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Mi Chalateca.
Mi Chalateca.
Adam H. Callaghan

Shining a Light on Federal Way's Unforgettable Food Scene

This diverse city has spent far too long in the shadow of Seattle and Tacoma

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Mi Chalateca.
| Adam H. Callaghan

Federal Way is more than just a few exits on the freeway. Federal Way is wild. It's adventurous. It's got more nooks and crannies in its many strip malls than an English muffin and they are all brimming with hard-working people making unforgettable meals.

Once a quiet logging town named after the Pacific Highway (then referred to as the "Federal Highway"), Federal Way has blossomed into a warm, vibrant place to get exactly what you're looking for, whatever that might be. This diverse city has spent far too long in the shadow of Seattle and Tacoma. Here are 14 suggestions that should help shine a little light on Federal Way's under-appreciated food scene.

Note: Map points are ordered geographically and are not ranked by preference. What's your favorite place to grab a bite in Federal Way? Show it some love in the comments, send an email, or start a forum thread in its honor.

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Eater maps are curated by editors and aim to reflect a diversity of neighborhoods, cuisines, and prices. Learn more about our editorial process.

Mi Bella Honduras

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A bit off the beaten path but well worth the trek, Mi Bella Honduras is absolutely up to its elbows in that South American vibe. The restaurant specializes in beleadas, a Honduran spin on the quesadilla or pupusa, but the real magic is in the entrees like the oxtail or fried chicken.

Gyros House

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Saif Shihab, the owner of Gyros House, makes a mean sandwich. It’s jamming with cheese, fresh veggies, smooth, creamy tzatziki sauce, and your choice of artfully prepared falafel or meat, fresh off the spit. Every meal at Gyros is as warm and interesting as the man preparing it.

Seoul Bakery

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Tucked into the food court of the H Mart, this place will not disappoint your sweet tooth. In that bustling marketplace, milk bread, green tea doughnuts, and red bean pastries will stop you dead in your tracks, like you were caught in the eye of a tasty hurricane. Complex flavors, baked fresh daily.

I Love Ramen

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Owner Yoko Obayashi is one of the original pioneers of ramen in the South Sound, supplying noodle-laden liquid magic to the people of Tacoma and Federal Way since 1989. I Love Ramen also offers okonomiyaki, a Japanese pancake/pizza that is smushed full of shrimp and drizzled with bonito and sauces. Okonomiyaki translates roughly to “what you want, grilled” and it is definitely what you want...grilled.

Kellen Burden for Eater

Koharu Japanese Restaurant

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Koharu’s head sushi chef has been doing sushi since 1968 — and it shows. All the sauces and vinegars are prepared in house, by hand, and the fish is fresh and noisy with flavor. Hot towels before the meal, stunned silence during.

Pac Island Grill

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If you can stay stressed out at Pac Island Grill, consult your physician. The island music piping through the speakers and the tropical plants spattered across the inside are like atmospheric sedatives. If that wasn’t enough, Pac Island Grill is also slanging inventive island entrees like mochi chicken and desserts like haupia pie. Chill function: engaged.

Topoki Pocha

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Come hungry, not just for food, but for adventure. “Topokki” is stir-fried rice cakes cooked at a rolling boil right at your table with all kinds of other fixin’s: eggs, fish cakes, hot dogs, spaghetti noodles, and blood sausages, just to name a few. The restaurant will even fry your rice in the leftovers if you request it. Request it.

Cho Dang Tofu Restaurant

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This place is alive with the sounds of sizzling joy from the moment it opens until the moment it closes. The dol sot bibimbap, a rice and veggie dish served in a hot stone bowl that crisps the rice on the bottom, is hearty and perfect. The tofu soup, which comes out at a rolling boil, is like sterno for your soul.

Señor Taco

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Pictures of the fish tacos in this place should've been loaded into the Galileo space probe as a warning to alien interceptors that Earth doesn’t mess around. They'd balk at fresh and expertly prepared ingredients, puzzle over secret sauces, and tremble in fear at an ability to fit all that goodness on a tortilla. The tacos aren't the only stars here either. Go try it, quickly, before the alien overlords come to smite this planet for its hubris.

Cockatoo's Chicken Restaurant

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This place was making Korean fried chicken before it was hip, and as soon as you strip all the meat off one of those bad boys, you’ll see why everybody started biting Cockatoo’s style and yet nobody can quite hit the mark. Cockatoo’s is classic cool, with fresh, sweet soju, fried eggs cooked at your table, and popcorn while you wait.

“Agit” is Korean slang for hideout, and that’s exactly what this place is. Muscle your way past the steel bunker door and find a seat among the reclaimed pallet booths. Order up some Korean chicken wings or any number of other traditional, well-prepared Korean dishes. Wash all that down with some Hite beer or soju and ask yourself why you don’t hide out here every night.

Pho Kim

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A body in the throes of a Pacific Northwest winter reacts to noodle soup like it’s Epinephrine, and Pho Kim has got just the jolt your system needs. Come for the pho, stay for the Vietnamese iced coffee, then stay longer because you’re too full and wired to drive home.

Mi Chalateca

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Mi Chalateca specializes in golden, doughy pupusas, crispy, delicious yucca, and other such Salvadoran mainstays. It’s also a casual place to watch a soccer game and feel like part of an extended family, which is just as good.

Pimienta Bistro and Bar

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Stepping through the front door of Pimienta, tucked into its little strip mall across from a Chevron station, accomplishes nothing short of teleportation. The street outside falls away to the smooth bossa nova and the warm interior of this expertly run Latin American restaurant. The food is prepared with nuance and love and the cocktails are refreshing without pulling punches.

Mi Bella Honduras

A bit off the beaten path but well worth the trek, Mi Bella Honduras is absolutely up to its elbows in that South American vibe. The restaurant specializes in beleadas, a Honduran spin on the quesadilla or pupusa, but the real magic is in the entrees like the oxtail or fried chicken.

Gyros House

Saif Shihab, the owner of Gyros House, makes a mean sandwich. It’s jamming with cheese, fresh veggies, smooth, creamy tzatziki sauce, and your choice of artfully prepared falafel or meat, fresh off the spit. Every meal at Gyros is as warm and interesting as the man preparing it.

Seoul Bakery

Tucked into the food court of the H Mart, this place will not disappoint your sweet tooth. In that bustling marketplace, milk bread, green tea doughnuts, and red bean pastries will stop you dead in your tracks, like you were caught in the eye of a tasty hurricane. Complex flavors, baked fresh daily.

I Love Ramen

Owner Yoko Obayashi is one of the original pioneers of ramen in the South Sound, supplying noodle-laden liquid magic to the people of Tacoma and Federal Way since 1989. I Love Ramen also offers okonomiyaki, a Japanese pancake/pizza that is smushed full of shrimp and drizzled with bonito and sauces. Okonomiyaki translates roughly to “what you want, grilled” and it is definitely what you want...grilled.

Kellen Burden for Eater

Koharu Japanese Restaurant

Koharu’s head sushi chef has been doing sushi since 1968 — and it shows. All the sauces and vinegars are prepared in house, by hand, and the fish is fresh and noisy with flavor. Hot towels before the meal, stunned silence during.

Pac Island Grill

If you can stay stressed out at Pac Island Grill, consult your physician. The island music piping through the speakers and the tropical plants spattered across the inside are like atmospheric sedatives. If that wasn’t enough, Pac Island Grill is also slanging inventive island entrees like mochi chicken and desserts like haupia pie. Chill function: engaged.

Topoki Pocha

Come hungry, not just for food, but for adventure. “Topokki” is stir-fried rice cakes cooked at a rolling boil right at your table with all kinds of other fixin’s: eggs, fish cakes, hot dogs, spaghetti noodles, and blood sausages, just to name a few. The restaurant will even fry your rice in the leftovers if you request it. Request it.

Cho Dang Tofu Restaurant

This place is alive with the sounds of sizzling joy from the moment it opens until the moment it closes. The dol sot bibimbap, a rice and veggie dish served in a hot stone bowl that crisps the rice on the bottom, is hearty and perfect. The tofu soup, which comes out at a rolling boil, is like sterno for your soul.

Señor Taco

Pictures of the fish tacos in this place should've been loaded into the Galileo space probe as a warning to alien interceptors that Earth doesn’t mess around. They'd balk at fresh and expertly prepared ingredients, puzzle over secret sauces, and tremble in fear at an ability to fit all that goodness on a tortilla. The tacos aren't the only stars here either. Go try it, quickly, before the alien overlords come to smite this planet for its hubris.

Cockatoo's Chicken Restaurant

This place was making Korean fried chicken before it was hip, and as soon as you strip all the meat off one of those bad boys, you’ll see why everybody started biting Cockatoo’s style and yet nobody can quite hit the mark. Cockatoo’s is classic cool, with fresh, sweet soju, fried eggs cooked at your table, and popcorn while you wait.

Agit

“Agit” is Korean slang for hideout, and that’s exactly what this place is. Muscle your way past the steel bunker door and find a seat among the reclaimed pallet booths. Order up some Korean chicken wings or any number of other traditional, well-prepared Korean dishes. Wash all that down with some Hite beer or soju and ask yourself why you don’t hide out here every night.

Pho Kim

A body in the throes of a Pacific Northwest winter reacts to noodle soup like it’s Epinephrine, and Pho Kim has got just the jolt your system needs. Come for the pho, stay for the Vietnamese iced coffee, then stay longer because you’re too full and wired to drive home.

Mi Chalateca

Mi Chalateca specializes in golden, doughy pupusas, crispy, delicious yucca, and other such Salvadoran mainstays. It’s also a casual place to watch a soccer game and feel like part of an extended family, which is just as good.

Pimienta Bistro and Bar

Stepping through the front door of Pimienta, tucked into its little strip mall across from a Chevron station, accomplishes nothing short of teleportation. The street outside falls away to the smooth bossa nova and the warm interior of this expertly run Latin American restaurant. The food is prepared with nuance and love and the cocktails are refreshing without pulling punches.

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