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August 28, 2013 at 6:00 AM

How to eat well at Bumbershoot

Armory photo courtesy of Seattle Center

Armory photo courtesy of Seattle Center

Eating well at Bumbershoot used to mean balancing out your Biringer’s strawberry shortcake with a few ears of roasted corn. That’s still an option, but now there are plenty of others, from elephant ears to sit-down elegance. Part of the improved selection comes from developments in lower Queen Anne, part is in Seattle Center’s updated Armory at the Center House. My colleague Tan Vinh gave his suggestions here, and here are some of my picks for where to refuel between sets:

The Armory: It’s technically a food court, but it’s hard to think of it that way when the building remodeled in 2012 boasts fast-serve outlets of some top-notch city restaurants. Highlights include Skillet Counter serving the diner/food truck’s signature fried chicken sammies and bacon-jam burgers, while vegans can find “mac and yease” and other favorites from Plum. Eltana sells its Montreal-style bagels and spreads, sweet and savory pies come from (no surprise) Pie, and Bigfoot grew from the successful Caribbean-Indian food truck. Bean Sprouts, marketed to kids, is especially useful for healthy grab-and-go snacks like edamame and grapes.

Collections Cafe: Grilled octopus with berbere seasoning, red onion ravioli, spiced carrot fritters… are we still at Seattle Center? As reviewer Kathryn Robinson once put it, “Just reading through this menu…is more interesting than 49 years of eating around here.” The full-service cafe in the Chihuly Garden and Glass museum is decorated with glass artist Dale Chihuly’s own private collections of objects from accordions to toy soldiers. No entrance fee is required to eat.

Festival fare: We thrive on that aforementioned roasted corn. But a few food vendors are standouts who aren’t on the regular festival circuit. Bumbershoot food lists include Stumbling Goat Bistro, a Greenwood fine-dining restaurant, which will have a stand serving pork belly BLTs, salads, and soups. Also watch for the Russian-style dumplings of Fremont hideaway Pel’meni, and spring rolls and banh mi from Pho Cyclo Cafe.

Tillikum Place Cafe (407 Cedar St.) It’s not exactly undiscovered, but chef Ba Culbert’s comfortable, friendly European-style restaurant rarely gets the recognition to match its customer raves. The good part of that is, Bumbershooters who plan ahead might even score a reservation for Dutch babies at weekend brunch, or a hearty plate of pan-seared chicken at dinner.

Toulouse Petit (601 Queen Anne Ave. N.) Staying late? The long happy hour menu at this New Orleans-style brasserie runs from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. (there’s an earlier happy hour from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.) The place is big and busy, with decorations as over-the-top as its food. From fried green tomatoes in remoulade to marinated rabbit salad, it’s all here, and relatively reasonably priced.

Dick’s Drive In (500 Queen Anne Ave. N.) Unbeatably fast and cheap, open until 2 a.m., and this location is even sit-down. Hey, it’s good enough for Macklemore. Deluxe, fries, and a milkshake, please. (It’s cash-only, but there’s an ATM.)

Metropolitan Market (100 Mercer St.) If the weather permits, just bring in a picnic. There’s no problem bringing outside food into Seattle Center, and Met Market’s prepared foods section and fresh produce are as good as plenty of restaurants.

Boat Street Cafe (3131 Western Ave.) It’s a longer walk (2/3 mile by Mapquest), but if you drove to Bumbershoot it’s entirely possible that you circled for parking until you found a spot down here. Regardless, the French-inspired food of Boat Street is worth the stroll. Renee Erickson’s first restaurant, while steadily popular, never got the national acclaim that’s being showered on newer ventures like The Whale Wins and The Walrus and the Carpenter. Take advantage of that oversight to grab a seat at the bar (it might be all that’s open if you don’t have reservations) and order a selection of house-made pickles or a bowl of Penn Cove mussels.

Tup Tim Thai (118 W. Mercer St.) Sometimes we don’t appreciate what we have until we almost lose it. Case in point: This 24-year-old standard neighborhood Thai, loved for friendly service and lunchtime pad thai plates. Rising rents nearly forced it to shut down earlier this year, but the neighborhood rallied behind its old favorite and the restaurant was saved.

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