Photo depicting a group of female-presenting individuals eating at a table filled with delicious food at Le's Deli and Bakery. A female-presenting restauranteur checks in on them.

Taste Global, Eat Local: Annual Plate of Nations Food Festival Ends This Weekend

by Nina Dubinsky

Take your taste buds on a world tour without leaving the South End! The 11th annual Plate of Nations, the signature event of South Seattle’s MLK Business Association, is here to expand your palate with dishes from around the world when you visit the 15 participating local restaurants.

The 16-day culinary event, ending Sunday, Sept. 26, gives visitors a chance to taste each eatery’s menu with shareable plates and samplers, priced at $20 and $35 respectively. These special menus are curated so customers can try fan-favorite dishes. Samples include mixed plates with a side of mac salad from Buddha Bruddah, mouth-watering doro wat with house-made injera from Amy’s Merkato, street-style tacos from El Quetzal, freshly fried catfish po’boys from Emerald City Fish & Chips, and authentic Philly cheesesteak from The Original Philly’s

“Plate of Nations is a great opportunity to showcase the neighborhood, and hopefully we’ll have a lot of diners from surrounding neighborhoods come,” said Drea Miller, co-owner of Buddha Bruddah. “The event is about representing different cultures — and that’s what our neighborhood is all about.”

Promotional image for Plate of Nations depicting menu items from Amy's Merkato.
Plate of Nations promotional image featuring delicious dishes from Amy’s Merkato. (Photo: The Elite Collective for Plate of Nations)

South Seattle boasts a culturally diverse food scene brimming with independently owned and operated restaurants thanks to the large population of immigrants that have settled in the Rainier Valley. With dishes from across the globe, many South End restaurants offer cultural favorites catering to the multitude of different BIPOC communities that make up South Seattle.

Plate of Nations was started by Asari Mohamath, a Cham Muslim refugee from Vietnam and former owner of Salima restaurant. Mohamath wanted to highlight, celebrate, and share the diverse flavors in the authentic cuisines offered by MLK restaurants. Julie Pham, former MLK Business Association board chair, said, “We were brainstorming new ideas for promoting the business district and everyone got excited about a food event, because food brings people together.”

“It really helps … when you do Plate of Nations, a lot of people who normally don’t eat the type of food you serve — they show up just to try it,” Talya Miller, owner of soul food restaurant The Comfort Zone, told the South Seattle Emerald.

“I’ve seen and found some really spectacular things during Plate of Nations. Taking the time to kind of look through it and, you know, just expand your palate is a great idea and a good thing to do. And it’s also a great way to support these local small businesses because we’re struggling to stay in business,” Miller continued. “Any support you can give to the Plate of Nations participants is welcomed and appreciated.”

“We get so many new customers during the event not just because our food is so good,” said Guy Thomas, owner of The Original Philly’s, “but also because it is fun to participate in Plate of Nations.”

Promotional image for Plate of Nations depicting menu items from the Comfort Zone.
Plate of Nations promotional image featuring tasty treats from The Comfort Zone. (Photo: The Elite Collective for Plate of Nations)

The pandemic has kept many folks at home and out of restaurants for so long, this event is also a powerful way to bring the community together again. 

“Well, while all Plate of Nations participating restaurants do, of course, offer individual entrees as a normal course of business, the idea of offering shareable plates is foundational to our event. Yes, having shareable meals allows for a sampling of various dishes that might not regularly be offered in one serving, but they go deeper than that. In a time when divisiveness, alienation, and polarization seem to seize the day, the dinner table is one of the few areas that can still function as a unifier,” reads the Plate of Nations website.

Good eats and community aside, there are additional incentives for trying the participating restaurants. Visitors can download a Plate of Nations Passport and, while eating their way through the list, can win prizes including gift cards to participating restaurants and special Plate of Nations merch. Stay up-to-date on news and updates about pop-ups and events at participating restaurants by following Plate of Nations on Instagram.

Call a friend, bring your partner, or surprise your family this weekend — the event ends this Sunday, Sept. 26. You can find the full list of participating restaurants along with event details on the Plate of Nations site.

Nina Dubinsky (she/they) is a South Seattle-based freelance writer and artist with a passion for all things art, food, and internet. Keep up with them on Instagram @nocturnina.

📸 Featured Image: Diners enjoy delectable delights at Le’s Deli & Bakery. (Photo: The Elite Collective for Plate of Nations)

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