You wouldn’t expect much from the looks of this dive in the heart of downtown, but they more than make up for what they lack in style with plates piled high with big Filipino flavors.
Just a stone’s throw from Pike Place Market and the throngs of tourists, Ludi’s was packed with people who were obviously regulars, who knew the servers by name and were comfortable helping themselves to coffee behind the counter. Many of the seats are counter-service, hearkening back to old-school diners, and the walls are cracked with peeling paint, but the stools are comfortable and the staff is always smiling. Your water glass will always be full, without you even noticing it’s gotten low. And breakfast is served all day long.
I like places like this, and more often than not, I’ve found that the family run joints you might pass by because they aren’t “nice” on the outside serve up food full of a soul that you can’t get anywhere else. It’s a “never judge a book by it’s cover” sort of deal. And Ludi’s owner, Greg Rosas, brings all the flavors of his native Manila to the incredible Filipino breakfasts he serves, and some of the best lumpia you’ll ever try.
I was impressed at a kitchen running without any written tickets, just hollered orders from the servers–no easy feat–and that they delivered my order piping hot within just a few short moments. I went at lunchtime and ordered the longsilog–a Filipino breakfast of 3 longaniza sausages, 2 eggs, and “lots of garlic rice”, as the menu puts it–and a side of lumpia.
I first had lumpia in culinary school, made by one of my peers who was also from Manila. I fell in love at first bite. The pastry is crispy and stuffed to bursting with pork spiced with garlic and quietly sweet vegetables like carrots and onions. The presentation may not be pretty, much like the restaurant itself, but when you mix pork with a little sweetness, magic happens. It’s why we eat pork chops with apples and pulled pork sandwiches with sickeningly-sweet barbeque sauces. And the play of the soft mixture inside with the crunch of the wrapper makes lumpia also texturally pleasing.
If you’re less adventurous, you can definitely follow the lead of the guy next to me, who got 2 pancakes, scrambled eggs, and 2 of the biggest slices of bacon I’ve ever seen. Another guy at the counter order chicken Katsu, which he ate so fast I never even saw it, so I can only assume it must have been good. There’s also, interestingly, a full bar. If life’s treating you harshly, I suppose you could always wash your eggs down with some rum if it suited your fancy.
The server brought me a plate piled high with food, along with a fresh jar of sambal and a little bowl of chopped tomatoes, green onions, and cabbage marinated in soy sauce. I left the soy sauce at the bottom of the bowl; it added far too much saltiness. Instead, use the fresh tomatoes to add a serious pop of acid that gives the dish a real sense of balance. Longaniza, similar to the more well-known chorizo or linguica, has a distinctly sweet taste that lingers on your palate. You can have the eggs any way you like, and you runny-yolk lovers should definitely go for that here, as the yolks would add a sauce-like quality when mixed with the rice. I’ve never been a fan of eggs that are anything less than well done, though, so I got mine scrambled.
For $10.50, I got two full meals from Ludi’s, as the portions were giant. The most expensive item on the menu is a half-pound ribeye, and if you’re not a breakfast person, Ludi’s also has wings, steaks, fried chicken, fish and chips, chicken strips, burgers, and a wide array of sandwiches. The average menu item will cost you right around $10, and you’ll leave happy and full.
You might have to convince yourself to push past the gruff exterior and the neighborhood, but you’ll find Ludi’s Filipino fare is definitely worth it. A wise chef I once worked for told me that the hallmark of a really excellent, well-balanced dish was that you were still tasting it and thinking about it much later, still wishing for another bite. It’s been about twelve hours and I’m still recalling the sweet sausage, garlicky rice, spicy sambal, and bright tomatoes. You won’t be disappointed.
Ludi’s Restaurant & Lounge
200 Pike Street (corner of 2nd Ave & Pike St)
open 6AM to 10PM daily