by Northwest Travel & Life Staff
Throughout the Northwest, you don’t need a passport to take an international culinary journey (unless traveling between Canada and the U.S., of course). Many communities have become concentrated hubs of international foods from mom-and-pop eateries to fine dining establishments. Here are a few of our favorites that are sure to excite your taste buds and maybe broaden your culinary horizons.
Surrey, British Columbia
Just across the Washington-British Columbia border, the rapidly growing city of Surrey sprawls. Citizens with Indian, Korean, Afgani, West African, Mexican and more have brought their cultures and their foods to Surrey. The food scene there is so international that city leaders created a handy guide to the “Spice Trail,” a resource for locals and visitors to find the international restaurants that grace this city with such culinary diversity. You could spend weeks in Surrey dining out for every meal and just scratch the surface of the Spice Trail. Find more information at discoversurreybc.com/spice-trail/about-the-spice-trail.
Richmond, British Columbia
Immediately south of Vancouver, B.C., sits the city of Richmond, sandwiched between the Fraser River and the Strait of Georgia. Many have likened the vibe in this bustling city to Hong Kong, especially when it comes to food. So plentiful are the eateries that the city created the “Dumpling Trail” to help hungry diners navigate the city’s concentration of hundreds of restaurants. The primary cuisine is Chinese represented by the many styles of Chinese cooking, but you’ll also find the foods of other cultures—Korean, Japanese, Thai and more. Plan your visit to the Richmond Dumpling Trail at visitrichmondbc.com/food-drink/the-dumpling-trail.
Idaho, in particular Boise, was settled by Basque immigrants. Their primary occupation? Sheep ranching. Like any group of immigrants who settled in a new land, they brought their culture with them, and Boise has a special way of celebrating the culture and the foods of the Basque community: The Basque Block. This neighborhood spills out of a one-block stretch bordering downtown and is a microcosm of Basque culture, including foods serving authentic Basque dishes. When in Boise, it’s worth a visit to the Basque Block to munch on pintxos (Basque tapas) at the Basque Market or sit down to a hearty lamb stew at Bar Gernika. Learn more at thebasqueblock.com. Find lodging at visitboise.com.
As you drive US Highway 2 across the Cascade Range, you’ll come upon a mountain town that looks like it was plucked right out of Bavaria. Leavenworth has become a must-see destination in Washington, not only for its Bavarian architecture and vibe, but also for its food. Visit a beer garden for a stein of beer and a brat with sauerkraut. Or choose fancier fare at one of the fine dining establishments serving traditional German dishes. Plan your visit at leavenworth.org.
Yakima Valley, Washington
The Yakima Valley rests just east of the Washington Cascades. It’s an extremely productive agricultural region where generations of immigrants have settled, many from Mexico. And, fortunately, for those of us who love authentic Mexican cuisine, many have opened restaurants throughout the valley from Yakima south to Sunnyside. There are at least seven Mexican restaurants in Sunnyside alone. Of particular notoriety, in the town of Union Gap, is Los Hernandez, which won a James Beard Award for their tamales (tip: buy a bunch to take home). Plan your Yakima Valley Mexican food journey at visityakima.com.
Apparently, the people of the Alaskan interior can’t get enough Thai food. The population of Fairbanks and its visitors sustain at least 20 Thai restaurants, more than many metro areas in the lower 48. No matter which eatery you choose, you’ll find authentic dishes prepared with a nod to tradition. Why so many Thai restaurants in Fairbanks? There was a migration of Thai people into the Alaska interior for gold mining; when that didn’t pan out, many stayed needing a livelihood. Restaurants followed. Plan your trip to Fairbanks at explorefairbanks.com.
Foodies in the greater Seattle area looking for a concentration of global eateries should look no further than the city of Kent, which is home to an “International Eats Trail.” Scattered throughout the city, diners will find Thai, Chinese, Indian, Kenyan and Japanese restaurants serving up authentic dishes. Head to the Great Wall Mall to visit the largest Asian market in the country as well as a concentration of various Asian restaurants. Learn more at visitkent.com/dine-drink/kent-food-trails.
Beaverton, just outside of Portland, is home to several restaurants that take diners on a world culinary tour. Japanese, Puerto Rican, Mexican, Argentinean, Burmese and Guamanian cuisine are among the foods served at Beaverton’s international eateries. Learn more at tualatinvalley.org/interntional-cuisine.