If there's a line of taxis out front, you can bet the food is good.
By Liza B. Zimmerman
"... As a relative newcomer to Seattle, I always wondered what culinary surprises lurked behind restaurant doors here with rows of taxis outside. So I took a little time to find out, chatting with drivers on the day and night shifts, and hopping a ride to some of their favorite joints.
There are approximately 1,200 cab drivers in King County, according to Terry Davis, acting director of the county's Cab Drivers' Alliance. Almost all of them are male, with the exception of about five women, and they hail from 10 to 12 different countries, he estimates. "Most of the cab drivers are not really overweight," notes Davis. The reason becomes clear when you hear about the great ethnic eats they are digging into.
"I eat mostly at the Addis Cafe," says Worku Melese, as he sits in the cab line outside Seattle's posh Fairmont Olympic Hotel. Kitfo (steak tartare, prepared with butter) and tibs (a dish of spicy beef or lamb cooked with onions and peppers) are his favorites. The Addis, in the Central District, has a bar in front and traditional Ethiopian dyed reed tables upstairs for dining. The meat and vegetable combo plate ($13.99) is enough for two, and the light Harar beer ($4) pairs well with the spicy food. After dinner, you can even shoot a game of pool at the table in back.
The nearby Cafe Selam is a favorite of Fasika Moges, a driver who is also an accomplished painter (he shows his work at Columbia City Gallery). Moges goes to Selam for foul, a favorite cabbie breakfast dish. Spicy fava beans covered with scallions, tomatoes, onions, and hard-boiled eggs ($6), this luscious dish is often available all day. Selam's beef kitfo ($8) is spicy, and its beef tibs ($8) are succulent. They can be sampled with a glass of traditional tej (honey wine) for $3.50 or a Bedele Light beer for $3.25. Owner Abebu Wondem says she gets about 20 cab drivers a day, who come mostly for the tibs and her famous foul.
Down the STREET is the Tana Market, a combination store and restaurant where Wessen Darge, an Ethiopian native who has lived in Seattle for 15 years, says they make the best beef tibs ($8) in town. They also stock bags of the sour flatbread injera, and loads of traditional spices like bessobila (Ethiopian basil); they even sell corn dogs and burritos. Darge also likes Meskel Ethiopian Restaurant down the street for its kitfo, which he calls "hot and yummy." Between meals, he goes to Starbucks for snacks. "I spend $1,200 a year there, and they have never given me a cup of free coffee." When not at Starbucks or the Tana, he notes he is also available "to go the Met or Anthony's if someone invites me."
Darge also makes his own bread to share with other drivers. He says it's a healthy alternative to the butter- and egg-based breads he finds all over town. The flavor, he notes, is somewhere between cake and bread: It's "a bread that our moms make." You will have to catch up with him in the taxi rank outside the Westin if you want to try it .... >>more