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The best of 2022: Food writer shares her top picks

EVERETT — After a decadent, belt-loosening year as The Daily Herald’s food reporter, Taylor Goebel shares her favorite bites of 2022.

Spicy Salmon and Spicy Sambal Ahi on Sushi rice with Mac salad served with salad at Ono Poke in Edmonds, Washington location on June 22, 2022. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Ono Poke: Traditional ahi

Ono Authentic Hawaiian Poke; 10016 Edmonds Way, Edmonds; 425-361-7064; eatonopoke.com

If you want poke that honors the ocean-clean taste of high-quality fish, Ono Poke in Edmonds is your place. The only fish that owner Steven Ono doesn’t marinate is a prime example of that: mildly sweet, firm and fat cubes of ahi meet crunchy sea salt, limu seaweed and roasted kukui nuts from the Big Island. Ono is intentional with his ingredients, ensuring his seafood is never frozen and buying Hawaiian ahi that comes fresh to the shop every single day.

For those who like trying something new, Ono Poke features a new menu every single day, a nod to the creative genius of Ono and his hardworking crew.

The Razzle-Dazzle Milk Punch ($14) at LJ’s Bistro in Lake Stevens, with elderberry gin, raspberry, Pimm’s and green tea. Friday, April 29, 2022. (Taylor Goebel / The Herald)

The Razzle-Dazzle Milk Punch ($14) at LJ’s Bistro in Lake Stevens, with elderberry gin, raspberry, Pimm’s and green tea. Friday, April 29, 2022. (Taylor Goebel / The Herald)

LJ’s Bistro: Razzle-Dazzle Milk Punch

LJ’s Bistro & Bar; 430 91st Ave. NE #1, Lake Stevens; 425-334-0604; ljsbistroandbar.com

The spirit wizards at LJ’s conceived the most beautiful, painstakingly developed cocktails I sipped this year. I could go on about the way they cut their ice cubes, or the science behind how they make certain cocktails taste magically alcohol-free. Take their Razzle-Dazzle Milk Punch special earlier this year: the punch-pink drink is mischievously smooth and lightly fruity.

Go to the Lake Stevens bistro after work for a burger or steak (they also have a solid vegan menu) and have fun choosing one of their seasonal cocktails.

Khao poon katee at Thai on Main Street Wednesday, April 20, 2022, in Monroe, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Khao poon katee at Thai on Main Street Wednesday, April 20, 2022, in Monroe, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Thai on Main Street: various Lao dishes

Thai on Main Street; 115 W. Main St., Monroe; 360-794-8101; www.thaionmainstreet.com

Lao food has the freshest, funkiest spirit. It is colorful, earthy, savory, pungent and slightly bitter, begging to be scooped up — by hand — with sticky rice. The laab moo, or minced pork salad, is one such example.

The folks at Thai on Main Street pour love into every bite, from hacking, shredding and pounding green papaya into a spicy crunchy salad, to educating people on the incredible flavors of Laos.

I couldn’t bring myself to pick one dish from here, as Lao cuisine is meant to be shared in droves. I suggest going to Thai on Main with a group, ordering different dishes, then passing several plates around.

For cold winter nights, order the khao poon katee, an aromatic soup infused with sinus-clearing lemongrass, kaffir lime, galangal and chili. Co-owner Tim Jurkovich joked back in April that the soup “could cure COVID.”

Yuvi Joshi of The Food Atlas shows off samosa chaat, an Indian street flavor bomb: Samosa, a fried veggie-stuffed pastry is topped with chana masala (a North Indian chickpea dish). The dish is doused with chickpea curry yogurt, tamarind date chutney, mint jalapeño chutney and then showered with puffed rice, chickpea noodles, cilantro and pomegranate. (Taylor Goebel / The Herald)

Yuvi Joshi of The Food Atlas shows off samosa chaat, an Indian street flavor bomb: Samosa, a fried veggie-stuffed pastry is topped with chana masala (a North Indian chickpea dish). The dish is doused with chickpea curry yogurt, tamarind date chutney, mint jalapeño chutney and then showered with puffed rice, chickpea noodles, cilantro and pomegranate. (Taylor Goebel / The Herald)

The Food Atlas: Samosa chaat

The Food Atlas; based in Snohomish County; www.facebook.com/thefoodatlaswa

I’ve obsessed over this Indian street flavor bomb all year: Veggie-stuffed pastries called samosas are fried, smashed and topped with chana masala (a North Indian spiced chickpea dish). The chaat is doused with chickpea curry yogurt, tamarind date chutney, mint jalapeño chutney and then showered with puffed rice, chickpea noodles, cilantro and bursting pomegranate rubies. It is crunchy, creamy, slightly spicy, punchy, tangy-sweet — all the things you’d want in a dish and then some.

The Food Atlas is a food cart for now, but I dream they open a brick-and-mortar in the future.

The Hotlapeno sandwich has Sweet Radish’s hand-breaded chicken, pickled jalapenos, cabbage slaw, fiery Seoul sauce and honey mayo. Friday, June 17, 2022. (Taylor Goebel / The Herald)

The Hotlapeno sandwich has Sweet Radish’s hand-breaded chicken, pickled jalapenos, cabbage slaw, fiery Seoul sauce and honey mayo. Friday, June 17, 2022. (Taylor Goebel / The Herald)

Sweet Radish: Hotlapeno chicken sandwich

Sweet Radish; 520 128th St. SW B-8, Everett; 425-512-8167; www.sweetradishchicken.com/menus

A sandwich I truly can’t stop thinking about. The Hotlapeno’s sinus-clearing, bright red Seoul hot sauce (a buffalo-adjacent sauce with Korean chili peppers) dripped down a magically-not-greasy-yet-supremely-crunchy chicken breast, with pickled jalapeños and crunchy cabbage slaw. The honey mayo brought sweet levity, and the buttery brioche bun had a magic all its own. The fries are Ultra Crispy too.

Enseamada, a new Filipino cafe in Everett, serves up generous plates like their adobo bowl, with soy garlic chicken, mac salad, rice and dressed lettuce. They also offer coffee drinks, halo halo and their must-have ensaymadas. (Taylor Goebel / The Herald)

Enseamada, a new Filipino cafe in Everett, serves up generous plates like their adobo bowl, with soy garlic chicken, mac salad, rice and dressed lettuce. They also offer coffee drinks, halo halo and their must-have ensaymadas. (Taylor Goebel / The Herald)

Enseamada: Ensaymada

Enseamada Cafe; 11114 Evergreen Way, Suite A, Everett; instagram.com/enseamada/?hl=en

I’m not used to satisfying cheese pulls in my dessert, but I enthusiastically embraced them in Enseamada’s ensaymada, a buttery and fluffy brioche-like pastry. Their yema flavor is appropriately described as “absolutely decadent”, with buttercream, stretchy grated cheese, Enseamada’s sugary “snow powder” and a scoop of yema (think dulce de leche in silky custard form). The cheese provides salty contrast, and while you can eat it at room temperature, popping the pastry in the microwave for 18 to 20 seconds will bring out the flavors even more.

The queso birria tacos at El Mariachi call for slow cooked brisket, melty cheese sandwiched between two corn tortillas, a shower of cilantro and bright pink pickled onions, and a bowl of consomé. Thursday, Sept. 8, 2022. (Taylor Goebel / The Herald)

The queso birria tacos at El Mariachi call for slow cooked brisket, melty cheese sandwiched between two corn tortillas, a shower of cilantro and bright pink pickled onions, and a bowl of consomé. Thursday, Sept. 8, 2022. (Taylor Goebel / The Herald)

El Mariachi: Birria queso tacos

El Mariachi; 6100 Evergreen Way, Everett; 425-512-9024; www.facebook.com/lostamaahles

For the record, this is one of the last places I ate at before leaving Washington. That was intentional, because the queso tacos at El Mariachi leave me spellbound every time: epic cheese pulls between two crispy, consomé-doused corn tortillas; tender brisket stewed for hours in a pot of chiles, herbs and spices (the cinnamon is especially alluring and fragrant); house-pickled red onions and all the fixins’. After inhaling the first two tacos, I usually take a minute to contemplate whether I can stomach a third. But really, I’m just catching my breath.

Fish and Chips from Ray’s Drive In at 1401 Broadway, Everett, Washington (Taylor Goebel / The Herald)

Fish and Chips from Ray’s Drive In at 1401 Broadway, Everett, Washington (Taylor Goebel / The Herald)

Ray’s Drive In: Fish and chips

Ray’s Drive In; 1401 Broadway, Everett; 425-252-3411; www.rayseverettwa.com/menu

This was one of the first meals I ate in Everett as The Herald’s (then new) food reporter. I pulled up on a cold January night and within 10 minutes I had a basket of hot, crispy fish and chips in my lap, and of course I ate it all in my car — heater blasting. The light, golden-crispy batter on the flaky cod was balanced by tartar sauce with bits of crunchy, salty-sour pickles.

When I first wrote about Ray’s, I failed to mention the fries, which was quickly brought to my attention by many, many readers. “I keep a bottle of malt vinegar in my vehicle just because of Ray’s,” wrote one gentleman, who raved about their fresh-cut fries. I won’t make that mistake again (seriously, Taylor, what were you thinking? Fries are half of the fish and chips shebang!) So, for the record: Ray’s makes ridiculously good, perfectedly fried and salted spuds.

By the way, I’ve eaten fish and chips for more than twice what Ray’s charges, and they didn’t even come close.

Maize & Barley: Midnight Cuban sandwich

Maize & Barley; 525 Main St., Edmonds; 425-835-0868; maizebarley.com

My taste buds were thoroughly entertained by the Midnight Cuban sandwich, Maize & Barley’s PNW take on a Miami classic that boasts richness, creaminess, acidity and a myriad of textures. The Edmonds restaurant roasts its own oregano/garlic pork shoulder (pernil style) for the sandwich, as well as smoking the loin. This is a deliciously deliberate combination of the leanest and fattiest cuts of pork. The midnight Cuban’s melty white cheese is balanced by M&B’s brilliant house pickled cucumbers, zesty mustard and vegan aioli. Thin slices of sturdy ciabatta hold it all together, but if a fatty chunk of pork doesn’t spill from your sandwich, or if your fingers don’t get at least a little messy, you’re doing it wrong.

Heather and Michael Wallace, owners of the Milk House Coffee Co. on Thursday, March 25, 2021 in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Heather and Michael Wallace, owners of the Milk House Coffee Co. on Thursday, March 25, 2021 in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Milk House/Black Scottie: Chai

The Milk House Coffee Co.; 4405 Rucker Ave., Suite B, Everett; 425-263-9860

It’s hard to find a coffee shop with a spice-forward, not-too-sweet chai. One sip in and I quickly understood why Milk House uses Black Scottie Chai for their chai drinks. The Woodinville-based business brews its own tea and grinds its own blend of spices for a distinctive and fragrant concentrate you can add to your favorite coffee drink. Milk House makes seasonal drinks using the chai, including their pumpkin pie chai, which I fell in love with this fall.

Conor O’Neill racks freshly baked baguettes Friday morning at The Cottage Community Bakery in Edmonds, Washington on September 30, 2022. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Conor O’Neill racks freshly baked baguettes Friday morning at The Cottage Community Bakery in Edmonds, Washington on September 30, 2022. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

The Cottage, Community Bakery: Olive loaf

The Cottage; 7530 Olympic View Drive, No. 101, Edmonds; cottagecommunitybakery.com

I’m not usually a fan of green olives, but The Cottage’s herbed olive bread converted me. The briny olives — whole and chopped — meld with the tangy sourdough in such a way that I would happily make a meal out of an entire loaf.

The steak toast at Bapmukja in Lynnwood is stacked with marinated short rib, Korean chili pepper sauce, melted cheese and cabbage. Friday, Oct. 7, 2022. (Taylor Goebel / The Herald)

The steak toast at Bapmukja in Lynnwood is stacked with marinated short rib, Korean chili pepper sauce, melted cheese and cabbage. Friday, Oct. 7, 2022. (Taylor Goebel / The Herald)

Bapmukja: Steak toast

Bapmukja; 18623 Highway 99, Suite 110, Lynnwood; 425-480-1871; www.bapmukja.com

Bapmukja’s steak toast is like a Korean patty melt with a thick layer of mouthwatering, thinly sliced short rib in a sweet-and-spicy marinade that boasts a scratch-made teriyaki barbecue sauce, gochujang and a few good secrets. The sandwich’s melted cheese and meaty heft are tempered by crunchy shaved cabbage and a Korean chili pepper sauce.

Overall, the steak toast at Bapmukja is an amazing lunch/hangover/anytime sandwich.

Cody Castiglia makes a dish of black cod and red sauce. Photographed in Snohomish, Washington on April 27, 2022.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Della Terra: Black cod in “crazy water”

Della Terra Catering; based in Snohomish; 425-470-3775; dellaterra425.com

I thought my favorite fish was salmon until I tried black cod prepared “acqua pazza” style, or in “crazy water,” by Della Terra owner/chef Cody Castiglia. The buttery fish is seared in a hot pan, then basted in a smoky tomato sauce with fresh basil, bay leaf, leeks, fennel and saffron-infused white wine. Black cod is many things: buttery, with a firm but silky texture, and a sweet, delicate yet decadent flavor that can take on a full-bodied tomato sauce like the one prepared by Castiglia.

A bahn mi at Rise and Shine Bakery in Edmonds.

A bahn mi at Rise and Shine Bakery in Edmonds.

Rise & Shine Bakery: Tofu bánh mì

Rise & Shine Bakery; 23030 Highway 99, Edmonds; 206-574-8330

Rise & Shine’s house-baked baguette is reason enough to visit the Edmonds eatery, with a light and airy crumb and crusty exterior sturdy enough to take on a hefty filling. The stubby ends are also cut off, so you can get right to business. I came here for the vegetarian stir fry bánh mì, with beautifully marinated, spongy and meaty tofu and a super crisp trio of pickled carrots, daikon and cucumber. Choose a meatier option, like the pork terrine, with a smear of pâté and go ham (literally).

Read the complete articles about these eateries at heraldnet.com/food-and-drink.

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