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April 2, 2012 at 12:10 PM

“Plate of Nations” offers dining deals and ethnic meals

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Photo: Baklava at Bananas Grill, courtesy of the MLK Business Association.

You might have seen that Seattle Restaurant Week is coming up April 8-19, with its discounted $15 lunches and $28 dinners, featuring more than 150 star restaurants from Anchovies and Olives to Wild Ginger. And we recently finished up another Dine Around Seattle, including the likes of Nishino, Volterra, and Steelhead Diner.

Head down to the Rainier Valley this week, though, and you’ll find a dining-deals event with restaurants where the names might not ring an immediate bell, but the food promises to be memorable. It’s the Plate of Nations, featuring 10 independently owned eateries with food from around the world, all located up and down Martin Luther King Way. The restaurants are offering $15 and $25 group deals, most of them offering shared platters for that price that will feed two people.

There are barbecue ribs and fried catfish at the well-loved Rose Petals (Ms. Helen has retired, but owner Betty Gray is carrying on the tradition), and chicken shwarma and kofta kababs at Bananas Grill, with a picture of baklava on the site that makes me want to speed down there to test my days-old conviction that Cafe Munir had the best version I’d eaten on this side of the Mediterranean. The vegetarian St. Dames dinner special finishes off with bread pudding made from homemade bread, while Khadija Moga cooks up Somali dishes like saffron fish and goat stew at Karama.

“We consider these to be some hidden gems to the rest of the city,” said Sarah Valenta of Homesight, a member of the Martin Luther King Business Association, which launched the event and is one of its sponsors.

Valenta had eaten at every restaurant featured in the Plate event even before it began, and said it’s a hallmark of the supportive neighborhood, where people believe in “buying local, eating local.” Sponsors hope the dining event will draw people from outside the area to the global cornucopia lining Martin Luther King Way; she said the variety of authentic restaurants from cuisines around the world is “one of the most unique things we have to offer.”

Dining promotions get complicated sometimes by debates over whether they’re ultimately a service or disservice to restaurants and customers. (Writer Ronald Holden argues that they’re money losers that chase away regular diners and train customers to expect bargain-basement prices.) In the Plate of Nations case, said Valenta, many of the restaurants involved have a core clientele of customers from their own countries or cultures, and loved the idea of branching out. “Most of the restaurateurs — probably all — had never done anything like this before, so they were really excited to try something new.

“A lot of the restaurants involved are fairly new to the U.S., and are honestly excited to share their authentic cuisine with greater Seattle.”

The promotion runs through April 7, with a map of participants here.

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