Seattle is a city that is constantly evolving. The expansion of Microsoft, Starbucks, Amazon, and countless other companies has caused an unprecedented urban growth cycle that has transformed the demographics and landscape of this beautiful city. With the exception of a few years in the mid-1990’s, I have lived my entire life in Seattle, and have had a ringside seat to its change from sleepy Northwest city to booming Pacific Rim metropolis. Put aside its reputation for rain, and you will find a lush city surrounded by mountains and water, with incredible restaurants and friendly people. Here’s the inside scoop on what is new and timeless in Seattle.
The opening of the Thompson Hotel across from the Pike Place Market brings high design and luxury to the edge of downtown. Designed by local famed architects, Olson Kundig, the Thompson combines sleek contemporary exteriors with interiors influenced by the Pacific Northwest. The Nest, the hotel’s rooftop bar has a cozy inside for dark and stormy nights, and an expansive outdoor lounge for warm summer evenings that call for star gazing around a cozy fire pit. The Thompson’s view rooms command incredible views of Elliott Bay and the Pike Place Market below, and with the freeway a mile behind the hotel, the only noise is from the ferries pulling in and out of the docks below.
COFFEE ANYONE?: Instead of lining up at the original Starbucks, stop for coffee at Storyville in the Pike Place Market and sip an excellent espresso while enjoying second-story views of the Market chaos below. A half mile away, the sunbathed space of Elm Coffee Roasters in Pioneer Square is another favorite spot for a coffee break.
BRUNCH LIKE IT’S YOUR JOB: Arguably the most popular of restauranteur Linda Derschang’s portfolio of local restaurants, Oddfellows is an all-day, everyday establishment for eating, sipping, working, and relaxing. But if it’s the weekend, pull up to the dock at nautical themed Westward for a Greek inspired brunch on the shores of Lake Union. Lounge in the Adirondack chairs while enjoying a perfectly spicy Bloody Mary alongside a fluffy Dutch baby Pancake or a Fried Pacific Oyster Roll.
LUNCH IN THE PARK: Thanks to Weyerhaeuser’s relocation of its corporate headquarters to a shiny new building adjacent to Occidental Park, the heart of Pioneer Square is beating once again. If the weather is nice, eat lunch alfresco from one of the food trucks, or pick up take out from Manu’s Tacos. If it’s a drizzly day, enjoy a cozy lunch inside at mainstay The London Plane (the mezze plate is not to be missed), or new spot Mexican spot, Copal.
FROZEN TREATS AND BAKED SWEETS: Kurt Farm Shop in Chop House Row on Capitol Hill churns out delicious ice cream and fresh cheese made locally from Kurt’s cows on Vashon Island. Next door, Amandine Bakeshop sells delicious French macarons and other small batch pastries. Around the corner, Frankie & Jo’s delicate plant based ice cream is turning heads with flavors like Salty Caramel Ash and Date Shake.
TIME FOR DINNER: It seems that every week a new restaurant opens in Seattle, which means that it is hard to go wrong when it comes to deciding where to dine. Hands down the best sushi in Seattle, Sushi Kashiba serves new and traditional takes on raw seafood, with some of the best service in town. If raw isn’t your jam, a block away is Matt’s in the Market. Matt’s has been around for a long time, but is still one of the best places to eat Pacific Northwest fare (be sure to order the Chips & Dip). Feeling a little more adventurous, hop in an Uber for the quick ride to Copine. Pairing contemporary American cuisine with classical French techniques and the finest local ingredients, Per Se alum Shaun McCrain is serving some of the best, refined food in the city. Finally, you can’t go wrong with Seattle mainstay, Canlis. Since taking the helm of their family’s restaurant a few years back, brothers Brian and Mark Canlis have completely revamped this Seattle institution. Following renovation of the space, the brothers reorganized the staff, and two years ago brought on Brady Williams, acclaimed chef from Brooklyn pizzeria Roberta’s and its two-Michelin-starred counterpart, Blanca. Williams has shaken things up by creating an inventive multi-course menu that marries refined flavors of Asia with the Pacific Northwest, all the while making Canlis as relevant today as it was when it first opened in 1951.
ON THE SIDE
ART WALK: Stop in at the Seattle Art Museum just as it is opening for the day to avoid the crowd. The Museum houses an excellent permanent collection of contemporary and Native American art and hosts wonderful rotating exhibits. Artist John Grade’s jaw-dropping Middle Fork, a sculpture that echoes the contours of a 140 year-old western hemlock from the Cascade Mountains, was recently installed in the lobby. On the smaller scale, Pioneer Square is home to a number of wonderful galleries. My favorites are Stonington Gallery, which features a remarkable collection of Native American Art, and Foster White Gallery, which exhibits a premier selection of painting, sculpture, glass, and photography.
RETAIL THERAPY: On Capitol Hill, shop for luxury bath and body goods at Aesop, and browse the wonderful collection of home furnishings and rugs at Homestead. Further up the hill, is Totokaelo, the premier boutique for men’s and women’s cutting edge designer clothing in Seattle (an outpost recently opened in New York’s SoHo). Totokaelo also sells a beautiful selection of ceramics. Next door, browse the shelves at Elliott Bay Book Company, a Seattle institution that recently relocated from Pioneer Square to Capitol Hill. Venture to SODO to experience Filson’s incredible, new flagship store. In Pioneer Square, check out E. Smith Mercantile, where the selection of goods and apparel are carefully curated to reflect quality American craftsmanship.
GET OUT ON THE WATER: A sunny day in Seattle calls for time spent on the water. Hop over to South Lake Union (SLU) and rent a boat from the Electric Boat Company for a self-guided tour of Lake Union. Or board the Sunday Ice Cream Cruise for a cone and a boat ride around the lake. Cruises depart the docks by the Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) throughout the day.
DID YOU SMELL THAT?: With the Washington State’s legalization of marijuana, Seattle is suddenly on the cutting edge of all things cannabis. If it’s not your thing, don’t act surprised or offended if you happen past others casually partaking. If you are curious, and want to check out the hype, take a field trip to Uncle Ike’s Pot Shop, one of the first retail stores to open its doors after legalization. Bring cash, I.D. and don’t be afraid to ask questions. For deep dives, book a Session with Van der Pop, a modern cannabis experience that offers discretion, education, style and the opportunity to purchase the best accessories to store, smoke and share cannabis.
THE HAPPIEST HOUR: On Capitol Hill, stroll into Upper Bar Ferdinand in the back of Chop House Row for a glass of Sparkling Rose and house made charcuterie. In Pioneer Square, enjoy a glass of wine from some of the best Willamette and Walla Walla Valley producers at the The Estates Wine Room. For a pre-dinner cocktail, the Nest at the Thompson Hotel and Mbar in South Lake Union have excellent outdoor terraces with commanding views of the city that call for a sundowner.
AFTER DARK: For post dinner drinks, look no further than Foreign National on lower Capitol Hill. Bartender, Adam Fortuna, is churning out some of Seattle’s best cocktails at this throwback to 1970’s Saigon. Adam’s Southeast-Asian inspired concoctions have all the ingredients of a great tiki bar, without the cheesy Polynesian flair. My personal favorite is a foggy Negroni.
When to go: Visit during summer when the sun is abundant.
Transportation: No need to rent a car. Between Uber, Car to Go, and the light rail system, Seattle is an easy city to navigate without renting a car.
Flights: Alaska Airlines is headquartered in Seattle, making it accessible by direct flight from most major U.S. cities.
(This issue of the Travelogue was previously published by Fathom.)
Whats to Come:
Copenhagen ★ 06.17
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