Top 5 Seattle-area food critic dishes this month for under $10

You can still eat cheap in this city, from a pile of pasta to a chicken sandwich. And before all the angry emails, I’ll now defend my $4 taco. The Alperia taco, bursting at the seams with meat and cheese, is more satiating than any other street taco you can get. Two beeria sandwiches will fill you up with more than just a New York-style cheeseburger or slice of pizza.

XO fried rice roll $7.99 at Harbor City

707 King S. Street, Seattle; 206-621-2228;

In the dim sum scene, Harbor City Restaurant has become a contingency plan for everyone when you can’t get to Jade Garden, the famous kid on the block. you know what? Harbor City deserves to stand on its own. The XO rice roll is one of the best dishes in Chinatown International. Use the pasta as a white cloth in the pan. The magic happens when pasta sizzles on the surface of a high-heat wok. These spongy rolls are caramelized in soy sauce, and dried oysters from XO sauce stick to the surface to form this sticky, umami-rich glaze. The smokey taste comes from wok hai. In Asian street markets, a toothpick or a bamboo skewer is the preferred tool for eating these little bits on a picnic. Come to think of it, this is the best way to eat these rice rolls here too.

Fried Chicken Skins $6.50 at Hangry Panda

7815 Aurora Ave. N., Seattle; 866-842-6479;

The best version of pork rinds, Whipped Fried Chicken Skins has been the most addictive of all in recent months. Thanks to a shield of potato starch, they stay crunchy even after 35 minutes from home. Just dig into that brown paper bag and catch the biggest piece first; This is the gem in the batch, which is a melting concentrate for poultry fat. Think of this as Taiwanese popcorn chicken with just the skin on. It comes with your choice of seven different types of sauces. Spicy aioli is the natural pairing, but I love how the crisp oil and chili cover and soak every nook and cranny of the mixture.

Smashed Cheeseburger $4 (although you should make it double for $2.50 extra) at Burbs Burgers

Two locations: Pop-up inside Quality Athletics at Pioneer Square, 121 S. King St., Seattle, 206-420-3015; and a food truck in Montlake at 2108 E. Roanoke St. , Seattle, 206-294-5930;

This is one of the cheapest mashed burgers around town, and it’s as good as many of the pricier versions. Crush the pie on a baking tray and cook sizzling until edges form a thick, charred crust for a smoky taste. Burbs Classic ($4) will taste five times better if you make it a double ($6.50), brittle pirate with melted neon yellow American cheese to form creamy, creamy layers. You can also get the Burbs Special ($4.50) with pickles and all works, and it will taste like a Big Mac without the middle bun. But I prefer the basic double cheeseburger with none of the toppings for a cleaner, tasty bite.

Taco de Biria $4 at Birrieria Tijuana

1111 SW 128th St. , Burien; 253-259-9465,

Shredded beef taco dipped in beef has been all the rage around the Golden State for the past couple of years. You can find these crunchy tacos in nearly every taco truck and boat now that birria hysteria has reached Puget Sound. But the Birrieria Tijuana inside the Guadalupe market in Burien is still the gold standard. For starters, it’s a corn tortilla filled with a ladle of shredded beef and mozzarella cheese and then folded, each side scooped with the fat-free fat from the fried beef and fried until the cheese not only covers the beef strands but turns sticky. Enough to stretch between bites. You eat this like a French dipping sandwich, dipping the taco in a cup of beef styrofoam ($4) to soak up the beef tallow and the smoky flavors of ancho and other hot peppers. It’s a cheesy taco that requires plenty of salsa seasoning to cut through all the greasy flavors. First Periya Taco is all you want. The second becomes heavier but drops off easily. By the third day, you will need a nap or a cardiologist.

Chicken Sandwich $8.95 at Cookie’s Country Chicken

121 S. King Street, Seattle; 206-420-3015;

When it comes to chicken sandwich, thigh meat is always better than breast meat. I made this casual remark during the Popeyes craze, and the pro-chicken-breasted mob demanded my head on a plate. I haven’t changed my mind, but I offer this olive branch: This is the best chicken breast sandwich I’ve had lately. Marinate the white meat overnight, then coat in a thick, jagged layer, and dip in honey mustard and barbecue sauce mixture. Unlike a lot of other chicken breast sandwiches, this version stayed moist and juicy. Also, some of the best sides are served here, especially lumpy mashed potatoes topped with thick chicken broth.

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