Prepare for a beer culture to rival Belgium and bars, hotels and food so good, you’ll forget all about the rain.
Founded by microbrew pioneer Charles Finkel in 1989, the Pike Brewing Company (Downtown, pikebrewing.com) is a Seattle original. Housed in a striking multilevel industrial space inside Pike Place Market, Pike offers its own beers (such as the caramely, earthy Kilt Lifter Scotch-style ale) on tap, plus rotating guest taps and bottles. The menu, loaded with simple but fresh seafood, includes a local cheese plate. Pyramid Brewing (Lake Union, pyramidbrew.com) has been making waves since 1985, when it crafted the first American draft wheat beer since Prohibition. Now an arm of the fifth-largest craft brewer in the States, Pyramid offers year-round staples like Thunderhead IPA, seasonal gems like Curve Ball Blonde Ale and the Ignition series that features Live Wire, a new incarnation of the famous Haywire Hefeweizen. With three locations around town, Elysian Brewing (Pioneer Square, Capitol Hill, Tangletown, elysianbrewing.com) is a local powerhouse. Its flagship Elysian Fields location opened in 2006 in Pioneer Square, pouring its regular lineup, including the aromatic, 98-point Avatar Jasmine IPA, plus seasonals like the Night Owl Pumpkin Ale. Seattle’s first craft brewery, Redhook (Woodinville, redhook.com), was founded in 1981, and its ESB has been a Seattle staple for nearly as long. Now located in suburban Woodinville, Redhook is worth the drive for quality (if basic) fare and reasonably priced beers, including a seasonal cask offering. At Maritime Pacific Brewing (Ballard, maritimebrewery.ypguides.net), pirate gear may festoon the Jolly Roger Taproom, but take the beer seriously: There are 14 taps, including Maritime’s original Flagship Red Alt Ale, plus two or three cask-conditioned brews at any given time. Bonus: The menu includes suggested beer pairings.
A true neighborhood hangout, the cozy Stumbling Monk Pub (Capitol Hill, 206.860.0916) boasts Belgian and Belgian-style ales on tap—think Maredsous Abbey Ales alongside a local like Elysian Saison Elysée. There are plenty of bars in Seattle with a wider selection, but few as friendly; and if you enjoy Belgians, you’ll feel at home as soon as you walk in the door. Über Tavern (Greenwood, uberbier.com) doubles as great beer shop, with more than 180 micros, imports and rarities you can sip in-house or take home, plus a selection of kegs and a killer tap list (check Über’s Web site for a daily draft lineup) that makes it tough to decide what to fill your growler with. Just two blocks from Über, the Duck Island Saloon (Greenwood, 206.783.3360) plays the perfect dive bar for beer geeks with an ever-rotating array of unusual beers on tap—you might find Dogfish Head 90-Minute IPA or Brouwerij Verhaeghe Duchesse de Bourgogne. Hungry? Order from Beth’s Café next door, famous for its six- and 12-egg omelets. Deep in the wilds of West Seattle, the two-room Beveridge Place Pub (West Seattle, beveridgeplacepub.com) earns its place as one of the city’s undisputed top beer halls—and actually stands on the corner of a street called Beveridge Place. Choose from 25 taps, including a good selection of craft lagers, then head to the game room for a round of darts or shuffleboard. How many beers are on tap at Brouwer’s Café (Fremont, brouwerscafe.blogspot.com)? We lost count somewhere around five dozen. The place looks like a well-appointed dungeon and specializes in Belgian brews and fare (the bar’s been known to put Cantillon Kriek lambic on tap), but you may wander in during, say, the barleywine festival and find nothing but barleywines on tap. Though it’s hard to turn down the likes of Port Townsend Nitro Scotch Ale on draft, the stars of the Naked City Taphouse (Greenwood, nakedcitybrewing.com) and its 24 taps may just be the house-brewed concoctions, like the single-hop IPA series and its saison experiments. The deliciously creative menu features a PB&J slathered with house-made peanut butter and preserves.
A few years ago, chef Ethan Stowell transformed a dull downtown corner with some of the most delicious and inventive food in town at Union (Downtown, ethanstowellrestaurants.com/union). He’s particularly talented with seafood, eschewing clichéd Seattle fish preparations in favor of clever dishes like fluke crudo with cucumber, lime and ginger. At the cozy Dinette (Capitol Hill, dinetteseattle.com) on Capitol Hill, chef Melissa Nyffeler cooks up seasonal food that is often French- or Italian-inspired but always has her stamp on it. Try her fresh pastas (meaty or vegetarian), a platter of toasts with savory toppings (don’t miss the rabbit rillettes), or the entree specials on the chalkboard. Tom Douglas owns six restaurants and is as close as you get to Seattle royalty—and at the Palace Kitchen (Downtown, tomdouglas.com/index.php/restaurants/palace-kitchen), he’s at his unpretentious and full-flavored best. The burger competes with the best in town, with organic beef grilled medium rare and a platter of unusual toppings (pickled green tomatoes, if you’re lucky). Douglas likes to play around with international influences, but never in a precious way, and his cheese plate is all-American. Pad Thai is probably the single most popular dish in Seattle, so don’t even think of missing this spicy plate at May (Wallingford, maythaiseattle.com). Extravagant but not expensive, patrons dine in an actual Bangkok house that was shipped over and reassembled, and equal care is put into the food. Try the squid, papaya salad and, yes, pad Thai. In terms of its Seattle popularity, Vietnamese food is nipping at Thai’s heels. Step into little Green Leaf (International District, greenleaftaste.com) for some of the best in town, and enjoy the casually excellent service. It’s a tough call between the duck salad and the green mango salad with grilled prawns, but for less than $10 each, try both. Or come in during lunch for Seattle’s favorite soup, phở, a rice noodle soup with various cuts of beef. Located in a former hardware store, King’s Hardware (Ballard, kingsballard.com) claims you “Can’t beat our meat!”— and really, you can’t, especially between the hours of 5:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m., when its organic beef burgers are a dollar off. Highlights include the Billy Burger, topped with roasted garlic, red pepper and goat cheese, and the After School Special, a bacon burger slathered in gooey peanut butter you simply have to taste to believe.
Watertown (University District, watertownseattle.com) is a bit out of the way, so why stay there? You can save up to 50 percent off downtown prices, get equally good (or better) service, and, if you’ve rented a car, quick access to I-5. No rental car? Watertown will furnish a free bicycle or shuttle service to Pike Place Market or Seattle Center. Hip without being too edgy, the Alexis (Downtown, alexishotel.com) is just a couple blocks from Pike Place Market and an easy walk to Elysian Fields and Chinatown. The Alexis offers a variety of rooms, from small studios to huge two-bedroom suites. One of the best perks at Hotel Ändra (Downtown, hotelandra.com) is room service by another Tom Douglas outpost, Greek restaurant Lola, housed on the first floor. The rooms in this Belltown boutique hotel have soothing earth tones and feature large desks and Wi-Fi, handy whether you’re a business traveler or just need to research pubs before going out. A budget option, the Inn at Queen Anne (Lower Queen Anne, innatqueenanne.com) is in the Uptown neighborhood, convenient to Seattle Center (including the monorail which zips you downtown), Belltown restaurants and the Olympic Sculpture Park. All rooms feature kitchenettes, which means you can wander down the block to Metropolitan Market, an upscale grocery, and pick up fixings for a gourmet dinner on the cheap. The Pan Pacific (South Lake Union, panpacific.com/seattle) has a complete Whole Foods store (featuring a great beer selection, of course) just off the lobby—and yes, they deliver. This new, no-holds-barred luxury hotel is pricey, but worth it. And while it’s not as centrally located as some of the other hotels, bus or taxi access to downtown and Capitol Hill is convenient.
Far from a tourist trap, the Pike Place Market (Downtown, pikeplacemarket.org) serves visitors and locals alike. Watch workers throw fish (as seen on TV) at Pike Place Fish; stop for lunch at Matt’s in the Market, Cafe Campagne, or Market Grill; and shop on the lower levels. Don’t miss Daily Dozen Doughnuts, with a “doughnut robot” that turns out hundreds an hour. The city that gave you Nirvana, Pearl Jam and, uh, Kenny G. continues to have a thriving local music scene. For clubs and shows, check the local papers (especially The Stranger weekly), or for a self-guided tour, consult the Seattle Music Map (www.seattle.gov/music/map). Washington’s ferry system (Downtown, wsdot.wa.gov/ferries) is the nation’s largest, and it’s a relaxing way to get a great view of the city and Elliott Bay. A round-trip ride to Bainbridge Island (30 minutes each way) runs $7.10, and you can get off on the island to wander around. In summer, a water taxi (West Seattle, kingcounty.gov/transportation/kcdot/WaterTaxi.aspx) connects downtown and West Seattle, where you can eat at Alki Fish & Crab Co. or catch a bus to the beach. In summer, have a picnic on the beautiful University of Washington campus, and then rent a canoe or kayak at the UW boathouse (University District, depts.washington.edu/ima/IMA_wac.php) and paddle around Lake Washington. It’s inexpensive, safe for beginners and even (despite rowing under many freeway ramps) a little romantic. Seattle is home to one of the nation’s only independent chocolate factories, Theo (Fremont, theochocolate.com), which, coincidentally resides in the old Redhook Brewery building. Take one of the daily, $6 tours, or just scarf down the goods: Theo’s wares are all organic and Fair Trade certified, and include unusual treats like the Bread & Chocolate Bar, a Nestlé Crunch-like bar made with toasted artisan breadcrumbs.
The original Starbucks still stands in Pike Place Market, but if you take your coffee as seriously as you do your beer, visit one of these cafés for a “real” espresso, macchiato or latte. With two locations on Capitol Hill, Victrola (Capitol Hill, victrolacoffee.com) reflects the quintessential Seattle coffeehouse. The larger operation on 15th Avenue showcases the work of local artists and invites lingerers; the roastery on Pike Street operates out of a classic building and makes for a nice brisk walk up from downtown. Also sporting two locations, plus a sidewalk bar on Broadway Avenue, Espresso Vivace (Capitol Hill, espressovivace.com) is the brainchild of David Schomer, one of the deans of American espresso artistry. Many of his baristas are careerists who have been with the company for years, and they’re equally adept at making drinks and conversation. Yep, Zoka Coffee Roaster & Tea Co. (Green Lake and University District, zokacoffee.com) has two locations, too—one, a lazy hangout off Green Lake (just up the street from the Elysian Tangletown brewpub) and the other, a very laptop-oriented café behind University Village mall. Both have top-notch coffee, but we give the nod to the University location, colloquially known as “UZ.” Housed in one of Seattle’s loveliest old buildings, the Loveless, Joe Bar (Capitol Hill, joebar.org) serves its coffee with crêpes (try the lemon), plus beer and wine. There’s not a lengthy beer list, but the bar does have some Unibroue bottles and reasonable prices. •