This story is part of The Stranger's 2017 Guide to Food and Drink (International Edition), which includes recommendations of more than 100 restaurants serving tastes from around the globe.
If you've been to one food court, you've been to them all—a bunch of cafeteria-style food joints all plopped inelegantly into one spot, usually in the middle of a shopping mall. Harried patrons take a break from overpaying for retail to have a bite from Chipotle or Chick-fil-A or Panda Express or that steak sandwich shop that keeps changing names and ownership but always seems to serve up the same six hoagie combos.
Uwajimaya Village Food Court is a step up from the mundane. Sure, it's still cafeteria dining, but its very location—in Seattle's International District, located near a transportation hub and within the Uwajimaya grocery store—brings a measure of quality to the selections, not to mention added authenticity and wider global breadth.
Take Tako Kyuuban Takoyaki, which offers a mere three items of Japanese street food on its menu: the namesake snack, takoyaki (orbs of batter filled with minced octopus, baked in a special molded pan to fluffy golden brown spheres, then drizzled with tonkatsu sauce, Kewpie mayo, dried seaweed, and bonito flakes); taiyaki (a fish-shaped waffle filled with azuki bean paste); and dango (a round dumpling made of rice flour, kind of like mochi but warm and dripping with a sweet glaze). Though a few spots have steam plates, most of the food stands make entrées fresh to order, and you can indulge in the flavors of Hawaii (Aloha Plates), Korea (Shilla Korean BBQ), Thailand (Thai Place, Noodle Zen), Vietnam (Saigon Bistro), and Japan (Beard Papa's Cream Puffs).
But the most appealing enticements come from Uwajimaya itself, which not only has its own steam bar in the food court—where you can get standard dishes like General Tso's chicken, sweet-and-sour pork, beef and broccoli, etc.—but also a hot bar of daily specials and meals to go created five days a week by Chef Kenzo (like tempura veggies, and salmon and black-cod kasuzuke). There's also an expansive selection of cold sides from a range of Asian countries, fresh sushi, baked buns and Asian breads, dim sum treats, and even some banh mi. The only problem? You'll spend just as much time feasting your eyes on all the things to eat as you will actually partaking in them.