Normally, when we head out of town, we're usually behind schedule. We did cut out a run to Half Price Books, but we found ourselves headed to Federal Way almost an hour early. On the way north to Federal Way, Peg and I discussed lunch and dinner. We had a number of places we wanted to go, but of course plans change.
We hopped off the freeway at 320th, the street that represents Federal Way to most people. We drove into one shopping mall and drove through parking lots and finally settled on the Pac Island Grill. It had the decor and feel of a touristy restaurant somewhere in Hawaii.
Both Peg and I were disappointed with our entrées. Both her Miso Salmon, and my Mahi-Mahi were overcooked and dry. I guess that's what we get for not specifying "slightly undercooked." The lumpia and the gyoza were the best items on the plate. Someone who hasn't ever been to Hawaii should choose the Moco Loco, which is generally a strange concoction of fried Spam on white rice with brown gravy over it. The locals love it.
Although most of the food didn't really please us, the Pineapple Upsidedown Cake was the best dessert we had all weekend. Nice and moist. And, yes . . . I had something similar in the town of Pahoa on the Big Island.
After our lunch it was too early to check in at the hotel, so we just drove around to get a good feel of the city. This wasn't our first time in Federal Way, but it was our first time as tourists.
We found a number of places we would like to dine at including Stacks Hamburgers, and the Imperial Palace where one of our granddaughters works. It turned out we should have eaten there even though we knew she only worked on Thursdays. Because she was leaving for a week in Detroit with their church, she switched days and was working Saturday. You just never know.
We had great luck in Lynnwood where we were in a similar situation: hotel among the strip malls and no apparent downtown. In Lynnwood we found short-cuts as we weaved around parking lots, green belts, and lots of traffic.
In Federal Way we found traffic, and short-cuts that led to dead ends and empty lots where buildings used to stand. While Lynnwood is booming, Federal Way is changing and the "boom" is off the roads . . . Weyerhauser is closing their headquarters and moving to Seattle. Now, instead of developing more business campasses, low-end housing seems to be the need. Although a few green belts might help the look. (Note the electrical tower in the background of the photo.)
We were still early but went to Best Western Plus, anyway. Our room wasn't ready, yet. This gave us a chance to relax and look around, while we waited.
We found two weird elements at the hotel. Most hotels have a small "snack shop" with selections of sodas, health drinks, and tea as well as chips, sandwiches, beer, wine, and ice cream for guests to purchase, so they don't have to go out looking for the nearest convenience store. The shop at the Best Western Plus was almost non-existent. These are great money makers for most hotels, and people need something to munch on at all hours. The second weird element was the vending machines (even floors). They carried only a few drink choices and none were no-caffeine.
The clerk soon called me over. Our room was ready except for the towels. We jumped at the chance to get in our room and unpack . . . and nap. The towels arrived about fifteen minutes after we went into the room.
The Best Western Plus is in a fantastic location. It's right next to I-5 and seconds away from shopping (if you hit the lights right). Eventually, we figured out the best short cut from the hotel, you just have to ignore a "Do Not Enter" sign on your way back, but it worked for us.
In Paris the dominant edifice would be the Eiffel Tower. From our hotel window it was what we called the Awful Tower. A string of power towers runs right through Federal Way.
The staff at the Best Western Plus was exceptional. They did a great job for us. A maintenance woman found us an extension cord to accommodate our equipment and the desk people were always helpful.
After an afternoon nap we were ready for dinner. The first time I ate at Red Lobster I was hooked. I was in Houston for a Husky football game. Our waitress mentioned they had excellent California wine from the St. Michelle Winery. I corrected her, "Washington wine." Picking up a bottle she said, "No, it says right here . . . Woodinville, Washington. . . ohhh." I've never had a bad meal at Red Lobster and I even had a coupon from Your Local Shopper, for a free salad or dessert. There was a twenty-five minute wait, however once we walked in the door. Whenever our kids heard news like that, they knew just to turn around and walk out. I hate to wait . . . even for good food.
We went looking for someplace else for dinner . . . and found it almost directly across the street.
We've eaten at McGrath's before. I like most places that feature art. At one time I was on the Mayor's Committee for 1% for the Arts program in Tacoma. Going to meetings was like beating my head against the wall. It was so nice when the job was done. Anyway, I like the sculpture of salmon on the outside of the restaurant.
Inside there are large photographs of the fishing industry in Washington from eighty or ninety years ago. They have something similar at many local seafood restaurants. I've yet to see them duplicated, so it's always fun to look at them and read captions if they have them.
My beet salad with sweet onions was absolutely excellent. It featured large chunks of red beets, caramelized onions, goat cheese, and crunchies. I ate it all, and would order it again. It was a three dollar upgrade from the standard house salad that accompanied my main dish, but well worth it.
At the same time, Peg didn't enjoy her salad. It came with a ton of what I assumed were fresh peas. Peg said they tasted stale. I gave her a couple bites of beets, however, which cheered her up.
For fifteen dollars I ordered the seafood combo plate. It had deep fried everything including scallops, clam strips, prawns, and fish. There were three good-sized prawns. I gave one to Peg. They were sweet and cooked perfectly. I had to leave two pieces of fish. I couldn't eat it all.
Peg ordered the skewered scallops, which she gave the kiss of death, "They were okay." She said my deep-fried scallops were better. I ordered the baked potato with extra sour cream. The waitress was happy to deliver more lemons and tartar sauce as well. Really good service. I would go back, but I don't know about Peg.
Sunday morning we were off to West Seattle to meet Alan Bryce. Alan is the Artistic Managing Director of CenterStage, which operates the Knutzen Family Theatre at the Dumas Bay Centre at Dumas Bay. Most people only see Federal Way as the shopping center just off I-5. They don't realize that the city extends all the way to Puget Sound.
We had a great time talking with Alan about CenterStage and his work there. (Read the interview!) He talked about the plays he's writing and his efforts with the theater, which offers excellent entertainment. The theater brings in most of its viewers from outside Federal Way, which is good news for the city.
We met Alan at Fresh Bistro in West Seattle. We also invited a friend who lives in West Seattle, and he couldn't make it because of the traffic. There was a street fair happening on California Avenue, the main drag in West Seattle. He got as close as a few blocks, but decided it was further than he wanted to walk. He missed a nice time with Alan, but he didn't miss much with the food.
Although Alan enjoyed his hash, my biscuits and gravy was a little lacking and Peg's chicken fried steak was burnt. How do you burn a steak inside the coating? The service was good, but we won't be back anytime soon.
After brunch Alan left for his auditions, while we were on our way to see Seattle's Gilbert & Sullivan Society production of The Pirates of Penzance at the Bagley Wright Theatre at the Seattle Center. We've used Federal Way before as an oasis of vehicle sanity on return trips from Seattle, but this was the first time we've attended a stage production in Seattle starting in Federal Way. It cuts travel time almost in half for us. Federal Way would be a good place to live for taking advantage of live entertainment in both Seattle and Tacoma. The lastest road project in Seattle streamlined travel between the Seattle Center and I-5. Such a difference.
We really enjoyed the production. Gilbert & Sullivan delivers on so many levels. I enjoy the patter, the bad jokes, and the slapstick physical humor. Brian Pucheu, The Pirate King, did an excellent job and one of the Modern Major General's daughters, played by KIRO reporter Natasha Chen, caught our eyes. She beamed. She moves like a dancer and has been with the Anthony Peters Tap Dance Seattle. I would love to see her tap dance. She was captivating.
Other people come to see KIRO Radio's Dave Ross, whom we do enjoy (loved him in The Mikado last year), but Natasha was a great addition to this year's production. Next year's production is Yeoman of the Guard, which I have never seen. We look forward to seeing our favorites as well as some new favorites next summer.
We whizzed out of Pirates and scampered down the freeway to miss the departing crowd from the Mariner's ball game. We got off 320th and I turned north into the rabbit warren of shops looking for Costa Vida, although Peg said it was probably on the other side of 320th. Of course, she was right.
I dropped Peg off at the restaurant and then went looking for a parking slot. I ended up parking right outside McGrath's and walking to Costa Vida to find Peg. She got tired of waiting indoors. She motioned to the exterior tables and chairs with umbrellas, so I knew we would be eating in the fresh air.
Costa Vida has restaurants from Georgia to Alberta, but most are along the west coast. This was our first time, but it won't be the last. It kind of reminds me of Subway, but up a couple of notches. They grill their own tortillas and use fresh ingredients. They have a press for the masa and a circular, revolving grill. Next time I'll ask for an extra turn on the grill for my corn tortillas. I love taco trucks and street tacos. While Peg got a salad, and loved it, I ordered two tacos (chipotle chicken, and sweet pork). I had the mango salsa added to my tacos and my rice. The salsa weakened my tortilla, which means doubling up on tortillas, or a little more grill time. I'm surprised because I enjoyed the chicken over the pork. Even though the chicken has chipotle, it wasn't spicy . . . just flavorful. The gaucamole was really tasty. I would eat at Costa Video again, anytime. I hope someone opens one in Tacoma or Gig Harbor. I want to try out more of their selections!
If Pac Island Grill borrowed the Costa Vida mango salsa and added it to their Mahi-Mahi dinner, they might have a winner. I had a lime pop AND a mango pop, while Peg had tea. I'm getting hungry just writing about the restaurant.
One of the great things Federal Way has done for the northwest is creating their sports fields. It seems like there are always teams playing and tournaments happening. I've seen our grandkids playing there. At the hotel I think there were mostly kids and parents who made the Best Western Plus their home base. Sunday morning, walking down the hall to our room two youngsters whipped past me returning to their rooms. I wish I had that much energy.
The hotel is a great location for families. The sports fields are almost a straight shot down 320th and across Pacific Avenue (Old Highway 99).
I took advantage of the free breakfast buffet on Monday at the Best Western . . . just to sample the food. I saw that they have an omelet station. Peg would be all over that. It looked like people can make four small waffles in a flip waffle maker. I tried out a pancake, a couple sausages, and a biscuit and gravy. To the gravy I added a spoonful of bacon from the omelet bar.
The pancake was good as was the sausage. I don't know why I bothered with the biscuit and gravy. I was letting Peg sleep in a little bit and then we were going to have lunch at the recommended Biscuits Café on the way out of town.
A friend of our son, Patrick, recommended a place called Biscuits. Patrick knows I like biscuits, so he told me about the Federal Way restaurant. We all like them (and bake them) as well as bacon, sausage, pancakes, hashbrowns, and fried eggs. Doman family favorites all. The Biscuits Café should be easy to get to, but it's not. The address reads Enchanted Parkway, but if you're coming from the north . . . the only direction you can come from to find it, you'll be driving on 16th Avenue South. Cross 348th and go past where the old Umpquah Bank used to be and turn right immediately. If you don't, you'll be turning around and heading back to 348th for a U-turn to try again.
The good news is that it's worth it. Even if you have to circle the block a couple of times.
I had an excellent chicken fried steak and a sweet potato pancake. They have a special deal where you can order three breakfast items for $8.29. It didn't work out for me. Now, if it was four items for $10.99 I'd have been there.
My chicken fried steak was good and I really enjoyed the sweet potato cake. I don't see how anyone could eat a stack of them, however. The eggs were over easy and done right. I would order this same meal, again. They also serve lunch, but for me . . . why bother. I could eat breakfast all day long.
So, you're probably asking, how were the biscuits. Peg and I each had one at the restaurant and got a "to go" box for two more with jam. . . breakfast the next day, you know.
We really enjoyed our adventure in Federal Way. We would have liked to have seen a couple of other people, while we were there, so we may return.