Photo Credit: Tiffany-Ashton Gatsby
One of the many perks of attending college classes here at Seattle Central is the diverse dining options in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. There are things for every budget, from Dick’s Drive-In and Hot Mama’s Pizza where you can get a meal for under five bucks, to Poppy and Bateau whose executive chef’s have both won the prestigious culinary award from the James Beard Foundation, Best Chef: Northwest. To make things even more exciting for students, we have the opportunity to sample food from the Seattle Culinary Academy. The culinary program at Central boasts three venues to sample their offerings, The Buzz Pastry Case, Square One Bistro and One World Restaurant.
Most students I chat with around campus have tried various loaves of bread, cookies, pastries or muffins from The Buzz with mostly rave reviews. Friday afternoons, the halls are crowded with long lines as faculty, students and staff wait for the chance to purchase two-for-one items left in the case after a long week of baking. There have been a few items that haven’t wowed me, but for the most part, you will get an excellent product at an amazing price. If you’re on a budget, this is a great way to get some high-quality baked goods for a steal.
— First and foremost, the pricing can’t be beaten for what you’re getting, let’s get that straight right out of the gate.
The less frequented spots on campus are Square One Bistro and One World Restaurant. One of the reasons for this is that they are only open for about 90 minutes a day from 11:15 a.m. to 12:45 p.m., so if you’re in class during that tiny window, you’re out of luck. When I first started as a student here, my schedule did not allow me to try out either location. So I made sure to change my schedule for the next quarter. I wanted to take advantage of everything this campus had to offer.
First and foremost, the pricing can’t be beaten for what you’re getting, let’s get that straight right out of the gate. The school cafeteria offers greasy-spoon food that isn’t the healthiest for your waistline or your wallet. Square One, on the other hand, is a fast-casual style restaurant that offers quality food at a low price. That means you walk up to a register to order, take a number and sit at a table and someone will bring out your food. I’ve eaten there on several occasions, and I’ve arrived at some pros and cons.
- Don’t be in a hurry. Everyone working the cash register, bringing you food and cooking your food are students and not all of them have previous restaurant experience to work from. The food can take a little time to get to your table, so if you’re in a rush to get to class or you’re starving, just skip it for the day.
- The food is better than the cafeteria. Period. The fries are only $3 and they’re damn good. And you can get a personal artisan pizza for $6. Why get a greasy burger that’s been soaking in mystery liquid when you can get these items for such a steal?
- The portions aren’t huge. If you eat out at fancier restaurants, you’ll know this going in and it won’t be a shock. Otherwise, just know they’re on the small side of reasonable.
- Grab the salt shaker. They have silverware and salt and pepper out in the self-serve area. I’m telling you now, you’ll probably need to salt your food. And once you do, you’ll be so much happier for it! It will take you from boring to happy-camper in about three shakes.
–I highly recommend all students here give it a shot. Twice.
The other option is the sit-down, fine dining style One World Restaurant. Of the two restaurant choices, this is usually my pick. But I have a love-hate relationship with One World that rivals that of The Doctor and The Master, Han and Leia, or Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy. Many students are intimidated by the appearance of One World and end up avoiding it altogether. Some people I’ve spoken with didn’t even realize they were allowed to eat in there! I highly recommend all students here give it a shot. Twice. Because if you’re there on an off day, you’ll leave pissed off and feeling like you wasted your time and money. If you pick the right entree on the right day, you’re seriously in for one of the cheapest amazing meals in all of Seattle. Here are some tips for dining at One World.
- Seriously, don’t be in a hurry. If you get there at noon you’ll be lucky to get out in an hour. It will be longer if you order an appetizer. Also, if you order an appetizer, they’ll be closed by the time you’re ready to order dessert.
- Expect crappy service. Ok, I know that sounds harsh, but that’s what you’re in for. I’m not saying the servers are rude. Most of them are really nice, but they don’t know what they’re doing. From what I’ve been told, they only work in any given position once, so there isn’t exactly a chance to learn from their mistakes and improve. You’ll notice the dining room is pretty empty and the servers are just standing there not doing anything. They’re obviously assigned to very specific tasks and waiting to take orders from instructors, but as a paying customer, it can get painfully annoying to be sitting around for twenty minutes waiting for water when six people are just standing around staring into space. Try and remember they’re students and there to learn.
- Maybe bring your own salt shaker. I would say to just ask for some salt, but there’s a chance they won’t bring it out until after you’re done eating. Or it will confuse them. Or offend them. They really do know that they under season their food. It’s a confidence thing, so sometimes the seasoning will be better the closer it is to the end of the quarter. Sometimes I carry around my own kosher salt, and it makes all the difference in the world.
- Don’t try any of the specialty menus. The best food I’ve had there has been the more standard menu items. I had a filet topped with figs and blue cheese earlier in the quarter that damn near blew my mind for all the right reasons. I’ve also had a paella that tasted like glue, a risotto that was more like Rice-a-Roni and a tamale that made a baby’s diaper look appetizing. Stick to the basic meat, fish or pasta dish. They’re usually pretty solid choices. Even if the spices are off or the seasoning is taking a holiday, the cook on the proteins is usually perfect.
- Eat all the bread, it’s delicious! They will happily give you lots of bread and butter. It is amazing, so eat it all up! Plus, you might be waiting around for your entree, so you’ll be hungry. Seriously, eat it all up!
Recently, I visited One World with a couple of friends from the Collegian, Sarah Barajas and Tiffany Tablang. I was excited for them to experience dining there for the first time. Unfortunately, things didn’t go so well which is exactly why I always say to go there twice. The featured menu was to celebrate the Day of the Dead, so we were expecting to experience some bold Latin flavors. Sarah had her reservations, especially because she thought it was a bit off to be sitting at a fine dining restaurant in the middle of our campus. I still had high hopes.
We decided to go all-in for the full One World experience, so each of us ordered an appetizer, and we were planning on getting dessert as well. A choice of soup or salad is included in the price of the entree, which from what I’ve seen is always $14.95 or less. All of us opted on the sweet corn soup because it sounded delicious!
We were in the restaurant for about fifteen minutes before they took our order, and several minutes longer to bring us our beverages, which were just some waters and a soda. All three of us chose different entrees in order to sample the most from the menu, but the other Tiffany and I went for the skirt steak and chimichurri appetizer, and Sarah picked the coconut Tuna. I chose the spiced cod, Sarah picked the roasted duck and Tiffany selected the braised pork. Our server was sure to sell us on the table-side dessert, pumpkin donuts. We were definitely excited about that.
Our appetizers showed up after we had been in the restaurant for a little over a half an hour. And about two bites in, our soup hit the table. I would have worried something was going to get cold, but nothing was really that warm to begin with. The cook on the protein of my skirt steak appetizer was spot on. The flavor of the chimichurri was nice and spicy. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my salt shaker with me today. There was enough acid in the dish to make up for the lack of salt if you took one big bite together, otherwise, it just tasted a bit flat. Like the whole dish was screaming for help. The soup, which I was practically squirming in my seat to get my hands on, was painfully disappointing. The entire thing tasted “off” as if they used the cornsilk or husks in the broth. There was a deep funk to the flavor that was highly disappointing. And the chile relleno floating in the broth wasn’t light and crisp, but greasy and heavy.
–We all decided to taste around the table, and there were components in each dish that were bright, flavorful and well-cooked.
After another eternity of waiting, our entrees finally arrived. Once again, the cook on my protein, the spiced cod, was spot on. The sauce was a bright citrus, and the carrots were nice and al dente with a perfect crunch. And then I made a mistake. I opened the tamale and the banana leaf and decided to try the tamales that were inside. The flavor made my skin crawl. It had that same deep funk that was in the soup, only concentrated to an epic level. The only way I can describe this is to say it tasted as if someone was trying to re-purpose something that did not belong in the category of ‘food’, but instead in the category ‘waste’.
We all decided to taste around the table, and there were components in each dish that were bright, flavorful and well-cooked. And then there were other elements that weren’t disappointing, they were downright offensive. Three hungry people left food on the plate that was cold, mushy, freakishly seasoned or tasting wrong. We did eat all of our proteins. No problem there.
When the server cleared off our plates, we had been there well over an hour. We wanted to end on a high note, so we asked for the table-side pumpkin donuts. We were told that it was too late and they were no longer serving them. Epic fail. Those donuts could have been their redemption. Don’t upsell the donuts if you can’t serve the rest of the meal before the restaurant is going to close.
Here are some thoughts from Sarah on her first experience dining at One World Restaurant:
–Tiffany had talked about One World Restaurant before in passing. Working in the school, I get emails about all the events going on and I’d occasionally notice an email about One World Restaurant when they had a new, special menu for holidays or whatever. So, when Tiffany had casually suggested that we grab lunch there, I was down. I’ll eat anything at least once. Lucky for us, the menu happened to feature food that was supposed to be Oaxacan inspired. (For those that don’t know, Oaxaca is a state in Mexico with a culture that is mostly indigenous.)
For the appetizer, I chose the coconut tuna “ceviche” as it was described on the menu. In reality, it was a few tuna chunks, a thin layer of cucumber gelatin, some plantain chips, and a small scoop of lime ice. Individually, the food was okay. But the lime ice was way too sweet to be on top of all the food and when I tried eating it all together, all of the flavors and textures really clashed. Also, please don’t describe something with fish in it as “ceviche” if you’ve obviously never seen or eaten ceviche.
My entree was the mole duck, which was actually pretty good. I mean, prior to this, I’ve only had the mole poutine from Paquitos, just a few blocks away from the school, and it was no bueno (Well, -I- didn’t like it, anyway). This was the second time I’d had anything remotely resembling mole so I’m probably not an expert on the matter, but the duck/mole was good. The cold, congealed square trying to pass itself off as “risotto”, though, was not good. Neither was the pomegranate pico piled on top of it. Why try to put a (not great) spin on pico de gallo when it’s already perfect?
—I don’t want to be too harsh because I get these are other students, and they aren’t going to school to be hosts.
As a Latina, I felt like the majority of the food was disappointing, although it could have been because I was expecting Mexican flavors. (Although, probably not. It probably really was sub-par.) It appeared that none of the cooks had really eaten Mexican food before because all of the food items seemed like bougie ripoffs; like if cultural appropriation had a flavor, it would be what the pomegranate “pico” and coconut tuna “ceviche” tasted like.
Also, the service just took forever. It took so long to get served all of the food that they’d stopped serving the dessert before we’d had the chance to finish (and we had arrived right as they had opened.) And then, after being told that the kitchen had closed down, we all just kind of awkwardly sat there waiting to get our cards back. I don’t want to be too harsh because I get these are other students and they aren’t going to school to be hosts, but it was almost completely empty in there.
Given Tiffany’s praise about One World Restaurant with their normal menu, I would try it again, although it would have to be on a day where they don’t have a special menu. Just please, leave the Mexican inspired dishes to people who do know what Mexican food is.–
We got our checks and it took another fifteen minutes or so before our cards were run. While we were waiting impatiently, hoping to get over to the bakery to buy something sweet, the culinary instructors started gathering at one of the tables close to us. They were filling the table up with all of the menu items. And then the table-side cart rolled over and they started making something. Yup, pumpkin donuts. Ninety minutes and twenty-five dollars later, I was definitely a little upset. But they’re students.
And you know what would help?
- Tasting menu items before they went out for service. Students I’ve spoken to said they don’t always get to taste the food.
- Sea salt at the table. Come on, you’re learning. Even professionals struggle with seasoning.
- Comment cards. This is huge. If students are learning the restaurant business they should be learning about the type of critique they’ll be getting once they’re cooking in the real world. For example, if there are only three tables seated and your only job is to serve bread, then serve the damn bread. Because it’s delicious.