Seattleites Lie: An Insiders Guide to Seattle
When you think of Seattle, what is the first thing that comes to your mind? Rain, traffic, and gray skies are a few of the common answers. In reality, Seattle is a Garden of Eden where squirrels frolic with the Microsoft geeks and everyone eats gumdrops on Mondays. We selfish Seattleites spread rumors to scare people from our stunning city. Visitors are given a bag of gumdrops in exchange for keeping our secrets. But I will risk exile to reveal the best of Seattle in this insider’s guide.
With so many guides to choose from, why trust this one? Well for one, I’M RIGHT HERE (I can actually see the Space Needle from my window). Two: I’ve been a happy explorer of Seattle attractions, restaurants, and shops for the past fifteen years. And the best reason of all, my information is collected from the best sources. I serve food at a posh restaurant to pay for my writing habits. When I’m not dropping drinks on people, I’m collecting information. Chefs and restaurant owners recommend the restaurants in this guide. The bars and nightclubs are highly praised by our hip bartenders and serving staff. I have also grilled my college friends for fun and cheap things to do. This will not be an all-encompassing guide of everything to do in Seattle, but a reliable one that has something for every budget.
A bit of trivia
The original city planners designed Seattle to be built on seven hills. Which ancient city were they modeling it after?
1001 Fairview Ave N
This romantic waterfront restaurant is famous for its upscale food, singles scene, and late night dining (open until 2 a.m.). The fondue dessert is awesome.
Momma Melina Ristorante
4759 Roosevelt Way NE
“When the stars make you drool joost-a like pasta fazool” Feel like breaking into the lyrics of “That’s Amore” whenever you eat really good Italian food? At Momma Melina’s you actually can (live music on Tuesdays and Friday-Sunday p.m.)! As soon as you walk in, you know by the gracious service and authenticity that it is family owned and operated. The food and wine are about a medium price range but of the highest quality. The clams in broth appetizer and grilled eggplant are mouthwatering. I ask to be taken there on my birthday every year.
2311 2nd Ave
This modern, beautiful, and Americanized sushi house is a great way to start a night in Belltown. Wasabi Bistro offers generous and innovative rolls like the Belltown Roll, which contains seafood salad, cucumbers, and mayo. You can get a good deal if you drop in during happy hour which runs from 4-6 p.m. and 11 p.m.-1 a.m., and discounts many of its rolls for half price.
2203 1st Ave
This restaurant offers one of the best wine lists in Seattle. I like the Frontier Room because it isn’t as stuck up as other bars. The placemats double as napkins – which you’ll need for the generous servings of ribs and beef brisket.
200 Lake Washington Blvd
Think steakhouse with great views, knowledgeable service, and high quality food. This is the place to go if you are looking for a great steak.
Fun Restaurants for Small Budgets
These are the places that those of us without much money will enjoy. My typical haunts are the nasty little establishments that are somehow exempt from any health standards. I always grimace when I see ungloved cooks grabbing money and preparing food simultaneously. I won’t send you those, but here are some of my favorite (and safe) reasonably priced restaurants.
Bick’s Broadview American Grill
10555 Greenwood Ave N
This fast paced little neighborhood joint has surprisingly creative and good food. The prices are mid-ranged, but the value and variety is good. The best dishes that I’ve had there are the Thai curry mussel appetizers and the salmon. The staff is really friendly and helpful.
Dick’s Drive In Restaurant
There are five but the most well know are on 115 Broadway E and on 4426 2nd Ave NE
Who knew fast food could be an adventure? This tiny orange shack serves up hamburgers, fries, and shakes to families during the day and partied-out college students at night. The menu is small and simple without all of the combinations, substitutes, and healthy options that overwhelm customers at soulless chains.
Aqua Verde Paddle Club and CafÃ©
1303 NE Boat St.
One of my favorite little spots in the University District! This casual, healthy, and environmentally friendly cafÃ© serves great Mexican food and margaritas. Lunch is served cafeteria style but dinner includes a more extensive menu with appetizers and desserts. I highly recommend the coconut flan. Kayaks and paddleboats are available for rent for the neighboring lake.
Judy Fu’s Snappy Dragon
8917 Roosevelt Way NE
I’ve never been to Snappy Dragon, but regulars of the restaurant that I work at have enthusiastically recommended it. Judy Fu, a well known Chinese chef in the area, prepares this Mandarin/Szechwan style food. The menu seems pretty standard but a bit on the expensive side. It has been voted “Best Chinese Food North of the International District”.
B & O Espresso
204 Belmont Ave E
I will be forever grateful to the guy took me here on a date. While he turned out to be a major chump, he introduced me to the glory that is Capitol Hill. This adorable little coffee shop is the archetype that we all sigh after whenever we walk past a Starbucks (speaking of that “Count the Starbuckses” is a great game in Seattle). The vintage dÃ©cor, outdoor seating, on-site bakery, make it a must see. Warning: finding parking is near impossible.
Ivars Seafood Bar
1001 Alaskan Way
It’s very “Seattleish” to eat Ivar’s famous fish and chips on the pier. The food is incredibly reasonable – $3 drinks and meals during happy hour. After working at Red Robin for three years and looking at countless baskets of fish and chip, I become nauseous at the smell of them. But Ivar’s fish and chips are so good that my stomach makes an exception for them. Indoor seating and food specials are also consistently pleasing.
There are two neighborhoods that are full of bars. Belltown is chic and pricey. Pioneer Square is a great place for young people that want to get smashed.
Pesos Kitchen and Lounge
605 Queen Anne Ave N
This fun Mexican bar serves inexpensive food and yummy margaritas for a young career crowd. The fast pace and loud laugher somehow contribute to the relaxed atmosphere.
Tini Bigs Lounge
100 Denny Way
This trendy, 1950s style lounge serves 27 different martinis and is great for a night out. Although at about $8-15 dollars a drink, you pay a lot for the ambiance.
Trinity Night Club
Seattle’s most popular nightclub, this multi-level dance haven has great drinks, service, and people-watching. Three distinctive levels play music spun by some of the world’s top DJs. There are also quieter lounges for people that want to cool off or socialize. When you are at the bar, get served by Salvador – Seattle’s coolest bartender. The crowd is always nicely dressed and having fun.
332 5th Ave N
When at Element, people might think they were clubbing in New York or LA. This energetic and fashionable nightclub recently had a stylish facelift. The dancing is great and the floor is always crowded. Be prepared for long lines.
University of Washington
I swear that I am not listing the UW campus as an attraction because I am a student there! One of greenest and most spacious campuses in the United States (643 acres to be exact), it seems like more of a park than a university. I frequently guide lost tourists during the springtime when the famous cherry blossoms in “The Quad” are at their peak. Show up for a free walking tour of campus.
Pike Place Market
Okay, if you are reading this guide because you only have time to visit a few places is Seattle, you must stop by Pike Place Market. Pike Place Market has been the most colorful and vibrant place in Seattle for almost one hundred years. The market is filled with fresh fruits, vegetables, flowers, arts and crafts, seafood, restaurants, and even a fortuneteller! Highlights include throwing fish, crazy street performers, samples, and the first Starbucks.
Seattle Public Library – Central Branch
Have you ever been to a library and gotten tripped out? I promise you that this will be the coolest modern library you will have ever seen. Designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, this monstrous glass and steel structure cannot be missed from the middle of downtown. Pay attention for the holograms on the escalators. Best part: it’s free!
If you restrict your stay in the city limits, you will not fully appreciate Seattle’s natural splendor. Only an hour away from the city, Mt. Rainer features great hiking trials during the summers and snow activities during the winter. In addition to trees, there are campgrounds, two hotels, restaurants, and shops. Even a short trip to Seattle deserves a day spent on Mt. Rainer. A car is needed to get here.
Ride the Ducks
This WWII amphibious vehicle tours Seattle from land and water. Hilarious captains show you around downtown Seattle, Pike Place Market, historic Pioneer Square, Fremont, and Lake Union. In case you are wondering, the vehicle has only sunk once.
Volunteer Park is one of my favorite places in Seattle (I say this about a lot of places in Seattle, but this has to be my absolute favorite). This adorable gem is hidden among the elegant houses of Capitol Hill. On its premises are a watchtower, a conservatory, sculptures, and the Seattle Asian Art Museum (not worth going into). Just north of it is the Lakeview Cemetery with the graves of pioneers and movie stars Bruce and Brandon Lee.
Woodlawn Park Zoo
Experience the natural world of grizzly bears, giraffes, African wild dogs, otters, Australian parrots, and more. Don’t miss the free and stunning rose garden outside its premises. That reminds me, I’m slightly bitter about a zoo experience because I was once running very late for a wedding in the rose garden. I was carrying an instrument and music stand and badly needed to cut through a corner of the zoo. They wouldn’t let me so I had to dash all the way around and arrived sweaty and frantic 5 minutes before the ceremony started. Still, the zoo is worth a visit.
Built for the 1962 World’s Fair, the Space Needle is Seattle’s Eiffel Tower. Today, situated in the heart of downtown, the elegance of the structure withstands the overwhelming commercial atmosphere. The Space Needle gives a fantastic view of the Emerald City (when the weather is clear) and the free tour also provides interesting facts about the city. However, tickets are pricey ($13 for adults and $6 for children) so skip going to the top if you are on a budget. The Seattle Monorail (the first monorail system built in the world) in the Westlake shopping center takes visitors from downtown to the Space Needle.
I’ve never understood people (including my entire family) who arrive in a city, find the tallest building open to the public, and go up to check out the view. But since it is quite the thing to do, the Smith Tower offers views for half the price of the Space Needle. It is Seattle’s first skyscraper and once the fourth tallest building in the world (who knew Seattle was so exciting?).
The Underground Tour is a good place to begin your Seattle exploration. The tour is located in Pioneer Square, the oldest district of the city. Learning about Seattle’s history though anecdotes will enrich your appreciation of Seattle. My friends have provided mixed opinions about the tour, but I’ve always enjoyed it.
Once again, I get mixed reviews about this one. I had a great time the last time I went…in fourth grade. Seattle has a rich Native American culture (the city is named after Chief Seattle). A ferry departing from downtown takes you on a 45-minute ride to Blake Island, the believed birthplace of the Chief. You are served a traditional salmon dinner and entertained by Native American dancing and folklore. Tickets are expensive.
The shopping area in downtown extends about six blocks. The stores here can be found Old Navy, etc. Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie are of my two favorite stores. There are two malls within walking distance – the sophisticated Pacific Place (with more stores that can be found everywhere) and Westlake Mall. In case you are wondering why there are few restaurants around, it is because the city folk pack the giant food court on the top level of Westlake Mall during lunch hour.
University Way “The Ave”
While visiting the University of Washington, drop by the shopping and eating district, located one block away. The Ave is lined with tons of cool shops, cheap eats, and independent coffee shops (thought Starbucks and Tully’s have recently managed to weasel their way in). Half of my wardrobe comes from Buffalo Exchange, Pitaya, and The Powder Room. Unless you like running into strange people, avoid this area after dark. A palm reader stopped my friends and me last night and told my friend Laura that she would have triplets.
A busy area full of vintage, consignment, and recycled clothing stores. This is the place for creative shoppers. Even late at night, Broadway is lined with pedestrian traffic.
Answer to Trivia Question:
The original founders wanted to replicate the seven hills of Rome.
Some final pieces of advice: avoid freeways during rush hour unless you want to waste two hours of your life and bring an umbrella so you can dance in the rain.