Welcome to Design Detours, a series where creative people whose tastes we trust share their well-curated, design-minded travel itineraries.
As a designer turned food writer and founder of the award-winning culinary blog Little Fat Boy, it’s unsurprising that Frankie Gaw’s perfect day in Seattle would be entirely food-focused. "There are a lot of local businesses that value design and delicious food here," he says, noting that many of his favorite establishments are "outside the touristy lens" of what’s typically associated with Seattle.
On his website, Gaw shares recipes that "define him as a Taiwanese American first-gen kid," exploring his roots through riffs on classic dishes like dumplings and noodles. His cooking style has become so popular that on October 25 he launched his debut cookbook, First Generation: Recipes from My Taiwanese American Home.
While he moved to Seattle’s Upper Queen Anne neighborhood roughly two years ago, Gaw still loves exploring the city as he did when he was first settling in—particularly through its diverse food offerings. "Neighborhoods like the International District have local restaurants bustling with dumplings, noodles, and congee that remind me of my family," says Gaw. "Drive north or take the bus and walk the neighborhoods of Fremont and Ballard; they’re full of some of my favorite shops and bites to eat. If you have time, Orcas Island is a drive and ferry ride away, where ceramics, fresh seafood, and a local community of artists all come together." Here, Gaw shares his ideal day in Seattle with some of his top spots that showcase the city’s thriving food community.
Morning: Follow the baked goods
"On days off I like to wake up pretty early, just as the sun rises. I’ll head to the James Beard Award–nominated The Flour Box, a small bakery in Hillman City best-known for its airy brioche donuts, which are hand-filled with flavors like salted beer caramel, hojicha (roasted Japanese green tea), fruity pebbles, and strawberry lychee, drawn from the owner Pamela Vuong’s heritage. The sheer quality and creativity of their approach to flavor makes it one of the best bakeries in town. There will usually be a long line of fellow foodies and donut lovers, so I recommend bringing a book.
With precious donuts in hand, I’ll head to Columbia City and walk the main street, popping my head into Persephone, an aperitif bar and market owned by next-door restaurant La Medusa where they stock Italian pantry items and local fruits and vegetables, to look at their curated selections of wines and aperitivos. Then I’ll stop by Columbia City Bakery, a to-go spot for homemade goodies, and get a loaf of sourdough for the afternoon. On an ideal day, I’ll next make my way to The Pastry Project to attend a cookie-making class run by founders Emily Kim and Heather Hodges. Emily was formerly the director of social impact at Molly Moon’s, an ethically minded ice cream brand in Seattle, and Heather worked there as head chef, so their backgrounds are perfect for running The Pastry Project as a social enterprise. The profits from these classes, along with their subscription boxes and delicious take-and-bake cookie dough, fund baking- and pastry-training programs for individuals with barriers to education and employment in the food industry. Heather is super hands-on with all her students, not to mention, their kitchen is one of the most delightful spaces to learn in. It’s an industrial but homey space with large floor-to-ceiling windows that allow for lots of natural light. Each person gets their own wood butcher block counter equipped with flour, butter, eggs, chocolate, and stand mixers."
Midday: Indulge your noodle soup and congee cravings
"After spending a couple of hours baking chocolate chip cookies, it’ll be time for lunch. I’ll head to Seattle’s International District, home to many delicious restaurants and named for its vibrant Asian American community. If I’m craving dishes that remind me of my family, I’ll opt for Mike’s Noodle House, a cash-only Seattle staple run by aunties that remind me of my own. The small, cozy room is buzzing with locals; everyone sits close to each other. It has a moody, vintage feel like a scene from the 2000s romantic drama, In The Mood for Love, set in Hong Kong.
Inside, you can see the steam rising from the noodles and congee. Some of my favorite dishes are the rich beef noodle soup with wontons filled with pork and mushroom, the delicate congee with tender chunks of rock cod, and the Chinese broccoli that’s perfectly crunchy and bathed in sweet-and-savory oyster sauce. Of course I always order too much, but it’s blissful regardless."
Afternoon: Roam and relax at Green Lake
"After a half-day full of eating, I’ll drive myself to Green Lake, an inner-city park set around a large lake, and spend the remaining day there. When the weather is warm, I’ll bring a large blanket, a good fiction book from Elliott Bay Book Company in Capitol Hill, and park myself on the grass. I also love to participate in my other favorite activity: people-watching. You’ll see all kinds of interesting people walking, running, rollerblading, and chatting on the three-mile walking/running loop around the lake. I like to imagine what their lives are like as they pass by."
Evening: Cap the day off with dumplings and cocktails
"I’ll finish the day at Stampede Cocktail Club, a fun bar with colorful wallpaper, to enjoy the music (that’s usually playing too loud for my eardrums). The cocktails are delicious and seasonal—like bell Pepper infused mellow corn, mezzodi, house mango bitters and fennel-infused Jamaican rum—with a rotating themed menu. I’ll usually order the Artusian Slug (blackstrap rum, sfumato amaro, lime, ginger, demerara gum syrup, cardamom, and ginger beer), along with the steamed pork dumplings. To me, that’s a satisfying ending to a perfect day in Seattle."
Top photos courtesy of Frankie Gaw.
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