Posted October 11, 2014 by Cooper Point Journal in Arts & Entertainment

Cheap Eats: 4th Ave for $5

By Ira Zuckerman

Like many students, I got lost on move-in day. I got lost in the thick of downtown Olympia with a dorm-mate trying to find an inexpensive dinner, something to settle the shock of leaving home. Like two blind vultures, we wandered in circles, looking for the perfect combination of warm bread and greasy meat. Half an hour later, we gave into eating some very forgettable gyros. Thankfully, the food experience of Olympia doesn’t have to be that way. Anyone who wants to fill their stomach with a five dollar bill can just walk down 4th Avenue.


108 Franklin St NE

In a time of ‘90s sentimentality and information age celebration, Old School Pizzeria feels just archaic enough to not be sickeningly trendy. You have your choice to eat beneath world-weary posters of Alfred E. Neuman in Air Jordans, or the World Trade Center against a sunset.

Just north on to Franklin Street from 4th Avenue, Old School Pizzeria draws customers in with the infectious disco and funk spewn from its open doors. The nostalgic painting of a UFO blasting a generic purple nebula is only as welcoming as the one of a unicorn-pegasus sporting a strawberry blond hair-metal cut opposing it.

It’s tempting to buy two slices beneath the Dio posters and chalkboard menu, but just one can feel like a whole meal. A wide spectrum of fresh, slices are available from day-to-day, whether glistening with sausage and Canadian bacon, or painted with the greens of basil and spinach.


4th Ave E & Plum St

“An Arepa [a-ré-pa], a dish made of ground corn dough filled with a variety of cheeses, meats, and veggies,” the menu says, assuring those cultured enough to eat it are cultured enough to pronounce it.

No hip metropolitan center seems complete these days without a fleet of food trucks. For today’s urbanites with a cash flow, there’s something irresistible about being able to buy a $9 sandwich in the same airspace as a homeless person.

The mission of the modern food truck is simple: provide artisanal upper-class food to foodies, while maintaining the fashionable poverty associated with food trucks. Finally, no one must pick between the cool of gourmet or the street cred of buying your food from a car.

Olympia’s chow-cruisers have set up fort in a dusty lot by 4th Avenue and Plum Street, up toward the east end of town. Nestled in the back, against Old School’s historic mural of Yoda and Co. floating in space, sits the Arepa truck, decorated with artful photos of corn, tropical living, other Latin American tropes, and what appear to be a freckled American’s Instagram pictures.

Be kind to whoever is working the counter, they’ve been recently pestered by fashionably spiritual moms trying to get more ice for their kid’s soda and ex-punk dads bragging about their vacation to Venezuela last year.

A light bulb-sized burger is $4; it tastes good and digests well. That’s about it. If you want the food they liked enough to name themselves after, it’s $7.


311 4th Ave E

Those with a more streetwise stomach will do well with the grub just around the corner from Old School. Stuffed between the ash black walls of Jake’s CCTV’d gay bar and Jamie Lee and Company’s pastel pink and blue hair salon, the saturated yellows and reds highlight just what’s good at Olympia Hot Dog Company: where the condiments are closer to the curbside puddles than the kitchen.

Literally a hole in the wall, Olympia Hot Dog Company has a refreshing style of street food: cheap. Believe it or not, $5 gets you plenty. Lit up at night with Christmas lights strikingly familiar to those in dorm rooms, these dogs are made to be blanketed with jalapeños and sauerkraut while stumbling your way from concert to concert.

The food does exactly what you think it does. The optional (but recommended) Seattle-style cream cheese adds a soft landing to each bite, which imbues you with a communal satisfaction from decades of munchie hunters. It can feel like the pig you just ate spent its Friday nights at crust punk shows and is trying to start a mosh pit in your stomach, but anyone who gets food here knows what they’re getting into.