When the Denny party, pioneers from the Midwest, arrived in 1851 to settle this area, they first built their cabins at Alki Point. The location proved less than ideal for establishing a waterfront to support the settlement though, so they moved it to the more sheltered harbor of Elliott Bay.
Over the years, Seattle's position on Puget Sound was key to its role in the shipping and logging industries as well as the gold rush, and the waterfront was a rough-and-tumble collection of boarding houses, taverns and gambling halls. Much has changed since then, but the waterfront is still a prime destination for those visiting Seattle.
Choose Your Own Adventure
These days, the entertainment options on and around the docks are family-friendly but just as exciting.
Get an idea of the awesome yet challenging landscapes that greeted those early explorers at Wings Over Washington. Part theater, part ride, this unique experience pairs cutting-edge technology like virtual reality, laser projection and drone photography with seats that change direction and pitch synchronized to the film. Once you're buckled in, you'll feel as if you're flying high above Washington's mountains, rainforest, cliffs and more.
From virtual views to the real thing—the Seattle Great Wheel. The 175-foot wheel's glass-walled gondolas allow passengers 360-degree views during the slow, smooth ride. After dark, the wheel itself becomes a sight to see, thanks to its almost 500,000 LED lights. For holidays and special events, such as Seattle Seahawks games, the lights are programmed with colorful, pulsating displays.
The waterfront also offers a launching point for discovering the Puget Sound area as many early explorers did: by water. Argosy Cruises offers daily cruises of the harbor year-round. For a glimpse into the lives of the area's original inhabitants, opt for the Tillicum Village cruise. The half-day excursion takes passengers to Blake Island State Park to tour a longhouse, stroll beach and forest trails, dine on clams and alder-roasted salmon and enjoy Native American dance and music performances.
For longer excursions, Clipper Vacations offers daily departures to Victoria, British Columbia, where historic buildings, formal gardens and high tea services are all part of the city's colonial charm.
If sea life intrigues you, set aside some time to visit Seattle Aquarium at Pier 59. Its permanent exhibits highlight the underwater wildlife of Puget Sound and the Northwest, including octopi, sixgill sharks, and salmon. Be prepared to fall in love with the sea otters and their playful antics.
Try Today's Catch
Long before the Seattle Aquarium was built, another, smaller aquarium attracted visitors to the historic waterfront. It was opened in 1938 by Seattle icon Ivar Haglund, who charged curious customers a nickel to view his collection of sea life. He soon added a fish 'n' chips stand to his attraction, which proved a great success. He later opened a standalone restaurant called Ivar's Acres of Clams—it's still at Pier 54 delighting visitors with fresh catches and great views more than 70 years later.
You'll never be short of dining options on the waterfront. If it's shellfish you're after, check out a few of our other favorites: Elliott's Oyster House, a Pier 56 favorite since 1975; or The Crab Pot on Pier 57, where "sea feasts" of steamed crab, baked clams and more are served family-style on butcher-paper covered tables. Expect to get messy!
While Seattle is known for its seafood, that isn't the only option on the waterfront. Pier 55 boasts a location of a nationwide burger restaurant you might not have realized originated in Seattle: Red Robin. The chain got its start near the University of Washington in the 1940s as Sam's Tavern, but was soon rechristened Sam's Red Robin after its founder's favorite song. Of course, you'll find the usual menu of gourmet burgers and bottomless fries at the waterfront location—but the bay views are one-of-a-kind.
Kidd Valley, a local favorite that's been serving up burgers and hand-blended shakes since 1975, opened a location on neighboring Pier 54 last month.
Find The Perfect Souvenir
Seattle owes much of its success to its position as a gateway to the Klondike gold rush, when expedition outfitters and other businesses sprung up to cater to the needs of the 30,000-40,000 prospectors who passed through the city on their way to Alaska to find fortune starting in 1897.
Some of those businesses still exist today, including Ye Olde Curiosity Shop. Part shop, part museum, the venue houses a collection of oddities like shrunken heads, mummies and taxidermied mythical creatures, along with Northwestern souvenirs that range from the quirky—Sasquatch action figures—to the classic—Native American art prints.
For more traditional reminders of your visit, head to Simply Seattle for T-shirts, "rain globes" and gift baskets of locally produced artisan foods, or to Pike Street Press, where you'll find letterpress postcards, prints and more designed by Seattle artists.
Outdoorsy pursuits are a common interest among many of Seattle’s locals and visitors, whether it's opportunities to be active or just to relax and enjoy nature. Luckily, you don’t have to leave the city limits for any of that. Seattle boasts dozens of urban oases, each with its own distinct flavor.
Just a short walk from downtown, the 22-foot waterfall at tiny and secluded Waterfall Garden Park helps drown out the nearby hustle and bustle.
Cal Anderson Park in the heart of Capitol Hill is a prime spot for posing and people watching—keep an eye out for the impromptu bike polo matches that pop up on the park’s tennis courts.
Set on a bluff above Puget Sound, Discovery Park—the city’s largest at more than 500 acres—rewards visitors with sweeping views of both the Olympic and Cascade mountain ranges, and features a three-mile looped trail that passes the historic West Point Lighthouse.
Green Lake Park
A popular destination for boating and swimming, the nearly three-mile path that curves around the lake also draws plenty of joggers and cyclists.
Gas Works Park
The industrial structures of the old city gas plant make for dramatic scenery on Lake Union's north shore. Kids will love the play barn, and the park's big hill is perfect for flying a kite.
With no end of fun things to do, Seattle is the place to spend late summertime soaking up the sun, music and festivities.
End of Summer Bash!: Riesling Revolution
They don’t call Charles Smith the “rock star winemaker” for nothing—Smith was a band manager before he changed his career course and became of the Northwest’s most successful vintners. No surprise then that he’s bringing together two of his greatest passions—wine and rock music—for this blowout event at his Georgetown winery, Charles Smith Wines Jet City. The bash kicks off at 4:30 pm with tastings of Rieslings from 18 (mostly regional) wineries, including his own K Vintners jet City Riesling, which is only available from the Georgetown venue. The fun continues into the night with more wine, Georgetown Brewing Co. beers, food trucks, burlesque shows, and live music from alt-country rockers Calexico and headliners Seattle-based indie-folk band The Head and the Heart, who will perform a special acoustic set. This is one party you won’t want to miss, so get your tickets in advance.
This three-day festival of music, comedy, art, film and all-around good times has been Seattle's most eagerly awaited late-summer event for 45 years. Headlining acts including Weezer, Solange, Lorde, Spoon, Flo Rida will share the Seattle Center stages with dozens more national and local musicians covering the gamut from folk to rap in addition to stand-up stars such as Judah Friedlander, Margaret Cho and Jermaine Fowler. Other entertainment includes a short-film festival, pinball arcade, laser show and modern dance performances.
Washington State Fair
More than a million fun-seekers of all ages will pour through the gates of the Puyallup fairgrounds—35 miles south of Seattle—over the course of this 24-day extravaganza. Expect all the usual sights and sounds of a good old-fashioned fair: farm animal shows, rodeos, midway rides, live music and, of course, food-on-a-stick. Save some energy to rock out in the evening too—the grandstand concert series lineup features country greats Melissa Etheridge, Hank Williams, Jr., Jason Aldean and other top performers like The Beach Boys and Washington state's own Modest Mouse.
Even after the sun sets, there’s still plenty to do in Seattle, from the clubs of Capitol Hill to the bars of Belltown to the breweries of Ballard.
The Best Late-Night Hideouts in Seattle
You’ll be thoroughly entertained seeing the long-running “Le Faux,” a cabaret-style celebrity impersonation show at Julia’s on Broadway on Capitol Hill, where you can have dinner beforehand. The performers are equally talented at Keys on Main in Queen Anne, a dueling piano bar.
If you’d rather be moving than sitting, head to the two-level, multiroom Trinity Nightclub—with three main areas and a luxurious VIP room—or the EDM-focused Foundation Nightclub. For a lower- key evening, Needle & Thread is an elegant speakeasy-style bar hidden behind a bank vault door in Tavern Law, while Rabbit Hole is a fun spot with skeeball and unique décor to complement the food and drinks.
The Best Late-Night Restaurants in Seattle
The 5 Point Café: With potato bacon pancakes and pull tabs, you can’t go wrong at this circa-1929 institution.
13 Coins: The doors never close at 13 Coins, where you’ll find fried ice cream and live music on some nights.
Beth’s Café: The 12-egg omelette served with toast and all-you-can-eat hash browns is Beth’s signature item, so come hungry.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
The picture-perfect backdrop, the incredible local food scene, the innovative people who live here and create one-of-a-kind experiences—all of these reasons and more make Seattle the ideal place to celebrate life’s big moments. Whether you’re in town to toast an anniversary, a birthday, a job promotion or just because, the Emerald City makes it easy for you to get in the celebratory spirit. Consider this your guide to doing just that. (Oh, and congratulations!)
Dinner With a View
Keep it traditional with a nice meal that comes with a side of jaw-dropping views. The classic entry in this category is Canlis, the crown jewel of Seattle’s fine-dining scene since the 1950s and one of the only places in the area with a dress code. With floor-to-ceiling windows, the mid century-modern building is perched above Lake Union, offering an ambiance that matches both the impeccable service and time-honored Pacific Northwest fare.
Over in Pike Place Market, there are several options for a special meal overlooking the water, including Matt’s in the Market (where you can gaze out on Elliott Bay from behind lovely arched windows), Maximilien (with a romantic, white-tablecloth charm) and Place Pigalle (an appealing meld of French fare with a Northwest sensibility).
For a view looking back at the city’s skyline, Salty’s on Alki Beach is legendary for its location and its brunch buffet—with crab legs, eggs Benedict, freshly shucked oysters, carved-to-order prime rib, house made mac and cheese, butterscotch pudding and a chocolate fountain. You’ll leave with full bellies and happy hearts.
Sitting in a plush booth, surrounded by twinkling lights, gazing upon a stage framed by gold accents—this is the experience you'll enjoy at The Triple Door. Throw in the act that’s onstage and the acclaimed Asian cuisine from next-door neighbor Wild Ginger—both always high-quality—and you’ve got the makings of a great night out.
Across the street at Benaroya Hall, the award-winning Seattle Symphony never fails to put on a good show. It’s also worth checking the schedules at The 5th Avenue Theatre and the Paramount Theatre to see if there’s something special playing while you’re here.
For a sure bet, The Pink Door in Pike Place Market always has nightly entertainment in the dining room; while you savor the lasagna or pappardelle al ragù Bolognese, enjoy performances from the likes of a trapeze artist, an Eastern European jazz trio or a singer-songwriter with a guitar and a gift for lyrics.
Take a Trip
The area just outside the city limits holds plenty of treasures, too. A day trip to Woodinville, where there are a whopping 90-plus wineries, is a fun way to taste the flavors of Washington wine country. To make it even easier, go on a tour—Bon Vivant Wine Tours, Big Woody Limos and Seattle Wine Tours all have options that will keep your focus solely on sipping and not the logistics.
Also on the Eastside, Snoqualmie Falls is a breathtaking waterfall that’s impressive no matter the weather. Bring your camera and prepare to be awed by nature. Even if you can’t stay the night at the adjacent Salish Lodge & Spa (but you should if you can squeeze it in!), stop by one of the restaurants and order something with honey in it—the bees are kept on-site, so it’s as local as can be.
If you can’t get enough of the water, step aboard a Washington State Ferry bound for Bainbridge Island and walk around the quaint downtown area there known as Winslow. Be sure to dine at Hitchcock, beloved for its sustainably sourced dishes.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.”
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
This month, shop for fresh new styles and locally made goods that will put a spring in your step. From Moorea Seal's delightful designs for women to Division Road's rugged men's apparel, the Emerald City offers something for every shopper. Here are some of the best Seattle boutiques for apparel, shoes, home decor and accessories.
Up your shoe game this spring at stylish women’s shoes and apparel boutique Clementines. Shop for fun, colorful styles by Kat Maconie, or opt for a more demure pastel, perforated pair of Rollie Nation Oxfords. The Pioneer Square shop is known for celebrating craftsmanship and showcasing new designers and artists. 310 Occidental Ave. S, 206.935.9400
A Capitol Hill staple, this urban, edgy department store stocks an eclectic collection of stylish, fun and modern home decor and furniture, as well as art, jewelry, toys and other gift items. It’s the perfect place to upgrade your home after spring cleaning. Pick up a couple of planters or bud vases to show off the season’s blooms. 1103 E. Pike St., 206.568.4663
Feminists will love this female-owned shop, which offers a delightful selection of small-production, independently made clothing, jewelry, accessories and paper goods. The locally beloved boutique places an emphasis on Pacific Northwest-designed and sustainably produced goods. 145 S. King St., 206.788.0330
Quality is key at this luxury heritage menswear boutique, a self-described “post-modern industrial haberdashery” that combines refinement with grit. Shop enduring footwear, apparel and accessories from North American, Western European and Japanese manufacturers, including exclusive pieces from Pacific Northwest brands like Crescent Down Works, Dehen 1920 and Viberg. 536 First Ave. S, 206.755.0215
For authentic Seattle style, head to Sassafras, whose Belltown retail shop also houses design studios of local lines like Parallel Jewelry, La Macón by Shari Noble and Katy Flynn Seattle, meaning bags, T-shirts, jewelry and more are created on-site. Women can find a variety of handmade, high-quality clothes by Pacific Northwest designers. Get the perfect fit, thanks to in-store alterations. 2307 First Ave., 206.420.7057
Breathe new life into your home with this shop’s petite treasures—they’re the perfect size for toting back home with you. Glassybaby’s beautiful glass vessels—tea-light votives and drinking glasses—are locally and sustainably hand-blown in brilliant hues. What’s more, 10 percent of every piece is donated to the company’s White Light Fund, which aims to help people, animals and the planet heal—to date, Glassybaby has donated more than $6 million. There are multiple locations, but visit the Madrona outpost to see the “hot shop” where the Glassybabies are created. 3406 E. Union St., 206.518.9071
Designer and Pinterest phenomenon Moorea Seal translated her massive online following into a popular eponymous boutique in Belltown that has been featured in publications from People to InStyle. Drop by to browse the curated selection of clothing, shoes, gifts and accessories, including pieces from Seal’s own line of jewelry and Seattle-made minimalistic, affordable Baleen jewelry. Seven percent of the store’s proceeds benefit nonprofits in categories like children’s needs and protecting the planet. 2523 Third Ave., 206.728.2523
One of Seattle’s premier fashion boutiques, this bright, airy store in Capitol Hill houses a chic collection of men’s and women’s apparel, as well as home objects, all beautifully designed and thoughtfully curated. Find high-end, high-style clothing, shoes and art from designers with an independent sense of beauty (think Rick Owen, Rachel Comey, A.P.C. and more). Totokaelo’s such a favorite among shoppers that it recently opened an additional location in New York City. 1523 10th Ave., 844.868.6523
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.
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!
Your family has deep roots in the Seattle area. What are some of your favorite places?
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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'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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.