I Ate Here: Lanai Cafe Olympia, WA

Thurston County is saying ‘aloha’ to Hawaiian flavors. The Lanai Café opened in downtown Olympia less than six months ago. Though the owners are from the Pacific Northwest, their business partners are from Maui and Oahu.

Lanai Pulled Pork Main

As the name suggests, this pork dish is marinated and braised with Kalua. It has a deep, smokey flavor and tender texture.

The menu features items like a savory pulled pork that is slow cooked and shredded. It can be eaten on its own or put inside pulled pork sliders. There are braised Kali short ribs, fried pork loin, chicken katsu (a breaded fried chicken breast with a tonkatsu—barbecue sauce) Spam appetizers, Hawaiian sweet bread, and Kona coffee drinks, just to name a few. All combos are served with Asian sesame salad and steamed white rice, or for a little extra, you can order pineapple fried rice.

Lanai Platter 1

Kalua Pork platter served with Asian sesame salad, steamed white rice and a slice of pineapple

One of the biggest surprises was the lumpia, which is traditionally a Filipino appetizer. It’s like an eggroll, but filled with meat and served in a rice flour wrapper (as opposed to a regular flour wrapper), which makes them extra crispy.  I make this dish often, with a recipe passed down from my mother’s side of the family for generations, so I was curious to see what the Hawaiian take was on it.

Lumpia at the Lanai Cafe. Though a traditional Filipino dish, the Lanai offers a Hawaiian take on the dish from the Philippine Islands

Lumpia at the Lanai Cafe. Though a traditional Filipino dish, the Lanai offers a Hawaiian take on the dish from the Philippine Islands

The Hawaiian version is made with beef, and instead of using a simple salt and pepper seasoning the Hawaiians use a jerk seasoning blend—which is a hodge podge of sweet and slightly spicy seasonings including cinnamon, cloves, brown sugar and garlic, which gave the savory appetizer a slightly sweet and spicy, almost peppery undertone, which was a delightful departure from the Filipino version I am used to. (It’s still not as good as the Filipino version I make, but since I am Filipino, I will always think the Filipino version is better) It is the best lumpia I’ve eaten so far at a restaurant.

The Lani Café

514 Capitol Way S. Olympia

Hours:

Mon-Th 11 a.m.- 8 p.m.

Fri-Sat 11a.m. -10 p.m.

Entrée Price Range: $7-15

 

I Ate Here: Pellegrino’s Italian Kitchen: Tumwater

Filled with old world Italian charm, Pellegrino’s Italian Kitchen in Tumwater is a great place for a fresh and satisfying lunch. The menu features an assortment of gourmet sandwiches and pasta entrees. The chef, Sam Pellegrino has been a chef and restaurateur for over 30 years. He’s catered several fine dining events in Thurston County, including more than 1,500 Japanese and American guests during the governor’s sister state reception in the Capitol Rotunda.

pellegrinos sign

The portion sizes are perfect for lunch. They are served in bowls that are not two or three times the size of a normal bowl. You can eat a salad, a soft, warm ciabatta roll with a side of balsamic vinegar and olive oil for dipping that comes with the pasta and not be too full by the time the pasta arrives. You can finish the pasta and feel satisfied, not so full like you are going to explode.

The spaghetti bolognese is cooked to al dente perfection (there’s also a gluten free pasta for $1 more) and is covered in slow-simmered tomato sauce that is light, creamy and sweet. It is mixed with tender, seasoned ground beef and topped with shiny dollops of fluffy ricotta cheese.

SPAGHETTI PELLEGRINOS

spaghetti bolognese

The antipasto salad is light, fresh and features an assortment of green lettuces and marinated vegetables such as celery, onions and mushrooms.

pellegrinos salad

antipasto salad

This month, the menu also features a “sausagefest” assortment of sandwiches with grilled garlic ciabatta bread and your choice of four sausages featuring four types of sausages including a milder andouille sausage to a super spicy Louisiana hot sausage.

They also have a large catering menu,a friendly staff with extensive menu knowledge,  dining on two floors and a banquet room that can seat up to 30 people for special events.

The only weird thing about the restaurant is that it’s right across the cemetery. On a bright, sunny day, it looks like a lovely park lined with flowers, trees and the tombstones are simply a side note. On a gray, rainy day or after dark, it might look like the setting for the beginning of the zombie apocalypse, but in either case is entertaining stare at while eating.

Pellegrino’s Italian Kitchen.

205 Cleveland Ave SE, Tumwater

360-709-9020

Lunch: Weekdays 11-4, Sat. Sun. 11-2

Dinner: Mon-Thursday 4-9; Fri 4-10, Sat. 2-10, Sun 2-9

Check out the video tour.

I Ate Here: Ramirez Mexican Store, Tumwater, WA

Ramirez Mexican Store Offers Tamales y Comida Muy Autentica (Very Authentic Food)

A plate of chicken tamales and pork enchiladas at Ramirez Mexican store in Tumwater, Wash.

A plate of chicken tamales and pork enchiladas at Ramirez Mexican store in Tumwater, Wash.

I’m originally from Yakima, Wash., a city wthose population is nearly half Hispanic. On nearly every corner, you can find flavorful, authentic Mexican, food in the form of restaurants and outdoor“taco wagons,” food carts where you can watch cooks prepare the food in front of you.

Since moving to western Washington seven years ago, I’ve often struggled to find great Mexican food that rivaled that of my hometown, particularly tamales (a most street food made of a ground corn substance called masa that’s filled with a variety of meats and wrapped inside a corn husk and steamed.) Tamales sold at many restaurants and supermarkets have tamales that are grainy and dry. But Ramirez Mexican Store in Tumwater got it right!.

For $2.95 diners can eat a tamale that comes stuffed with your choice of chicken or pork. Each tamale is  slathered in rijo (red) or verde (green sauce). Chicken tamales have a traditional tomato-based red sauce, while the pork comes with the green tomatillo sauce. The tamale is finished with a drizzling of smooth crema and cotija cheese crumnbles. (Cotija is a cow’s milk cheese that has a texture similar to feta) Each tamale is moist and melts in your mouth! Best of all is the value for your money. Most tamales are small and can fit in your hand. These tamales are served on a big dinner plate and are about 1 ½ times the length of your hand (unless you have big hands like Shaq, then maybe it’s just one). On Mondays, you can spend about $10 to get the two tamale lunch special that comes with a side of rice and beans. Some of the beans in the refried beans have not been crushed all the way, so there are delightful chunks of beans with every bite.

A homemade chicken tamale smothered in salsa rojo, crema and cotija cheese.

A homemade chicken tamale smothered in salsa rojo, crema and cotija cheese.

Other items on the menu include tacos, enchiladas, wet burritos, and quesadillas that can be filled with a variety of meats such as asada (steak), barbacoa (shredded pork), chicken, pulled pork carnitas, chile verde, ground beef, or lengua (beef tongue). When you dine in, make sure to fill up on the complimentary chips. Their chips are quite different than chips you would get at most Mexican restaurants. They are quite a bit thicker–almost like a pita chip and they have seeds in them (I suspect either chia or flax seeds).

After you’re done eating, stop by the Mexican store and panaderia (bakery). The bakery has a wide selection of pan dulce (Mexican donuts) that are topped with a rainbow of sugar. Some are stuffed with cream, others chocolate. The churros are rolled in white sugar and cinnamon and filled with different flavors. Each one is a surprise. The one I ate was pineapple. The store has some of their fresh baked tortillas and lots of hard to find latin ingredients like chile de arbol, spanish adobo seasoning, and dried rose buds.

In additon to the main tumwater store, there is also a smaller Ramirez to Go location in West Olympia that is open for breakfast. (Breakfast burritos, huevos rancheros–eggs)

 

Ramirez Mexican Store

Most Entres $8-$10, sides about $4

Ramirez Mexican Store

5105 Capitol Blvd. SW #C

Tumwater, WA 98501

Store Hours

Mon-Thurs: 9:00am-8:00pm

Fri-Sat: 9:00am-9:00pm

Sun: 9:00am-7:00pm

Ramirez To Go

2400 Harrison Ave SW

Olympia, WA 98501

Note: Hours for the Ramirez To Go location were not listed on the website. It’s advisable to call in advance for hours. (360) 753-1829

 

Happy #NationalDoughnutDay! Doos Donuts Opens In West Olympia

Left: Maple Bacon Bar, Center: Chocolate Glazed Right: Cake Doughnut Holes rolled in sprinkles

Left: Maple Bacon Bar Center: Chocolate Glazed Right: Cake Doughnut Holes rolled in sprinkles

Mmm… Doughnuts. June 5 is #NationalDoughnutDay. And Olympia residents have a new place to enjoy Homer Simpson’s favorite treat.

Doos Donuts is now open in West Olympia. The new store is the only one open in Thurston County. (The first, located in Mason County in Shelton, already has a loyal customer base.)

The doughnut flavors are off the beaten path. There’s pineapple fritters, apple-filled bear claws, cherry-cream glazed, raspberry fritters, peanut butter and jelly glazed. The filled doughnuts come in more than just the standard vanilla custard with flavors such as coconut  cream and banana cream. And for those not so adventurous, there’s the standard chocolate bars and sugar glazed. There’s also several sprinkle-topped varieties including doughnut holes.

I sampled the maple bacon bar. The way the bacon is incorporated into the doughnut is pretty ingenious.  Instead of simply placing one strip of cooked bacon on top of the doughnut, the entire length of the doughnut is blanketed with chopped up bacon bits, so there is an equal distribution of bacon and maple glaze in every bite. I stopped in later in the day (around 3:30 p.m.) and the doughnuts were as soft and pillowy as some I might expect to be prepared in the early morning hours.

You can wash down your doughnut with milk, coffee or a variety of bottled beverages, too. They are also planning on launching a line of gluten-free doughnuts soon.

SPECIAL DEALS: On National Doughnut Day (June 5), a dozen doughnuts is on sale for $7.99. And from now until June 30, you can get a FREE doughnut by liking the Doos donuts Olympia Facebook page.

Thank you Doughnut Gods, for bestowing this sweet, wonderful treat upon us.

 

About Doos Donuts:

Prices vary depending on size and type of doughnut, but most are under $2.

West Olympia location:

1621 Harrison Ave. NW

(360) 753-DOOS (3667)

Hours: 6 a.m.to  4 p.m. Monday-Thursday

6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday

6 a.m.to 4 p.m. Sundays

Shelton location:

2337 Olympic Highway N. #100

(360) 460-8656

Hours: 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday