Zeke’s Drive-In’s signature burger, the Honeymoon Special (top left), K Fresh’s bibimbap (top right), Emory’s seafood risotto (bottom left) and Totem Family Diner’s corned beef, potatoes and onions, topped with fried eggs. (The Herald)

Zeke’s Drive-In’s signature burger, the Honeymoon Special (top left), K Fresh’s bibimbap (top right), Emory’s seafood risotto (bottom left) and Totem Family Diner’s corned beef, potatoes and onions, topped with fried eggs. (The Herald)

Top restaurants: The Herald’s 10 best places to eat from 2019

Here is a list of our favorite restaurants to dine out in Snohomish County this year.

From dumplings to seafood risotto and bibimbap to high tea, 2019 proved to be a delicious year in dining reviews for the folks in Herald Features.

Features editor Sara Bruestle wants to go back to Crow Island Farms in Stanwood for another quintessentially French three-course meal featuring recipes found in farmer and boat captain’s cookbooks from 19th century.

Reporter Evan Thompson found Chinese dumplings at Dumpling Generation in Edmonds that rival a Seattle favorite. He said he’d eat there every day if his budget allowed it.

Production editor Mark Carlson was plenty happy with the happy hour menu at Lake Stevens’ LJ’s Bistro & Bar. The flatbread with warm goat cheese, squash and mushrooms was the star.

Reporter Sharon Salyer raved about the grilled salmon at Emory’s on Silver Lake, calling the Everett landmark restaurant the champion of seafood.

Here are 10 of our most memorable restaurant visits from the past year.

Dumpling Generation’s pork and cabbage dumplings are served in a bamboo steamed baskets. (Evan Thompson / The Herald)

Dumpling Generation’s pork and cabbage dumplings are served in a bamboo steamed baskets. (Evan Thompson / The Herald)

Dumpling Generation rivals Seattle’s finest for steamed dishes

After a few years of looking, I finally found a place that rivals the dumpling wizardry of Din Tai Fung in Seattle.

I’m talking about Dumpling Generation — a suitable name, don’t you think? — in Edmonds. It specializes in handmade dumplings and noodles originating from the Liaoning province in the northeastern part of China.

My standards for Asian cuisine have been pretty high since my friend introduced me to Din Tai Fung a few years ago. The Taiwanese restaurant — the largest dumpling restaurant chain in the world — is hugely popular for its xiaolongbao (steamed dumplings), which each take 40 minutes of hand preparation to make.

The same level of care seems to go into Dumpling Generation’s fare.

— Evan Thompson

Dumpling Generation: 23830 Highway 99, Suite 115, Edmonds; 425-678-0806; www.dumplinggeneration.com.

The seafood risotto bowl is filled with prawns, scallops and clams, and topped with a panko crust and Parmesan. (Sharon Salyer / The Herald)

The seafood risotto bowl is filled with prawns, scallops and clams, and topped with a panko crust and Parmesan. (Sharon Salyer / The Herald)

Emory’s: perfectly grilled salmon earns my ‘championship’ award

If you think you have to drive to Seattle to enjoy a sundeck dining experience, think again.

Emory’s on Silver Lake has room for 100 diners on its deck, which overlooks the Everett lake that’s part of its name.

I opted for the wild Northwest coho salmon, char-grilled with seasoning, fried caper beurre blanc sauce, rice pilaf and asparagus.

Too often, great seafood is smothered in sauces that leave the diner nearly wondering what exactly is hiding beneath.

My salmon was perfectly grilled. Although I’ve had grilled salmon at any number of area restaurants, this year this one gets my “championship” rating.

— Sharon Salyer

Emory’s on Silver Lake, 11830 19th Ave. SE, Everett; 425-337-7772; www.emorys.com.

Zeke’s Drive-In has cooked it’s signature burger, the Honeymoon Special, since opening in 1968. (Evan Thompson / The Herald)

Zeke’s Drive-In has cooked it’s signature burger, the Honeymoon Special, since opening in 1968. (Evan Thompson / The Herald)

For 50 years, Zeke’s off U.S. 2 has served delicious burgers

I wondered why Zeke’s Drive-In is still going strong after more than 50 years.

Then I took a bite of the Honeymoon Special — the Gold Bar drive-in’s signature burger — and it all made sense. You can’t beat a tasty burger.

Zeke’s Drive-In, located just off U.S. 2, was opened in 1968 by the late Nancy and Earl “Zeke” Wells. Before long, it was a popular pit stop for skiers, hikers and anybody else venturing out to the Cascade Range.

My dad, who frequently ate at Zeke’s in the mid-1970s, called it the destination for hungry skiers (Stevens Pass is about 37 miles farther up the highway).

The Honeymoon Special hasn’t changed since Nancy and Zeke opened the place in ’68.

— Evan Thompson

Zeke’s Drive-In: 43918 U.S. 2, Gold Bar; 360-793-2287; zekes-drive-in.business.site.

The Totem hash — homemade corned beef, potatoes and onions, topped with fried eggs — at Totem Family Diner in Everett. (Mark Carlson / The Herald)

The Totem hash — homemade corned beef, potatoes and onions, topped with fried eggs — at Totem Family Diner in Everett. (Mark Carlson / The Herald)

Rediscovering the Totem, an Everett food landmark

Is the restaurant busy?

That’s my No. 1 rule for picking a place to eat.

There’s no danger of breaking my rule at Totem Family Diner, an Everett institution since Ike was in the White House and diner waitresses wore nurselike uniforms. It’s a really busy place — for good reason, as I soon learned.

The diner’s named for a 60-foot-tall pole created by Tulalip carver and cultural leader William Shelton in 1923. The pole stood near the restaurant, at the corner of Rucker Avenue and 44th Street, for decades. By the 1990s, the elements had taken their toll, and the pole was removed and preserved for safekeeping on the Tulalip reservation.

The pole may be gone, but a very cool neon sign with a totem motif greets passersby on Rucker.

The place was packed with folks of all ages, from elders reading newspapers to kids Snapchatting their friends across the table.

— Mark Carlson

Totem Family Diner: 4410 Rucker Ave., Everett; 425-252-3277; www.totemdiner.com.

Coconut prawns are served with mango habanero chutney. The prawns are flash fried and cooked in the oven. Sharon Salyer / The Herald

Coconut prawns are served with mango habanero chutney. The prawns are flash fried and cooked in the oven. Sharon Salyer / The Herald

Experience the flavors of the Caribbean at Calypso in Edmonds

To amend a well-worn phrase from some Victorian novels: It was a dark and rainy night. The scene was in Edmonds.

So why not go to a place that evoked a warm, sunny climate if I couldn’t make a trip there myself? That’s what I decided last week, and asked a couple of friends to join me at Calypso Edmonds.

The name, theme and cooking at Calypso reflect the experiences of owners, who both spent time in the Caribbean. They met in Grand Cayman, part of the Cayman Islands, where they were working in restaurants.

My friends and I ordered three main course dishes: Coconut prawns with mango habanero chutney, jerk pork tenderloin; and blackened rockfish, cilantro lime cream sauce with rice and beans. All of it was quite tasty.

— Sharon Salyer

Calypso Edmonds: 109 Main St., Edmonds; 425-678-0652; calypsoedmonds.com.

Flatbread with warm goat cheese, squash and mushrooms at LJ’s Bistro & Bar in Lake Stevens (Sara Bruestle / The Herald)

Flatbread with warm goat cheese, squash and mushrooms at LJ’s Bistro & Bar in Lake Stevens (Sara Bruestle / The Herald)

Happy hour at LJ’s in Lake Stevens will put a smile on your face

Folks coming home to Lake Stevens have a particularly attractive place for happy hour: LJ’s Bistro & Bar.

LJ’s recently reopened after a major renovation that gave it sleek new decor to go with its well-executed menu. Gone is the 1970s basement rumpus-room look; in its place is a stylish, updated interior that emphasizes dark woods. Everything is brand-new, including the open kitchen, with its subway-tiled backsplash wall, and the spic-and-span restrooms.

The restaurant’s owners, a sister-and-brother team, have created a great space for unwinding after the long, punishing crawl across the U.S. 2 trestle.

I found plenty to like about LJ’s during a recent happy hour visit with a coworker, including one rather endearing detail: the staff is credited by name in the menu.

We ordered a round of happy hour dishes — clams with chorizo, flatbread with warm goat cheese, squash and mushrooms, truffle fries with white truffle aioli and a dish of olives. We washed all this down with glasses of chardonnay and an IPA.

— Mark Carlson

LJ’s Bistro & Bar: 430 91st Ave. NE, Lake Stevens; 425-334-0604; ljsbistroandbar.com.

Rabbits Pantry has a variety of crepes, from sweet to savory. Shown here are smoked salmon and cheddar cheese crepes. (Sharon Salyer / The Herald)

Rabbits Pantry has a variety of crepes, from sweet to savory. Shown here are smoked salmon and cheddar cheese crepes. (Sharon Salyer / The Herald)

Hop down Everett’s Colby Avenue for high tea at Rabbits Pantry

No, you don’t have to take the ferry to Victoria to get high tea.

A new tea shop and cafe has opened in Everett with the unlikely name of Rabbits Pantry. It offers nearly 40 tea options. They rotate by season from an overall shelf stock of 70 loose leaf tea blends, all available for purchase on shelves in the entryway.

On a recent visit, the meal started, of course, with pots of tea. Chai for me. Blackberry for my friend.

I was in the mood for brunch. The selections include crepes, quiche, waffles, and eggs and toast. I opted for the crepes with cheddar and smoked salmon. It was gone in about as long as it takes you to read this sentence.

My friend ordered a standard for the English tea house menu — a cucumber, cream cheese and mint sandwich that comes with carrot sticks and pesto basil hummus. My friend described the hummus as fluffy and piquant.

What’s proved to be one of the most popular items on the menu is the “Pacific Northwest,” a sandwich with smoked salmon, capers, dill and cream cheese.

— Sharon Salyer

Rabbits Pantry, 3927 Colby Ave., Everett; 425-583-4406; www.rabbitspantry.com.

The sizzling-hot bibimbap bowls at K Fresh in Everett are served in wood boxes, which acquire charred edges from the hot stone. (Sara Bruestle / The Herald)

The sizzling-hot bibimbap bowls at K Fresh in Everett are served in wood boxes, which acquire charred edges from the hot stone. (Sara Bruestle / The Herald)

Get to know bibimbap at K Fresh, a new eatery in Everett

I’ll be honest: The smiling cartoon Korean bowl on the K Fresh logo was enough to get me to eat there.

The build-your-own bibimbap (bee beam bap) restaurant is one of the few Korean restaurants in Everett. I’ve been on a Korean kick lately, so I asked my colleague to join me there for lunch.

Bibimbap is a popular Korean dish that translates to “mixed rice with meat and assorted vegetables.” The bowl can be served hot or cold, and can be topped with a raw, scrambled or fried egg.

At K Fresh, you get to customize your own rice bowl, not unlike building your own sandwich at Subway or your own burrito at Chipotle.

Choose between white or brown rice, then whether you want beef, chicken, jackfruit bulgogi or faux beef, followed by your choice of five Korean-style vegetable mix-ins — keep reading for a list of those — and, lastly, your pick of spicy, mild, sweet or tamari sauce (which is like soy). If you don’t want rice, you can make yours a salad bowl.

There are a dizzying 15 toppings to choose your five from: broccoli, carrots, spinach, pineapple, fried tofu, stir-fried zucchini, shiitake mushrooms, edamame, mung beans, kimchi, cucumber salad, daikon radish, sesame-roasted garlic, kelp noodle salad and egg.

— Sara Bruestle

K Fresh: 1105 Hewitt Ave., Everett; 425-212-9863; www.hellokfresh.com.

The Lumberjack sandwich at Biscuit & Bean in Lake Stevens is made with a sausage patty, egg, cheddar and tomato jam on either a buttermilk or cheddar onion biscuit. (Sara Bruestle / The Herald)

The Lumberjack sandwich at Biscuit & Bean in Lake Stevens is made with a sausage patty, egg, cheddar and tomato jam on either a buttermilk or cheddar onion biscuit. (Sara Bruestle / The Herald)

Breakfast sandwiches and biscuits and gravy — done right

With its trendy bars and bistros and skinny jeans-clad twentysomethings, Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood is a hip and happening place. But there’s stuff going on Main Street in Lake Stevens, too, and the owners of Biscuit & Bean, a Ballard institution for the past six years, wanted a piece of that.

So they recently opened the Lake Stevens branch of Biscuit & Bean next door to Jay’s Market, in an area just east of North Cove that’s seeing new construction and development. The Biscuit & Bean outpost serves the flaky biscuits, biscuit sandwiches and coffee beverages that have made the Ballard location a popular spot for breakfast and lunch.

Because the Lake Stevens Biscuit & Bean is tucked into a small storefront, it offers a scaled-back version of the Ballard location’s menu.

I chose the Lumberjack on a cheddar onion biscuit. The same sandwich on a buttermilk biscuit costs a quarter less.

My coworker opted for biscuits and gravy made with Uli’s sausage on a buttermilk biscuit. There’s also a mushroom and leek version, and you can add pickled jalapenos for a buck.

The exquisitely cloudlike biscuit and the high-quality fixings — especially the tomato jam — banished my bad memories of the desiccated biscuit breakfast sandwiches churned out by fast-food franchises. And the biscuits and gravy was nothing like the ghastly gray glop that turned me off that dish after several regrettable encounters over the years.

— Mark Carlson

Biscuit & Bean, 1811 Main St., Lake Stevens; 425-405-3051; www.biscuitandbean.biz.

The cassoulet is a quintessentially French dish of smoked duck breast, white beans, prosciutto, pork shoulder, chicken legs, smoked pork shank and mirepoix braised in cabernet and beef stock, all baked in a Dutch oven. (Sara Bruestle / The Herald)

The cassoulet is a quintessentially French dish of smoked duck breast, white beans, prosciutto, pork shoulder, chicken legs, smoked pork shank and mirepoix braised in cabernet and beef stock, all baked in a Dutch oven. (Sara Bruestle / The Herald)

Crow Island Farms brings French country cuisine to Stanwood

The chef-owner describes his establishment as “rustic fine dining,” so I was wondering what to wear on my visit to Crow Island Farms in Stanwood.

He told me I could wear a swimsuit or a tuxedo and I’d fit right in.

The cooking may be stylish, but the chef isn’t himself a fancy man — and he doesn’t think you should have to be, either, to enjoy the best of the Northwest.

Crow Island Farms opened two years ago in one of the oldest buildings on 102nd Avenue NW. The restaurant gets its name from what Camano Island was called at the turn of the century, when loggers were harvesting its stands of virgin Douglas fir.

Crow Island’s menu features Northwest seafood and wild game — plus all the produce he can get from Camano Island and Skagit Valley farms — and traditional French cooking methods.

— Sara Bruestle

Crow Island Farms, 27008 102nd Ave. NW, Stanwood; 360-572-3249.

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