The Ultimate Seattle Vacation Guide

Seattle skyline
(©Isaac Arjonilla) A view of downtown Seattle and Mount Rainier from Kerry Park

To explore the best Seattle has to offer, use this handy guide to plan your next adventure in the Emerald City.


Sky View Observatory

The Air Up There

Set a good foundation for your vacation by getting the lay of the land. The tallest building to do that from is the Columbia Center, whose Sky View Observatory on the 73rd floor rises more than 900 feet in the air, giving an unparalleled perspective of the city.

Closer to the ground but with views just as dazzling, Smith Tower opened 103 years ago in Pioneer Square as the tallest building west of the Mississippi. Here it’s about the journey as much as the destination—the original brass elevator that takes you to the Observatory is still manually run by elevator operators.

For a ride that’s even more thrilling, take a spin on the Seattle Great Wheel, which juts out 40 feet beyond the end of Pier 57 on the waterfront.

To go even higher, Kenmore Air’s scenic seaplane tours that leave from Lake Union make quite an impression.


Museum of History & Industry

History Lessons

Once you’ve gotten your bearings, add a little history for context. The Museum of History & Industry, better known as MOHAI, tells you everything you need to know about the area’s origins and influence, from a musical presentation on how the Great Seattle Fire started to a display featuring local grunge bands that shot to worldwide fame—perhaps you’ve heard of a little group called Nirvana?

One of the city’s most formative events was the 1962 World’s Fair, which brought us the Seattle Center, the iconic Space Needle and the Monorail, an official historic landmark that still ferries more than 2 million passengers a year.

Chinatown-International District

After you’ve taken a ride, switch to human-powered transport on a walking tour with the Wing Luke Museum. Explore the International District through the eyes of a local, take a special 2.5-hour rice-themed tour or discover Bruce Lee’s Chinatown—where he launched his first martial-arts studio. If you’d like a little caffeine with your stroll, Seattle by Foot offers a Coffee Crawl that will get you up to speed on the java scene’s pioneers and what’s brewing now.


Center for Wooden Boats

Water World

By this point, you've discovered that water plays a major role in Seattle’s history and culture. All those inlets, lakes and bays may make it more difficult to get from point A to point B, but they definitely make it prettier, too.

Get out on the water with Argosy Cruises, which offers narrated sightseeing tours, or hop in an old-fashioned vessel with the Center for Wooden Boats on Lake Union, where on Sundays volunteer skippers take visitors out for free.

To watch boats make the switch from saltwater to freshwater or vice versa, head to the Hiram M. Chittenden (aka Ballard) Locks, where the water level can change up to 26 feet as kayaks and big ships alike make the transition.

A meal served with a side of water views is an imperative and Anthony’s Pier 66 on the waterfront, Ray’s Boathouse in Ballard and Palisade in Magnolia are just a few choice options.


Chihuly Garden and Glass

Only in Seattle

Round out your vacation with some experiences you can only have here. Washington native Dale Chihuly may be known around the world, but there’s no collection of his work as extensive as Chihuly Garden and Glass—a gorgeous museum at Seattle Center dedicated to his glassblowing art.

While libraries are commonplace in every city, design-forward ones like the steel-and-glass Seattle Central Library are not. Don’t miss the views from the 10th floor or the eye-catching corridors on the fourth.

Fremont Troll

On the quirky end of the spectrum, the Fremont Troll under the Aurora Bridge is a favorite, and yes, that’s a real VW Beetle in his clutched hand.

Safeco Field

Catch a Mariners game at beautiful Safeco Field (order the garlic fries), and leave your mark by adding to the Gum Wall in Post Alley, right under Pike Place Market. If you haven’t been to the market yet, it’s the heartbeat of the city and a must for any trip. Buy a one-of-a-kind souvenir, nibble on fresh produce samples, and watch the fish fly.

Pike Place Market

For guided exploration, take a tour with Savor Seattle to taste some of the market’s highlights including piping-hot cinnamon-sugar donuts, rich macaroni and cheese and incredibly flavorful Greek yogurt.

For one last parting shot, take your camera to Queen Anne’s Kerry Park, which offers a postcard-perfect view of everything you’ve just experienced. You may not be able to pack Seattle in your suitcase but you can certainly take home the memories.

These are the signature Seattle experiences you have to try.

Reaching New Heights in Seattle

Space Needle
(Courtesy Space Needle) Take in 360-degree views of Seattle from the iconic Space Needle.

The only way to take in the true measure of Seattle’s grandeur is to see it from the sky—and a plane isn't even needed.

Seattle is a city defined by geography. Arts, tech and commerce all hold their sway, sure, but at the end of the day the dense collection of lakes, hills, canals and ravines rules the lives of its citizens. We negotiate it with a network of drawbridges and innovative buildings stacked like cracker boxes up steep slopes. In our spare time, the surrounding mountains and water draw us in and leave us with dreams of going back.

It can all be overwhelming—especially when it involves a bizarre five-way traffic interchange on the precipice of the city’s steepest hill. But to truly appreciate Seattle’s incredible topography, one needs to rise above it. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to do just that. From man-made wonders to glorious overlooks, here are some of the best places for a bird’s-eye view of the Emerald City.


Kerry Park

Kerry Park

The most iconic view of the city—the one that makes all the calendars—isn’t from a building, it's with feet firmly planted on the ground at Kerry Park, tucked on the southern lip of Queen Anne Hill. From this vantage point, the skyline, mountains and water form a romantic tableau that draws cheers from the gathered crowd, especially as the sun sets. Best of all, it’s free. 211 W. Highland Drive, Seattle, 206.684.4075.


The Nest at Thompson Seattle

The Nest at Thompson Seattle

By far the most luxe way to take in the city and sea below is from the new Nest—a rooftop bar perched atop the Thompson Seattle hotel. Featuring savory snacks and house-bottled cocktails, the lounge is filled with elegant furnishings and design, but between the city and seascapes stretching into the horizon, you might not notice. Expect to wait for a seat on sunny days, it’s worth it. 110 Stewart St., Seattle, 206.489.4629.


Sky View Observatory

Sky View Observatory

At 902 feet, Sky View Observatory, the viewing room atop the Columbia Center, is literally the highest you can get above the city without the aid of aircraft. A 360-degree panoramic view offers sweeping views of Mount Rainier, the Cascades, the Olympics, Elliott Bay and all of Seattle spreading over the hills far below. It’s the tallest public viewing area in the Northwest, a glass-walled marvel that will make jaws drop and give height-haters vertigo. Tickets $9-$14.75, under 6 free. 701 Fifth Ave., Seattle, 206.386.5564.


Smith Tower

Smith Tower

When it opened in 1914, the Smith Tower was the tallest building in Seattle—and the fourth-tallest in the world. It’s since been eclipsed in size, but not in class. It reopened last year and debuted Temperance on the Observation Deck, an elegant bar designed to resemble a 1920s-era speakeasy. Bask in elegant woods and detailed ceiling tiles and enjoy Chinese dumplings, raw oysters or banh mi sandwiches with a period-appropriate cocktail like a Smith Tower Sazerac. Smith Tower Observatory tickets $13.50-$17.10, under 6 free. 506 Second Ave., Seattle, 206.624.0414.


Space Needle

Space Needle 

Undoubtedly Seattle’s most famous building, the Space Needle debuted during the 1962 World’s Fair, when it hosted nearly 20,000 people a day. It’s still a number-one destination, and for good reason: An icon of the Northwest, this space-age tower rises 605 feet above Seattle Center and has a world-famous rotating restaurant at the top. With close-up views of the skyline in your face and 360-degree views of the mountains and water, there’s no better way to feel in the clouds. Tickets $14-$24, under 5 free. 400 Broad St., Seattle, 206.905.2100.

 

See the Emerald City from a whole new spectacular perspective at these sky-high venues.

Hidden Seattle: The Emerald City's Best-Kept Secrets

E. Smith Mercantile in Seattle
(©Fresh Point Media) Artisinal products at dry-goods store E. Smith Mercantile.

For most of its history, Seattle has existed off the country’s radar—but no more.

While Starbucks, grunge rock, Microsoft and “Frasier” did their part to elevate the Emerald City’s profile, an unprecedented tech boom has made it one of the five fastest-growing cities in America. That’s 15,000 new neighbors last year alone, on top of the 37-million-plus tourists who visit every year.

Seattle skyline

Thankfully, you don’t have to share it with every one of them. Seattle’s unique culture of adventure and introversion has given rise to a city full of secrets—off-the-map bars and restaurants, hidden parks and beaches, and fantastic arts and culture still thrive far off most travel itineraries—if you know where to look. That’s where we come in—we’ve interviewed local experts and slinked through the vibrant city to uncover some of the best sights for solitude, wonder and fun away from the crowds.

Outdoor Hideaways

In such a dynamic, growing city, it’s no surprise that Seattleites prize access to green spaces and fresh air. But sometimes it feels like the whole city is there, too.

“What’s great about Seattle is that it’s a city of outdoors freaks—you can go to Golden Gardens on the worst weather day and share it with a hundred other people,” said Seattle resident Amelia Urry. “But if you know where to go, you can step off the road and have all that same ocean to yourself.”

Seattle’s 200 miles of shoreline offer ample opportunity to get on the water. While the majority of visitors congregate at parks like Magnuson or Lincoln, 149 streets end in “shoreline street ends"—pocket parks that offer access to water and beaches. Secret Beach off 39th Avenue East near Denny Blaine Park offers the best Lake Washington access, with a soft-sand beach and a cove with views of Rainier and the Cascades. To get to the impressive West McGraw Street End, located at the bottom of a bluff, visitors can take either a precipitous stairwell from Magnolia Boulevard or drive dark, twisty Perkins Lane West. A gravel path leads to a rocky beach with views of the Olympics, Rainier and the city skyline, while a concrete jetty lets visitors walk out into Puget Sound toward Fourmile Rock, where eagles sometimes perch.

McGraw Street End in Seattle

Those secrets extend inland, too. Historic Pioneer Square is one of the city’s busier places but Waterfall Garden Park (219 Second Ave. S) offers a quiet sanctuary mere steps away. Here, an impressive 22-foot-tall manmade waterfall cascades down boulders, drowning out city sounds. A two-tiered patio with tables and chairs gives visitors a place to read, rest or contemplate.

Visitors journeying from downtown to Capitol Hill can just walk up Pike or Pine—but they’ll miss one of the best outdoor secrets in the city. Freeway Park (700 Seneca St.) offers a unique combination of greenery and brutalist architecture straddling I-5. Concrete pathways lined by hydrangeas and rhododendrons culminate in giant blocks of concrete stacked like Legos.

Secret Bars and Speakeasies

Seattle’s history as a bootlegging hub during Prohibition meant it was a town of speakeasies. That tradition continues to this day—though purveyors’ wares are thankfully legal now. Secret bars and restaurants dot the city, offering craft cocktails to in-the-know diners. Knee High Stocking Co., accessible through an unmarked door, finds bartenders spicing up Prohibition-era cocktails with rare cordials.

Cocktail at Knee High Stocking in Seattle

Needle & Thread (1406 12th Ave.), hidden inside Tavern Law, is one of Seattle’s better-known speakeasies, but the novelty of getting in never wears off. Visitors phone ahead for reservations, and, if successful, they enter the 25-seat bar by calling in from a phone next to the steel safe door that conceals the spot. Inside are great craft cocktails and bites.

Back in Pioneer Square, E. Smith Mercantile is a dry-goods store celebrating the artisanal craftsmanship that reigned when the Square was first built— and the hidden, speakeasy-style communal bars that were often tucked in back.

“This is a new take on an old idea—it’s always existed, from a time when there was only one store in town or on the block,” said Jessie Poole, E. Smith Mercantile co-owner. “My great-grandfather [and store namesake] Elmer Smith was a gold miner—he had that Americana backbone. I wanted a place that could curate heirloom products, crafted by hand, along with natural wellness products and pre-Prohibition medicinal cocktails.”

Favorites here include the Miner’s Campfire (Scotch whisky, tequila, grapefruit, honey and smoke bitters).

E. Smith Mercantile in Seattle

The Hottest Secret in Seattle

Seattle is famous for the Vietnamese noodle soup pho, but it also boasts an impressive selection of another soup—the Asian hot pot. It’s a little bit like fondue; a giant bowl of broth gets brought to the table to share and diners cook meat, seafood, vegetables, tofu or noodles in it before spooning out spicy bowlfuls of mix-and-match stew.

“I love going to get hot pot in the International District,” said Seattle native Sam Horn. “It’s like pho on steroids.”

Best of all, hot pot extends to many cultures—there’s Korean hot pot, Japanese shabu-shabu and Chinese varieties. At the International District’s Sichuanese Cuisine, diners dip beef, lamb, fish, broccoli, cabbage and glass noodles into a broth featuring mouth-numbing Sichuan peppercorns.

“You can’t come to Seattle and not have hot pot,” said musician Jonathan Pease. “It might just be my favorite meal in town.”

Hot pot is a widely popular dish in Seattle

When the crowds become too much, escape with the locals to these hideaways.

Foodies Rejoice: 5 Sweets and Treats Made in Seattle

Fran's Chocolates
(Courtesy Fran’s Chocolates) Locally made chocolates at Fran's Chocolates.

Starbucks might be the most famous and widespread food or drink brand that was started in Seattle, but it’s far from the only one. From creating chocolate treats to cocktail ingredients, Seattleites are getting to work in the kitchen handcrafting tasty creations for all to enjoy.


Jonboy Caramels

Jonboy Caramels

Like several popular food products, Jonboy Caramels got started at farmers markets around the city. (Rachel’s Ginger Beer also started at farmers markets, and it now has two Seattle locations, including one at Pike Place Market.) These caramels use local ingredients—making some varieties seasonal—and no corn syrup. Find unique flavors like absinthe with black salt, balsamic berry, Ceylon cinnamon and whiskey with smoked salt. Find the caramels at Seattle-area Whole Foods stores and at specialty shops, or online.


Beecher's Handmade Cheese

Beecher’s Handmade Cheese

When visiting Pike Place Market, don’t forget to peek into the windows at the corner of Pine Street and Pike Place. It’s the kitchen for the original Beecher’s Handmade Cheese, a market staple since 2003. See local milk transformed into the Flagship, Marco Polo or Just Jack cheese. Head inside for paninis, soups or the decadent mac and cheese. Beecher’s also has locations at Bellevue and Sea-Tac Airport (find it in Concourse C to stock up before flying home) and a store in New York City.


Scrappy's Bitters

Scrappy’s Bitters

Bitters can add the finishing note to a cocktail, and in his search for the perfect ingredient, Seattle bartender Miles Thomas developed his own line of bitters in 2008. Now Scrappy’s Bitters, still made in small batches in Seattle, is available in stores around the world. Varieties include the flagship lavender blend, grapefruit, orange, cardamom, celery, lime and even chocolate. There are two gift sets available, with small quantities of four flavors—a great option to find your favorite.


San Juan Island Sea Salt

San Juan Island Sea Salt

Bring a bit of the area’s ocean home with you in the form of San Juan Island Sea Salt. After leaving his San Juan Island home for college in Seattle, Brady Ryan returned to the family farm and started making salt by evaporating seawater in greenhouses. The resulting product makes a fabulous finishing salt for food and a fun gift for anyone who loves to cook. Find the salt in Seattle at Sugarpill, The Pantry, The London Plane and more locations, as well as online.


Fran's Chocolates

Fran’s Chocolates

One of the sweetest Seattle-made products is created by hand in Georgetown. Fran Bigelow and her company, Fran’s Chocolates, have been perfecting the art of chocolate since her first shop opened in 1982. Now, truffles, chocolate bars, caramels and more are churned out daily from the brand's headquarters. Visit the shop to see the production process, sample some chocolate and buy gifts. There are also boutiques downtown, at University Village and in Bellevue.

Try these Emerald City creations while in town, and again when you return home.

How Matt Hofmann is Making Seattle a Whiskey-Lover's Paradise

Matt Hofmann, Master Distiller and Founder, Westland Distillery
(©Steve Hawley) Matt Hofmann, Master Distiller, Westland Distillery.

Westland Distillery co-founder Matt Hofmann’s entire livelihood comes strictly from the distinct ingredients of Pacific Northwest: peat, malt and water. He used those to create the first peated single malt American whiskey using entirely local components. After years of maturation and anticipation, Westland released its American Single Malt Peated Whiskey in 2015 to wide critical acclaim (including an award for Whiskey of the Year from the American Distilling Institute). Hofmann spoke with Where about what inspires him in Seattle and beyond.    

What is the difference between a Scottish single malt and Westland’s?

Scotland’s got great history, that’s how they honor their whiskey tradition. Here [in America], we are free to interpret it as we think it should be made. So we’re making ours unique, and uniquely American. It’s a whiskey with the idea of terroir in the Northwest.

At what point did you realize your Westland whiskies might be a larger success?

I think the moment I got to share the news about being named the best craft whiskey producer in the world (by Whisky Magazine) with my team here tops the list. It really proved that we’re onto something and that the world sees Westland and Seattle as a place where we can make world-class whiskey.

Cantilever Room

What’s the experience for visitors to the Westland Distillery in the SoDo neighborhood?

Come down and take a tour and get a tasting of some of our whiskies you won’t find anywhere else, even in Seattle. You can ask any questions and learn as much about whiskey as you like. We also offer a mini-cocktail flight too, for those who are unsure about wading into whiskey too quickly.

This intense focus on local ingredients that drives and inspires you with whiskey—is there a lot of support for that in the area?

The spirit of craftsmanship and well-made goods is quite strong in Seattle, so there are a number of places that make great things across a variety of industries. One of my favorites is Filson, who’s been making outdoor gear since 1897 here in Seattle. Their flagship store is about a half mile up the street from our distillery and you can see some products being made at the factory on-site.

What’s your favorite date spot?

Hands-down the best date spot in the Northwest is the Willows Inn on Lummi Island. Lummi Island is in the San Juan Island chain close to the Canadian border, a three-hour drive and ferry from Seattle. The chef there, Blaine Wetzel, spent some time at NOMA in Copenhagen and makes such a distinctly pure destination-style of Northwest cuisine. I’ve been fortunate in that in my line of work I’ve seen some pretty great restaurants around the world. Genuinely, Willows Inn has been better than all of them. Go up there around noonish, book a room for the evening, and take some time to explore the island. Dinner will be sublime, I promise, and then they serve breakfast in the morning too!

Gas Works Park

Your family has deep roots in the Seattle area. What are some of your favorite places?

We love to walk or run along the Waterfront Park just north of downtown or at Gas Works Park north of Lake Union. I’m a big Mariners fan so I love going to Safeco Field for a baseball game. 

What’s your No. 1 travel destination outside of Washington?

I’ve been to Tokyo twice and can’t get enough of it. Kyoto is up there as a place to visit. I love driving and one of these days I’ll find the time to drive down the Pacific Coast Highway to California starting at Highway 101 in Shelton, about an hour south of Seattle.

The Westland Distillery's Master Distiller shares his thoughts on local spirits and uniquely Seattle experiences

As Seen on TV: Seattle's Foodie Restaurants

Double-chocolate figs at Fran's Chocolates
(Courtesy Fran's Chocolates) The tempting double-chocolate figs at Fran's Chocolates.

What do Anthony Bourdain, Guy Fieri and Adam Richman have in common? With cameras in tow, these TV food fanatics all come to Seattle to satisfy their cravings for the best food in the world. Seasonal ingredients start overflowing in March—making it the perfect time to dine at one of these can’t-miss hotspots.

Locals have long known our Emerald City as an under-the-radar foodie paradise. But the secret on these winners is out, thanks to hit shows like “Layover,” “Man vs. Food,” “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” and “Unique Sweets.”

Voula's Offshore Café

Voula Vlahos’ family-run Greek diner has stuffed regulars in the U District for decades with traditional dolmades, buttery egg scrambles with salmon smoked in-house, and homemade blueberry pie. But its signature dish has to be the mess of onions, mushrooms, Greek sausage, hash browns, feta and egg they call the Greek Hobo. No less of an authority than Guy Fieri called it the “best breakfast scramble” he’d ever had. 

Bizzarro Italian Café

Few restaurants live up to their name like this quirky Wallingford joint famous for its funky artistic interior and dedication to traditional Italian cooking, spiked with local flourishes. Choice dishes include the ouzo-soaked drunken clams and the Fieri favorite—a tender, savory elk Bolognese. 

Pam's Kitchen

Wallingford eaters know that one of the best cures for Seattle’s gray skies is the exotic spice and heat served up at this Trinidadian restaurant owned and operated for more than 10 years by Pam Jacob. Dhalpuris (a traditional flatbread) stuffed with jerked chicken or curries—called roti—will have you seeing Caribbean blue in no time. 

Rain Shadow Meats

Rain Shadow Meats

Seattle is known for seafood, but on a “Layover” at Rain Shadow Meats, Anthony Bourdain learned that the Emerald City remains a carnivore’s paradise, too. The house-cured charcuterie is spectacular, but the slow-roasted porchetta or anything on the daily special chart might be the best way to sample founding butcher Russell Flint’s dedication to high-quality, local meat. 

Le Pichet

Anthony Bourdain knows his French bistros: he named Jim Drohman and Joanne Herron’s Belltown institution “one of the best in the country.” You can rely on immaculate quiche and other regional specialties, but what really puts Le Pichet over the top is the while-away-an-hour-or-three ambiance hard to find this side of the Atlantic (never mind on the Pacific).

The Crab Pot

At this floating seafood smorgasbord located right on the pier near downtown, servers pour fresh-cooked seafood right on the table, where bibbed seafood lovers grab a mallet and tear into it with bare hands. Richman tackled the Alaskan Seafeast on his own: five pounds of steamed Dungeness crab, snow crab, Alaskan king crab, Andouille sausage, corn, mussels, clams and shrimp. We recommend bringing a buddy. 

Fran's Chocolates

From "The Today Show" to Food Network’s "Best Thing I Ever Ate" and "Unique Sweets," Fran’s European-style chocolates keep turning up on TV. Visit the Georgetown location to see dedicated artisans create award-winning salted caramels and take tours of Seattle’s own chocolate wonderland.  

The Walrus and The Carpenter

By now, Renee Erickson has earned her place as Seattle’s culinary doyenne with spots dedicated to steak and even donuts. But her original effort is a must-visit—a mecca for clever seafood and expert cocktails served on a marble bar tucked into a charmingly cozy spot in Ballard. As for the oysters: As Bourdain learned, they remain diamond-perfect. 

Salty on Alki's

Salty's On Alki

This West Seattle institution sports perhaps the best view in the city: a sweeping panorama of Puget Sound crowned by the city skyline and the Cascades beyond. Classics like chowder and fish and chips are solid, but smart diners should pull a Bourdain and grab a window seat at sunset for happy-hour discounts on food and cocktails. 

Sitka & Spruce

Simultaneously elegant and earthy, Matt Dillon’s ace take on Northwest local and seasonal cuisine defines what’s best about Seattle cuisine. Just-plucked produce and day-of seafood meet expert preparation and a low-key luxe vibe. Dillon and Co. work magic with everything from mushrooms to nettles to lardo—much of it supplied by his Old Chaser Farm on Vashon Island. 

The 5 Point Café

Diner, dive, and café all rolled into one best describes this 24-hour favorite. The 5 Point goes beyond three squares to provide filling fare like chicken-fried steak at any hour (though it seems especially popular post-party and the morning after). Proof: None other than legendary partier Bourdain called the 5-Point’s 6-9 am breakfast happy hour “hardcore.” 

Red Mill Burgers

As In N’ Out is to Angelenos, Red Mill is to Seattleites—but we think Red Mill’s 11 different burgers are better than any at In N’ Out (even animal style). Best bets include the two-patty monster double bacon deluxe and the Verde, which is topped with smoky Anaheim chiles, jack cheese, and bacon blue cheese. “Man vs. Food” host Adam Richman tried all three and onion rings—consistently voted the best in the country. 

Dahlia Bakery

Famed restaurant impresario Tom Douglas’ take on the artisanal bakery is famous for sweets like doughnuts and pie, but savory fans should stop in anyway for the best breakfast sandwich in town. 

Anthony Bourdain, Adam Richman and Guy Fieri all sing the praises of these Emerald City eateries

Chocolatier Shares Pioneer Square's Hidden Gems

Intrigue Chocolate Co.
(©Isaac Villanueva) Sample an always-changing selection of truffles at Intrigue Chocolate Co.

For the last seven years, the Intrigue Chocolate Co. has been providing visitors to the Pioneer Square spot some of the best chocolate truffles around. There are nearly 300 flavors, with 12 rotating flavors daily. We spoke with owner and chocolatier Aaron Barthel about the hidden gems in his neighborhood, his favorite restaurants and more.

Aaron Barthel

Do you have a favorite truffle flavor?

Tequila and grapefruit is one of my favorites. Our most popular is probably the bourbon and vanilla bean. We steep the vanilla beans in bourbon for three months and then use both the bourbon and the vanilla beans in the chocolate.

Any special events coming up at the shop?

One thing I like to tell people about—it’s not on our website, it’s just a you’ve-got-to-know-it thing—is we’ve got a weekly after-hours session. Every Thursday we stay open an hour later. From 6 pm to 8 pm we do an off-menu tasting or mini demo of some kind. It’s open house, it’s free, just stop in and see what we’re up to. We usually post on Twitter or Facebook, usually that morning. It’s a good time to just come in and chat and see what we’re up to.

What are your favorite restaurants?

One of my longtime favorites is Saffron Grill up in Northgate … some of the best Indian food I’ve ever had. And here in this neighborhood, speaking of really awesome Indian food, but in a different direction—it’s more cuisine Indian food—is Nirmal’s. I like to drop by Altstadt, [I am] fairly regular there. The käsespätzle mit speck—the German mac and cheese with bacon. It’s amazing. I should mention, for lunch spots, Rain Shadow Meats. Their sandwiches are killer.

Altstadt

Favorite spots to get a drink?

The cocktail bar at E. Smith Mercantile is amazing … it’s an overused phrase, but it’s really craft cocktails without a lot of pretension. Because it’s so small, they’re doing it because they love to.

Any hidden gems you love in Pioneer Square?

They’re all hidden gems. Pioneer Pet [Feed &] Supply—I don’t even have a pet, but I like going there because it’s underground and he’s got a couple cats that he got as kittens that just wander the shop. It’s in the basement or what would have been the first floor before the uplifting of the streets.

Klondike Gold Rush Museum. Most people don’t realize the county’s smallest national park is right here in Pioneer Square.

I haven’t been yet, but I’m dying to go: The Flatstick Pub. With mini golf inside! Like I said, it’s all hidden, it’s all small and tucked away stuff here.

It’s a hoot if you’ve never been: the Planet Java Diner. It’s a classic diner and they’ve been in the neighborhood … for 25 or more [years] and it’s family run. Everything is covered with clocks and Coke collectibles and Gumby figurines. It’s wall-to-wall bright colors and weird, strange, fun objects.

Sake Nomi. I think it’s Seattle’s best sake bar. It’s off a side street and Johnnie owns the place—he gets stuff that you can’t get anywhere else because he knows the brewers or distributors in Japan.

Millhead’s Barbershop. It’s a modern take on an old-school barber shop. You can drink beer while you wait; it’s really nice, talented people.

What is a must-do when visitors are in town?

I recommend doing the walking tours. Beneath the Streets and Seattle By Foot are two that we collaborate with on occasion, and they’re run by people that are really passionate about knowing the things that they’re telling … I think it’s a great way to do the city rather than just hitting tourist things, because you’re spending time out and about and walking around and you’re seeing how the city actually feels.

Beneath the Streets

What is the No. 1 spot on your travel wish list?

My first spot on my travel wish list is Iceland. Everybody I know who’s gone there has absolutely loved it. People seem really welcoming; the natural hot springs sound awesome.

Aaron Barthel dishes on the hidden side of Seattle's historic neighborhood.

Seattle's Happiest Hours: 13 Places to Unwind

Fairmont Olympic fried chicken
(Courtesy Fairmont Olympic Hotel) The Terrace Lounge at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel has one of many fantastic Seattle happy hours.

Seattle tends to be a fairly jovial place even without the mention of happy hours, but residents here certainly don’t pass up chances to let the good times roll. We can think of few better combos than welcoming spaces and discounted prices on tasty treats that include flavorful fare, creative cocktails plus local brews and wines.

Where to find these widely-praised and quietly-coveted steals? We’ve compiled a drool-worthy roundup that promises to sate your thirst, hunger and appetite for Seattle-fueled fun.

Certain hotel properties offer happy-hour menus too good to overlook. Adjacent to Kimpton’s Hotel Monaco, Sazerac blends Southern flavors and Pacific Northwest sensibilities in delectable snacks like Smoked Catfish Deviled Eggs, Smoked Duck Sausage with Creole Mustard and Avocado Tartine with BBQ Shrimp. Other menu highlights (which last from 4 to 7 pm, Mondays through Saturdays) include $4 house wine and $6 cocktails.  

At downtown’s majestic Fairmont Olympic Hotel, The Terrace Lounge offers sweet temptations (daily from 3:30 to 6 pm) that showcase treasures from the rooftop apiary; try the Honeymoon Suite Ale, Honey Cider and Buttermilk Fried Chicken (featuring rooftop honey, of course).

Fairmont Olympic Hotel's Honey Ale

At South Lake Union’s recently refreshed Pan Pacific Hotel, The Lobby Bar delights with treats like avocado toast (jazzed up with smoked salmon and pickled radish), a rotating sandwich of the month (the recent star: an Italian take on a BLT with a Southern twist) and a rotating cocktail of the week, many of which feature fresh herbs plucked from the patio garden—a lovely spot to imbibe on a warm Seattle evening. 

Carnivores rave about Metropolitan Grill’s happy hour lineup (from 3 to 6 pm, Mondays through Fridays), featuring Three Beef Dip Sandwiches and the almighty Works Burger (melted cheddar and Swiss, caramelized onions, housemade Thousand Island). Seafood lovers flock to Ivar’s Acres of Clams on the downtown waterfront and Ivar’s Salmon House on Lake Union, where a delightfully long window (daily from 3 pm to close) brings reduced prices to drinks plus prawn and oyster shooters, chowder samplers and coconut curry mussels. At modern brasserie Saint Helens, elevated happy hour fare includes King Crab dip and Manila clams.

Adventurous folks enjoy culinary globetrotting—without leaving Seattle soil—at spots like Fremont’s Quoin (try the pancakes with pork belly, kimchi and bean sprouts). In Belltown, head to The Innkeeper for “bar food with a Latin soul” (think Moscow mules, rum punch, beef flautas and oysters) or Pintxo, a Spanish tapas bar that offers a double happy hour (from 5 to 7 pm and 10 pm to midnight), listing gems like Marinated Manchego and Choricitos a la Miel. Mexican food and drink reign at Ballard’s El Borracho where $1 tacos and $4 margaritas set the festive tone (from 4 to 7 pm and 11 pm to 1 am).

Pintxo

In Capitol Hill, Omega Ouzeri celebrates Greece’s soothing hues and rich flavors; best bets include the Keftedakia (grilled lamb meatballs, ouzo tomato jam, lemon yogurt) and Octapodi (grilled octopus, fava Santorini, capers, roasted tomatoes). Nearby on Capitol Hill’s 15th Street, Bar Vacilando cheerfully serves “food and drink for the passionate wanderer,” meaning great deals on Flaco Tempranillo wine and $3 crusts tastily topped with prosciutto and béchamel, pear and gorgonzola or healthy veggies. The venue’s light-filled interior and dreamy patio prove perfect for inspiring thoughts of delicious adventures past and future.

Eat, drink and be merry without breaking the bank.

Healthy Eats in the Emerald City

Jujubeet
(Courtesy Jujubeet) Jujubeet's VLT with avocado

With an emphasis on local and seasonal food, Seattle restaurants amp up flavors and nutritional content with fresh produce, seafood, meats and cheeses. Find tasty and filling options at these favorite spots that are good for you and good for the planet.

Find two spots in one place at the recently opened South Lake Union spot The Deck. It's a new lunch counter collective featuring Jujubeet, an all-vegetarian juice bar and cafe—try the housemade coconut yogurt parfait—and Evergreens, a spot with fresh salads, wraps and grain bowls. The shared space includes indoor and outdoor dining, making it a great year-round spot for a quick, healthy meal.

If you're looking for a breakfast or brunch spot, Portage Bay Café is a popular spot that serves local, organic and sustainable dishes. The cafe has multiple locations, including South Lake Union, Ballard and the University District. Breakfast menus include everything from benedicts to pancakes (pancakes and waffles come with a trip to the famous breakfast bar with a selection of fresh fruit for topping), with ingredients sourced from local and regional purveyors.

Portage Bay Cafe

A great spot for sandwiches, Homegrown has a seasonal selection featuring ingredients from regional growers, ranchers and producers. There are Homegrown locations in Fremont, Capitol Hill, South Lake Union and downtown. Stop in for a BLT, roasted red pepper and hummus sandwich or more. There are gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan options as well as salads and sides.

As the name implies, Local 360 sources most of the restaurant’s ingredients within a 360-mile radius of Seattle. The things that won’t grow in the region are sourced from spots as close as possible. Open daily at 9 am until late, the menu features things like a housemade chorizo sausage scramble for brunch and a braised Oregon rabbit leg with vegetable ragout for dinner. Even the cocktail menu features local spirits—while not “healthy” necessarily, it doesn’t hurt to indulge.

Enjoy dinner at Wallingford’s Tilth, a certified-organic restaurant from James Beard Award-winning chef Maria Hines. The adorable green home that houses the restaurant is a cozy spot for dinner or weekend brunch. The menu changes with the seasons, but expect to find things like heirloom bean cassoulet, seared scallops with Brussels sprouts and cauliflower and carrot risotto for dinner or a French omelet with goat cheese and arugula, housemade sourdough waffles or housemade granola and yogurt for brunch. Gluten-free and vegan options are available. If you really want to indulge, opt for the tasting menu—five- or eight-course menus featuring the freshest ingredients available.

Tilth

Get a healthy dose of vegetables at Café Flora, Seattle’s beloved vegetarian restaurant. Meat-eaters won’t miss a thing at this spot which also has vegan and gluten-free options. The dinner menu has selections like Oaxaca tacos, the popular portobello wellington and pizzas, while breakfast and weekend brunch offer things like biscuits and gravy, a mushroom scramble and a must-eat cinnamon roll with maple-toasted pecans.

A great option for sushi lovers is Mashiko, a fully sustainable sushi bar located in West Seattle. Chef Hajime Sato only uses sustainable seafood, which means you might not see some familiar fish on the menu, but what is served is caught or farmed in a responsible way—and just as delicious. While the sushi is the star—consider the omakase (chef’s choice) menu for the day’s best—izakaya dishes, soups and tempura are also available.

Mashiko

Start the new year with food good for you and the planet.

Your A to Z Guide to Seattle's Best Things to Do

Space Needle Seattle
(Courtesy Space Needle) Explore the city from A to Z.

Deciding what to do in Seattle can be a challenge—theater, museums, attractions, dinners and cocktails quickly fill calendars. Here, a guide to exploring the city in alphabetical order.

Art Museums and Galleries

Seattle’s art scene is beautifully diverse, with museums and galleries showcasing regional, national and international pieces across the city. The largest museum in town is the Seattle Art Museum, with a large permanent collection and rotating exhibits. Also check out the Frye Art Museum, with both permanent and traveling exhibitions and free admission and the Henry Art Gallery, with rotating exhibits of contemporary art. Another fun activity for art lovers is Seattle’s art walks; neighborhoods have monthly evenings of art and community. 


Boeing

The airline company started in Seattle in 1916 is still going strong, and visitors can tour the factory where 747s, 777s and 787 Dreamliners are assembled at the Future of Flight’s Boeing Tour.

Or, see where it all began at the Museum of Flight—the original two-story barn that served as Boeing’s first headquarters was relocated here. Today, tour the barn to see historic exhibits about the company.

Museum of Flight


Coffee

This caffeinated beverage is ubiquitous around Seattle. Starbucks began here, and you can visit the original location at Pike Place Market. Beyond that, the city is full of charming coffee shops. Also at the market, Local Color serves Caffe Vita coffee and also displays art and gifts from local artists. The Fremont Coffee Company, in Fremont, is in an old house—enjoy a cup of coffee in one of the many cozy nooks available. One of downtown’s newest coffee shops is Anchorhead Coffee. Find both hot drinks and the company’s cold brew.


Distilleries

In the last few years, distilleries have popped up around Seattle. These spots are creating some fabulous spirits both popular (whiskey, vodka, gin) and more obscure (aquavit, other heritage liqueurs). Many bars around the city feature local spirits in cocktails; be sure to ask what is available. Many distilleries offer tours of their facilities and it’s an interesting way to learn what goes into creating the product.

Check out Westland Distillery for tours and tastings of their whiskey products or Copperworks Distilling for tours and tastings of their whiskey, gin and vodka.


Elliott Bay

Stretching along the shores of Seattle from Alki Beach in West Seattle north to West Point in Magnolia, Elliott Bay is a bustling hub of water activity. Many spots throughout the city—from rooftops to sidewalks—provide views of the water, but if you’d like to get out on the bay, options include the King County Water Taxi, which travels from downtown’s waterfront to Alki Beach; Argosy Cruises, with sightseeing options on the bay and beyond; and the Washington State Ferries, with routes to Bainbridge Island or Bremerton that travel across Elliott Bay.

King County Water Taxi


Fish

A visit to Seattle isn’t complete without dining on fresh fish. Salmon, cod and more fill dinner plates around the city.

A few good places to investigate for a fish fix include Ivar’s Acres of Clams and Anthony’s Pier 66 on Seattle’s waterfront with great views to accompany dinner; Anchovies & Olives for Italian-inspired seafood; or Etta’s for fresh fish overlooking Pike Place Market.


Glass Art

Seattle is a popular spot for glass art, with a climate friendly toward year-round use of a hot shop.

Chihuly Garden and Glass is the home of celebrated local artist Dale Chihuly’s works, while smaller glassblowing studios such as the Seattle Glassblowing Studio have working hotshops, classes and retail, making them fun spots to visit.

In Tacoma, the Museum of Glass has 13,000-square-feet of gallery space plus a working hotshop with demonstrations.


Hiram M. Chittenden Locks

Connecting the saltwater of Puget Sound to the freshwater of lakes Union and Washington, the Ballard Locks, as they are commonly called, are a fun place to see maritime traffic up close. This National Historic Site is free to visit and open daily from 7 am-9 pm.


Ice Cream

Ice cream in winter? In Seattle, yes. It’s a bit of an obsession in this town, with shops serving housemade creations across the city.

Favorites to check out include Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream with unique seasonal flavors and handmade waffle cones, Full Tilt Ice Cream with a variety of flavors in both dairy-full and dairy-free options plus pinball and beer and newcomer Frankie & Jo’s with housemade nut-based ice creams in original flavors.

Molly Moon's Homemade Ice Cream


Jazz

Seattle has a surprisingly robust jazz scene. If you’re looking to attend a show while in town, peruse the calendar at Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley, a spot with shows almost nightly; Tula’s Restaurant and Jazz Club, featuring a variety of subgenres in the packed lineup; and Egan’s Ballard Jam House, an intimate venue with mostly weekend shows and inexpensive or no cover charge.


Kenmore Air

Take a flight on a seaplane for a truly Seattle experience. Kenmore Air, flying seaplanes around the Pacific Northwest since 1946, offers scenic flights from Lake Union. Take to the skies over Seattle, ride along on a flight to the San Juan Islands or even take a day trip or overnight to spots like Victoria, British Columbia.


Lake Union

Seattle’s Lake Union is a busy hub of activity, from sailing and stand-up paddle boarding to bicycling and running.

At the north end of the lake find Gas Works Park, with panoramic views and a large play barn as well as a former gas works plant. On the south end, the busy South Lake Union neighborhood has plenty of dining as well as the Museum of History & Industry. There’s also a six-mile trail around the lake for walking, biking or running.


Mountains

Seattle is surrounded by mountains—the Olympics sit to the west and the Cascades to the east. Looming over everything is Mount Rainier, visible on clear days to the southwest. There is plenty of mountainous hiking as well as skiing and snowboarding at area resorts including Crystal Mountain, Stevens Pass and The Summit at Snoqualmie.

Crystal Mountain Resort


Nordstrom

In 1901, John W. Nordstrom, a Swedish immigrant who made $13,000 at a gold-mine stake in Alaska, founded Wallin & Nordstrom with friend Carl Wallin. This store would eventually become Nordstrom, Inc.

Seattle’s hometown luxury department store’s flagship location has been getting a facelift. In addition to a killer shoe department, find two restaurants, a coffee bar, a cocktail bar, a day spa and, of course, designer clothing for the entire family.


Oysters

Don’t miss the chance to slurp down fresh oysters while in the Emerald City. There are plenty of spots to enjoy the bivalve mollusks, and favorites include the oyster bar at waterfront spot Elliott’s Oyster House, Seattle’s oldest oyster bar at Pike Place Market, Emmett Watson’s Oyster Bar and in Ballard, The Walrus and the Carpenter.


Pike Place Market

No visit to Seattle is complete without spending a few hours wandering the passageways of Pike Place Market. In addition to fresh produce and seafood, there are artists and crafts vendors as well as a variety of locally owned stores.

Don’t miss Eighth Generation with its selection of Native-made or designed gifts; Chin Music Press, a local indie book publisher and store; and Ventures, a store with locally made goods from artwork to jewelry.

Chin Music Press


Quiet Spaces

Find a break from the noise and hustle of the city at downtown’s Seattle Central Library. It’s a fascinating building, with plenty of artwork, architectural elements and even a space for rotating art exhibits. Pick up a self-guided tour sheet from an information desk before exploring the blood-red fourth floor, the chartreuse escalators and the unique book spiral.


Rain

While Seattle is certainly famous for its rain, the weather doesn’t keep locals indoors. A good raincoat, a pair of boots and a hat are enough to keep you warm despite the drizzle.

Looking to add rain gear to your wardrobe? REI is headquartered in the area, and the massive flagship store is a fun spot to visit, with a huge selection of goods and a climbing wall. Rather invest in an umbrella? Check out Bella Umbrella at Pike Place Market. There’s a selection of both practical and beautiful umbrellas to choose from.


Space Needle

Seattle’s iconic structure opened in 1962 for the World’s Fair. Head to the Observation Deck for a 360-degree view of the city or make a reservation to dine at SkyCity, the Needle’s rotating restaurant. At the base of the Needle find SpaceBase, a large souvenir shop with a large selection of gifts.

Space Needle


Trails

Get out and explore—Seattle has plenty of well-maintained trails ready for walking, running and biking.

Green Lake has two trails around the lake. The inner, paved path is 2.8 miles while the outer, gravel path is 3.1 miles. Discovery Park is crisscrossed with trails through the woods, across beaches and around meadows. At 534 acres, the park is huge, but if you’re interested in a loop, the aptly named Loop Trail is 2.8 miles around. Finally, the Burke-Gilman Trail is a massive 27 miles long, stretching from Ballard to Lake Washington and then north to Seattle’s Eastside.


Underground Tour

Head to Pioneer Square for this fun tour. The Underground Tour takes you beneath Seattle’s sidewalks in Pioneer Square to the original pedestrian passageways of the neighborhood. Learn how the underground was created after the Great Fire of 1889 as well as stories from Seattle’s rough-and-tumble early years.


Views

Grab some photos for your Instagram account at a few of the best cityscape views around: Kerry Park in Queen Anne overlooks the Space Needle, downtown and Elliott Bay from the north, while Alki Beach has a panoramic view of downtown Seattle across Elliott Bay from the west.

Looking for a climate-controlled option? Sky View Observatory sits on the 73rd floor of the Columbia Center and gives visitors a birds-eye view of the city from more than 900 feet in the sky.


Waterfront

In addition to a variety of restaurants (that come with fabulous views), the waterfront is where you’ll find the Seattle Great Wheel, the city’s Ferris wheel that extends over the water. With enclosed gondolas, it’s a comfortable ride year-round.

A new attraction at the waterfront, Wings Over Washington is a “flying theater” that combines video and movement to take visitors through some of Washington’s sites. Also visit Ye Olde Curiosity Shop, a spot that is part museum and part souvenir shop with shrunken heads, a mummy and more.

Seattle Great Wheel


Xylophone

Hear masters on the xylophone and all other instruments with a concert from the Seattle Symphony. The internationally acclaimed symphony has a full lineup of concerts, from traditional to contemporary shows featuring popular local acts like Sir Mix-a-Lot and Brandi Carlile.


Yakima Valley Wine

East of the Cascades lies Yakima Valley Wine Country, home to more than 50 wineries and the vineyards that sustain them.

While it might not be possible to head east while in town, you can still try the award-winning wines from the region in Woodinville Wine Country, a spot full of tasting rooms just 30 minutes east of Seattle. Don’t miss Airfield Estates or Silver Lake Wines, both Yakima Valley spots with a Woodinville tasting room.


Zoo

Woodland Park Zoo, located in Seattle’s Phinney Ridge neighborhood, has 92 acres to explore. Exhibits are roughly organized by geographical location, and you can see Humboldt penguins, Malayan tigers, giraffes and more. Don’t miss the Willawong Station, where you can feed Australian parrots or the Molbak’s Butterfly Garden with almost 500 North American butterflies.

Woodland Park Zoo

 

 

Explore attractions, companies, food and more that make the city great.

Seattle Gift Guide: Find Something for Everyone

Downtown Seattle during the holidays
(©Yuri Levchenko/Flickr, Creative Commons) Find the perfect gift for the holidays in Seattle.

Looking for the perfect gift but want it to have a Seattle connection? Here, six things perfect for your shopping list, all made in Seattle or developed by Seattleites. 

For Him

There's a new clothing line from Seattle-based design veteran Joey Rodolfo, and it's perfect for busy men who love to travel. Buki has classic pieces that will last forever, but the best part is each is made from state-of-the-art fabric that not only features thermoregulation and moisture management, but also is super comfortable and travels well. The men's line includes tailored sweats, everyday basics and button-down shirts that easily go from casual settings to the office. 

Buki Contendor Hoodie

Pictured here, the Contender Hoodie. Every guy needs a comfortable hoodie that doesn't look sloppy, and this one fits the bill. Plus, how cozy to pull it on while opening gifts and enjoying breakfast? Buki has a holiday pop-up shop open in downtown Seattle through Dec. 31. Shop for men's and women's apparel at 1826 Sixth Ave. Or purchase items online.

For Her

Everyone needs something warm to toss in a bag, whether traveling, going to dinner or just visiting friends—during winter months, drafty spaces, chilly rooms and cooler temps mean layers are necessary. Seattleite Amy Cooper has created one such piece with her Red Twist Cashmere Wrap. It came out of a need for something soft and warm during flights from Asia back to the United States. Cooper's wraps come in a huge variety of colors and are made from cashmere she found in Beijing. 

 

Red Twist

There are multiple ways to wear the wrap, making it a great multifunctional garment that will be worn over and over again. And on top of being a cozy, flattering and versatile gift, each wrap helps educate underprivileged girls in Asia via a donation to Room to Read. Find the wraps online.

For Your Best Friend

There are plenty of Seattle makers crafting beautiful jewelry, and one to check out is Fresh Tangerine. The minimalist aesthetic hits the sweet spot between high fashion, versatility and an affordable price point. The company was started by Kim Kogane and now has a studio and showroom in Pioneer Square. All the pieces are made in the studio with 14-karat gold fill and sterling silver—recycled metal when possible. There is plenty to choose from, including rings, necklaces, bracelets and earrings.

Ellipse Earrings from Fresh Tangerine

While their stacking rings and beaded friendship bracelets are fabulous gifts, pictured here are the Ellipse Earrings from the new Metamorphosis line. The perfect size for those that like to make a subtle statement, the earrings can be dressed up or down. There is also an Ellipse Necklace available. The studio/showroom is open Tuesday-Friday from 9 am-5 pm at 89 Yesler Way on the second floor or purchase jewelry online.

For Your Mom

Seattle's Chinatown-International District is full of hidden gems—both stores and products that make unique gifts. This holiday season, Ethnic Seattle has rounded up some great gift options from a few of the neighborhood's shops. The For the Love of Tea gift set is perfect for tea lovers on your list. From Vital Tea Leaf Seattle, the kit includes four teas—blue people, Siberian rose, lychee and coconut—as well as a tea pot to brew them in.

Vital Tea Leaf Seattle tea basket

There are multiple other options including a coffee pack, make-your-own-pho kit, a yummy scents package with a candle and soap and more. Find the Ethnic Seattle gift options online.

For Your Dad

Warm dad up from the inside with a Seattle-made hot sauce from a favorite Mexican restaurant, Casco Antiguo. The Pioneer Square spot creates dishes inspired by traditional Mexican food, but uses local Northwest ingredients. The restaurant's line of hot sauces are all-natural with no preservatives. There are five varieties to choose from: Pina, with pineapple and habanero peppers, garlic, spices, vinegar and salt; Red Chili, with Fresno peppers, garlic, spices, vinegar and salt; Serrano with serrano peppers, garlic, spices, vinegar and salt; Habanero, with habanero peppers, garlic, spices, vinegar and salt; and a special Hawk Sauce, a blue and green celebration of the Seahawks with green apple, blueberry and habanero.

Casco Antiguo Hot Sauces

Find the eight-ounce hot sauces at the restaurant or online. 

For The Person on Your List Who Has Everything

Seattle's beloved Pike Place Market celebrates two huge milestones in 2017. Not only is it turning 110 years old, but also the new MarketFront is opening. The new addition to Pike Place Market includes a public plaza with viewing deck, retail and commercial space, new day stalls for farmers and artists, new low-income housing units and more. Part of the fundraising efforts for the new addition are personalized Market Charms. The metal charms are engraved and will hang from a fence overlooking Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains. The money raised helps completion of the MarketFront, in addition to other programs, including a senior center, food bank, preschool and medical clinic.

Pike Place Market Market Charms

A charm makes a fun gift that also gives back—order by Dec. 16 and the gift receiver will get a personalized card and keepsake by Christmas. You can still order one after the deadline: Charms are available through Jan. 31, 2017, when there will be a grand opening celebration. 

Even More Options

If none of these fit the bill, there is plenty of shopping to be found. Check out Moorea Seal for jewelry, home items, clothing, bags, hats and more from local and national artists; Urban Craft Uprising Headquarters, the brick-and-mortar storefront for the city's popular twice-yearly craft show, where you'll find all kinds of fantastic gifts made by local and regional artists; E. Smith Mercantile for men's and women's clothing, accessories and home items made in the United States; NuBe Green, a store filled with gifts made in the United States from green and renewable resources, including kids' items, accessories and home goods or Prism for unique accessories for men, women and the home.

Moorea Seal

Made in or created by Seattleites, here are a few options for those on your list.

Culinary Kudos: Eat With Seattle's James Beard Award-Winning Chefs

Miller's Guild
(Courtesy Miller's Guild) Sockeye salmon from Chef Jason Wilson's Miller's Guild

Among the culinary community, there is perhaps no greater honor than receiving a James Beard Award. And luckily for Seattle diners, this food-forward city counts an impressive bounty of winners among its very own.

Deemed “the Oscars of the food world” by Time magazine, these palate-pleasing accolades acknowledge excellence in the food and beverage industries, shining a spotlight on the hardworking folks who create magic behind the scenes. First distributed in 1991 by the James Beard Foundation, the awards span many categories, including chefs and restaurants, books, journalism, broadcast media and restaurant design and graphics.

Stars Among Us

Seeking out Beard-winning talents in this town isn’t difficult. Take those omnipresent names synonymous with the Seattle restaurant scene, for example, like Tom Douglas and Matt Dillon. A three-time Beard-winner (most recently for “Outstanding Restaurateur” in 2012), Douglas’ empire spans from his downtown flagship Dahlia Lounge to Lola (Mediterranean), Etta’s (seafood), Serious Pie (seriously delectable pizzas) and far beyond. Dillon—“Best Chef Northwest” 2012—boasts an impressive list of eateries that should top any Pacific Northwest diner’s list like Sitka and Spruce, The Corson Building, London Plane and more.

Then there are marvels in our midst like Molly Wizenberg (of Delancey, Essex and Dino’s Tomato Pie, owned with husband Brandon Pettit) who allows us to sate our appetites away from the table, thanks to her beautiful words that weave together tales as delicious as her kitchen creations. As part of the James Beard Foundation’s Book, Broadcast and Journalism Awards, she won the 2015 “Individual Food Blog" category for her captivating Orangette.

Dahlia Lounge

Winners' Circle

For Maria Hines, owner/chef of Seattle’s groundbreaking certified organic restaurant Tilth, winning a James Beard was something she had actively pursued since the beginning of her career. She explains that finally getting that nod (2009 “Best Chef Northwest” as a third-time nominee)—from people within the profession who truly get what it takes—proved “the highest honor.”

Jason Wilson of (now shuttered) Crush restaurant, the designated 2010 “Best Chef Northwest,” also calls the event “a career-long/lifelong dream come true.” 

Wilson said, “It is a pinnacle level of recognition given by our peers, so it means more because of this.”

Renee Erickson—whose wildly popular venues include Bateau, The Whale Wins, The Walrus and the Carpenter and Barnacle—describes how stunned she felt learning the news of her 2016 “Best Chef Northwest” win at this spring’s Chicago ceremony.

“I was with my husband Dan, my chef Marie and her boyfriend Kevin. We had a fantastic time together celebrating,” she reminisced. “It’s such an honor to get recognized for your work. I am proud of what we do in our restaurants with our staff, for our guests. To be given this honor is truly the best thing.”  

The Whale Wins

Culinary Community

When asked about the overall scene, Seattle chefs seem to nod in agreement. 

Wilson commented, “Seattle has a supportive culinary community rooted in camaraderie and genuine kinship. We share, we give, we all want each other to succeed.”

Hines wholeheartedly concurs, calling the community supportive, non-pretentious and healthily competitive. She adds that there isn’t one chef she wouldn’t feel comfortable calling with a query or concern.

Wilson continued, “This is one of THE MOST dynamic places to cook on earth … I love the ingredients, the producers and the region; it’s a genuine blessing that we have such a supportive audience too!”

Perks of the Trade

Wilson finds mentoring his team to be the most rewarding part of his job. Hines commented, “My staff is the reason I want to come to work every day.” Erickson agreed, “Watching your staff grow and overcome struggles is pretty wonderful to see. Also the friendships and trust you gain over the years in this work is irreplaceable.”

Another industry perk lightheartedly referenced by Erickson? “Discounted pricing on rosé!”

In astounding ways that seem to defy logic, these multitasking talents keep many balls suspended at once, juggling roles at various venues around town. Wilson, who owns wood-fired craft cooking-centric Miller’s Guild is also the executive chef for Coffee Flour.

“We are creating, researching and constantly discovering ways to use the coffee cherry fruit in everyday cooking and foods," he said of Coffee Flour.

In April 2017, he plans to open a Northwest farmhouse restaurant in Bellevue at the W Hotel called the Lakehouse, as well as a destination cocktail bar.

Hines credits a strong leadership team for allowing her to confidently divide her time between Tilth, Ballard’s Young American Ale House and Fremont’s Agrodolce. As a revered pioneer of organic and Pacific Northwest cuisine, Hines admitted that she first stumbled upon the scene a bit “selfishly,” honestly noting that the best flavors came from small, local farms and purveyors. It wasn’t until later—after learning organic foods’ extreme benefits for one’s body and the Earth—that she decided to “fully commit” to this lifestyle and philosophy. Hines highlights a different genre at each of her three restaurants.

“Probably like most chefs, I have ADD," she said. "This keeps things stimulating from a creative standpoint. It’s like I have three different toy boxes I get to play out of … It keeps me engaged.”

Erickson’s schedule fluctuates with the seasons.

“I travel a lot for work, so that really dictates when I am at the restaurants,” she commented. “I try to be at each spot at least once a week. I spend a lot of time meeting with staff and on my computer too. But the fun is being in the restaurants with the staff and guests.”

What’s on tap for this newly minted Beard recipient? After an October trip to Tokyo with girlfriends and a November trip to Baja to cook, Erickson hopes to travel to Hawaii with Taylor from Bateau. 

She said, “Learning out of our comfort zones/kitchens is a really incredible way to meet people and see into the kitchens and minds of other chefs.”

Tilth

The Future's Looking Bright (and Delicious!)

The fact that these award-winning chefs remain so excited to cook here on Seattle soil merely fuels our pride for this place we call home.

Erickson commented, “I love that Seattle is on the tip of the spear in regards to sustainability, not only in farmers but with our employees and guests. We are moving in a direction that is better for everyone involved.” She added, “Restaurants are so much more than just the food, wine, cocktails and guests. It’s about community and making sure we look out for each other. It’s a slow difficult transition, but I am very optimistic that the change is right.” 

Where to dine on the best of the best in the Emerald City.

More Than a Farmers Market: Seattle's Pike Place Market

Historic Pike Place Market photo from First Ave. and Pike St.
(Courtesy Pike Place Market PDA) Pike Place Market and Three Girls Bakery at First and Pike.

One of the longest continually operating farmers markets in the country started because of the price of onions. Pike Place Market was born to allow farmers to sell directly to consumers, cutting out the middleman. Now approaching the 110th anniversary, the market has seen many changes through the years; the latest is the new MarketFront, opening in 2017. The market’s many restaurants have histories as diverse as the market itself—it’s worth a trip to dine on fresh food surrounded by history or some of the new spots, just starting to make an indelible mark on what is the heart of the city.

While it’s seen different market locations through its history, Three Girls Bakery is the oldest lunch counter in the market, started by three women in 1912. First located in the Corner Market building (where Pike Place Flowers currently sits), it now sits in the Sanitary Building. The business has gone through peaks and valleys, at one time operating eight shops before shrinking back down to one in the 1920s. Today, it’s still a great place to find lunch, with sandwiches, soup and baked goods.

While Lowell’s Restaurant has been around since 1957, the space has been a restaurant much longer—the three floors began as Manning’s Coffee Shop, and then became Manning’s Cafeteria, in 1914. Manning’s roasted its own coffee; the roaster took prominence in the middle of the restaurant. Today, Lowell's serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Order on the bottom floor and head up to level three for spectacular views of Elliott Bay, the ferries and the Seattle Great Wheel. Or slide into a booth on the second floor for some of the best people watching in the market, through a bank of windows overlooking the Main Arcade.

Lowell's Restaurant in Pike Place Market

Near Lowell’s the Athenian Seafood Restaurant and Bar has also been a market staple for generations since its opening in 1909 by Greek brothers. It was a bakery and luncheonette before becoming the restaurant it is today. Fans of “Sleepless in Seattle” may recognize the space, as it was briefly featured in the 1993 movie. Today, stop in for breakfast, lunch or dinner, where there’s a strong seafood focus. Also like Lowell’s, the Athenian remains a spot for locals, and market employees are often grabbing a drink and bite to eat at the bars of both spots after finishing a shift.

Those familiar with Seattle’s history know it isn’t always G-rated. The space that favorite Northwest spot Place Pigalle sits has a part in that history. Starting around 1901, the building was the Cliff House Hotel, where the top floor became the Lotus Inn, which legend has it was a speakeasy during Prohibition. Next door, Seattle’s famous madam Nelly Curtis operated the LaSalle Hotel, providing plenty of patrons for the bar. Even after it became a legitimate hotel, rather than a brothel, the space remained a bar, becoming the Place Pigalle Tavern in the 1950s. Along with neighbors Victrola and the Hideout Tavern, the area was the hot spot for 1960s counterculture. It wasn’t until the 1980s that bartender-turned-owner Bill Frank upgraded the menu and started using fresh market ingredients—one of the first establishments to do so. The tradition of fine dining using seasonal ingredients continues today under the skilled eye of owner Lluvia Walker. The former Hideout Tavern is also a familiar spot: IL Bistro. This Italian eatery also sources local ingredients for elegant dinners.

The location of IL Bistro at Pike Place Market in the 1960s.

For one spot that predates even the market, head to the Virginia Inn at the corner of First Ave. and Virginia St. The building was created in 1901 as a hotel with a saloon on the corner. It became the Virginia Inn and Livingston Café in the ’30s. The current owners took over in 1981, and expanded the café into a full restaurant, serving Northwest ingredients at lunch and dinner.

The market is continuing its history of local businesses with new restaurants moving in—and the new MarketFront opening the summer of 2017. A few delicious spots are already serving up signature dishes with plans to move to a space in the new building after it opens. One of those is Honest Biscuits. Currently, find biscuits in classic flavors and varieties that showcase other Pike Place Market vendors like the Pike Place that uses Beecher’s Flagship Cheese. When the new spot opens, look for fried chicken in addition to the southern-style biscuits.

Also moving into the new space, Jarr & Co., from chef Zoi Antonitsas and Bryan Jarr, who currently owns the popular market spot JarrBar. At JarrBar, find cured seafood and meats, inspired by Jarr’s travels to Portugal and Spain. The new spot takes inspiration from Basque, Jewish, Native American, Scandinavian and Japanese dishes, including house-cured, salted, smoked and canned fish and seafood.

JarrBar in Pike Place Market

Another recent addition to the market is Red Cedar & Sage, a place for contemporary Northwest cuisine with everything from salmon to short ribs. The highlight of this space is the glass-enclosed patio—dine “outside” while staying protected from the weather.

On the opposite side of the market, near the Inn at the Market, sits Sushi Kashiba, Shiro Kashiba’s new sushi restaurant. Kashiba trained under Jiro Ono before coming to Seattle, where he helped create the area’s first sushi bar, in 1970, at Maneki in the International District. This latest restaurant has both à la carte and prix fixe menus—for the full experience, opt for the omakase, a chef’s choice sushi dinner.

No matter what kind of dining experience you’re seeking, the market can provide, as it has for the past 109 years.

Dine at Pike Place Market restaurants, new and old

Top Seattle Picks from a Chowder Champ

Larry Mellum of Pike Place Chowder
(Courtesy Pike Place Chowder) Larry Mellum of Pike Place Chowder

Winning a chowder competition against the city's largest seafood restaurants started Larry Mellum's journey to opening Pike Place Chowder at Pike Place Market in 2003. A Pacific Place location opened in 2007. Mellum spoke with Where about his favorite spots at the Market and beyond.

Why chowder?

In 1991, I became the co-owner of a small, 125-seat place in West Seattle called the Charlestown St Café. News spread that we served great food and Charlestown became popular beyond anything we had imagined. What we heard most often, week after week, was how much the customers craved our New England Clam Chowder. Eventually, we were invited to participate in the Seattle Chowder Cook-off, competing against all of the big seafood restaurants in town. To our surprise, we took First Place in the Professional Judges Award and, also, the Peoples Choice Award.  It was the first time in the 10-year history of the event that a single restaurant had won in both categories. We also won the next year. 

After customers from all over the region began standing in line for our chowder, opening a chowder shack came to mind. As luck would have it, a space opened up at Pike Place Market. I sold my share of Charlestown St. Café and opened Pike Place Chowder in 2003. The second location in Pacific Place opened in 2007. 

How long did it take to perfect the first recipe?

The original recipe was created by one of our line cooks and enhanced as we went along. We built on quality ingredients, fresh produce, herbs and spices. By the time we opened at the Market, all of the improvements had been made. The New England Clam Chowder has remained the same ever since.

Your chowder won one of the largest East-coast chowder contests three years running—how incredible did that feel? 

The Great Chowder Cook-Off in Newport, Rhode Island, really put us on the map. It remains the largest chowder competition in the country where about 20,000 people show up every year to vote for their favorite chowder.  No restaurant outside New England had ever taken first place at this event and yes; we won three years in a row. As Gail Alofsin, the director of the event, reported to the Food Network,  “In comes this restaurant from Seattle, of all places, and beats us at our own game.” Our team raised the money to go to the competition through car washes and bake sales. Not one of them had ever been east of Montana. What a great experience!

You have more varieties than just the original Clam Chowder. What other kinds do you make in the winter? 

We serve eight varieties of chowder at the Market location, every day and every season; and four to five daily versions at our Pacific Place location. At the Market, we always offer one chowder specific to the season. Right now, we’re serving our Cascadia Harvest Chowder, with lots of regional vegetables and herbs, topped with clams and mussels in the shell. With the limitless supply of fresh fish and produce at Pike Place Market, we are always inspired to add new chowders to our menus. In the spring, the first halibut arrives just in time for the early, tender asparagus. Then comes the Copper River Salmon.

Pike Place Chowder

People may not realize that you ship worldwide. When did you start doing that?

We started shipping several years ago when customers wanted to enjoy the chowders at home or give them as gifts. We ship throughout the U.S., but not yet worldwide. Our chowder arrives on a two-day schedule to ensure quality and freshness. However, we have amusing photos from fans who have flown all over the world with our chowder. One customer, whose work had transferred him from Seattle to Singapore, purchased a case of chowder along with an extra seat on the plane. He sent photos of the feast when he arrived at his new home.

When you aren’t here perfecting chowder recipes, where else do you enjoy dining in Seattle? 

Because we are so busy with the chowder business, I wish I had time to try more of the creative restaurants in Seattle. I like just about anything on Ballard Avenue, particularly The Walrus & The Carpenter. Actually, anything Renee Erikson does is great—The Whale Wins, Bateau. I’m impressed with Ethan Stowell’s Goldfinch Tavern. I really like supporting the terrific eating places here at the Market: Steelhead Diner, El Borracho, The Athenian, LoPriore Bros. Pasta Bar, Rachel’s Ginger Beer, to name only a few.

Any favorite spots for a drink—beer/wine/cocktails?

There is no better margarita—well, maybe any stronger margarita—than my go-to place, Viva Mexico, in White Center. Also, the local wines and brews here at the Market are always good choices.

What is a hidden Pike Place Market gem people might not know about? 

Well, they are not so hidden anymore but the Market is filled with gems like The Pink Door, Place Pigalle, Il Bistro, Rachel’s… Shiro’s new sushi bar, Kashiba, Chan’s at The Inn at The Market; also, the Old Stove Brewery and The Alibi Room. I like them all.

Chan Seattle

What is your favorite Seattle landmark?

The place where I work, Pike Place Market.

What is your favorite Seattle holiday tradition?

Macy’s Holiday Parade and Star Lighting Ceremony.

Best cup of coffee in Seattle?

Caffé Umbria at Le Panier.

Do you have a favorite store to buy holiday gifts?

All Saints

What is something you always do with visitors from out of town? 

Take them out sailing on Elliot Bay.

What is your favorite Seattle memory?

When I first moved from Portland in the late '70s, I didn’t care much for Seattle … too much traffic and too many people, constantly finding myself lost somewhere or another. But, early in the summer, on a bright Sunday morning, I decided to go on an excursion. Grabbing my fold-up patio chair, the Sunday Times, and a bottle of wine, I headed for the Colman ferry dock. Once aboard, I went up to the top deck, opened my lounge chair, and read the Sunday paper from beginning to end, while sipping my wine and riding back and forth for the better part of the day. By the time I walked off the boat late that afternoon, I knew Seattle was going to be my town. I’ve loved it here ever since.

Where is your favorite spot to go on vacation?

For sailing, to the San Juan Islands; fly fishing, in Montana; hanging out, on Vancouver Island.  My wife, Betty, and I have recently taken some rather exotic vacations to see endangered animals. We’ve visited the Marquesas, and traveled to India to see the tigers. Next year, we are planning to see the polar bears on a visit to Svalbard Island, above the Arctic Circle, off the coast of Norway.

San Juan Islands

What is the best way to explore a new location?

I’m a history geek so, wherever I go, I typically look for some historical places and perspectives.  Then walk it and talk it with people I might meet along the way.

What spot is No. 1 on your travel wish list? 

Following our trip to Svalbard Island, we will likely head for Africa to check out more critters or to Southern Europe for historical sites. There is so much to experience in this world and so many places I’d like to see. Yet, sometimes it’s just as nice to sit at home in the back yard reading a good book.

Any must-pack items when you travel?

Reading material and, of course, a camera. 

Window or Aisle seat?

Aisle

Pike Place Chowder's owner dishes on his favorite places around the city.