Laid out in front of me is the perfect hangover brunch.
First, there's the egg foo young, a thick golden Chinese omelet stuffed with bamboo shoots, onions, mushrooms, and shrimp. (Meat and veggies were also options.) The omelet is drenched in yellow gravy and served with a few perky balls of sticky white rice. To my left is a Belgian waffle. To its left are some fried wontons. Corned beef hash. Egg rolls. Bacon.
The spread is a supremely good mix of what you'd find at a Chinese restaurant and a greasy spoon breakfast joint—plates of country sausage patties served on Zodiac place mats. The restaurant is packed with a diverse crowd, and the waiters seem to know everyone. The line stretches out the door. One of the giant picture windows promises "TERIYAKI" in giant stenciled letters near another that reads "BREAKFAST." TERIYAKI BREAKFAST is a diner's dream come true.
Anyone who has spent quality time in White Center knows exactly where I'm eating: Young's.
Tucked away just off the main strip of White Center's historic business district is Young's Restaurant. It is one of the area's standout staples, which is impressive in White Center, where, in just a few blocks, a person can eat Korean fried chicken, Korean Mexican fusion, pho, ice cream, tacos, Mexican candies, Salvadoran baked goods, gourmet hot dogs, first-rate pizza, and crayfish so good it rivals the best you'll find in New Orleans. Really.
While nothing is better after a night of drinking in White Center than Young's Chinese American diner food, the real star of the show at Young's is Janice, a server who is practically a neighborhood celebrity. She bounces enthusiastically from table to table, meeting everyone, checking in with babies, waving across the restaurant to people entering. The experience is uplifting.
Janice has been working at Young's all her life. "The restaurant and I are one year apart," she tells me. The second-generation Chinese American family run breakfast joint has been serving White Center for nearly four decades. "My parents started it, and they're still running it. They are the masterminds behind it all."
Husband and wife Van and Ella Young started the business in 1982. Now their four daughters join them. The squad includes Janice, Angela, Colleen, and Kelly Young. "All four of us make JACK," Janice tells me, referring to an acronym made up of their names. Along with the daughters, there's aunt Le Dang, cousin Nhi Luu, and prep cook Suphee Tremwt.
"I can talk about how great my family business is until I'm blue in the face," says Janice. Fortunately, she doesn't have to, because everyone else already is. On a recent Facebook post celebrating the restaurant's 37th anniversary, White Center residents went off about how beloved the Youngs—and Young's—are in the neighborhood. "I've watched JACK grow up—there's nowhere that makes us feel as welcome," one patron wrote. "JACK always remembers our names," another commented.
Customers repeatedly note that Janice and the Young's staff can recall someone's name even a year after they've visited. Handwritten notes to Janice are posted on the restaurant's wall. As you check out, staff members ask you what you're up to for the rest of the day—and they sound genuinely interested.
It's easy to get lost in conversations with strangers in White Center, but it's especially easy at Young's. The Seattle Freeze doesn't seem to exist here.