Back in May– yes, this is long overdue!– a group of friends rented a house in the Capitol Hill neighbourhood of Seattle, and set out to explore the city, so close to our homes in Vancouver and Victoria, but so often overlooked for places like Portland and Los Angeles. In fact, the majority of my time spent in Seattle were transfers from the bus to the train on my way down to Portland to visit Anja. I’d pop into Zeitgeist, grab a tuna sandwich and be on my way.
Of course, anyone who has been to Seattle lately can tell you that we were fools to overlook what the city has to offer. We settled on a goal for our trip: in addition to hitting up as many happy hours as we could (happy hours are ILLEGAL in BC, can you believe it?!), we were to visit and try some of the city’s finest eateries and drinking establishments. As there were up to 12 of us at times in and out of the house, we relied on a “divide and conquer” strategy, in which we never overwhelmed a business with our entire posse (with the exception of one pre-planned group dinner), and instead explored in small groups, returning to the house at the end of the day to share reviews, recommendations and, of course, to drink copious amounts of craft beer, purchased nearby at the well stocked Thomas St. Market.
Prior to the trip, we prepared a comprehensive google doc of Seattle restaurants, so that when it came time for breakfast, lunch or dinner, all one had to do was consult the list and then whoever was interested would head off for another fantastic meal.
A definite highlight was the wonderfully decorated Oddfellows Cafe & Bar. I was equally taken with its clever Masonic theme and the enormous hunk of French toast smothered in rhubarb and marscapone that I devoured for brunch. Jill (who wasn’t staying at the house but happened to be in Seattle at the same time) reported that the happy hour was also divine. One could scoff that Oddfellows’ reclaimed wood/mason jar/exposed brick-look is becoming passé, but I must confess, long before the old timey-theme took off, I’ve always loved places that celebrate and reference history. I even bought a tote, so enamoured was I with their lovely antique imagery.
The coffee enthusiasts in the group were especially happy to be in the city known for its coffee culture, and visits were made to Stumptown, and Victrola, in addition to numerous cups in the morning made by AeroPress, brought from home as a certain necessity.
I think our first happy hour experience was at the small Pike Street Fish Fry, where we enjoyed free fries with our fish, washed down with cold beer in a near should-to-shoulder standing room only space.
I suppose any food-related trip to Seattle has to eventually end up at Pike Place Market. We indulged in some Beecher’s macaroni and cheese, but due to some ill timing, we missed out on happy hour oysters at the Athenian and while I was happy to wander the aisles, checking out exuberant bouquets of flowers and stacks of gleaming produce and local seafood, I admit the market’s incessant bustle made me miss our digs in Capitol Hill.
Melrose Market was another fantastic spot walking distance from our house. The market is a collection of small businesses, including cheese shop Calf & Kid and Rain Shadow Meats, where Jordan and I stocked up on snacks and bought amazing local sausages for a BBQ at the house. One rainy afternoon we ducked into Taylor Shellfish for platters of oysters and glasses of crisp vinho verde, a refreshing wine that became the casual sipping drink of the summer for many of us (the name of the particular bottle we tried at Taylor was Calamares).
I was really intrigued by Sitka & Spruce‘s super-local menu, practically prepared in your eating space, but didn’t get a chance to try it myself. It did, however, receive good reviews from other people in our group.
For our “family” dinner, we chose Indian-influenced Poppy. It was a warmly lit space that easily accommodated our large group, and the “thali” format, a meal that comes with several small dishes, worked really well, allowing everyone to try a good variety of tastes. We enjoyed fantastic service, a few creative cocktails and went for a wander in the thoughtfully designed patio and garden space in the back. I’d love to return there in warmer months and take advantage of the space.
Another day’s wandering brought Jordan and I to Bimbo’s Cantina, drawn by its all day happy hour and the promise of delicious Mexican.
We had all brought our bikes over from Victoria, believing it would be the best way to see the city without cars. However, many of us were unprepared for Capitol Hills’… well, HILLS, and our house was so perfectly located that we walked to most of our destinations. A few of us, however, were determined to put our bikes to good use, and we spent the day circling Lake Union, visiting cafes and boutiques in Ballard and Fremont, and, to my great excitement, checking out Gas Works Park, where Heath Ledger and Julie Stiles play paintball in 10 Things I Hate About You.
The ride was pretty mellow around the lake but the climb back to Capitol Hill was challenging. I put my best effort into it, reminding myself of the earl grey tea ice cream I had devoured at Molly Moon’s, the thin salty hamburgers from Dick’s Drive-In and black bean-smothered tostadas at La Carta de Oaxaca.
I’m almost ashamed to delve deeper into our food adventures in Seattle– it was truly a trip of indulgences! Food was at the centre of many of my favourite memories: semi-drunken rabbit tacos at the (now closed?) Taco Gringos, dashing from an unrelenting downpour into the welcoming wooden booths and carefully curated beer menu of The Pine Box, walking miles for warm bowls of pho at Ba Bar, Tina and Sean’s pilgrimage to Katsu Burger (and one well worth it, they reported), a hearty breakfast involving gravy at Skillet Diner, a family-style BBQ dinner grilled dutifully by Jordan in the pouring rain, and Kim’s surprising dexterity at preparing crab, bought fresh from the market and consumed in a buttery, delicious mess.
Seattle Supper Club was one of the best mini-trips I’ve experienced. The pleasure of dining out with your friends, trying out new tastes and spaces, and then retreating to the comfort of your own home a short walk away made for for a truly unique way to explore Seattle. (Our house in Seattle ended up being such a vital part of the trip that it will get its own post!)
My only regret is that I have no documentation of the nights we spent at the nearby Crescent Lounge, the homey kind of dive bar that for whatever reason just doesn’t exist back in British Columbia, where people from all walks of life gather to drink, socialize and sing unpretentious, non-ironic karaoke. For me, that’s paradise, and who knew it could be found only a few hours over the border? I think Seattle and I are in the bloom of what might become a beautiful friendship.