Seattle City Guide

kerry park-seattleDean and I left Seattle at the beginning of the week and closed a huge chapter of our lives. We’ll be back to visit, of course, but it was tough saying ‘goodbye’ to our wonderful friends and a city we’ve grown to love so much. I don’t believe in the Seattle Freeze, this is the friendliest town I’ve ever lived in. Here’s a long list of my favorite places… I’m sure I missed a ton.


The Seattle Public Library, central branch: This library totally rules. Attend any number of their free events with novelists, cartoonists, and journalists. Take advantage of the hold system. Enjoy the cafe. The building is composed of ten impeccably designed floors, the coolest being the Red Hall. Interesting fact: I always thought the Rem Koolhaus design looked like a shiny, smooshed skyscraper but my friend got a job here and told me it’s supposed to be a stack of books.
Pike Place Market: Hit up Frank’s Quality for the freshest groceries and ask Chaz what’s good- he’s a stand-up guy. Three Girls Bakery for the best loaf in the city, the Fremont sourdough. Cinnamon Works for any of their amazing treats- I have a weakness for their enormous vegan snickerdoodles. MarketSpice for any spice, tea, or cocoa (love the hand-drawn labels!). Down and around the way, is the gum wall, a prime photo op for visiting dignitaries. Last, nothing brightens up a day in Seattle like a big, bright, and CHEAP bouquet of flowers from one of those middle stalls.
Seattle Art Museum: a great space. The permanent collections are wide-ranging and the special exhibits have featured everything from Michelango’s shopping lists to Comme des Garçons dresses. If you can’t spring the $20 for a ticket, check out the SAM on Free Museum Day (first Thursdays).
Cinerama: a first-class movie-watching experience. Doesn’t hurt that the seats are way more comfortable than the average theater seat and the concessions are reasonably priced (even the coffee they serve is good!).
The 5 Point Cafe: a beloved dive bar and diner, open 24-hours. Dean and I have lotsa fond memories of going here when we lived nearby. Pints of Manny’s and 1 lb of cheese fries. I was pleasantly surprised to see new management had added tofu scrambles to the menu.
Shorty’s: a bar with a large collection of terrifying clown art, a nice variety of pinball, and hot dogs (and not dogs!). Sit at a table that’s fashioned from an old pinball machine!

Queen Anne|South Lake Union|Eastlake

Uptown Cinema/SIFF: two awesome movie theaters, one on Queen Anne and the other in Seattle Center. Almost everything they show is worth watching.
The Vera Project: an all ages music and event venue. Teen volunteers run most everything from concessions to sound. I bet it’s the only place you can see a band and buy your date airheads candy.
Bamboo Garden: The comfort of Chinese takeout, veganized (minus the fortune cookies). I’m a glutton for greasy, fried comfort food and any entree here lasts me two meals.
Vivace at Alley 24: Vivace has a few locations but I prefer this one because it’s rarely ever crowded. I’m no coffee expert but the baristas are terrific and the drinks are high quality.
Molly Moon’s: I don’t even eat waffle cones but the scent never fails to draw me inside. Their flavors are delicious and creative: earl grey, honey lavender, vegan salted caramel. Grab a scoop to-go and walk over to…
Kerry park: for breathtaking views of the city. This is a small lookout point but it’s one of the best spots to watch the sunset (or even right after the sun sets like the photo I snapped for this post).
Portage Bay: It’s loud and there’s a line but brunch does not disappoint. They have well-done classics and options for everyone’s diet. I’m delighted by the breakfast bar where you can dress up your pancakes with a mountain of toppings.
The Lo-Fi: The Lo-Fi has had various Britpop dance nights so they are eternally my favorite venue in the city. I liked to kill time in what we called ‘the Bladerunner room’ and take a photo strip in the black and white photobooth.
Black Lodge: The walls are painted with trippy art, there are skulls by the curtains, and there’s a punk rock dog who will keep you company if you’re going to a show alone.

Capitol Hill|First Hill|Central District

Elliott Bay Books: a beautiful bookstore. The shelves are peppered with ’employee picks’ and those recommendations have never steered me wrong. The cafe is lovely too.
Atomic Cosmetics: a glittery paradise selling toxic-free, long-lasting makeup. Dr Jen is delightful and can mix up a foundation to perfectly match any skin tone. The cosmetics of choice for Seattle’s superstar drag queens.
Central Cinema: a movie theater where you can order drinks and dinner!
Chop Suey: a music venue with a giant Chinese dragon hanging from the ceiling. I’ve had nothing but positive experiences at shows here, mostly bands but one memorable author reading too. They also host Talcum, a super fun soul dance night.
Neumos: another pretty good music venue, conveniently located next to Pike St Fish Fry. In the basement is Barboza. Before Barboza, our friend hosted Dirt Bag Prom down there- it one of the first dates I went on with Dean. Bwah.
Rancho Bravo: Filling, tasty Mexican food. I think this is the best bang for your buck on the hill. Pozole, meaty burritos, and horchata for James. Veggie tacos and Mexican Coke for me.
Molly Moon’s: Ok, I already listed Molly Moon’s but if you eat at Rancho Bravo, you can get dessert here!
In The Bowl: Asian vegetarian cuisine. Their spicy coconut fried rice is the stuff of dreams and their soups will rejuvenate the soul after a chilly, rainy day. Aaand they have my favorite bathroom in the city- definitely check it out.
Plum Bistro: a pricey but thoroughly impressive vegan restaurant. Everything I’ve tried has knocked my socks off. Even Dean digs their mac ‘n’ yease.
Cafe Flora: my favorite place to brunch. The service is friendly and the building is sunny. Get the hoppin’ John fritters: black-eyed pea cakes, smoky collard greens, and tofu subbed for cheesy grits. It’s also right across the street from…
The Arboretum: a 230-acre park by Lake Washington where you can take a nice walk after brunch and booze to admire plants, ducks, and cute dogs. If you’ve got extra time and cash, check out the Japanese Garden.
Mystery Coke Machine: a vending machine off of Broadway where all your options are a mystery. The mystery! The thrill!
Red Light: a vintage clothing shop with clothing arranged by decade and half of the basement devoted to costumes.

University District|Maple Leaf

Scarecrow Video: truly one of Seattle’s gems. Scarecrow carries over 100,000 movies in various formats. You can rent an all-region DVD player or VHS player if you don’t have one. The folks who work here are dedicated to film.
Wayward Cafe: I read a Yelp review that described this place as Vegan Denny’s which it totally is… but way better than Denny’s. Veganized versions of all the best breakfast comfort foods.
Violet Sweet Shoppe: a vegan bakery located next to a butcher. Anyone with a sweet tooth would find something to drool over. The tarts and cakes are works of art and there are non-dairy shakes.
Samurai Noodle: I’d never had traditional ramen before and it was a revelation. Haha, now I don’t eat traditional ramen but I like the vegan version at this location. Hit up happy hour for a sweet deal on an appetizer and sake.
Chaco Canyon: healthy, organic, locally grown food and faaahncy juice.
Chang’s: the finest Chinese food outside of the ID. I lived for their lunch specials and am currently on the lookout for anything close to their handmade noodles. Ugh, so good!
Rooster’s Espresso: always a treat to get an afternoon coffee at Rooster’s.
Math ‘n’ Stuff: an excellent, independent shop full of math related-products and nerdy tabletop games.

The Fremont Troll: A giant public sculpture of a troll under the Aurora bridge. Climb all over ‘im!
Al’s Tavern: Honestly, we only went once but all our Seattle pals are fans so it seems right to include Al’s. The bartender has a strong pour on wells and the beer’s served in mason jars. And there’s pool and video games. It’s super cheap but bring cash!
Mighty O Donuts: world’s most delicious donuts. Especially the french toast, bunny whiskers, and cocoloco flavors.
Tractor Tavern: I think it’s unusual how little time I spent in Ballard. When I did go, it was usually to see a show here where I always had a good time.
Golden Gardens: a fantastic park with a real beach, hiking trails, and playground. Hang out with friends around a fire pit and enjoy the views.
Gas Works Park: a former coal plant turned into a park. It’s pretty cool to see old machinery on display and the old boiler house as a picnic area. You can fly a kite on top of the hill and take in the view of Lake Union.
Archie McPhee: a toy and gag gift shop. There’s a bathtub full of finger tentacles, yodeling pickles, taxidermy eyes, horse head masks, and a photobooth. I knocked out a big chunk of my holiday shopping list here.

International District

Uwajimaya/Kinokuniya: While there are cheaper grocery stores in walking distance, Uwajimaya seems like the biggest and easiest to navigate. As a bonus, it has a nice food court and Samurai Noodle location in the same building. Attached is Kinokuniya, a bookstore with contemporary books from all over, as well as kawaii toys, and stationery.
Daiso: like a Dollar Store for random, cheap, awesome things. Most items are $1.50: mug tops shaped like cat faces, erasers shaped like food, fun notebooks, and washi tape.
Panama Hotel Tea House: a lovely place for a pot of peppermint tea and a book. There’s are some glass slats in the floor at the back where you can see some of the possessions stored by Japanese Americans sent to internment camps (not sure if there are replicas mixed in). Sad and fascinating to see.
Goodwill Outlet: All the runover and/or rejects from the other Goodwills are sold here, about 49cents per pound. The deepest of deep discounts! If you like digging and don’t mind dirt, you can leave with an armful of treasures for just a coupla bucks. Keep out of the way of any aggressive regulars and, tho I never bothered, it’s a good idea to wear gloves.
♥ALL THE FOOD: there are too many good places to eat. Too many!

West Seattle/Georgetown

Junction Beer: you can drink beer at the bar or you can take a pint with you while you shop their 1,300 domestic and imported beers (there’s a pint holder in the cart!).
Katsu Burger: panko-breaded burgers with more vertical height than any burger should have. I like to get the honey tofu patty with sriracha and nori fries. Drooool.
Easy Street Records: a good record shop and a good cafe for brunch. I’m sorry I never got to meet the guy who paints the record covers on the wall and made all the cool displays. Also sorry the Lower Queen Anne location had to close.
Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery: Only my top spot on the list! The regular readings/signings/screenings/etc are all worth checking out. Don’t forget the damage room for killer deals and make sure to talk to Larry who’ll give you great recommendations and tell you the best stories.
Smarty Pants: No amount of praise could do these sandwiches justice. Besides the food, a waitress once made me a hot toddy when I was under the weather- loyal customer for life. :)

See you on a future vacation, Seattle!

6 thoughts on “Seattle City Guide

  1. I see a lot of familiar favorites on this list as well as about two dozen places I’ve never even heard of but now want to visit. I’m definitely going to refer to this post during my next trip to Seattle.

    Good luck in your new town!

    • Thanks! I hope you find something new you like! We’re already looking forward to visiting Seattle in the fall for our friends’ wedding but so far, we love Athens. :)

    • Oh, thanks! Athens is so different from Seattle (or Georgia is so different from anywhere we’ve lived) but I think we’ve already found plenty to love.

  2. Dang I’m way behind here… How did I miss this? Anyway, great list with many familiar favorites and great-sounding places I obviously need to visit! Katsura Burger sounds especially appealing. And I’ve never tried Changs but am guessing if you recommend them they are veg-friendly.? Ha, I remember Darren Hanlon mentioning Shorty’s (he’s a pinball fan) during a gig here.

    • Thanks! Yep, plenty of veg-friendly options at Changs. My former co-workers and I were really, really into it but I’ve found it’s hit or miss with everyone else I’ve taken- hope you like it if you go! Also, if you’re ever at the Fanta store in Georgetown, I think you and M would enjoy talking to Larry. I’m a little fuzzy on details but he had a part in opening Shorty’s and did something with Nick Cave. Also, he’s simply one of the coolest guys in town to talk to. :)

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