The Grocery Outlet just off Rainier Avenue, next to the Mount Baker train station, didn’t survive long enough to see the station open. It closed last year, its business hampered by ongoing station construction right in front of its parking lot.
Fans of Grocery Outlet shopping will soon have another nearby option, however, with a new store opening in the former state liquor store site on Fourth Avenue South in SoDo. The new site is not as convenient to pedestrians as the old one, however; the nearest Link station, instead of being right next door, is about a half-mile walk around a huge block and part of the Metro bus base.
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Mayor-elect McGinn is hosting three town halls this week to hear your thoughts and ideas about the future of the city. Two of the town halls are reasonably close to us here on Beacon Hill.
Two local establishments have recently been visited by the Health Department’s intrepid inspectors. The Beacon Hill 76 station at 2415 Beacon Avenue South scored 0 (yes, zero) violation points. Congratulations! The Beacon Pub at 3057 Beacon Avenue South scored 45 violation points on October 14, all related to problems keeping things cold enough. (Perhaps these are problems with the new hot dog cart.) To give a little perspective on this point total, 45 or more red critical violation points require a re-inspection within 14 days, 90 or more red critical violation points require that the establishment be closed, and 120 or more total (red and blue) points also require that the establishment be closed. The 45 points that the Beacon Pub received were mixed red and blue points, so they were in no danger of being closed. Still, we hope the temperature issues are now fixed. We like having another food option in the neighborhood.
If you tried to drive west through Sodo yesterday, you might have noticed that westbound South Spokane Street is now closed between Fourth and First Avenues South. This is part of the South Spokane Street Viaduct widening project. The detour route will send you north on Fourth Avenue to South Lander Street, then west to First Avenue, then back south to Spokane Street — West Seattle Blog
We’d like to welcome the folks at the SODO Agogo blog to the Seattle neighborhood blogosphere! Many of us pass through SODO on a regular basis, so a blog for that area should be useful to Beaconians. It may end up with a different feel than other neighborhood blogs, since it’s not really a residential neighborhood, but it has lots of businesses, restaurants, and entertaining.
(On another topic: I wonder why people spell it SODO. Why not SoDo since it was, originally, “South of the Dome” and now is “South of Downtown”? Sometimes I spell it with lower-case letters anyway because I don’t like the all-caps version.)
If you eat at Orient Express (the old Andy’s Diner on Fourth Avenue South) on Thursday, February 12, the restaurant will donate 20% of your food bill to the Maple Elementary School PTSA. The money will be used to help fund fourth and fifth grade camp next fall.
We reviewed the Orient Express in November, and found the food to be excellent. With the economy the way it is now, this probably isn’t the easiest time to be opening a new restaurant, so by visiting the Express on February 12, you can both help a Beacon Hill elementary school and contribute to a new local restaurant’s success.
The Orient Express is located at 2963 4th Ave South in Sodo, and they serve Chinese and Thai food in vintage rail cars, including one once used by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Andy’s Diner, on Fourth Avenue down in Sodo, was one of those places that always seemed like it would be really great. How could it not be, with the colorful, kitschy railroad cars, the old-time steak-and-martini house vibe, and the rumored ghosts? But when we did try the place out, the diner food was edible, not all that impressive, and a little pricey for what it was, so we never got around to going back. When Andy’s closed suddenly early this year, we were sad at losing another piece of Old Seattle atmosphere, but, truthfully, did not miss the food.
So it was good news to see that, rather than the teardown or removal to the suburbs that we thought would be in the old railcars’ future, that a new restaurant has moved in — an Asian restaurant called (of course) Orient Express. We checked out the Express recently, expecting possibly OK food, and fearing that the charm of the interior might have been remodeled away.
The place has been spruced up a bit. The cars’ exteriors have been repainted and the interior now sports a mechanical maneki neko with a beckoning paw, and a huge fish tank. The dining cars have booths with tall, dark seat backs, giving the seating a bit more of a Thirteen Coins vibe. The train pictures on the wall, however, are still there, and it’s not really fundamentally different in appearance from Andy’s. (The restroom could still use a major upgrade.)
The food, however, is a different thing entirely. The menu is both Thai and Chinese; not as huge a menu as some, but there are plenty of options to choose from. In our first visit with a group of four, we started the meal with Summer Rolls with Peanut Sauce and Crab Cheese Wontons. The rolls were delightful, with fresh vegetables. The peanut sauce was overly mild for my taste, but the flavor was otherwise good. The wontons were quite tasty.
We continued the meal with a huge bowl of Hot and Sour Soup. Normally this comes with seafood, but one of the guests in our group asked if it could be made without it. This was not a problem, and the soup turned out to be the star attraction of the evening — spicy, but not too much so, and with flavor to spare.
We followed this with Orange Chicken, Honey Walnut Prawns, Phad See Yew (with tofu) and Pineapple Fried Rice. I don’t eat chicken, but the poultry eaters at the table reported that the chicken had a wonderful orange flavor, not too garish, but nicely citrusy. The Phad See Yew and Pineapple Fried Rice were excellent, and the Honey Walnut Prawns were a sweetish contrast to the rest of the meal with honey sauce and candied walnuts: delicious.
Our group loved the food, and we stuffed ourselves silly. The portions were generous, so we had quite a bit left to take home.
On our second visit as a group of two, we started with Tom Ka soup with tofu (five stars of spiciness, out of five). As in our earlier visit, the soup was once again excellent. It was brightly flavorful and very rich — almost buttery rich — and although we had asked for five stars, the spiciness in no way overwhelmed the flavor. The “two-person” bowl was large enough to fill more than four soup bowls. We followed the soup with General Tso’s Chicken which my chicken-eating spouse enjoyed (not garish orange in color as in so many restaurants, it actually looked like real food instead of food coloring), Yellow Curry with tofu which was rich and flavorful, and Pad Priking, which struck the only off-note of the evening, and that only slightly: the beans and spices were good, but the beef was a little bit tough. Despite that minor flaw, the meal was excellent and we will be back. One other small flaw: Diet Cokes there have that awful watery “bar coke” flavor. Avoid them and try the Thai Iced Tea, which is sweet and good.
Orient Express 2963 Fourth Avenue South
Monday-Sunday: 10:30 am – 10:00 pm
Bar open until midnight, but 2:00 am on Friday and Saturday
Happy Hour: 3:00 – 7:00 pm Monday-Friday, 10:30 am – 5:00 pm weekends: 15% off.
It’s a slow news week on the Hill (I think everyone’s enjoying our late October sunshine) but there are a few things we wanted to mention:
As an ex-Camp Fire Girl myself, I must pass this on: Families with children three years of age or older are invited to a Camp Fire USA Information Night on November 5 at the Douglass-Truth Library on 23rd and Yesler. More info here. Camp Fire is not just girls any more, and it is lots of fun — Rainier Valley Post