Recap: Othello Business District Tour Sept 13

steps cafe mlkba othello tour 9.11.14

On Sat, Sept. 13, six people gathered for the last business tour of the summer led by former MLKBA board chair, Julie Pham. We toured five businesses: Lidia’s Culture Shop & Fashions, New Holly Gift Shop & Alterations, Ba Mien Supermarket, Seattle Chinese Herbs, and Steps Café. Here are some notes on each business:

Lidia’s Culture Shop & Fashions (3815 S. Othello St #102) is next to the UPS Store on Othello Street. Habtom, the owner, owned a retail business in his home country, Eritrea. The store is named after his daughter and has been in business for three years. The store serves the Eritrean and Ethiopian community by selling special foods and the walls are lined with embroidered white dresses. A tailor sits in the backroom.

New Holly Fashion, Gift Shop & Alterations (7133 MLK Jr. Way South) is on the west side of MLK Jr. Way South across from the Light Rail station. Walk inside the store and you’ll see a wide assortment of colorful women’s fashions and shoes, trinkets, and costume jewelry. Phuong, the owner, also alters clothes on-site. She said her one of her most popular and unique items are bright leggings with cut-out designs running along the side.

Ba Mien Supermarket (6951 MLK Jr. Way South) is located in King Plaza North, just northwest of the Light Rail station. “Ba Mien” refers to the three regions in Vietnam. You can buy already shredded om choy, papaya, and banana flower popular in southeast Asian salads along with a wide assortment of seafood.

Seattle Chinese Herbs (6951 MLK Jr. Way South) is located just a few stores down from Ba Mien Supermarket on the ground floor. Gia Lam is a long time employee and he speaks five languages. He said that people from all ethnicities come to the store looking for all natural solutions to their ailments.

Steps Café (7148 MLK Jr. Way South) is managed by Mary Hackney. It is in a portable building on the northeast corner of Othello and MLK Jr. Way South. She, Miss Peggy and Niki, the barista in training, shared their vision for the new café as a meeting place for community groups (they just ask for a minimum donation of $20) and a place for economically disadvantaged people to train as baristas and food industry workers and to learn the basics of running a business from Mary. For more information, email

MLKBA runs these free tours of the Graham and Othello business districts each summer. For more information, email: Sarah Valenta

Recap: How to get funding to help pay for the development of your business website

At the Aug 13 MLKBA business mixer at Joy Palace, MLKBA board member Franklin Chau and RVCDF business case manager Jennifer Tam presented on “How to get funding to help pay for the development of business website”

Here are key points from the presentation:

-The importance of businesses having a web presence. Although a website can be expensive to build, the power of having an online presence can’t be underestimated when so many people today turn to their phones, tablets, and computers to find information about businesses before they patronize them.
-A simple web page helps put a business on the map and can allow a business to reach a broader audience of prospective customers and people who are interested in learning about what types of businesses are in a particular neighborhood.
-A website doesn’t have to be complicated, it can be as simple as having some photos of your business, contact information, location, hours, menu of services or food, pricing, and a brief story about the business.
-98118 in particular is so incredibly rich with different cultures from all around the world, businesses who have a web presence can help show case the diversity in the community.
-Social media also plays an important role in connecting with customers and potential customers.
-Yelp – before going to restaurants, many people today go to Yelp before patronizing a restaurant. Restaurant owners who claim their Yelp page have more control over the information that is being presented and have an opportunity to respond to customers who patronize their business.
-Since Rainier Restaurant & BBQ’s release of their new website, they’ve received business from new customers and they’ve been able to direct people to their website to find more information about their menu items.

MLKBA members located between Othello St. and Graham St. along Martin Luther King Way South are eligible to apply for funding to subsidize the development of your website. Funding ends in 2014. To apply, email Wayne Lau .

MLKBA Member Dayspring-Fitch & Sons Funeral Home Profiled in

Former MLK BA chair and blogger Julie Pham profiles Dayspring-Fitch & Sons, Seattle’s last remaining independent African American funeral home. MLKBA board member and Dayspring-Fitch founder Zane Fitch shares his story of starting out and working in a still self-segregated industry, adapting to serve an increasingly diverse market, and preparing his sons to take over the family business. Read the story in

Julie Pham_Forbes.com_Dayspring Fitch_Light Rail ad Ease off the Train cropped

Thanks to All of YOU Who Made Plate of Nations 2014 a Success!

It takes a local, global village to make Plate of Nations a success! First and foremost we at the MLK Business Association want to THANK YOU good diners who came down to experience the global menus and down-home family service at our participating restaurants, and helped to support the Rainier Valley Food Bank during the last two weeks. And, of course, this event wouldn’t happen without the hardworking owners and staff and delicious fare of Café Ibex, Bananas Grill, Rainier Restaurant, St. Dames , Thai Palms, Olympic Express, The Original Philly’s, Joy Palace, Huong Duong, Othello Wok & Teriyaki , and Huarachitos Cocina Mexicana.


It’s too early for final numbers, but all indications are that Plate of Nations 2014 was, by far, the best year yet. We’ve had so much great feedback from diners that we won’t print it all, but here is a nice representation of recurring themes:

“So much food!  I wish we brought two more people!  It was delicious.”

“Great service, great food, great idea!”

“Don’t change anything!  Excellent food and people.”

“It was awesome, we loved it!!” 

It takes a staggering number of people to make Plate of Nations happen. We want to give a huge shout-out to folks that have been essential to our success this year.

There would be no Plate of Nations without financial assistance from Grow Seattle/ Seattle Office of Economic Development, and Vulcan, Inc., two incredible, forward-thinking, and inclusive organizations, supporting the vibrant diversity of MLK in the Valley for many years.

To help us get the word out, The Stranger and Titan, donated a portion of our advertising online, in print, and on busses. NW Polite Society donated postering services, and our marketing and communications partners, Penniless Projects, donated a portion of their services to collectively reach over 1.2 million people with news about the event, and the amazing businesses in our community that are here year-round.


Inspiration for diners to eat their way through ALL of our venues was powered by prizes donated by Huarachitos Cocina Mexicana’s Ana Martinez & Jose-Luis Pantigas for the Grand Prize private cooking class and lunch for 4, Chinook Book for mobile apps, and participating restaurants for gift cards.

We’d like to thank our core partners HomeSight and the Rainier Valley Community Development Fund, and the MLK Business Association Board and committee members for the tremendous resources and emotional support channeled into this event.

And last but not least, we cannot express enough appreciation for our Sarah Valenta, who hit the streets several times a week to connect personally with every restaurant for planning, ideas, and feedback, from long before the event started until well after it ended.  We could not have pulled off Plate of Nations for any of the past four years without her dedication, drive, and unflagging energy.

We’d love to hear from you about your past experiences and suggestions for future events, and hope to see you back at our local, global restaurants before Plate of Nations 2015!

Hot Picks for Hot Plates at Plate of Nations 2014

By now you’ve had the opportunity to nosh your way around some of Plate of Nations 2014, and we bet you have some favorite meals. As we go into the final days of this year’s event, we want to point out a few special dishes that we don’t think you should miss.

Huarachitos – Chicken Mole Crepes


Over 20 ingredients go into the dark, creamy, magical Mole sauce generously covering the tasty Huarachitos chicken-stuffed crepe.

Mole is rumored to have its divine origins in the town of Puebla, Mexico, but some say that a version of the cocoa-infused emulsion may date back to pre-Columbian times when chocolate was widely used as an ingredient. Everyone who makes a Mole has their own family recipe, so we don’t expect Chef Jose-Luis to spill his secrets, but there are a few key ingredients that seem to be consistent: cocoa, nuts, raisins, cinnamon, and clove. The result is savory with just a hint of sweetness.

One Plate of Nations diner told us that along with chicken in the mole-smothered crepe there is, “A little cheese in there too, so tender and flavorful, you know I’ll be back.”

Another diner summed it all up by telling us, “Mole Rules!”

Hopefully you’ve been collecting restaurant stamps to qualify for our Grand Prize drawing for a private cooking class and lunch for 4 at Huarachitos. That may be just your chance to get those secret ingredients out of Chef Jose-Luis. Full Huarachitos Plate of Nations Menu HERE.

Rainier Restaurant – Canh Chua Fish Soup and Jellyfish Salad


Everything at Rainier Restaurant (also known on the street as “Rainier BBQ”) is authentic and spectacular. This year, two Plate of Nations menu items particularly have our attention. The first is the chunky, tangy Canh Chua Fish Soup.

We asked restaurant owner Franklin Chau to help us deconstruct this mysterious dish. He told us that the main flavor comes from tamarind. Is it a fruit? Is it a legume? Some experts seem to disagree, but the paste used in Asian cooking comes from the pods that hang on the shady, ornamental Tamarind Tree, and creates a complex, sweet-sour-savory structure in the broth. Okra, tomato, pineapple, and a squash-like melon called “Elephant Ears” mingle with generous catfish steaks, herbs, greens, and a little hot spice, creating a gorgeous display of texture and color.

But fish is not the only option for this soup. Franklin told us, “(Some) Western palates may not accept fish as well because it has a fishy taste…so other ingredients such as shrimp are used as an alternative.” When you get this soup, Franklin gives us some advice before you dive in, “If you eat the catfish option, it’s best to remove all the fish from the bowl first and place it on a separate plate.” This allows for ease of eating the fish steak, while keeping the rest of the ingredients warm and delicious in the soup bowl.

Also not to be missed is the Jellyfish Salad. Franklin says, “The jellyfish is one of my favorites because of its crunchy texture. I had to get that added into the Plate of Nations menu because I feel that due to the popularity of our ong choy salad, the jellyfish was being overlooked.” The jellyfish in the salad does have a surprisingly crunchy texture, similar to octopus. The citrus dressing and traditional greens round out the dish to be bright and refreshing. There is a shrimp option to this salad, too, but we definitely go with Franklin’s recommendation on this one. Full Rainier Restaurant Plate of Nations Menu HERE.

The Original Philly’s – Cheese Steak and Cheese Fries


That’s right, the US of A is represented in the Plate of Nations as well – and HOW! If Plate of Nations menus were all in one meal, we’d like to think of Philly’s as the desert course because it’s 100% top grade indulgence.

We are going to start with the cheese fries because that’s probably what you will do. The generous boat is loaded with perfectly crispy wavy-cut fries swimming with melted cheese. There is so much cheese that it’s a good thing that you get a second boat of cheese-free fries to take advantage of it all.

And. The. Sandwiches. We suggest that you go straight for the “deluxe” option: Caramelized peppers, and onion, tossed together with thinly sliced, succulent beef on a massive, aroma-enshrouded grill and finally tucked generously on a bun and blanketed with cheese. As one diner noted, “I love the sandwiches! This stuff is amazing…I’ll be back. Hard to find a good Philly on this coast.” We couldn’t agree more, and we might just go back before the event ends this Saturday! Full The Original Philly’s Plate of Nations Menu HERE.

Get Your Veg on @ Plate of Nations!

Every year we like to take the opportunity to recognize extraordinary vegetarian and seafood menus offered during Plate of Nations. In addition to being healthful, hearty, and delicious, these menus are nicely timed for those “seasonal vegetarians” observing religious events like Lent, or folks starting the year focused on health benefits that a meat-free diet can offer.

Almost every Plate of Nations restaurant has a non-red meat menu option or will substitute vegetarian items for diners. Many of the cultures represented in the event traditionally limit animal proteins in their diets or eliminate them entirely for certain meals. For example, vegetarian plates have been essential to Ethiopian cuisine, featured at Café Ibex, for centuries and evolved as a need to abstain from animal products during Orthodox Christian fasting days.

Nationally, 10% of US adults consider themselves to be vegetarian, but we suspect that number to be much higher in Seattle. In 2013, Seattle ranked as the number one most “Vegetarian-Friendly City” in the country, by  Vegetarian Research Group, Vegetarian Times, Harris Interactive Service Bureau, based on the number of vegetarian restaurants here; and PETA ranked Seattle number six in the nation for Vegan-friendliness last year as well.

But vegetarian menus aren’t just for vegetarians anymore. According to FSR Magazine, “Meat-free options continue to grow in popularity among U.S. diners, with 47 percent of Americans eating at least one vegetarian meal per week.”

Whatever your motivation, here is what diners are saying about Plate of Nations non-meat menus:

On St. Dames:

“One friend and I shared the $25 meal, and I came away stuffed and with a plate of leftovers. The meal contains five different dishes from their regular menu, plus yummy bread pudding for dessert. The yellow split-pea fritters were my favorite–so moist and rich and flavorful. And my friend adored the gnocchi with snow peas.”

On Thai Palms:

“Thai Palms curry was awesome, so much food with the #PlateofNations

On Cafe Ibex:

“This was the best food I have had in ages!! Loved it and will come back.”

On Huong Duong:

“The shrimp salad rolls are to die for! I could eat them for every meal!”

Check out full menus below. Good health and hearty appetite to you, you’ll need it!

IbexSmCafé Ibex:
$15 Special Menu to Share

• Misir Wet (spicy lentil sauce): Split red lentil cooked with sauteed onion, red pepper and tomato sauce
• Spinach: chopped spinach in vegetable oil, garlic and home ground spices
• Salad
• Atakletlte Alicha (mild vegetable): a mixture of cabbage and potatoes sauteed in vegetable oil, garlic, and home spices
• Kike (yellow split pea sauce)
• Shiro: typical Ethiopian style stew prepared from ground beans, peppers, onion and oil/butter
• Served with Injera: soft, spongy, sour bread made from Teff (rye-like grain)

$15 Lunch Menu for 2

• 2 Shrimp Salad Rolls
• 2 Small Pho (Vegetable)




ThaiPalmsSmThai Palms:
$15 Lunch menu for 2

• 2 Crab Delight
• Phad See-Ew, or Drunk Noodles with Tofu Garlic Pepper, or Ginger Stir Fry with Tofu
• Steamed Rice

$25 Dinner Menu for 2
• Tom Kha Soup
• Thai Fried Rice or Thai Noodles
• Basil Tofu
• Red Curry Tofu
• Steamed Rice

StDamesSmSt. Dames:
$25 Dinner Menu for 2

• Herbed Goat Cheese and Asparagus Bruschetta
• St. Dames Salad
• Green Split Pea Fritters with Mint Chutney
• Lemon-Potato Gnocchi with Snow Peas
• House Bread Pudding

2014 Plate of Nations Passport Contest Is All About Delicious Experiences!

Ever notice that half the time when you travel to foreign places any more that they don’t stamp your passport? Not to worry, during Plate of Nations 2014 you can be validated on a delicious, global scale and win prizes while you’re doing it!

Back by popular demand is the Plate of Nations Passport Contest, encouraging diners to take full advantage of ALL of the local venues offering special $15 and $25 sharable global menus during Plate of Nations March 21 – April 5, 2014. And we gotta’ say we’ve outdone ourselves on prizes this year. In addition to opportunities to flash your Passport stamps on our Facebook page for prizes throughout the event, we have some special prizes for those that go the gastronomical distance.

Third Prize – Qualify with 5 stamps: We will be drawing to give away 10 total Chinook Book “Locally Sustainable Coupon” apps for your mobile phone (Android or iOS). Chinook Book has generously donated the apps which can be used to find a variety of amazing deals throughout Puget Sound which “help you save money at local businesses that do good things for the environment and the community,” and are updated frequently throughout the year.

Second Prize – Qualify with 8 stamps: We will be drawing to give away an iPad Mini with a fully paid Chinook Book “Locally Sustainable Coupon” app, and as well as MLKBA restaurant and business information so you can keep exploring our “Local, Global Market.”

That’s pretty cool, right? But check out our Grand Prize!

Grand Prize – Qualify with All 11 Stamps: We will be drawing to give away a private cooking class and lunch for 4 with Cordon Bleu Chef Jose-Luis Pantigas, owner of Huarachitos Cocina Mexicana!! When you meet Jose-Luis and his wife Ana, you can’t help but melt into the glow of their passion and hospitality. All of that love goes right in to Jose-Luis’ inspired pan-Latino gourmet dishes. This is your chance to tap into secrets of a Mexico City restaurant family, with the sensibilities of a Le Cordon Blue cooking school background, and then eat up the rewards. We truly envy you.

Here’s how you get it done: Each time you visit a Plate of Nations restaurant and order a special meal, ask your server to place a stamp on the appropriate square. Then look for contests on Facebook and at the end of the event, take a photo of your Passport and post it on our Facebook page by April 6th, or mail it by April 8th to ATTN: Sarah Valenta at HomeSight: 5117 Rainier Ave S, Seattle, WA 98118.

Participating restaurants include Café Ibex (Ethiopian), Bananas Grill (Mediterranean and Middle Eastern), Rainier Restaurant (Vietnamese), St. Dames (global Vegetarian/Vegan), Thai Palms (Thai and Lao), Olympic Express (Southeast Asian/Cham Vietnamese Halal), The Original Philly’s (American East Coast), Joy Palace (Cantonese), Huong Duong (South Vietnamese), Othello Wok & Teriyaki (Pan Asian), and Huarachitos Cocina Mexicana (Mexico City).

Good luck and good eats!

Bring on PON 2014!

It’s hard to believe that another year has passed since the last Plate of Nations event. Our heads are still swimming from last year’s success: Over 1000 people enjoyed Plate of Nations special menus, representing diners from over 4 states, 19 cities in Washington State, and 35 Seattle neighborhoods. These folks bolstered our local economy by spending tens of thousands of dollars, and got to enjoy cultural experiences with global menus at local venues on MLK in the Valley (some won prizes, too!).

With this tremendous success making us hungry for more, we at the MLK Business Association are deeply proud to present the Fourth Annual Plate of Nations event in 2014. We lost a couple of old participating restaurant friends, but are excited about this year’s returnees. We also have three new additions, all located in the buzzing Othello neighborhood: Huong Dong, Othello Wok, and Huarachitos Cocina Mexicana.

Here we would like to extend a special “welcome back” for Huarchitos Cocina Mexicana – literally rising from the ashes to join our event nearly three years after their original MLK in the Valley location burned down. Ana and Jose-Luis, owners of Hurachitos, represent the great determined will and welcoming spirit of Plate of Nations entrepreneurs. With all of the excitement of Plate of Nations and running a new restaurant, we are happy to announce that Jose-Luis is generously donating his time and expertise as the Grand Prize for the Passport contest: A private cooking class and lunch for 4 at Huarachitos.

As we move forward with our 2014 event, we know that you can expect the same exquisite global cuisine and genuine cultural experiences that you have come to expect from Plate of Nations, along with fun Passport and Facebook contests and surprises along the way. This year, participating restaurants include Café Ibex (Ethiopian), Bananas Grill (Mediterranean and Middle Eastern), Rainier Restaurant (formerly Rainier BBQ, Vietnamese), St. Dames (global Vegetarian/Vegan), Thai Palms (Thai and Lao), Olympic Express (Southeast Asian/Cham Vietnamese Halal), The Original Philly’s (American East Coast), Joy Palace (Cantonese), Huong Duong (South Vietnamese), Othello Wok & Teriyaki (Pan Asian), and Huarachitos Cocina Mexicana (Mexico City).

But this year we also want you to think not just about the incredibly hardworking, big-hearted family restaurant businesses thriving here, but also of the greater Seattle area folks that are not so fortunate and are hungry for what we take so often for granted: a delicious hot meal.

This year Plate of Nations is supporting the work of the Rainier Valley Food Bank, serving the Rainier Valley and Seattle metro. Last year the food bank fulfilled over 42,000 requests for food, a 23% increase in demand over 2012. This year looks on par to crush that record. With 70% of its operating costs coming from private individuals and events like Plate of Nations, the need for us to spread the word is clear.

Additionally, about 80% of the food bank’s guests are our neighbors from cultures as diverse as those participating in Plate of Nations. We are extremely grateful to explore this natural partnership and support the Rainier Valley Food Bank. We could not have said it better than RVFB Executive Director Sam Osborne: “It is a perfect partnership that reflects the deep sense of community and social cohesion in our unique part of the City, as well as the rich diversity not only of people in our neighborhood but of food as well.  One of the best ways to get to know other cultures is through exploring their cuisines, and Plate of Nations gives all of us the opportunity to expand our taste buds and our knowledge of the many diverse cultures that comprise southeast Seattle.” 

Now, go fill up that Passport!

Plate of Nations Q&A with Sam Osborne with the Rainier Valley Food Bank

This year participating restaurants and the MLKBA chose to support the work of the Rainier Valley Food Bank during the two week Plate of Nations event from March 21st through April 5th, 2014. Diners are invited learn more about the food bank, to connect with the the organization to volunteer, and make contributions online or with Cash envelopes provided at participating restaurants.

The Rainier Valley Food Bank provides critical assistance to our community, as well as opening its doors to the entire Seattle metro area. Executive Director Sam Osborne took a break from his crazy-busy schedule to participate in a Q&A with us on how changing times are increasing the demand for food bank services, and how he feels about the Plate of Nations.

PON: Sam, can you tell us how you see trends changing at the Rainier Valley Food Bank and for the need for food banks in general?

SAM: In 2013, we fulfilled 42,309 individual requests for food — over 8,000 more than our prior record. With $11 billion in cuts to food stamps in November, and an additional $8 billion in cuts on the way thanks to the new Farm Bill, the trend can only move in one direction. We are bracing ourselves for more and more new people who will surely be in need of food assistance in the months and years ahead. To meet this growing high demand, we need the financial and volunteer support of our community more than ever before. 

PON: Can you give us an idea of who you serve from the Rainier Valley?  

SAM: Nearly 80% of the almost 14,000 people that we feed every month live in Rainier Valley. The vast majority of these are Chinese, Vietnamese and Cambodian origin, reflecting not only the diversity of the Valley, but also the restaurants and cuisines represented by the Plate of Nations. Most come to us from the 98118, 98108 and 98144 zip codes. We are also serving a growing population of East African immigrants, offering Halal meats and other specialty items to guests upon request. 

PON: How much private funding do you need to keep your doors open?

SAM: Nearly 70% of our annual operating budget comes from private donations — individuals in our community giving what they can to support our work, either through direct donations or via special events like Plate of Nations.

PON: Do you have any general thoughts on the partnership between the Plate of Nations event and the Rainier Valley Food Bank?

SAM: We are thrilled that Plate of Nations has offered to support our work at RVFB this year. It is a perfect partnership that reflects the deep sense of community and social cohesion in our unique part of the City, as well as the rich diversity not only of people in our neighborhood but of food as well.  

One of the best ways to get to know other cultures is through exploring their cuisines, and Plate of Nations gives all of us the opportunity to expand our taste buds and our knowledge of the many diverse cultures that comprise southeast Seattle. 

To learn more about the Rainier Valley Food Bank, volunteer or contribute, click here.


Looking Forward and Looking Back…

Happy 2014 from all of us at the MLKBA! We would like to start the year by taking a look at the long list of our accomplishments in 2013. Check out this video for stats on #PlateofNations, our business district tours, training opportunities, networking, and marketing support for our member businesses, and our recent #LocalGlobalHolidayMarket print advertising, online, direct mail and social media campaign!

All of this stands as a benchmark to exceed in 2014. We can’t WAIT to get started!