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Eating the U-District: The good, the bad and the mediocre

For a food lover, the U-District is full of hits and misses. Many of the mini-marts and restaurants on The Ave. are pretty mediocre, and cater to people who are more interested in just getting something to eat rather than actually enjoying food.

If you look hard enough though, there are some food gems in the U-District, and even the most pretentious eater can find something worthy of his or her palate. Of course, there are also those things that will upset anyone with taste buds. Here's a list of the top five and bottom five things about food in the U-District.

TOP

1. Young's Place Grocery (4339 University Way NE).Even among the unassuming places on the Ave, this little mini-mart is unassuming, tucked into a tiny storefront. In fact, there's really nothing that separates it from any other Ave. grocery store, except for what has to be one of the best beverage selections of any store in the U-District. Young's carries pretty much every major soda in every type of container, along with some harder-to-find stuff.

2. Korean food. One thing The U-District suffers from is watered-down ethnic cuisine. Lots of restaurants offer versions of their native cuisine that has been altered to suit the American palate, and generally this means taking away flavor. However, not only are there lots of new and great Korean restaurants sprouting up all the time on the Ave, they're all good and pretty close to authentic.

3. QFC at U-Village. All right ––— it's on the edge of the U-District, but for what you can get there, it's worth going the extra few blocks. They carry more and better quality food than any other grocery store in the area, and their wine and beer selection is huge.

4. The U-District Farmer's Market. Seattle is lucky to have a lot of great neighborhood farmer's markets, and out of all of them, the U-District's is probably the best. Every week you can find all sorts of produce and handmade products. It's open year-round and the selection changes every week, located at the corner of University Way and 50th, Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

5. Pure selection. Almost nowhere else in the city is it possible to have the choice of eating pizza, Thai, Mexican, Middle Eastern, Asian or pretty much anything else you can think of all in the span of a few blocks. Even if some of the restaurants aren't that great, they're certainly convenient, varied and plentiful.

BOTTOM

1. Thai food. It's not that I don't like Thai food. In fact, when it's done right (go to Thai Tom if you want to know what I'm talking about) it's great. The problem is, there are just so many mediocre Thai restaurants in the U-District, it's hard to tell the good from the bad.

2. The price of eating on campus. Although the Ave. has lots of great and cheap restaurants, students don't always have the time to walk over there between classes, so they're forced to eat on campus. What could have been a three-or-four dollar meal always ends up costing about twice that, a price that would almost make the extra walk worth it.

3. The price of eating well at home. The downside to grocery stores with great selection is that it also usually comes with a great price tag. There's a reason why Whole Foods is often referred to as "Whole Paycheck." Granted, there are places you can go in Seattle to find good food cheap — just not in the U-District.

4. Americanization. The huge variety of ethnic restaurants is great, but almost all of them are pretty unauthentic. If you go outside the U-District, it is possible to find lots of authentic ethnic restaurants, but in the U-District, you just have to compromise authenticity for selection.

5. The lack of upscale restaurants. Just because we're college students doesn't mean we don't deserve to eat well — and we should be able to do so in our own neighborhood. If you go to any of the neighborhoods surrounding the U-District, you can find restaurants that have gotten rave reviews and serve truly upscale food, but in the U-District, you're limited to essentially a step up from takeout. g

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