I have been gone from Seattle for several months now and find myself missing a great many things about the beautiful city. I have so many memories about the place, having had the amazing chance to go to a multitude of restaurants, sample the city life in unique ways, and in general be out and about quiet often. I wanted to whittle this down to ten unique things that I really liked. Even while writing this I realized there were so many more. Not included in this list are things like Alki beach, B & O Espresso dessert, Goorin Hat Brothers, Paseo, University of Washington, SAM, The Pink Door, All Saints, and a hundred other restaurants, nooks and crannies. I also do not mention the weekly ritual of the neighborhood market. I loved all these things. I miss them very much. But here are 10 that were dear to me:
Warm up. Taking the Ferry, Elliot Bay
In the final year I was in Seattle, my chances to do this activity were greatly increased and whether with my car or as a walk on, taking the ferry was somehow a singular experience that I didn’t take for granted. If you sit on the inside near a window, somehow a strange calm comes over you. I think it is the hum of the ferry and the gentle rock of a stable boat. Its a rather womb-like experience …can’t explain it any other way really. If you go to the top and stroll about as many do on a nice day, the views of the harbor and Elliot Bay are stunning, and I haven’t had a better memory of Mt. Rainier than viewing it aboard a ferry. To many this is a way of commuting from places such as Bainbridge Island and might be a day to day hassle, but for the occasional traveler, its worth trying.
10. Oddfellows and Elliot Bay Book Company, Capitol Hill
Side by side these establishments are, and they make a fine morning any day of the week. Going to Oddfellows for a breakfast sandwich and a bottomless coffee is a fantastic idea. The windows let in a myriad of sunlight on old wood furniture. It just feels good to be there, something of which I take very seriously and never, ever take for granted. And when finished, hop on over to browse the bookshelves at Elliot Bay Bookstore. It is certainly over-priced, but they sometimes have interesting selections and the feel of a bookstore that loves books is a unique experience.
9. Chicken Chorizo Burrito at Sonrisa, University Village; Panang Curry at Thai Fusion Bistro, Northgate
I found myself falling in love with fusion restaurants in Seattle, and two of my favorites were Sonrisa in University Village and Thai Fusion Bistro in Northgate. I do love trying new dishes at restaurants, but sometimes one finds something so wonderful that you can’t help but keep going back for the same thing. One of those dishes was the chicken chorizo burrito at Sonrisa. Most of their menu is quite nice and they serve better than average chips as traditional at Mexican restaurants. Its ambiance is a little cold and sterile, but they have a patio for the sunny season. I would recommend a lunch there with friends.
The other gem I uncovered for myself was the panang curry at Thai Fusion Bistro in Thorton Place, which is across the street from Northgate Mall and right next to the entrance of the new movie theater. A close second, as far as panang goes, is Jhan Jay’s panang which is vegetarian, but there is something so delicious about the way Thai Fusion completes their sauce. It has a wonderful finish to the flavor. A worthy meal. The ambiance here is once again pretty sterile and dry, and would recommend going for lunch – its a little cheaper.
8. The Center for Wooden Boats, South Lake Union
The Center for Wooden Boats is not just a marina for fledgling sailors, nor is it a place to glimpse old, refurbished boats of yore. For a small fee, you can go rowing in Lake Union in one of these fine old crafts. The first time I did this was on a whim after helping move my friend. We invited another friend, and suddenly there we were, three men in a small wooden boat. Silly really, but a lot of fun. Since then, I have gone a number of times with visiting friends and its always a peaceful experience. Sea planes are landing on the lake next to you and you are surrounded by beautiful views of Queen Anne, Fremont, Eastlake, Capitol Hill, and Downtown. It is certainly a unique experience to try.
7. Purple, Downtown
Seemingly always full and vibrant, this is a favorite of mine located on 4th Ave. This two-leveled restaurant has a romantic atmosphere and I’ve had a number of amazing dinners and memories here. It not only has a substantial wine list for those that want to partake of the grape, but it also has, in my humble opinion, a great menu. In particular I want to single out the gorgonzola stuffed dates. This small plate was a joy every time I and friends stopped by. But truly, there are a great number of tasty bites. I encourage you to sample and be transformed. This is a great restaurant for special occasions. You won’t be disappointed.
6. Walking Green Lake, Greenlake
I cannot remember the number of times I did this. Hundreds for sure. If I lived in Seattle for many years, it would be thousands. I felt a desire for it on a daily and weekly basis….and I was not alone. Here is a woman named Mercedes Lawry with a common view on this activity:
I’ve been walking Green Lake for over 25 years and I never tire of it. I love the seasonal changes and the fact that nature provides something different on every visit.…On one day, I may simply want to get my heart pumping and I’ll keep up a brisk pace around the lake. Another time I might stroll, inadvertently eavesdropping and noting the many different languages I hear (not that I can identify them all). Like most parks, Green Lake is a great place to people-watch…
Even for the visitor to Seattle, this would be a worthwhile activity. To walk around once only takes 45 minutes to an hour depending upon pace, and you feel great at the end. Something good I used to do with a friend would be to start by getting a hot chocolate at Chocolati next to the lake at the beginning, or getting it at the end as a nice reward.
5. Feierabend, South Lake Union
Chris Navarra knows what he is doing. I think that is the simplest way to say it, and the simplest way to show my love for this fine establishment. Its ambiance is full of thick wood, rich smells, and loud people. It just feels old and fantastic, although located in a newish building off Yale Ave. Their curry ketchup is completely delicious with fries as well as is the rest of their menu, and they of course have all the Bavarian beverages one would want.
4. Ballard Locks, Ballard; Arboretum, Montlake and Madison Valley
I wanted to share a couple of the peaceful parks which harbor trees and to be honest, natural beauty is rare in cities these days. The Arboretum holds trails galore, and they are not difficult so any could partake regardless of health I think. What wonderful trees, shrubs, and flowers of this park are worth visiting, and if you live there and haven’t in a while you should go back. I don’t think it matters what season, it will refresh you.
The Ballard Locks is an interesting place to visit at any time of the year, but probably more so when boat traffic is high. Watching tug boats and shrimping boats go through the big locks is fun and a little calming. There are also several beautiful gardens in the surrounding park with places to sit in the sun and relax.
3. Carkeek Park, Broadview
This is my choice among the many beaches of Seattle. Many would choose Golden Gardens…and so would I except that it is often too busy. Carkeek’s beach is smaller, but it’s trails in the surrounding park are really great and they get your heart going at least in a minor way. If you walk Piper’s Creek away from the beach, you will even come across an rare orchard that was planted 120 years ago. A very peaceful and beautiful place called Piper’s Orchard.
I have found an empty barbeque here more often than at Golden Gardens and it has excellent views of the Olympic Mountains and Puget Sound. The playground and lawn gets pretty crowded on really nice days. To be honest, I’ve found the most enjoyable days to be there are on the cold, windy, bitter days. You can take mittens and a scarf and sit on the driftwood and breathe the clean air. The mind can’t help but clear the confusion of the city and you feel refreshed.
2. Compline at St. Mark’s Cathedral, Capitol Hill
Get there early. This unique worship experience is great for visitors and locals alike. For travelers, St. Marks is the big cathedral you can see coming into the city on your left as you head south toward downtown on 5. On Sunday nights, the men of Compline Choir sing and chant while hundreds of people not only sit in pews, but bring blankets to lay on the floor and lean against pillars, all filling their ears with the high harmonies of the ancient rite.
I remember getting there quite early to rest and meditate in the pregnant silence. People of types and ages would enter the hall, some finding their traditional places, some walking in hesitantly. A different type of silence takes hold when the choir walks the aisle. There is expectancy and honor. They always do a great job under the direction of Jason Anderson and one cannot help but leave filled in spirit. You won’t regret going.
1. Breakfast at Hi Life, Ballard
This became number one quite naturally, because the fulfilling combination of great breakfast food, quality bottomless coffee, the smell of an open kitchen and wood burning stove, and great service…all at a surprisingly fantastic price. I think to sum it up in an easy way: I felt at home here, and that is an important thing. Three breakfast items to recommend: Their biscuits and gravy are the best I’ve ever had…anywhere. Their breakfast sandwich is always spectacular and finally their pancakes are way above average.
I think I sighed more and shared a poignant moment with a friend here more than any other place, and one cannot say enough about breakfast at a place you love. If you did this on a Sunday, something fun to do after is walk a couple blocks to the Ballard market, which focuses on vegetables and other food. As a visitor, it is a wonderful way to experience a great Seattle neighborhood and see how the locals live. But be careful, you will fall in love with it.