Teriyaki: Seattle's Signature Dish


Photograph from UCLAcyc on Flickr

Philly's got cheesesteaks, New York's got pizza, Chicago's got hot dogs, and Seattle has ... teriyaki?

According to a story in the Seattle Weekly, the grilled meat dish is fast becoming the ubiquitous dish in the Emerald City.

Nothing seems to stop the exponential growth of teriyaki shops in Seattle and its surrounding environs, including market saturation. To wit, the Washington Restaurant Association recently generated a list of all the restaurants in its master database with "teriyaki" in the name, listed by date of entry. As of 1984, the database contained 19 (that is, restaurants still in business). That number doubled by 1987. In the mid-1990s, 20 to 40 teriyaki joints appear to have been opening every year, and the database now contains 519 listings statewide (there are more than 100 teriyaki shops within Seattle's city limits alone)—which doesn't include restaurants that favor "Bento," "Wok," or "Deli" over "Teriyaki" in their titles.

The story traces teriyaki's history in Seattle, which begins, possibly, as early as 1908 in the city's Nihonbashi district but which really takes off with the opening of Toshi's Teriyaki in 1976—a time of great Asian influx into the Seattle area and one that saw diners searching for healthier fare and Asian flavors—creating the perfect nexus for the teriyaki explosion.

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