Insiders Guide To Seattle

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They say that it rains more in London than in Seattle. I’m not sure who “they “ are but, I will tell you this, a sunny day in Jet City is particularly special.

Known as the Emerald City because of the lush greenery; Seattle is a lively, progressive urban center, with a plethora of parks and surrounded by natural beauty; home to about 3.3 million people (an estimated 602,000 in the city proper). It is often times credited as the West Coast birthplace of the hipster craze, so, naturally, it has several cool kid neighborhoods like Capitol Hill, Ballard, and Belltown. People here are enamored about getting out into nature, and they’re serious about protecting the environment. The live-music scene that boosted Seattle to pop-culture influence during the ’90s grunge scene (think Nirvana and Pearl Jam) continues to thrive.

Seattleites love good beer; the city is a cornerstone of the microbrew revolution. And, it makes coffee well enough to have launched an espresso empire—Starbucks, Peets, Tully's to name a few that started the coffee craze in the ’90s. It’s a bookish, erudite place, but also a dynamic and inventive urban center, with growing technology industries—Microsoft, Amazon, Boeing—and vibrant enclaves of restaurants, bars, and galleries.

Lauded restaurants, local distilleries and breweries, and museums with themes ranging from art to aviation, there is something for every visitor. On rainy days, relax in a quirky café, enjoy some neighborhood boutique shopping, or browse at an independent bookstore on Capitol Hill. Want to get out of the city? Take a day trip to Bainbridge Island, Tacoma, Leavenworth, or Mount Rainier.

Ready for a perfect Seattle day or weekend in Seattle? Grab your comfiest shoes, jacket, and sunnies, we’re about to explore the Pacific Northwest by way of Seattle.

Photo Credit: Max Delsid

Photo Credit: Max Delsid

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THINGS TO DO

The most prominent landmark is this area is the Seattle Center, which houses the Pacific Science Center, Museum of Pop Culture, Space Needle and Chihuly Garden and Glass. Musical and performing arts shows are put on by the Pacific Northwest Ballet and Seattle Opera at the McCaw Hall, and professional sports teams display their skills at the Key Arena, home of the Seattle Storm, and at Memorial Stadium, home of the Seattle Reign. You can opt to visit each of these attractions, picking and choosing as you please, but to save a bit on seeing them all, or at least Seattle’s Top 5 Attractions, CityPass is the way to go. If you are looking for fun and unique things to do (off the beaten bath?), Airbnb Experiences might be you best bet. Locally Sourced 12 Course Tasting Menu to eat with locals or Photoshoot in Pike Place Market for that perfect insta-worthy shot.

There is something to be said about Summer days in Seattle, but the SEA rain adds to the charm of the city. On rainy days, relax in a quirky café, enjoy some neighborhood boutique shopping, or browse at an independent bookstore on Capitol Hill. Want to get out of the city? Take a day trip to Bainbridge Island, Tacoma, Leavenworth, or Mount Rainier.

Exploring each of Seattle’s neighborhoods will give you a great glimpse at it's distinct local flavor. You’ll find lots of nightlife in Belltown, just north of downtown, where young professionals go to eat, drink, and dance. Capitol Hill is the gay-friendly hipster scene; take a look at our Capitol Hill recommendations. Fremont has a funky, hippie attitude, with eclectic shops and landmarks like the Fremont Troll. Ballard has a strong Scandinavian history, but today it’s mainly cute boutiques and restaurants.

EAT

I have always wanted to visit the Emerald City, and each time I’ve visited, it’s been filled with sightseeing and eating my way around town. How to eat local, organic and sustainable in the Pacific Northwest?

Try to think of a food that isn’t grown, raised or harvested in the Pacific Northwest, and you’ll realize why in-the-know foodies have been putting down roots in the region for decades.

Outsiders, who have been slower to discover the abundance, now flock here for the food, seeking a taste of Northwest cuisine prepared by talented chefs who cook local, seasonal foods with an alluring simplicity. Seattle is a great starting point to taste the bounty of this region.

To an outsider the term Northwest cuisine, the obscure, all-encompassing term doesn’t really mean much. But, try asking a local, ‘What exactly is Northwest cuisine?’ and you might experience an uncomfortable pause followed by, ‘local, seasonal and fresh,’ or ‘organic and sustainable.’ While those words won’t conjure up an image of a specific dish or narrow to a section of the spice rack, they hint at what truly defines the regional fare – simplicity. I'm starting to think that the  farm-to-table and locavore trend started here.

To eat in and around Seattle, isn’t merely to eat well. It is to experience something that even many larger, more gastronomically celebrated cities and regions can’t offer, not to this degree: a profound and exhilarating, somewhat life-changing nirvana-like experience. Think fresh, local, and sustainable: Oysters, razor clams, Dungeness crab, king cod, salmon; Morel and Chanterelle mushrooms, huckleberries, to name a few. The late  Anthony Bourdain, Instagram, Eater have become my new TripAdvisor and Yelp when it comes to foodie recommendations.

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Pikes Place Market is great starting point to get a good sampling of the regions best. The whole of Pike Place Market qualifies as unique to Seattle, especially as it is a municipally preserved 100-year-old genuine farmer's market, with a fierce rejection of chain-stores. Starbuck's #1 is the exception and is grandfathered-in, but even they can't sell anything they weren't selling when they opened on Pike Place. If you are a chowder lover you must visit Pike Place Chowder. A bustling, stand in line to order then find somewhere to sit, with creamy clam and other chowders. Not a formal place at all, cardboard bowls and plastic spoons, but the food is excellent. A wide range, too, including a vegetarian and gluten-free options (The Manhattan Clam Chowder is gluten-free). Many awards are on display and they deserve the all. From what I can tell no matter what you order you will not be disappointed. The lines move rather fast so don't let them scare you. Trust me it is worth the wait! No trip to Seattle is complete without eating here.

The Calf and The Kid, once located inside the Melrose Market in Capitol Hill, was considered Seattle’s first cheese bar when it opened. You’ll find a great selection the best cheeses from all around the world and from right here in the Pacific Northwest paired perfectly with beer, wine, and spirits. After seeing this spot on Anthony Bourdain's show 'The Layover' I had to go because we were in the area. It was like a dairy heaven. The staff here really know their cheeses and can make recommendations based on your palette and preferences. Here, we picked up Saratoga Passage, a sheep cheese. While you're at the Melrose Market, pick up some cured meat and/or pate at Rain Shadow Meats, a bottle of wine from Bar Ferd'nand to pair with your cheeses. And on your way out, pick up a bag of homemade caramels from Sitka and Spruce.

Innovative and hearty with great fresh ingredients is Sitka and Spruce. More like a non-red-meat restaurant than a vegetarian restaurant--though vegetarians can eat very very well here indeed--the Sitka and Spruce’s menu emphasizes fresh and local in a way you might call sophisticated and yet holistic: unbelievably good local cheeses, olives, and bread; fermented pickled vegetables; kale with toasted hazelnuts, ash-roasted shallots and bosc pear; wild juniper cured king salmon with kohlrabi slaw; braised lamb shoulder, red potatoes, brussel sprouts and aioli. A great spot to get brunch, coffee or some yummy drinks is the light and airy hipster vibe, Oddfellows Café + Bar. Americana is a great small space, great service excellent food. Perfect for brunch with plenty of gluten-free options (gluten-free bread, granola, and buns). Creative quality food at a decent price, and interesting concoction of mixology cocktails. A narrow, casually romantic room with dark walls, muted lighting, small tables, a stamped tin ceiling and a compact bar. The place is inviting and unpretentiously hip.

The London Plane in Seattle’s Pioneer Square neighborhood is actually a collection of seven businesses in one. This lovely place includes a flower shop, patisserie, bread bakery, deli, catering kitchen, restaurant, and cafe. 

Fascinating, beautiful and imaginative with great fresh ingredients, The Walrus and the Carpenter will not disappoint. Oysters are the reason to visit. But, don't be too greedy, save room for other items on the menu. The Walrus and the Carpenter menu emphasizes fresh and local, some might say life changing: Fried Brussels Sprouts; oysters, oysters and more oysters; grilled sardines with walnuts, parsley and shallots; roasted medjool dates with sea salt. This place does not take reservations. Expect a 45 minute wait--long but well worth it.

In your search for Seattle’s most insta-worth spots, Bar Melusine is it and in the shot, you have to include the chairs which perfect coordinate with the colorful tile. The bright and airy, green and white tiled French inspired bistro will leave you in awe, from the carefully curated oyster selection to the beautifully plated dishes. There is also Copal, another insta-worthy place. Elliot's Oyster House is located on one of the piers over looking Elliot's Bay, which makes an incredible atmosphere. Their selection of oysters is why we came here. Somewhere in between the two dozen oysters and Oysters Rockefeller,  we tried the Grilled Salmon--perfectly grilled, tender and tasty. The menu is pricey but this is a great area with very good atmosphere.

And, because there is always room for dessert… As a California-girl, I’m unsure how I had never hear of a date shake until Frankie & Jo’s. The plant-based ice cream shop serves up on ode to the real-deal Palm Springs date shake in a dairy-free, vegan and paleo revival that tastes exactly like it’s dairy version.

Thirsty? Grab a drink at Sun Liquors. An intimate neighborhood cocktail lounge that uses fresh squeezed juices, syrups & bitters made in-house, whose menu is updated seasonally.

 If coffee is your thing, pay a visit to Elm Coffee Roasters, house-roasted, single-origin brews are the specialty at this casual coffeehouse in a calm palette. Sip on Victrola Coffee Roasters in a vintage decor shop. Head up the street to Capitol Coffee Works for perfectly pulled shots or the dimly lit Caffé Vita Coffee Roasting. Visit the a well-known espresso machine’s La Marzocco Cafe If you are doing a Seattle coffee crawl make this your first stop. It’s a great place to try out coffee machines and figure out which La Marzocco to follow you home. Also a great cafe to hangout at and gets pretty packed most of the time.

For a more healthy take on Seattle, grab a juice or ice from Pressed Juicery or a tasty açai bowl from Verve bowls.

SLEEP

When it comes to picking a place to stay, something for every type of traveler in Seattle: City dwellers can stay in a sleek, modern downtown hotel, while architecture buffs might want to opt for a historic Tudor home on Airbnb. You can’t go wrong with one of the best hotels in town like The Four Seasons and The Fairmont Olympic Hotel or boutique hotels Hotel Vintage, Hotel Max, and Thompson Hotels. But staying in one of the best Airbnbs in Seattle ensures you'll be immersed in the real culture of the city in a much different way. You'll find a place to stay near all the best Seattle attractions and restaurants, but you’ll also get a greater sense of what it’s really like to live in this city.

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This is by means not a full comprehensive guide of Seattle. I will keep adding to this list as I eat and visit more restaurants in Seattle. Leave me comments below if you have more suggestions and if you find this mini travel guide helpful!

Have you been to Seattle? Share your favorite places to eat.

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Photo Credit: Cover - Timothy Eberly - unsplash.com

Originally published 12/2013; Updated 3/2019