Seattle for One Day

Breakfast:

5 Points Cafe

5 Point Cafe is a divey 24 hour diner in downtown Seattle right near the EMP and the Space Needle. They promise to cheat tourists and drunks and their motto is “Don’t be a dick.” Do I need to tell you that their bartender serves the best bloody mary you’ve ever had when you’ve been up for 36 hours straight and perhaps you don’t remember all of those hours…? Not that I would know about that. But I do know that The Mess is the best crispy pile of potatoes, veggies, bacon and eggs that you could ever hope to have after a long night of mayhem. If you’re the kind of person that loves a good breakfast happy hour, you’ll love 5 Point Cafe .

But maybe you don’t like to drink your breakfast and you’d prefer some light and a view of the Capitol Hill neighborhood?

Glo's Cafe

Then try Glo’s. The walk is uphill, the space is tiny and you’ll wait for quite a while but the food is fresh, excellent and worth it. So, go to Glo’s, put your name in, sit outside to wait and bring a newspaper so you’re all current on the world’s affairs by the time you get to breakfast. There are many worse ways to spend a morning.

Lunch should probably be quick because you spent the morning seeing the Space Needle and the Chilhuly Glass Gardens

Space Needle, Seattle

(you did, right??) and you really need to see the Experience Music Project (EMP) before you leave town.

So, go for sushi.

Blue Sushi

Blue C Sushi has colored coded plates on a conveyor belt making it easy to order just as much sushi as you’ll actually enjoy and eat immediately. The crispy won tons with edamame dip are great and if you leave Seattle without trying wild salmon sashimi, I’d consider it a travesty. Order from the chefs if you want something special and this is the one place that I recommend visiting when it’s busy because the chefs are jamming, the fresh sushi is coming out steadily and there’s no waiting for anything. Just crack open a pair of chop sticks and dig in.

The afternoon is the EMP.

Experience Music Project

The intimate concert space full of couches where you can lounge and watch recorded live performances and interviews with musicians famous and infamous is worth the price of admission. And then there’s the rest of the Project. The installations change regularly but we saw great exhibits on Jimi Hendrix, the Grunge movement, the history of the leather jacket charting it’s course from airmen through bikers to musicians and the basement was completely taken over by sci fi monsters and the history of horror films. Ecelectic and interesting, the EMP is a don’t miss experience if you’re visiting Seattle.

And now dinner. If you’re doing classic Seattle, then go down to the wharf and eat at the Crab Pot.

The Crab Pot

Giant piles of seafood and tiny hammers with which to attack it. Roll up your sleeves, put on that cheesy plastic bib and eat your weight in fresh crab legs and boiled red potatoes. By the end of the night the napkins will surround you in massive heaps, covering all those chunks of corn you pushed to the side, and there won’t be an unsqueezed lemon anywhere to be found. Expect to hear “I can’t eat another thing” followed by “Is that the last shrimp?” at least once before the end of the evening.

If you want dinner without a plastic bib, go here:

How to Cook a Wolf

Inspired by M.F.K. Fisher’s book of the same name (fantastic, you should read it), chef Ethan Stowell designed How to Cook a Wolf‘s menu around fresh ingredients and simple preparation. He offers small plates, excellent pastas and an impressive Italian wine list. It’s a tiny place that’s good for an intimate dinner for a small group.

After dinner drinks at a speak easy? No problem.

Knee High Stocking Co.

You can find the Knee High Stocking Co. by way of a tiny sign near an otherwise unmarked door in a windowless building after you’ve made a reservation by texting the number on the website. The inside is all dark wood tables and shiny bottles of booze framed by beautiful murals, the drinks are inventive and they serve food late but it’s tiny small so don’t bring a big group.

Maybe the sun’s coming up when you leave Knee High? In that case, hit the 5 Point Cafe and order a bloody mary to sustain you as you stagger home. Tell the bartender to make it extra spicy.

The Coffee Shop Dilemma

 

original starbucks, Seattle

In the early 90’s I hated Starbucks. I was a young dramatic theatre kid and a couple of my favorite coffee shops in downtown Chicago closed when a Starbucks moved in (RIP Scenes). I spoke loudly and often about how Local Is Better! How I would never patronize The Huge Corporate Coffee Bully! I jumped on the “Starbucks coffee is burnt!” train and I harassed my brother when he got a job at Starbucks. Selling out! Supporting The Man! Fortunately my brother largely ignores me when I get like that.

I actively avoided Starbucks for a couple years, and then I patronized them but lied about it (this coffee? I don’t remember where I got it…). And then I patronized them but disparaged them (It’s Starbucks. I know, they suck but it was the only place open…) and then I finally just treated them like any other coffee shop. I stopped thinking about the corporate/independent dilemma until I went on tour with a show where at least once a week I found myself in a strange city looking for coffee at 6am.

You know what’s open every morning at 6am, all over the USA in cities big and small and almost always in walking distance of a theatre? Starbucks. So we went to Starbucks. We also went to independent coffee shops when they were available but there the coffee was sometimes good and other times not, the prices varied widely, the time spent getting coffee also varied and most times at 6am it felt like a hassle when everything else was already a hassle. The blessing and curse of a corporation is that you always know what you’re going to get and at 6am when everyone’s running on 20% uncaffeinated capacity, we opted for consistency and we got it with cheerful fast service.

I was reminded of this attitude evolution recently when I drove through Leavenworth WA with my sister Bethany and we stopped at Red Bird Coffee House. It was a rainy slushy day in the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, we had two kids on the verge and a 4 hour car drive ahead of us. Coffee was an undisputed necessity. I went in to get a latte and an Americano and there were 2 people in line ahead of me. The place was busy and there were a couple baristas behind the counter but it took about 10 minutes for me to even place my order.

During that 10 minute wait, a baker brought out a pan of hot cookies fresh from the oven. I ordered 2 fresh cookies with my coffee, the girl rang me up and I paid. While she was trying to get my cookies, a man I think was the manager told her she couldn’t have them. He then came to me and said “You have to take one of the plastic wrapped cookies on the counter. I have to rotate my product.”

Yes, he called it product.

When I protested that the plastic wrapped cookies weren’t warm or fresh, he offered to put them in the oven for me but said again that he had to rotate his product. He couldn’t give me the fresh cookies because if he did “everyone would want one” and then he’d never be able to sell the plastic wrapped ones.

It’s staggering, really. I thought the point of offering a food service is to actually give people hot fresh food if that’s what they want instead of pawning off plastic wrapped product. I just looked at him after he said that but he pointed to the plastic wrapped cookies and then he walked away.

By this point I had already been in the shop for 15 minutes, I still didn’t have coffee and I didn’t even want the cookies but getting my money back from this annoyed man seemed like more hassle than it was worth. So I picked up 2 plastic wrapped cookies, waited another 10 minutes for my coffee and left. I gave the cookies to the kids because they were, as expected, a hard dry product.

And you know what? Red Bird coffee is better than Starbucks. You know what else?  A coffee shop isn’t only about the coffee.

It’s a difficult truth for me to acknowledge, but just being a local establishment doesn’t make it better. Better is better. And sometimes, better is Starbucks.

Brave Horse Tavern Goes High-Bro

GQ magazine says that the “Bro” culture has gone upscale and become “High-Bro” (Like brow! But Bro! It’s funny!). Guys who used to hang out in their basement drinking Bud Lite and watching Superbad now spend their evenings watching Moneyball and going to Brave Horse Tavern to talk about it over shuffleboard. Brave Horse is the perfect place for the former bro because there are all the elements of the basement – beer, pretzels, baseball caps– but upgraded with a celebrity chef, dozens of microbrews and pretzels that are “malt boiled and hearth roasted.”

Seattle WA

Brave Horse is High-Bro because it’s basically a pub but the bar snack list includes beef tartare in a Cannibal Crostini. Raw meat with a clever name as a bar snack. Very high-bro. Other things that mark Brave Horse as high-bro include shuffleboard games, communal tables, a second floor corner location with a gigantic square bar, lots of beautiful dark wood and windows and great food that comes mostly in the form of burgers. It’s also very crowded, which I’m sure the bros love since they’re used to shouting over loud music and football games.

Five of us arrived on a rainy Friday night and displayed incredible table karma as a big group vacated just as we walked up. Dude! Our server was swift and friendly, gave us the “pint or schooner” portion size options and then came back with small glasses of beer as “schooners.” I thought schooners were rather large ships but apparently they’re also thimbles of beer. Who knew? My advice is to upgrade to the “pint,” which would have sunk a schooner in a second.

We also ordered the malted and hearthed pretzels and while I loved the outré dipping sauces – bacon/peanut butter – I didn’t love the pretzels. I wanted more baked surface, less cakey innards and a better ratio of dipping sauce to bread.

Seattle WA

We could have gotten more sauce, I’m sure, but it was crowded (as I’ve mentioned) and by the time we saw our server again she was delivering dinner.

I had the ling cod fishwich and it was delicious enough that I didn’t remember to take a picture until I only had this much left.

Seattle WA

Highly recommended, as were the onion rings that I also didn’t photograph until the end. Too busy with the eating.

Seattle WA

The boys, however, grumbled about the portion sizes for the price they were paying. No sides came with the sandwiches, which did up the price but also the flexibility of menu planning. But that’s also a high-bro situation: Better food but less of it for more money.

However, when combined with a clogged up shuffleboard table we opted to jet out and get additional beers with the Salt of the Earth at Canterbury in Capitol Hill. Their shuffleboard table was also clogged up since it had been co-opted for a buffet; but the beers were 24 ounces, so, who cares!

Seattle WA

Everydude, pry yourself out of your basement and get to Brave Horse Tavern. Beer, burgers, shuffleboard. It’s a bro-down!

Christmas 2 Ways

Christmas on tour with

And a sad Christmas tree for the wardrobe room:

Until Chuck gussied it up:

Never underestimate the power of a props guy with a glue gun.

it’s hard to get into the Christmas spirit when you’re on tour, so we also decorated dressing rooms:

It’s certainly better than nothing but closing on Christmas Eve was the best part.

Christmas with Family:

Present opening and documenting:

Games the kids can “help” play.

And food. Of course.

My parents set a beautiful table.

 I also got to hang out with my siblings and other friends

I’d love to explain Monkey Bike to you but I’ve been sworn to secrecy. Or I’m just really confused. Suffice it to say that this guy is the reigning champion. If you think you can ride a tiny bike like no one’s business, you should go to Wenatchee and challenge him and then come back and explain it to me.

And finally, a cruise around the city to check out the people who really really care about Christmas lights!

Impressive, no?

And that’s the end of 2011. Thanks for hanging out with me in it!