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Friday, April 16, 2010
This week, I had another Frugal Friday find while wandering down in Pioneer Square. Just two doors down from the Seattle Underground Tour I saw a sign in a window advertising lunch specials - REAL lunch specials (as opposed to the spots claiming $7.95 is a special) - at TIG Asian Tapas Bar, which occupies the space at 614 1st Ave.
After a few moments without anyone popping up at the vacant host station up front, I peeked around a wall dividing the entrance from the dining room to find a mostly empty restaurant with no art on white walls except for some graffiti scrawls. I caught the eye of the only staffer, but had to ask if I should seat myself. I definitely got a vibe that this was a nightclub, not a restaurant - which had me questioning my choice. Fighting against my intuition to turn around and leave, I sat down and was brought menus and a glass of water.
I was happy to see quite a few cheap eats on the lunch specials menu, including Chicken Teriyaki ($3.99) and Spicy Ramen ($2.99). I went for the one that sounded the healthiest and heartiest despite the price tag: Veggie Bibimbap for just $3.99.
When the bartender/server brought out a huge bowl of food and a little bowl of hot sauce, I was a little surprised by how big it was and how beautiful the sunny side up egg was on top of all the fresh veggies. I took a moment to take it in and get ready to photograph it, when the server returned to tell me how to eat bibimbap - mixing the egg, veggies and rice together first. He explained that the word bibimbap' actually means 'mixed rice' in Korean. The culinary education definitely won me over. I stirred it up and dug in.
The generous portion was brimming with carrots, cabbage, arugula, zucchini, scallions, onion and mushrooms over white rice, and blanketed by the egg. The hot sauce wasn't all that spicy - more spicy/sweet - so after a tentative taste I stirred the whole thing in. The veggies were cooked well - still crisp and offering their distinct flavors to the dish. It wasn't greasy or oily, and was filling in a good way.
If my bibimbap was any indication of the quality of the rest of the dishes, I highly recommend checking out TIG at lunch - just don't be shy about walking in and seating yourself.
(Frugal Fridays is a series dedicated to finding Seattle lunch spots where you can walk in with a $5 bill and walk out with a fulfilling, preferably healthy, lunch. If you have suggestions of places in the Seattle area with a great lunch for under $5 after tax, post a comment - I'd love the help.)