McGinn's bet on New Orleans-Seahawks game: What, no teriyaki pride, Mr. Mayor?

Salmon, doughnuts, and music? All fine to share with the visitors. But, please, don't let them see us eating teriyaki.

Crosscut archive image.

A Capitol Hill teriyaki shop (part of a set of images created with night photography and select Photoshop filters)

Salmon, doughnuts, and music? All fine to share with the visitors. But, please, don't let them see us eating teriyaki.

In preparation for Saturday’s NFL playoff game between the Seattle Seahawks and the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints, Mayor Mike McGinn made a customary bet today with the mayor of New Orleans, Mitch Landrieu.

“I feel kind of bad about the bet,” McGinn said wryly in a press release.  “The Saints may be defending Super Bowl champs, but they’ve never won a road playoff game.  The 12th Man is on it.”

In the “unlikely event of a Saints victory,” McGinn promised to give Landrieu music from the “Seattle scene,” a pound of smoked salmon, and one dozen maple bars from Top Pot an intentional, good-natured reference by the city to an incident last summer when Seahawks rookie receiver Golden Tate famously broke into a Top Pot store.

Tate loves Top Pot maple bars so much, he helped himself to some at the Bellevue Top Pot — Tate lived in the same building that houses the donut shop — in the middle of the night when the store was closed. He got caught but was let off with a warning by police. The incident was probably exponentially more helpful to Top Pot than harmful, as the publicity no doubt boosted Top Pot’s reputation. Top Pot: donuts worth breaking and entering for.

Salmon and grunge music are well-known cultural symbols of Seattle, but donuts? It might surprise the citizens of New Orleans (or any other city for that matter) to discover that whole-grain Seattle is known for its deep-fried dough. New Orleans, home of beignets, makes a much stronger claim.

As I wrote last week in an article about teriyaki, local politicians make these kinds of wagers all the time on big games, but seldom if ever bet what many claim to be the unofficial dish of Seattle, teriyaki. Salmon speaks to the city's history and tradition; Top Pot speaks to the city's aspirations as an urbane, self-assured metropolis; but teriyaki is apparently what all of us actually eat every day and what sets our city apart. Other cities have donuts but no other does teriyaki quite like Seattle does.

Since the Saints are favored to win by 10 points, it is likely McGinn will have to pay up. The game might have been an opportunity for the city to trumpet its teriyaki culture in a national context.

While we eat it all the time, it seems we do not like to serve it to guests, hiding it with all the chipped plates, while we bring out the good china. We would rather be known for our artisanal cheese, micro-roast coffee, and wild salmon (most of which is actually caught up in Alaska). So it appears that we enjoy our teriyaki with a side of shame, a sprinkle of embarrassment, a dollop of sheepishness. We like it but we do not imagine anyone else would be impressed by it.

“We talked about betting a lot of different things,” the mayor’s spokesman Aaron Pickus wrote. “I’m not sure if teriyaki came up or not.”

Should the Seahawks win, Landrieu will fork over some Louisiana shrimp and oysters, gumbo, king cake (the traditional cake of Mardi Gras), and music from Fats Domino and the Neville Brothers among others.


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About the Authors & Contributors

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Hugo Kugiya

A former national correspondent for The Associated Press and Newsday, freelance writer Hugo Kugiya has written about the Northwest for the Puget Sound Business Journal, The Seattle Times, the Los Angeles Times, and The New York Times. His book, 58 Degrees North, about the sinking of the Arctic Rose fishing vessel, was a finalist for the 2006 Washington State Book Award. You can reach him at