Holiday season is almost here — and if you’re already feeling the strain on your wallet, not to worry: In our region you can enjoy globally inspired sweets and snacks without breaking the bank. From a Scandinavian bakery to a dumpling house to a trendy new Korean eatery, here are spots to sample world cuisines for a fraction of the cost of, say, an entire dinner out.
Scandinavian sweets: Byen Bakeri
15 Nickerson St., Seattle • 206-218-1000
On a stretch of Nickerson Street in Seattle’s Interbay neighborhood, this delightful bakery offers a sweet taste of Seattle’s Scandinavian roots. Buy fragrant cardamom braids and holiday favorites such as stollen (a fruit and nut loaf similar to an Italian panettone) or kringle (an oval-shaped pastry filled with fruit and nuts and topped with icing). Or go all out with a croquembouche, a Christmas tree–shaped cake made out of dozens of mini cream puffs.
Bonus: A short drive away is the Children’s Museum at Seattle Center, where its Festivals of Light events, held throughout December, celebrate winter fests such as Hanukkah, Diwali, Kwanzaa, Santa Lucia and more.
Korean chicken: Bok a Bok
1521 S.W. 98th St., Seattle • 206-693-2493
The newest addition to White Center’s hip, family-friendly eating scene is Bok a Bok, which specializes in KFC — Korean, not Kentucky, fried chicken. Besides the chicken, served with four Asian-inspired sauces, >> find delectable chicken sandwiches, kimchee mac ’n’ cheese, biscuits with spiced honey and sweet potato tots. Order at the counter and the food is brought to you fast. Perk: All the chicken is sustainably raised.
Bonus: Sure, there’s plenty of ice-skating to do this time of year. But since you’re in White Center, strap on your roller skates for retro fun at Southgate Roller Rink, just a block away.
All the cake in China: A Piece of Cake
514 S. King St., Seattle • 206-623-8284
Seattle’s festive, historic International District is packed with Asian sweet stops, but to experience a traditional Chinese bakery, hit up A Piece of Cake. Try colorful, lovely and light Asian mousse cakes in flavors such as taro, mango, and green tea and honeydew melon. If you have some kids who prefer their sweets in liquid form, grab a bubble tea at nearby Oasis Tea Zone.
Bonus: In December, pair your Asian sweets expedition with holiday shopping at one-of-a-kind shops such as Kinokuniya bookstore (located inside Uwajimaya) or Momo (in nearby Japantown). In February, ring in Lunar New Year with parades and festivals at or around the Wing Luke Museum.
Middle Eastern street food: Mamnoon Street
Amazon Building Doppler • 2020 Sixth Ave., Seattle • 206-327-9121
A little less than a year ago, Mamnoon opened a smaller version of its celebrated Capitol Hill restaurant in the Denny Triangle area. The street-food menu stars choices such as flatbread sandwiches filled with sweet and spicy lamb and pomegranate molasses, or a tangy herb salad. Kids might prefer hummus or spicy fries. You can dine on the premises — it has a few tables and seats at the counter — or order takeout.
Bonus: Nearby, find holiday fun at Lake Union Park (look for the annual Christmas Ship stop) or explore the Museum of History and Industry, which opens an exhibit on Seattle’s culinary history (Edible City: A Delicious Journey) on Nov. 19.
South African high tea: Cederberg Tea House
1417 Queen Anne Ave. N., Seattle • 206-285-1352
Forget about British high tea and head straight for the South African version at Cederberg Tea House, a cozy spot at the tippy top of Upper Queen Anne. It specializes in naturally decaffeinated South African rooibos tea and also serves tea drinks and sweets such as koeksisters (syrup-soaked doughnuts), pineapple fridge tarts and Romany creams (chocolate and coconut cookies).
Bonus: For a holiday treat, break out the fancy outfits and book a formal “Lady Grey Afternoon Tea” party, where you’ll sample a selection of sweets, scones, sausage rolls and tea sandwiches with fillings like chicken cranberry walnut salad, all accompanied by individual pots of tea ($29.95 per person).
Chinese comfort food: Dough Zone Dumpling House
7625 170th Ave. N.E., Redmond • 15920 N.E. Eighth St. Ste. 3, Bellevue • 14625 N.E. 24th St Ste 4B, Bellevue
Move over, Din Tai Fung. Word is that Dough Zone’s soup dumplings and juicy pork buns are just as delicious as the celebrated restaurant chain’s, more affordable — and you don’t have to fight the crowds. Now that Dough Zone has three locations, those dumplings are available all around the Eastside. Other favorite menu items include handmade noodles, green onion pancakes, pot stickers and sweet-and-sour cucumbers.
Bonus: From the Redmond location, hop over to Redmond Town Center in December for holiday lights, Santa and a train. Crossroads Bellevue offers all kinds of family entertainment, from 25-cent rides to play time at WiggleWorks Kids.
Turkish delights: Café Turko
900 N. 34th St., Seattle • 206-284-9954
Take your Turkish delight–obsessed Narnia fans to taste the real deal — and other authentic treats and dishes — at this Fremont restaurant, tea and coffee house, which is sitting pretty in its new location near the Aurora bridge. With items such as pita pocket sandwiches, gyros, yam hummus and rose sherbet, the extensive menu may take several visits to fully explore.
Bonus: Afterward, burn off some calories at All Together Skatepark, Seattle’s only indoor skateboarding facility, with activities geared toward all ages and levels.
Croissant culture: Midori Bakery
16505 Redmond Way, Redmond • 425-836-6583
A flaky French pastry is perfect for brightening up a dreary winter day, and Redmond’s Midori Bakery does savory and sweet with equal excellence. Breakfast on pain au chocolat and brioche; lunch on a ham and cheese croissant or mushroom brioche; enjoy an afternoon slice of white chocolate cherry pistachio gateau, kouign-amann (a Breton cake made of layers of butter and sugar) or chocolate kugelhopf. Tip: With warning, Midori can whip out a kids’ cake (themes include Totoro, Cars and Minions) for your next bash.
Bonus: Midori’s modern, fragrant space (everything is fresh-baked that morning) also has a kids’ corner with a table and bookshelf.