truffle Oil
Cafe Juanita, Kirkland
“Juicy, sweet, earthy, smelled like autumn in Italy! It was this amazing blend of sweet, perfectly ripened pears, salty, nutty Parmesan, and all tied up with a bow of truffle oil. I still dream about that salad … Immediately took me back to my time in Italy when I studied there.”

Michael Brandt, downtownbellevue.com
L.H.L. (Lox, Havarti, Lemon Scramble 
Gilbert’s Main Street Bagel Deli, Bellevue
“I love the smell of the freshly made bagels at Gilbert’s. I especially enjoy going to Gilbert’s on the weekends when they feature a live band at the restaurant for brunch.”

Bradley Dickinson, Executive chef and co-owner, Pearl Bar and Dining, Koral Bar and Kitchen
Drunken Chicken 
Monsoon East, Bellevue
“Without a doubt I’d say my “go to” meal on the Eastside. Simple, satisfying, fun and delicious.”

Mike Dremmann, Executive chef, Daniel’s Broiler Bellevue
Pork Belly and Kimchi
Black Bottle Postern, Bellevue
“I enjoy how tender and flavorful this is, with the sweet chili sauce drizzled over the pork belly. I love having this delicious dish on dates with my wife.”

Best Bites 2
Linda Miller Nicholson, saltyseattle.com

Peanut Butter Bacon Burger
The Slip, Kirkland

“It’s important to temper the high-end with the down-home classics, but I always need a little twist of intrigue to consider something truly special, and The Slip in Kirkland has just the dish in their peanut butter bacon burger. In recent years, burgers have become receptacles for just about any spread and topping you can imagine, from sriracha to foie gras, but peanut butter has to be my favorite outside-the-box additive, and bacon only makes peanut butter better. Order it medium rare and add jalapeños so you can live on the spicy side of life. It’s juicy without falling apart and unexpected enough that your dinner guests will clamor for a bite.”

Jacky Lo, Executive chef, Wild Ginger Bellevue
Corned beef hash
The Pancake House, downtown Kirkland
“Crispy hash with runny egg yolks is just what I need after a long week of hard work — it’s salty and a little bit greasy. Dining out with two kids is always a challenge — one is a picky eater, and the other one is only 18-months-old. So we go to a place they like where they actually sit down and eat while I enjoy my hash with pancakes and coffee. Makes my day!”

Jay Friedman, gastrolust.com
The Other Parts of a Pig
Bamboo Garden, Bellevue

“Spicy, earthy, spicy, tangy, spicy. Did I mention spicy? Soft, chewy, cooked cabbage-crisp. This dish reminds me of enjoying spicy dishes during my travels in China, Thailand, and other parts of Southeast Asia. No real early memories, but a strong contrast to the Americanized, ‘Long Island’-style Chinese food of my childhood days.”

Julie Arnan, Freelance writer
Steak Tartare
Le Grand Bistro Americain
“This dish is savory, salty and bold — like the food equivalent of a Bloody Mary, heady with Worcestershire sauce. The toasted baguette rounds add just enough crunch to carry the smooth and silky texture once you mix in the tiny raw quail egg. It’s perfect for a hip date night, particularly when paired with a demi pichet of wine.”

Jon Christiansen, Bar manager, Monsoon East
The Reuben
Gilbert’s Main Street Bagel Deli
“It combines corned beef and pastrami on light rye with ample sauce and slaw. The meat is savory and sweet, with just enough caraway and ample pepper; it’s succulent but not greasy and can be ordered with either 8 ounces or 16 ounces of meat. I make noises audible from at least 20 feet with every bite, no exaggeration.”

Best Bites 3
John Howie, Owner and chef, John Howie Steak, Seastar Restaurants, SPORT Restaurant and Bar and Adriatic Grill
Spicy Fried Chicken Livers
Ezell’s Famous Chicken, Woodinville
“I have them cook the chicken livers a couple minutes less so they are pink inside. Wonderful crunchy exterior with a touch of spicy heat. Reminds me of my mom’s home-cooked chicken livers.”

Marc Schermerhorn, baketard.com
Kung Pao Shrimp
Spicy Talk, Redmond
“The shrimp are tender and perfectly cooked. The sauce has a faint element of sweetness, a nice blast of fiery heat and the tongue numbing sensation of Sichuan peppercorns for which this dish is known. It’s tossed with perfectly crunchy julienned vegetables and crunchy roasted peanuts. This dish symbolizes the hot, numbing cuisine of Chengdu I love the most!”

Eric Banh, Chef and owner, Monsoon East
Rabbit Braised in Arneis with Chickpea Gnocchi, Porcini and House Made Pancetta
Cafe Juanita, Kirkland
“The rabbit was so delicate, and had a sweetness to it that chicken lacks. The dish had earthiness — in wine speak this would be called gamey and reference the terroir — a really beautiful dish! My first experience eating rabbit was at a high-end restaurant in Saigon. The rabbit at Cafe Juanita instantly took me back there.”

Chris Nishiwaki, Freelance writer
Caramelized Idaho Catfish Claypot with Cracked Pepper and Green Onions
Monsoon East, Bellevue
“The sweetness of the caramelized onions, the saltiness of the fish, spiciness of the pepper and green onions, and the elusive umami of the broth create an alchemy of flavors from very humble ingredients. The intoxicating aromatics and the fork tender and flakiness of the fish is mere foreplay before I even take the first bite.”

Denise Sakaki, wasabiprime.com
Hawaiian Saimin
Saimin Says, Kent
“It’s salty, savory and hearty from the SPAM. The soup broth is that perfect mix of mystery seasonings that you can never figure out. The noodles have that wrinkled, imperfect texture with a little chewy bite to it, not soft and overcooked. I’m immediately taken back to family visits to Hawaii as a child my grandpa almost every night when I’d stay with him. I was such a picky eater as a kid, but I loved saimin and he would just spoil me when I visited.”

Best Bites 4
Lisa Dupar, Owner/chef, Lisa Dupar Catering and Pomegranate Bistro

Taiwanese Pork Burger 
Facing East, Bellevue
“Facing East’s riff on the burger is a fun surprise. A steamed bun is stuffed with braised pork belly, pickled mustard greens, sweet chili sauce, house-roasted peanut powder and fresh cilantro leaves. The soft steamed bun with the ‘melt in your mouth’ Asian clay pot-braised pork melts in your mouth. It reminds me of a Christmas gift our chef at Lisa Dupar Catering, Kelly Degala, has brought by our house during the holidays. Chef Degala is originally from Hawaii and he makes his own steamed buns and crispy roast duck that he would give to us. The Taiwanese pork burger has that same lovely texture and yummy umami.”

Denise and Melissa LaCaille, twin-tables.com
Caramelized Orange Flatbread
Trellis at The Heathman, Kirkland

“This pizza is sweet from the brown sugar, caramelized oranges and salty from the olive oil dressed arugula salad on top giving it an amazing one-two punch to the senses. Every Christmas at the LaCaille family household, an orange is placed in the bottom of everyone’s stocking. It signifies a treat, as back in the old days, fruits like oranges were hard to come by in this part of the country.”

Jenny Lynn Zappala, freelance writer
One cod fillet and small fries
Spud Fish and Chips
, Juanita, Kirkland
“Wrapped in paper and a rubber band, a single order of one cod fillet and small fries opens like a Christmas present. The welcome aroma of fresh fish, French fries and a hint of vinegar is inviting. The thin cod fillet is lightly breaded on the outside and light and juicy on the inside. The fries taste like real potatoes.”

Brian Scheehser, Executive chef, Trellis, Kirkland
Vegetarian Sandwich
Purple Café and Wine Bar, Woodinville
“Simply amazing. It also comes served on a toasted bagel, my favorite! It’s crunchy, savory, full-flavored, filling…The perfect blend of flavors and textures wrapped up in one perfect little package. This is my favorite sandwich to enjoy after a long day of working in the fields at the farm.”

Laura and Craig Baker, Owners, Bake’s Place, Bellevue
Zeppole with Nutella Mascarpone and Ginger Sugar
Cantinetta, Bellevue
“This dessert is amazing — delicious, creamy and chocolaty. It has a texture like a fresh-baked donut hole filled with warm Nutella and dusted with ginger sugar. Doesn’t matter how many calories, they are worth every bite and remind us of eating donuts fresh baked on Sunday mornings as a kid when you didn’t even know what calories were.”

Scott MacRae, General manager, Stopsky’s Delicatessen
Calamari steak appetizer
Tosoni’s Restaurant, Bellevue
“The firm and tender chew on this calamari steak is perfect. Simple seasoning lets the sea flavor of the squid shine through. White wine, butter and lightly herbed aromas are divine. This reminds me of Grandma’s cioppino during Sunday dinner, where I was always getting yelled at for fishing out all the squid from the pot that Grandpa had caught the day before and told to not eat an entire loaf of bread with it.”

Brooke Clark, Studio B Photography
Deep Dish Chocolate Chip Cookie
Daniel’s Broiler, Bellevue
“Baked in an iron skillet, topped with vanilla ice cream and served with a shot of ice cold milk, this dessert is just sinful and perfect for sharing. Actually, I’m very pregnant right now so I did not share even one bite with my spouse. It was just too good and ‘the baby’ was really hungry.”