The Caribbean aioli slathered sandwiches of Un Bien have made a name for themselves throughout Seattle. The founders are the sons of another Seattle institution, Paseo, and the two places have very similar menus. After Paseo went bankrupt in 2014, Un Bien opened and took over the Caribbean sandwich market. Now that Paseo has reopened, Seattleites debate which place serves the best Caribbean Roast. Before I visited Un Bien, fans’ build-up to its sandwich was was off the charts. I had to try it.
Un Bien’s main location is in Ballard just off 15th Avenue and it has only outdoor seating. Considering Seattle’s weather reputation I would consider this an interesting choice, but it is covered; and on a nice summer day, it is a perfect place to be. The vibrant pink exterior gives off a happy go-lucky vibe.
Greeted at the counter by a friendly member of the staff, we quickly tried to decide what we wanted. It’s not easy; the menu offers lots of options, including many for vegetarians. From sandwiches to nachos to salads, there are so many different things to try that it makes it a really easy place to bring people with every sort of taste and dietary preference. We ordered our food, made ourselves at home at one of the outdoor picnic tables, and waited for our number to be called.
I went for the famous Caribbean Roast sandwich, which contains pork that is described by the chef as “slow roasted until it falls into succulent morsels.” The messy deliciousness of marinated pork shoulder on a Macrina Bakery baguette is a joy to bite into. My brother, the one who ordered the sandwich, lovingly referred to the pork as resembling “baby fat” as he speedily devoured the entire thing. Although that may not sound like the best review, the way he ate the sandwich said otherwise. For my own order, I was craving nachos so I went with the West Caribbean Bowl, which features tortilla chips. The chips are a crisp, fresh companion to a tender chicken thigh that is as moist as you can imagine. My goal in life is to one day be able to cook a chicken thigh with the amazing flavors and moist, tender taste of this one. It is accompanied by slightly sticky white rice, juicy tomato, and subtly spicy vegetarian black beans. Next up was carne & rice (available with whatever meat you choose), made ten times better by adding the extra-cost sweetness and crunch of caramelized onions and black beans. Finally, Un Bien greens, complete with pickled beets and a light, slightly spicy dressing are a most refreshing accompaniment. I would also recommend getting the habanero spicy sauce on the side to add extra zing.
I love how many combinations of things a customer has to choose from. The highlight of nearly every dish is perfectly cooked meat, and I’m sure the kitchen’s tofu would be of a similar caliber. So many restaurants offer so little to vegetarians and vegans, but I applaud Un Bien on its versatility.
To me, this place truly is the epitome of Roadfood, but with a Seattle twist on casual cuisine. Any day, the Caribbean sandwiches of Un Bien would more than satisfy my food cravings (although the restaurant is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays).
Next, I am going to try Un Bien’s competitor, Paseo, to see whose Caribbean roast is better.
Note: A 2nd location of Un Bien is located at 6226 Seaview Ave, NW in Shilshole (206-420-7545)