A look inside Seattle’s Chinatown-International District. Visit Seattle
With one step into the great Emerald City, you’ll see Seattle for what it truly is: a vibrant city bursting with cultures and communities from across the world. As someone who comes from a mixed cultural background, this has always made me feel proud to be a Seattleite. This city has a way of not only welcoming people of all backgrounds but, more importantly, empowering them to flourish in this place we call home. In honor of AA & NH/PI Month, I decided it was about time to take a deeper look into my own cultural background and explore all the wonderful opportunities Seattle provides to support and celebrate this inspiring community. The list of options is extensive, so I’ve put together a jam-packed 2-day weekend so you can follow along during your next visit to Seattle. Let’s go!
Here in Seattle, every day must start with a cup of coffee. It is practically law. And what better way to kick off your deep dive into the AA & NH/PI culture than with a bit of caffeine from the wildly popular Vietnamese roastery, Hello Em. Known for their aesthetically pleasing drinks and delectable small bites, Hello Em will undoubtedly have you smiling cheek to cheek and is thus the perfect first stop. Order any one of their specialty Vietnamese coffees, especially anything with their torched egg crème, and I promise you’ll be leaving in awe. Need a little sustenance before you hit the road? Try their secret menu item the Bánh croissant which you can order by subbing the regular bánh mì bread with a croissant. Trust me—you won’t be disappointed.
One of the Wing Luke Museum’s many exhibits. Chloe Blume
Just a few minutes down the road in the bustling Chinatown-International District (C-ID) is the soul-stirring Wing Luke Museum. Tucked between the small local businesses it strives to support, this charming three-story facility aims to enlighten its visitors to the dynamic, and sometimes heartbreaking, stories of the Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders who once immigrated to Seattle. Each exhibit shares a unique AA & NH/PI perspective, offering a space for those who suffered through racial and social inequities to speak and be heard. I recently visited the Wing Luke myself and as someone of Japanese descent, there were moments when I was filled with deep sadness over what my ancestors were forced to endure, but at the same time, I was also filled with great pride as I thought about how much strength they had to survive such atrocities. The Wing Luke Museum is a powerful experience that I highly recommend to anyone hoping to learn more about the resilient people who have forever shaped and lifted our community.
While your heads and hearts process the moving stories from the Wing Luke Museum, I encourage you to head over to Seattle’s oldest Chinese restaurant, Tai Tung, for a lunch packed full of flavor. Passed down from generation to generation, this establishment has remained in the family since its opening in 1935. Fun Fact: Tai Tung is rumored to be actor Bruce Lee’s favorite spot in the C-ID and apparently his two favorite dishes were the Oyster Sauce Beef and Garlic Shrimp. I’m usually more of a Beef Chow Fun and Fried Chicken Wing kind of girl, but let me tell you, Bruce was on to something. With the owner’s strong commitment to quality, feel free to choose anything from their seemingly never-ending menu—you can’t go wrong!
Some of the unique goodies inside Uwajimaya. Visit Seattle
Time to walk off that scrumptious lunch! You could spend a lifetime in the C-ID and never run out of shops, restaurants, and activities (ok, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration), but I highly suggest taking the rest of the afternoon to stroll around the neighborhood and do some good, old-fashioned perusing. One of my favorite things to do when visiting a new area is to aimlessly walk through the streets and see what I happen upon. I find this to be the best way to absorb as much of the culture as possible. Forewarning: if you end up in Uwajimaya—which you should since it is one of the most impressive Asian groceries stores I have ever been to—be prepared to leave with a cart filled to the brim with scrumptious treats.
A lovely view from the Seattle Japanese Garden. Chloe Blume
After your first long day of exploration, you’re going to need a bit of sugar and coffee (naturally) to get you up and going for your next day of AA & NH/PI adventures. A stop at the one-of-a-kind brioche donut bakery and Seattle sensation, The Flour Box, is exactly what you need! Serving up new flavor combos every 2 weeks, The Flour Box’s menu is always bound to impress with flavors such as kimchi, genmaicha (a type of Japanese brown rice green tea), durian, and more. This woman-owned and family-run small business in the south end of Seattle is making history with its owner/baker Pamela Vuong being named as one of the 2022 James Beard Award Semifinalists for Outstanding Baker. As I’m sure you can tell by now, this is a place you don’t want to miss! Be warned, The Flour Box tends to sell out of donuts after just a few hours of being open each day so be sure to get there early and line up before 10 AM if you want your pick of the draw!
With a donut (or two) in hand and a smile on your face, I suggest taking a short drive over to the Seattle Japanese Garden, nestled in the expansive Washington Arboretum UW Botanic Gardens. If you happen to visit on a weekend where the weather is cooperating, a walk through the Seattle Japanese Garden is a peaceful way to absorb some Japanese culture. Full of beautiful blossoming flowers, zen ponds, and a quaint teahouse, the garden offers a tranquil oasis in the middle of an otherwise lively city.
The Be/longing: Contemporary Asian Art Ongoing exhibit at the Seattle Asian Art Museum. Seattle Asian Art Museum
To continue the theme of AA & NH/PI cultural beauty, I propose a trip to the Seattle Asian Art Museum. This newly renovated 1933 Art Deco building in Volunteer Park is home to a beloved and extensive Asian art collection. With pieces from China, Korea, Japan, Iran, India, and Azerbaijan, just to name a few; you are guaranteed to be surrounded by a wide variety of cultures and heritages.
Aloha Tots from Marination. Chloe Blume
Grab yourself an early dinner—or “linner”, as I like to say—at one the most innovative and flavorful restaurants in Seattle, Marination. Marination combines classic Hawaiian dishes with Korean—and sometimes Mexican—inspiration to create culinary masterpieces. My go-to order is the Aloha Tots, which is kalua pork, kimchi sauce, mayo, scallions, and a sunny-up egg on top of big pile of tater tots. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think food can get any better than that. Special shout out to any of their dishes with SPAM, which, if you’ve been too afraid to try, get over it and try it! It’s the most delicious thing(?) in the world and Marination would definitely be the place to give it a go!
Two delicious drink options from Happy Lemon. Chloe Blume
Wrap up your AA & NH/PI culture filled weekend with something sweet. My dessert of choice is the Taiwanese tea-based drink that originated in the early 1980s and blew up in popularity just a few years ago. I must admit, when the boba craze first started, I didn’t get the hype. That is, until I tried Happy Lemon. The quality of the boba (tapioca balls) itself was like no other that I had tried. Soft and chewy and full of flavor, I could tell this was how boba was supposed to taste. And from that time, I was hooked. Since then, I’ve tried many of the other boba spots around Seattle (there are A LOT) and I must say, Happy Lemon remains on top. If you haven’t tried boba before, I recommend starting with the classic milk tea with boba or taro milk tea with boba if you’re feeling a little adventurous. Most places have a large menu of interesting creations, but I like to stick with the classics.
As you can see, Seattle is full of so many different opportunities to explore and support AA & NH/PI communities and cultures. I attempted to pack some of my favorites into a 2-day itinerary for your next weekend trip to Seattle, but let me tell you, it was almost impossible to do so. There were so many other wonderful experiences that I was dying to mention, but don’t fret—that just means you’ll have to come back to see the rest!
Have something else to add to this itinerary? Feel free to mention it in the comments below! For more resources on how support, celebrate, and educate yourself on the AA & NH/PI community in Seattle, click here.