While many might be forgiven for considering salmon or oysters to be the signature fare of the Puget Sound region cities like Kirkland, many old school residents would argue that in fact Teriyaki is the area’s iconic comfort food. The New York Times called teriyaki Seattle’s version of the Chicago dog; teriyaki is a beloved street-food-reminiscent tradition with origins in the mid-1970s. Sweet and sticky with sauce, Seattle-style teriyaki derives from the basic formula created at Toshi’s Teriyaki in 1976. Chicken thighs, slick and brown from the marinade are slapped onto a hot grill where flames caramelize the sugars, crisping the meat with a crunch of slightly burnt soy on the outside. Sliced into bite-size pieces, the chicken is served fanned out across a molded mound of white rice, with the sauce trickling down between the rice grains.
The teriyaki concept has expanded to embrace vegetables and other offerings, and teriyaki shops are far less ubiquitous than they once were. However, a selection of teriyaki shops still comprise a sector of the Asian fast-casual category that’s the fastest growing restaurant segment in the country. Several teriyaki restaurants can be found in Kirkland, ranging from national chains to independently owned storefronts. Sampling these little fanned slices of regional history is highly recommended.