Skip to content

Bus Fare Blues

Exploring the hidden corners of Seattle

Category Archives: International District

Tuesday Scarves Seattle Storefront
Alisha and I were roaming around the International District today and discovered a cool little store made possible by an amazing idea. Storefronts Seattle is an urban revitalization program that turns empty retail spaces into art galleries and trendy shops. Earlier in December, this nondescript vacant storefront was converted almost overnight into a cheery, inviting place among the bistros and antique shops of the International District. 

Store owner Rian Robison displays her collection of handmade scarves and wraps in what she calls a “pop-art inspired shopping gallery.” It’s a load of fun and she was great to talk to. We wish her business venture well and hope the Storefronts program continues to grow.

Storefronts Seattle recently posted a walking tour of the various spaces they’ve redeveloped. We’ll have to check out some of the others.

Location: 608 S Maynard Ave, Seattle, WA 98104


Tags: , ,

Durian Rice CakeWe’ve always been intrigued and a little terrified by durian — if Andrew Zimmern hates it, it’s got to be bad (although Anthony Bourdain seems to love it for some reason). We first smelled durian at one of the fruit markets in Chinatown. Whole durians are usually frozen before transport, so they arrive covered in ice and (I’ve heard) much less smelly than before. You could still smell them a good 15 feet away – a distinct odor of especially ripe old laundry with something dead underneath.

I was checking out at Hau Hau Market in the International District the other day and the cashier lady picks up this weird yellow package and says “You try. Is good.” So I put it in my cart like a good little boy and brought it home. It was durian rice cake.

It stared at us for a week.

We were feeling adventurous today and decided to try it. For starters, it looked more like a brick of C4 than a delicious pastry, but we weren’t deterred. We opened the wrapper (hand-wrapped with cellophane tape in San Gabriel, CA) and there in its pungent glory, a thick yellow slab of durian-flavored goo sat sandwiched between two layers of chalky rice flour — a Newton from hell.

We broke off a small piece and each took a bite. The chalk (I mean rice) layers were dried and crumbly like month-old sandwich bread smushed between two schoolbooks and left to age. And the filling…yikes! The taste was somewhere between Circus Peanuts and fresh fiberglass resin; very chemical, with a faint lingering odor of rancid onion. Alisha made a stink-face and spit it out immediately. I somehow swallowed my bite and dared a few more nibbles of the yellow filling, trying to figure out what durian actually tastes like. After I somewhat learned to ignore the harsh initial flavor, there was a delicate raspberry-like finish at the end, a tingly sweetness like aspartame on the tip of your tongue.

As I type this article I keep burping up an awful turpentine smell. Your welcome.

Glad we were willing to be adventurous and that we found something positive to say about this stuff. Not sure we’d try it again, unless we needed a good opportunity to gross out our few friends.

Location: Hau Hau Market 412 12th Ave S # 101, Seattle, WA 98104

Tags: ,

Danny Woo Community Garden, SeattleI’m a huge fan of community gardens and one of the first things we did when we arrived in Seattle was to visit the Danny Woo Community Garden, a terraced green oasis hidden between a high-rise apartment complex and the freeway. Kobe, Japan (a sister-city to Seattle) contributed to the planning of this asian-themed garden, which is divided into small parcels for local asian residents to grow bok choy, bitter melon, and other produce not commonly found on supermarket shelves.

The entry to the garden is flanked by stone lanterns and Japanese wooden arches. We wandered through walking trails flanked by bamboo and Japanese maple before arriving at the garden — a delightfully ramshackle assortment of small terraced plots. An elderly asian man bent over a row of cilantro and green onions, watching us while we ambled from plot to plot like museum patrons. This is definitely more of a working garden than a tourist attraction – the walkways were narrow and frequently overgrown; you could tell some gardeners were more dedicated than others. We passed one plot completely taken over by some exotic variety of heirloom tomato staked to an elaborate system of bamboo trellis, next to another plot completely taken over by chamomile.

Danny Woo Garden plotsFrom our hilltop vantage point, we watched Chinatown spring to life as the morning progressed. A tiny Korean lady shuffled down the street on her morning walk and the Dim Sum shops opened their doors. The smell of fried duck drifted our way from the barbecue place down the street. I could hear the freeway traffic picking up as rush-hour commuters began to arrive. A cool gust from Puget Sound set the prayer flags fluttering, casting off trailing threads of red, green, and yellow.

We were getting hungry, so we made our way to the end of the garden, a long stepped path that zigzagged between overgrown fig trees before passing under a decaying wooden arch to deposit us on Main Street in front of the Panama Hotel.

Location: 221 6th Avenue South, Seattle, Washington

Tags: ,