I visit Seattle often since I live in Philadelphia and Serials Solutions headquarters are there—well, sort of—our offices are in Fremont, one of the funky neighborhoods. So, I have a pretty good outsider’s view of the city and its wealth of coffee shops, restaurants and activities. If you are making the trek out to Seattle for the upcoming ALA Midwinter Conference, here are some of my favorite places.
First, let’s cover the downtown area since you’ll probably be spending most of your time there. The first thing to notice is the architecture—as an east-coaster, it’s interesting how “new” the buildings and streets feel. This is mainly due to the fact that Seattle burned to the ground in 1889 in the Great Seattle Fire. As you walk around (along 3rd Ave maybe) I’m sure you’ll enjoy the beautiful sea views and the steep hills.
Of course, you’ll probably want to go down to the famous Pike Place Market. Two market “musts” for me are tasting the samples of many different styles of fresh salmon—usually free with a guilt trip to buy a container—and of course visiting the original Starbucks . Grab a coffee just to say you’ve been there and then get a nice treat at Piroshky Piroshky the Russian bakery next door.
If you want to enjoy the waterfront for dinner, I suggest Etta’s—just a block down from the original Starbucks. If seafood ain’t your thing, then I suggest the Purple Café right near the Seattle Public Library (another place I’m sure you’ll want to visit!)—they have great dishes and an incredible wine selection with a multistory wine cellar in the middle of the restaurant. Another great area to explore is “old town” located near Occidental Park (south of Main St. on 2nd) which is the heart of Seattle’s largest art gallery district and where there are lots of dining options.
The one thing you don’t need to worry about in Seattle is finding a decent cup of coffee—in Chicago you’ll find a steak house on every corner, in NYC every corner has a Duane Reade drug store, and in Seattle there’s a coffee house on every corner.
If you are looking to explore Seattle a bit more, there are some other great neighborhoods. Let’s start with Fremont, home to Serials Solutions and a few other little technology companies like Google, Adobe and Getty Images. Fremont is a great place to visit because of its oddities. It’s known for its statue of Lenin that came from Slovakia after the fall of communism, the Fremont Rocket, and the Fremont Troll that lives under a bridge. A little less odd and a lot tastier, Fremont is also home to Theo Chocolate, the last remaining chocolate producer in North America that starts with the actual cocoa bean. If you are walking the streets of Fremont on a day they are roasting the beans your sense of smell goes into overdrive. But you don’t have to tour the factory to have a taste, pick up a bar at the PCC grocery store in the center of Fremont or just about any other grocery store in Seattle.
The University District has a great offering of eclectic and cultural eating. Agua Verde has wonderful Mexican style food and Thai Tom is noted to be the best Thai food in Seattle. A bit of warning, go to Thai Tom with a small group as it has only about 5 tables that seat two as well as a bar up at the kitchen that seats about 10 and there is usually a line outside to get in.
Another great neighborhood to explore is the Capitol Hill area. I like this area for its restaurants and walking proximity to the downtown area. I usually hit the Garage for a beer and bowling and highly recommend Momiji—a “straight-from-Japan” sushi restaurant with their wonderful sake selection that newbies and veterans alike can enjoy.
The Pacific Northwest is also known for growing hops, and what better thing can you do with hops than brew beer? Big Time Brewery at the University of Washington is one of my favorites. But if you don’t get a chance to stray from downtown, a few fine selections you’ll find at any local pub or restaurant and might want to sample while in the hops motherland include:
While the weather in January might not support too much exploration, the usually mild winters should allow you to get out and enjoy the scenery. If you do decide to wander, be sure to pack appropriate clothing as a light rain and cool weather is likely during this time of year. I’ve always wanted to visit the Olympic National Park and get to the top of Mount Rainer, but have yet to find time. So I’ll have to settle for the beautiful vistas seen during take-off and landing at SeaTac.
Safe travels and I hope you enjoy your time in Seattle!