Seattle is an easy get-away for San Franciscans. It's just a few hours up the coast and, if you wait for a decent fare on JetBlue or Virgin America, you don't have to pay an arm and a leg to go there. If you go the couchsurfing route, as I did, you can save even more money. Spend it instead at one of the interesting local places that I visited on my trip to interview Seattle band Anomie Belle:
Not exactly a secret spot, but still worth a mention. This market place showcases an amazing variety of local produce, cheeses, jams and, of course, seafood, which is thrown with aplomb across impressive distances in front of a mess of tourists who come expressly to see it (I won't exclude myself from that category).
Within the market place, you will find the following vendors:
Since 1911, Market Spice (85 A Pike Street, Seattle, WA 98101) has been collecting and crafting tea blends like their naturally sweet classic, cinnamon-orange tea. This blend packs a punch that lasts through about three refills of hot water and doesn't need any sugar.
I got my dad some unusual peach and raspberry-based pepper jellies for his birthday at this charming Pike Place jam stopover. Woodring Orchard Jams (1529 Pike Pl, Seattle, WA 98101; (206) 340-2705) offers an amazing variety. For my own pantry, I bought a perfectly sweet-tart golden raspberry jam.
Those who haven't completely abandoned carbs will be like a kid in a candy story at the Pasta Guys stand (1501 Pike Pl, Seattle, WA 98101; (206) 430-4114). Colorful, textured pasta sits in about 30-50 different piles like heaps of exotic kitchen jewels. I bought packs of lemon parsley mafaldine, cracked pepper fettucine, and dark chocolate linguine. Admittedly, I have yet to serve the last one, but I'm eager to figure out how. I'm thinking cook it, cool it, and make a "bird's nest" for ice cream and raspberries. Perhaps you have a better idea.
If you've ever wanted a quick 'n' dirty education about cheese, Beecher's Handmade Cheese (1600 Pike Pl, Seattle, WA 98101; (206) 956-1964) is a good place to go. You can watch the cheese-making process from start (curdling the milk) to finish (drying the cheese) and taste the results at Beecher's long cheese counter. The store carries their own award-winning lines and those of other local cheese artisans.
Not too far from Pike Place market is the striking Seattle Public Library.
The unusually shaped building has neon yellow escalators with installation art and an excellent view of the downtown area through high diamond-shaped windows.
The Showbox, Anomie Belle's favorite local venue, is also within walking distance of Pike Place.
Outside the city, the neighborhoods have just as much to offer. If you go in the spring, the suburban streets are bursting with cherry blossoms, daffodils, dogwoods, and other amazing flowers.
Fremont is where you will find some good coffee:
4301 Fremont Ave. N
Fremont, WA (and other locations in Capitol Hill, Queen Anne, Olympia, and Seward Park)
The people of Caffe Vita embark on "Farm Direct" sourcing trips to places like Ethiopia, Mexico, and Papua New Guinea, thereby involving the coffee farmers themselves in the process from start to finish. One of the most popular of their "Farm Direct" coffee is the organic Sumatran blend.
Lighthouse Roasters also brews a mighty fine cup.
And The Oddest Landmark Award goes to this apparently little-known Fremont road feature:
The Fremont Troll
In Wallingford you will find plenty of neighborhood gems:
Stop in to Irwin's Neighborhood Bakery & Coffee House (2123 N 40th St., Seattle, WA 98103; (206) 675-1484) for a cup of their homemade soup or a biscuit sandwich: ingredients tucked into a calzone-style sandwich made out of biscuit dough. A little heavy, but intriguing. It might be a good idea to get something and take it for a picnic in nearby Gas Works Park.
Given Seattle's fresh seafood, it might not be a bad idea to try some sushi while in the area. Rain Modern Infusion Cuisine (2208 North 45th Street, Seattle, WA 98103) specializes in modern Japanese cuisine and serves up unique creations like their "Get Wet" roll. Happy hour (4 p.m. -- 6 p.m.) is an especially good deal if you are hungry for fresh seafood earlier in the day.
With the money you've saved at happy hour, why not splurge on something sweet just up the street?
You might think the line out the door at neighborhood ice creamery Molly Moon's (1622 1/2 N. 45th St., Seattle, WA 98103) is just a community response to the first warm, precious days of spring time, but my friends tell me that wait here is usually pretty long. As well it should be for a place that makes their waffle cones right in front of you and offers fresh homemade ice cream in flavors like strawberry balsamic, honey lavender, cardamom, and mandarin chocolate sorbet.
If for some reason it's too cold for ice cream (never a problem for me), you might try nearby Trophy Cupcakes (1815 N. 45th St., Seattle, WA 98103). The cupcake trend is still alive and well at this brightly colored dessert spot. It has your every- day chocolate and vanilla options alongside Morning Glory (carrot cake with cream cheese frosting and a caramel filling) and S'Mores (chocolate with marshmallow frosting), among others.
Ballard is an up-and-coming neighborhood.
Tucked into a slew of cute boutiques is the spacious, well-lit Motion and Rest Dance Studio (5340 Ballard Ave NW, Seattle, WA 98107). When we passed by a small group of women were doing something that looked kind of like belly-dancing. They seemed to be having a blast!
Finery for Fillies (5344 Ballard Ave NW, Seattle, WA 98107; (206) 547-9639) is a cute boutique had an astonishing selection of cowboy boots and a number of flirty, pretty (albeit pricey) dresses.
At Lock & Keel bar (5144 Ballard Ave. NW, Seattle, WA 98107; (206) 781-2083), ask for Susie, a bartender who also makes her own clothing line.
Now what am I forgetting? Oh yeah! Don't forget to drive by the space needle on your way back to the airport.