A self-described example of the American dream, Jose “Pepe" Ramos came to the United States and through hard work achieved great professional success. He left his home in central Mexico back in 1973, shortly after the death of his father, in search of financial support for his mothers and brothers. He didn’t speak any English, but within two years ascended from dishwasher to cook to chef and, finally, to restaurateur, opening a small 24-seat eatery, Azteca Mexican Restaurant, in Burien.
Some four decades later—with help from his three brothers and his mother, Camerina—Jose is now at the helm of a 35-restaurant franchise, with locations sprinkled from the Pacific Northwest to Florida. Decadent Mexican feasts—such as enchiladas verdes, shrimp fajitas, and carne asada—are the bread and butter of his success, thanks to Camerina’s family recipes. Yet, the Ramos family doesn’t hesitate to introduce new-to-the-family favorites either; for instance, they marinate and bake seasoned lamb shanks to create Borrego Azteca, and conjure bowls of molcajete from sautéed chicken and beef. Best of all, the Ramos relieve thirsty gullets with signature margaritas muddled together from housemade citrus juices and the sap of fresh-squeezed tequila trees.
Shari Courtier and Scott Carpenter run Three Tree Wellness Center, a place that is part spa, part classroom, and part bodywork-supplies store. The staff nurtures mind, body, and spirit with spa services such as massages, which can incorporate reiki energy work, and mud wraps, which draw toxins from the skin while equipping it to someday sprout an apple tree. Art-therapy classes put students in touch with their inner power animal, and continuing-education classes keep massage therapists abreast of body mechanics and best practices. The retail portion of the center, SNL Supplies, hawks wares such as essential oils, shower gels, and candles.
Two-time winner of Best Sandwich Shop from CityVoter and KING 5's Best of Western Washington, Hey Paison! offers hungry tummies an assortment of comfort foods, authentic Italian favorites, and willpower-withering desserts. Like the ability to throat sing, the recipes at the foundation of the restaurant's menu have been passed down through generations, and they're brought to their full appetite-swelling potential by high-quality ingredients such as specially made bread and hand-rolled meatballs. Hunker down with a Philly cheesesteak ($8.25), or give meat the cold shoulder with an eggplant parmesan hoagie ($7.25). Pop's Italian porkettes pair thin-sliced roast pork with optional provolone and roasted peppers ($7.75–$9.50) while they scheme to borrow the car from Grand-Pop's chicken parmesan hoagie, which incorporates provolone, mozzarella, and sausage-tomato gravy ($8.95). Desserts include Tastykakes, cannolis ($4.50), and cheesecakes good enough to have earned a spot on Whole Foods Market's shelves ($3.50–$4.50 per slice).
Piranha Joe's shelters hungry stomach-sailors in a relaxed atmosphere filled with the savory, salt-watered scents of grilled steaks and freshly-caught Northwestern seafood. Adventurous eaters can chart their course through the menu map starting with a plate of roasted alligator fritters ($8.95) or a crisp salad of mixed greens topped with savory blue cheese, sweet blueberries, and the clashing colors of house-smoked salmon ($12.95). With daily deliveries of fresh seafood via secret underground maglev train straight from Puget Sound, Piranha Joe's creates a culinary confluence of aqua and terra in entrees such as oven-baked or charbroiled local Coho salmon ($16.95) or stuffed prawns wrapped with bacon and swelling with sweet crabmeat and scallops ($16.95). Meat-minded diners will salivate at the thought of hearty cuts such as The Baseball eight-ounce top sirloin ($18.95). An amphibious pairing of six-ounce rancher steak with sautéed or tempura-style shrimp ($22.95) is as fun to eat as it is to assemble into a face-hugger, while the bar menu provides simpler options for exotic eats such as the alfredo gator or Louisiana gator pizzas ($9.95 each). Patrons also can refuel after daring mid-afternoon office escapes with lunch selections such as blackened fish tacos with balsamic tomato relish ($7.95). Otherwise, flex fingers in anticipation of the sundry sandwich and hamburger options, ranging from the Surfer Sam (turkey and ham dressed with avocado and jack cheese in the grainy embrace of grilled sourdough bread; $9.45) to the fiery Crock burger’s ground sirloin and Portuguese sausage served with red-pepper aioli on a crisp ciabatta bun ($11.95).
About the Owners
Maria didn’t think she’d inherited her Italian father’s talent for cooking until her 40s, when she met Nikos. Nikos grew up amongst olive groves in Greece before taking off for the US, where he knew he could fulfill his dreams of opening a restaurant and raising a family. Those dreams certainly came true—he met Maria, married her, inspired her to tap into her cooking abilities, and opened Arcadia. Together, they serve a truly eclectic menu that celebrates both of their cultural heritages.
When to Go: dinnertime. The restaurant is only open from 3:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m..
Saganaki: refers to any Greek dish cooked in a small frying pan with the same name. The most popular variant of saganaki features fresh cheese—often kasseri or kefalograviera—fried with lemon juice.
Skordalia: a Greek spread made from potato, garlic, lemon, and olive oil.
While You’re in the Neighborhood
Before: Get a new look before dinner at Salon in the Park (17651 1st Avenue S, Normandy Park)
After: Grab a drink and hit the pool table at the delightfully divey Bz’s Sports Bar and Grill (17730 Ambaum Blvd S, Burien, WA)
Decades ago, brothers Bob and Earl Green founded a business dealing in red meat and seafood on April Fools' Day. Later, on another fateful April 1, they passed the shop to Bob's son and daughter-in-law, and today, more than 50 years since its 1958 opening, B & E Meats and Seafood still cuts, smokes, and marinates prime carnivorous fare at four locations.
Beef raised in Washington and Oregon comes to B & E Meats in three variants: natural, traditional, and grass-fed on the grounds of Harlow Ranch. The staff preps T-bones and tenderloins alongside signature kalbi beef ribs, whose soy, ginger, garlic, and sesame-oil marinade evokes tropical barbecues. Such meticulous seasoning is par for the course?the staffers smoke their beef jerky for up to six hours with alder and cherry-wood chips to preserve rustic flavor, and they cover pork roasts in sea salt before wrapping them in banana leaves. Their smoked candy salmon also boasts a tantalizing mix of sweet and salty notes, and corned beef comes traditionally cured for St. Patrick's Day.
Freezer variety packs tempt those who can?t decide on one meal with 25?100 pounds of cuts and goodies, which include steaks, roasts, ground beef, and bacon. In the interest of convenience, the store provides cooking instructions for many of its popular dishes, as well as game-processing services that package meats by weight.