Friday, March 31, 2006

Lenny's Market

Lenny's Market, in Renton's Wal-Mart Plaza, is not a restaurant, but rather a combination bargain produce store, imported food store, gourmet store, and is uniquely Renton.

The place is a large, with concrete floors. It is crammed with the lowest priced fruits and vegatables in the Seattle area. When tomatoes are selling for 3.99 a pound at QFC, they're 1.19 at Lenny's. How? Do they steal from QFC? Their variety of fruits and vegatables is huge, especially of Asian varieties, and the quality varies from "about to go bad" to "excellent".

Inside the store, they have imported goods one never sees around here. Canned Turkish coffee, Bulgarian eggplant salad, hummus from the United Arab Emirates, many varieties of soy and chili sauce, pizza sauce from Argentina, Lithuanian smoked sprats(what's a sprat?), and Armenian pastries.
They also rent part of the store to a Russian deli.

But what is most intriguing is the shoppers. At any given time, you'll find Africans, Asians, Indians,Mexicans, and a few who look like out of place, elegantly dressed attorneys from downtown Seattle.
Restaurant owners also shop there, and then charge 7.50 for something they bought at Lenny's or 75 cents.

The place gets crowded, and the parking lot is a nightmare.
But if you're willing to go at off hours, you will be rewarded with unusual finds, bargain prices, and an entertaining shopping experience.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Bella Napoli

We tried out another Italian resturaunt in Renton. This one's downtown on 3rd, and it's called Bella Napoli (no website-509-A S. Third St., Renton; 425-277-8200). It's a smallish space, stylishly decorated, and it reminds me of something you'd see in Greenwich Village in NYC. They bill themselves as the "authentic cuisine of the Naples region" and menu is more upscale and traditional than the (also good) Italian-American fare of someplace like Vince's. They have a good wine list and nice wines by the glass. We started with very good salads. The Ceasar is the second best in Renton (after Melrose Grill). Mikelle had a seafood pasta special with ample portions of clams, mussels, and shrimp which she liked very much, and I had Chicken Marsala in an excellent marsala sauce.

We'd definitely go back. It's a bit pricey $20-$30 per person, but it's definitely worth an occasional trip.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Barnaby's Beef, Bay, and Bottle

Well, you have to give them credit for a descriptive name. We tried out this place because my Dad was in town and he's partial to steak. It's actually in Tukwila, a few miles from Renton, and it is . . . well . . . unique.

It's a massive wooden structure that is decorated on the inside like Sean Connery's rumpus room--huge wooden beams on high ceilings, scottish/english knick-knacks on every wall, and masterpiece theatre-style funriture. It's also disturibingly bright inside for a steakhouse. Our poor waitress was wearing a polyester "scottish wench" outfit that looked like it was a hand-me-down from a weird scottish theme park. In other words, it was a scotch kitch-a-rama.

We ordered the "house special" steak which came with the salad bar. The salad bar itself reminded me of a chain resturaunt like Denny's--with pretty boring choices. The beer was served (of course) in big barrell-shaped mugs. When the food finally came, it was served on 70s era plates that were too small. So far, not the most scintilating dining experience . . .

But then came the steak. It was really good. They had marinated it in some outstanding whiskey marinade and it was super-tender with a great flavor. Slowly, I began to realize why they were still in business. The steak is truly outstanding. If they would just spend a little money updating the concept a bit, they'd probably be able to complete with some of the better steakhouses in the area. As it is, their prices are on par with great steakhouses like the Melrose Grill while the dining experience is a bit silly.

Worth a try, especially if you like kitchy dining experiences.