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A Roadside Chat with Sal the SpokesSalmon and Ai, the owner of Pearls Tea and Café on Delridge

This blog was written by Sal the SpokesSalmon (with the help of her human friends at SDOT).

Why, HELLO! If you haven’t had the pleasure to meet me yet, I’m Sal, SDOT’s SpokesSalmon! SDOT lets me take over the blog and social media accounts from time to time.  

I live in West Seattle and I’m spreading the word to my fellow West Seattle island mates that they should #FlipYourTrip and get around by biking, busing, scooting, strolling, speed walking, jogging, running, carpooling, vanpooling, water taxiing, swimming, ferrying, skipping, skipping backwards, skateboarding, roller skating, roller blading, or any other mode that doesn’t involve driving alone. I know, sometimes, people have to drive to get where they need to go. Trust me, I get it. That’s why it’s so important that all of us who have other travel options should do our part. That way, people who don’t have a choice can get where they need to go more easily. 

Why flip? Well, it’s good for all my fish and orca friends, but the number one reason I’m spreading the word is because it’s good for my neighbors who live along the detour routes to the 1st Ave Bridge.  

Replacing your drive alone trips off the island with one of those ⬆ options, decreases traffic through South Park, Georgetown, Highland Park, Riverview, South Delridge, and other neighborhoods along the detour routes. Another way you can flip a trip is by staying local and frequenting our amazing local businesses, like Pearls! 

West Seattle is basically my favorite place on Earth. Good people, good food, good beaches. What else do you need?  

Last month was Asian Pacific Islander (API) Heritage Month and I made an extra effort to stop by some of my favorite Asian- and Pacific Islander- owned businesses in West Seattle, like Bang Bar Thai Restaurant & Lounge and Fresh Flours, among many others. I stopped in Pearls Tea and Cafe for a bubble tea and crêpe and was lucky enough to sit down with Ai, the owner!  

If you haven’t been to Pearls yet, stop what you’re doing right now (well, after you finish reading my blog) and make your way to Delridge. Your tastebuds will thank you.  

I first learned about Pearls when I was checking in on some of my SDOT colleagues who were working on Delridge Way SW.  

We’re completely repaving the street, working with Metro to add a new RapidRide bus route, upgrading utilities, and making a ton of safety improvements including new curb ramps, crosswalks, bike lanes, and adding turn lanes.  

We’re incredibly grateful to all the nearby businesses who’ve been involved in the planning and engagement process for this project and have been extremely patient – and remain open!! – during construction. We can’t thank them enough for their support!  

Next year, when construction is complete, Delridge is going to be one of my favorite north/south bike routes in West Seattle. Right now though… well… it’s under construction. But hey, a little construction doesn’t stop me from satisfying a bubble tea craving. And I hope it doesn’t stop you either from visiting your favorite businesses on Delridge Way SW. 

I sat down for a little Roadside Chat with Ai and our friend Kevin who translated our conversation between Vietnamese and English. 

Photo of Ai, Sal the SpokesSalmon puppet, Kevin, and another friend, holding a bubble tea from Pearls Tea and Cafe
That’s me, Sal the SpokesSalmon (fish puppet), with Ai (left), and Kevin (right) who translated our conversation between Vietnamese and English.

So Ai let’s kick of this Roadside Chat! Tell me about this place, how long has Pearl’s been around?  

Pearls Tea and Cafe has been here for 15 years. I started to take it over in 2019, about 2 years ago. The people who live in this neighborhood and close by are so nice and supportive. The reason I chose to buy the tea shop was because the store has been here for a long time and has a lot of long time customers who come again and again. It’s good for businesses.  

What have you changed about the cafe to make Pearls your own? 

I’ve changed the menu and added new methods to brew coffee, new bubble tea flavors, and have been creative with crêpe recipes.  

I’ve also improved service to create better customer satisfaction. Although in the beginning it was a struggle, we listened to customer feedback, and improved our services, food, and drinks. Through the daily effort and support from Pearls customer’s, we’ve made a lot of improvements.  

As a business owner, seeing our customers’ support and their love for us has made me feel like the daily effort and the hardship I’ve gone through is worth it. I appreciate the love, enthusiasm, and thankfulness from my employee and customers. I’m thankful for the support.  

I love my customers. They understand that I don’t speak English well, and they’re understanding and supportive. They also know my effort in speaking English.  

Why did you choose to open a café in this neighborhood? 

The color purple and the location is very good. The café is close to the beach and West Seattle Bridge, and when people drive by they can see the store. 

What are the local’s favorite items on your menu?  

There are two favorite crêpes on our menu! Nutty Strawberry and Smoked salmon. 

If you’re in the neighborhood, stop by Pearls and the many other API-owned restaurants in the area and businesses on Delridge Way SW! 

And uh, I know everyone loves the smoked salmon crêpe… but I say go for the Nutty Strawberry! 

Well, my time on the SDOT blog is coming to an end for the day! It’s been real. Keep an eye out for me on the @SeattleDOT twitter page where I’ll keep posting selfies at some fave West Seattle hangs.  Salmon out!🐟