The International Examiner readers have spoken! In our 2nd annual Reader’s Choice contest, we highlight our community favorites in over 30 categories from Best Bang-For-Your-Buck Restaurant to Favorite Community Activist and Entrepreneur. And check out who won Best Happy Hour and Mom-and-Pop Business! Congratulations to our winners and thank you to the voters of our 2011 poll.


Best Dim Sum Worth Rolling Out of Bed For
Jade Garden
424 7th Ave S., Seattle, WA 98104
(206) 622-8181

Patrons must show up early for Jade Garden’s fresh dim sum or will expect to wait in lines circling the block at this popular Chinatown/International District restaurant. But once in the corner eatery, quick servers will dish up steaming dim sum favorites: shrimp dumplings, cheong fan (rice noodle rolls), buns, turnip cake, lo mai gai (sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaf), chicken feet, egg tarts, and congee at reasonable prices.

Best Finger-Licking Korean BBQ
20109 Aurora Ave., Ste 102, Shoreline, WA 98133
(206) 546-2848 |

Known for easy parking and cheap combo barbeque for groups, this Korean restaurant has big portions for big appetites. It’s fresh food and array of options to savor means patrons will come back for more. Past visitors suggest bringing a coupon for groups. Enjoy the staff cooking food right before you.

Best Fresh Sushi
Shiro’s Sushi Restaurant
2401 2nd Ave., Seattle, WA 98121
(206) 443-9844 |

Sushi fanatics will recommend Shiro’s as the authentic sushi experience. Professional sushi chefs design delectable dishes and seafood for connoisseurs and enthusiasts alike in an elegant but unpretentious environment. The venue is pricier, so it may be best for special occasions or just special people.

Best Happy Hour & Best Karaoke Bar
Bush Garden
614 Maynard Ave S., Seattle, WA 98104
(206) 682-6830 |

Who else did you expect? The living room-like décor invites visitors to sing “blast from the past” favorites from the 80s and 90s on any day or night of the week. This long-time iconic haunt of Seattlelites, politicians, and those seeking a casual and chaotic good time has just about anyone “letting their hair down” on stage. “The Bush” as it’s sometimes referred to, is a familiar happy hour hide-out. Actually, it may have started Happy Hour. In any case, stop by for lunch or after work and find yourself surrounded with smiling faces, a friendly server, and a very wet bar.

Best Bang-For-Your-Buck Restaurant
663 Bistro
663 S. Weller St., Seattle, WA 98127
(206) 667-8760

663 Bistro is consistently good and cheap. Generous portions for reasonable prices mean lunch diners to late night patrons will return for its flavorful soups and roasted pork — crispy and seasoned to perfection.

Favorite Chinese Restaurant
Tea Palace Restaurant
2828 Sunset Ln NE., Renton, WA 98056
(425) 228-9393 |

The large special occasion venue boasts a clean and modern decor serving delicious jellyfish, pork shank and hot seafood and tofu soups. Their loose leaf tea variety is incomparable and flavorful. A lounge space serves up its own order of live music and a talented bartender.

Favorite Vietnamese Restaurant
Green Leaf
418 8th Ave S., Seattle, WA 98104
(206) 340-1388 |

A friendly and attentive staff will offer a large menu of authentic Vietnamese cuisine any Vietnamese mom would appreciate, served on beautiful decorative ceramic dishes. Not shy on flavor, patrons will enjoy fragrant seasonings on popular dishes such as vermicelli rice noodles, grilled meat, and Vietnamese crepes.

Favorite Thai Restaurant
Thai Curry Simple
406 5th Ave S., Seattle, WA 98104
(206) 327-4838 |

Thai Curry Simple keeps it spicy with exclusive curry and noodle dishes at their ID restaurant. Fast and accommodating service on a small carefully chosen menu means the tiny eatery fills up fast during lunch. Try visiting on a Saturday, where the owners create traditional Thai dishes not seen on the menu.

Best Bubble Tea Café
Oasis Tea Zone
519 6th Ave S., Seattle, WA 98104
(206) 447-8098 |

A great hang-out spot for social gatherings, Oasis is homebase for many young people looking for refreshment and friends. An array of beverage choices, jelly/boba options, and even “snow” or icee drinks have customers thirsty for more. A few favored drinks are the hot honeydew milk tea, the yogurt green tea, and the mango snow.

Favorite Neighborhood Coffee Shop
Panama Hotel Tea & Coffee House
607 S. Main St., Seattle, WA 98104
(206) 515-4000 |

The historic Panama Hotel Tea and Coffee House is a jewel in the ID. It was built in 1910 by Japanese American architect Sabro Ozasa. The hotel is preserved in the same state it was in when initially closed in 1950 and boasts the only remaining Japanese bathhouse left intact in the U.S. Today, it serves as a historic hotel with an adjoining popular neighborhood café. The café adorns its original brick walls with black-and-white pictures of the building in its heyday. The preserved wood floors shine from wear and care. Artifacts found in the building are proudly displayed in the front, inviting customers in to try the imported tea, espressos, and green tea pastries.

Favorite Local Artist
Frank Fujii

Born in 1930, the veteran artist, Frank Fujii, has a loyal and appreciative following of fans. When World War II broke out, his family was forced to shut down a business and enter Minidoka incarceration camp. But art inspired him throughout his life, despite its challenges. After a life-long appreciation and talent for art, he received an Art degree from the University of Washington. He later taught art at Cleveland and Franklin High Schools and at Seattle Central Community College for numerous years. Frank Fujii often donates his art work to local organizations and causes. Today, the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience dedicated a space to him called the Frank Fujii Youth Space.

Best Local Musician/Band
Deems Tsutakawa
(206) 772-1422 |

Renowned as a smooth jazz keyboardist, Deems Tsutakawa has created and performed music for decades both as a member in bands as well as a solo act. He expresses an artistic freedom engaging to listeners as he plays well-known hits with a “Deems” twist.

Favorite Local Community Activist
Al Sugiyama

Al Sugiyama stepped away after nearly 30 years as the founder and former executive director of the Center for Career Alternatives (CCA). Sugiyama has been active in promoting and fighting for social justice for decades, beginning in his 20s. He helped lead the first Asian American demonstration in Seattle in 1971, in front of Seattle Central Community College where he and other protesters demanded the college hire Asian administrators. In 1989, he was the first API elected to the Seattle School Board. Since then, he has made a point of sharing resources and contacts with other agencies, mentor youth, and fundraise for multiple causes — all in an effort to uplift the community.

Favorite Member of Seattle City Council
Bruce Harrell

In 2011, Councilmember Harrell was overwhelmingly re-elected by the people of Seattle, while receiving the most endorsements from current and former elected officials, organizations and individuals. A native of Seattle, Councilmember Harrell has spent 30 years as an attorney and community volunteer and is the first member of Japanese descent to have served on the Seattle City Council. While in office, some of Bruce’s accomplishments included his work to keep our electric rates the lowest among the 25 largest US cities and he created the unprecedented $100 million rainy day fund to decrease unreasonable rate fluctuations. Additionally, he achieved savings at Seattle City Light; created the Great Student Initiative to provide 16,000 Seattle Public School students with computers and high speed Internet access for less than $10 per month; and, is working with the community in an effort to construct a Bruce Lee Action Museum in Seattle. He currently serves as the Chair of the Energy, Technology, and Civil Rights Committee and Vice Chair of the Utilities and Neighborhoods Committee. He also chairs the Law and Risk Management Committee and sits on the Puget Sound Regional Council’s Executive Board, Transportation Policy Board, and is chair of Performance First, a partnership to support minority-owned businesses.

Favorite Politician That’s Not a Politician
Bob Santos

Bob Santos is one of the most recognizable figures in the Asian Pacific American community in Seattle. The son of Filipino and Native American/Filipino parents, “Uncle Bob” as he’s affectionately called, became involved in civil rights in the 1960s, encouraging Seattle activists of different ethnic and racial groups to collaborate together toward their common causes. For over fifteen years, he then served as the Executive Director for the International District Improvement Association (Inter*Im). He helped establish a number of culturally appropriate social services for Asians and mentored a new generation of young Asian activists. In 1982, along with the “Gang of Four,” including the late Bernie Whitebear, Larry Gossett, and the late Roberto Maestas, they co-founded the Minority Executive Director’s Coalition (MEDC). He also oversaw the Seattle C/ID Preservation Development Authority and served as Regional Director of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) from 1994 – 2001. Today, he continues to provide resources, contacts, advice, support, and leadership to numerous causes and people.

Favorite Entrepreneur/Business Owner
Duc Tran

Duc Tran, owner of Viet Wah and Tea Palace Restaurant and Lounge, stands in front of his Renton store.
Duc Tran, owner of Viet Wah and Tea Palace Restaurant and Lounge, stands in front of his Renton store.

Before providing the latest fare in Asian ingredients and groceries, the owner of the Viet Wah grocery chain, Duc Tran, first served as a translator for a refugee program in Seattle following the Vietnam War and helped refugees transfer from one part of the country to another. He also established the Indochina Chinese Refugee Association (ICRA) to meet some of their needs. Noticing immigrants had a need for cultural food, Tran opened a catering business offering ingredients that reminded the refugees of home — a business that later evolved into the Viet Wah grocery chain. Duc Tran later opened Tea Palace Restaurant and Lounge in Renton in 2008. Few people know this successful businessman and entrepreneur also gives back generously to the community, a duty he remains humble about.


Favorite “Mom and Pop” Business
Mutual Fish Company
2335 Rainier Ave., S., Seattle, WA 98144
(206) 322-4368 |

Mutual Fish patriarch, Dick Yoshimura. Photo Credit: Ed Tan.
Mutual Fish patriarch, Dick Yoshimura. Photo Credit: Ed Tan.

This is a second year win for the Mutual Fish Company, a retail and wholesale seafood market owned and managed by three generations of the Yoshimura family for nearly 65 years – since 1947. The business was kept a small operation, allowing the family to cultivate life-long relationships with customers and provide quality seafood. Customers visit the long-time Rainier Avenue location to order hefty portions of fresh shrimp, live Dungeness crab, and sushi-grade tuna. Knowledgeable employees greet familiar and new customers alike with their friendly know-how.

Event You Look Forward To Attending Each Year
Tet in Seattle’s Lunar
New Year celebration

Tet in Seattle is an all-volunteer non-profit organization committed to producing a quality annual Vietnamese Lunar New Year festival at the Seattle Center. For 15 years, Tet in Seattle has coordinated the cultural festival, which draws over 15,000 visitors from all over the Puget Sound to promote and preserve Vietnamese culture through the arts, music, performances, and foods unique to Vietnam. Tet in Seattle employs 40 year-round, all-volunteer staff, as well as dozens of volunteers during the Tet event. In addition to winning the Seafair’s Community Spirit award, Tet in Seattle was recently selected by Mayor Mike McGinn and the Seattle Arts Commission for the prestigious 2011 Mayor’s Arts Award in recognizing the organization’s impact and contribution to the community. TIS aims to extend its leadership in building stronger community, further bridging the generation gap and promoting a stronger sense of cultural identity. The 2012 Lunar New Year or “Tet” festival will be held from Jan. 21-22, 2012.


Miichael Woo speaks at a Got Green graduation. Photo credit: Puget Sound Sage.
Miichael Woo speaks at a Got Green graduation. Photo credit: Puget Sound Sage.

Defender of Green Causes
Michael Woo, Got Green

In 2008, Michael Woo founded Got Green, a grassroots group in the Seattle area that promotes the movement for an equitable, green economy as the best way to fight poverty and global warming at the same time. From releasing a widely praised report, “Women in the Green Economy: Voices from Southeast Seattle,” to winning federal stimulus dollars to train low-income workers of color in energy efficiency and home weatherization; organizing for more access to healthy food, to empowering tenants of color to fight for equal access to green and healthy homes, Got Green under Woo’s leadership has quickly established itself as an authentic voice from communities of color that fight for equity and opportunity in the new green economy.

Favorite Neighborhood Bookstore
Elliot Bay Book Company
1521 10th Ave., Seattle, WA 98122
(206) 624-6600 |

Known as “Seattle’s legendary independent bookstore,” this city landmark moved from its well-known location in Pioneer Square to bustling Capital Hill in 2010.
The bookstore is appreciated for its support of local and ethnic writers and is home to over 150,000 titles and schedules hundreds of anticipated author readings throughout the year.

Favorite Philanthropist
Jerry Lee

Jerry Lee is the chairman for MulvannyG2 Architecture, but is equally renowned for his philanthropic ventures within the Asian American community and mainstream causes. He was awarded the 2011 Gold Level Presidential Volunteer Service Award presented by President Barrack Obama’s Council, for his commitment to the community and inspiring others to engage in volunteer service. Jerry Lee was also named Seattle Mariner “2011 Fan of the Year” for his charity work with the Mariners. His efforts to support breast cancer research is a personal one and has dedicated his resources and time to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation. He and his company have raised over a million dollars to the Komen cause. He is also appreciated for his dedication to charities and causes of the Chinese and Asian American communities. Growing up in an impoverished Portland, Ore. neighborhood and counting tragedies in his life that have encouraged him to give back generously without considering what will be given in return, has become his rallying call and philosophy.

Favorite Corporate Giver
Scott Oki
Oki Development, Inc.
1416 112th Ave. NE, Bellevue, WA 98004
(425) 454-2800 |

Scott Oki is a former senior vice-president of sales and marketing for Microsoft who conceived and built Microsoft’s domestic and international operations in the 1980s. He now runs the non-profit Oki Foundation, owns several golf courses, and serves on dozens of advisory boards and boards of directors for both for-profit and non-profit companies. He is the Founder and Chairman of Oki Developments, Inc. and is a professed entrepreneur, venture capitalist, philanthropist, and community activist. He is a past-President of the Board of Regents for the University of Washington and the immediate past Chair of the Children’s Hospital Foundation and was a member of Governor Locke’s Commission on Early Learning. Scott Oki also serves on the national boards for United Way of America, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, and the Japanese American National Museum. His personal mission statement is “to marry my passion for things entrepreneurial with things philanthropic in ways that encourage others to do the same.”

Most Beloved, Invaluable Volunteer
Mari Sugiyama

For the past six years, Mari Sugiyama has led the Japanese Queen Scholarship Organization of Washington as the scholarship program and celebration chairperson. Mari’s longest volunteer affiliation has been spent with the Seattle Asian Sports Club (SASC) as an assistant coach. She also dedicates her time as a member of the Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month Celebration committee which is marking its 11th year at the Seattle Center. She is also a member of the Seattle Chapter JACL Scholarship Committee which annually awards higher education funds to deserving students from the greater Seattle area. She is currently serving as the program manager for Girl Scouting in the School Day with Girl Scouts of Western Washington.

Best Youth Mentor
Hoan Do

Hoan travels across North America speaking at colleges and high schools on the topics of leadership development, career success, and personal motivation. After publishing his book, “Succeeding in the Real World,” Hoan Do has been fiercely committed to traveling the nation sharing practical advice that will help students to succeed in and out of school. For his work around the country and in the community, Verizon Wireless recently presented Hoan with the Motivator Award. Whether he’s speaking at a leadership conference or mentoring youth in the community, Hoan has dedicated his life to making a difference in those he comes into contact with.

Best Advocate for API Health
International Community Health Services (ICHS)
720 8th Ave. S., Seattle, WA 98104
(206) 788-3700 |

The International Community Health Services (ICHS) is the largest Asian and Pacific Islander non-profit community health center in Washington state with a location in south Seattle and the Chinatown/International District. For over 35 years, ICHS has offered a full range of primary medical, dental, and preventive health education services, as well as Chinese Traditional Medicine. A culturally-competent and multilingual support staff make the clinic a one-of-a-kind health center for the needs of the Asian American community in Seattle.

Favorite Executive Director
Khanh Vu, Tet in Seattle

Born in Saigon toward the end of Vietnam conflict, Khanh Vu had an opportunity to immigrate to America in the early 1990s and reunite with his family and further his education. He said he always felt blessed for this great opportunity in life and wants to give back to the community by volunteering his time to non-profit organizations. One of his proudest contributions by far is with Tet in Seattle, a non-profit cultural and community capacity building organization, in which he is currently serving as its executive director. He helped build the organization’s signature Tet Festival into one of the biggest cultural events in the Pacific Northwest. Under his guidance, Tet in Seattle has doubled in size in the past year and expanded its charter to include many year round community service projects. Today, Tet in Seattle is well known as one of youngest, most respected volunteer organizations in the greater Puget Sound area. He said he genuinely hopes that his work will inspire younger kids, especially the 3rd generation of Vietnamese Americans to take an active role at shaping the community’s future.

Favorite Writer
Alan Lau

Alan Lau has served as the Arts Editor for the Examiner for over thirty years and tirelessly promoted the Asian American arts scene, paving the way for countless artists. He worked for decades to gain visibility and respect for Asian American musicians, artists, authors, chefs, and performers. Alan Lau, the artist, writer and poet, helped forge a new identity in Seattle of the Asian American artist — a true pioneer in the community.

Favorite Local Newscaster/Journalist
Lori Matsukawa

The iconic Japanese American reporter currently co-anchors KING 5 News weeknights at 10 p.m. on KONG and KING 5 News at 11 on KING 5. Matsukawa was first hired at KING 5 in 1983 as a reporter and helped establish the Seattle branch of the Asian American Journalist’s Association (AAJA). In 2005, Lori Matsukawa was given the “Lifetime Achievement Award” from the AAJA for mentoring aspiring journalists and was inducted into the University of Washington Communication Department’s Alumni Hall of Fame. She has been honored by numerous other organizations for her dedication to the community, including dedicating time to the Japanese American community and co-chairing a committee that built the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Washington.

Favorite Community Center
The Asian Counseling And Referral Service (ACRS)
3639 Martin Luther King Jr. Way S., Seattle, WA 98144

(206) 695-7600 |

The Asian Counseling and Referral Service (ACRS) was founded in 1973 out of grassroots efforts. During that time, Asian Pacific Americans (APA) were at risk for misdiagnosis and received inadequate care from mainstream mental health service providers unfamiliar with APA cultures and languages. Since then, ACRS has grown to provide a continuum of social services for primarily low-income, immigrant, refugee, American-born Asians and Pacific Islanders. Today, ACRS offers 13 programs and serves over 23,000 people annually. ACRS’ mission is to promote social justice and the well-being and empowerment of APA individuals, families and communities — including immigrants, refugees and native-born — by developing, providing and advocating for innovative community-based multilingual and multicultural services. The agency’s largely bilingual, bicultural staff of over 200 collectively speak over 40 languages and dialects.

Favorite Youth Advocate/Leader
Sherry Williams
Technology Access Foundation (TAF)
4436 Rainier Ave. S., Seattle, WA 98118
(206) 725-9095 |

Although not an API, Sherry Williams is still a great contributor and besides, the voters have spoken! Williams is currently the deputy director for the Technology Access Foundation, a non-profit that works to educate K-12 students of color in STEM and prepare them for college and careers. She also has served on the Burst for Prosperity Advisory board since 2007 and is presently the treasurer. Burst’s mission is to reduce poverty and build prosperity in Washington State for families by collaborating with a variety of organizations and government that focus on initiatives to impact change.

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