Seattle and King County
Washington’s largest City, Seattle, is the queen city of the Northwest. I drove through the city in 1975 without stopping, but returned a couple of years later to stay with a friend who had left Montana for the big city. Our friend lived on Capitol Hill, in the heart of Seattle’s gay district and we spent most of our time in that area. We really didn’t see much else of Seattle and King County on that trip.
Another visit to Seattle was similar, but we stayed in a gay-owned B&B, also on Capitol Hill. Just now, looking at MisterBnB, I find a good many places serving the gay community. I must add, however, that none are currently accepting guests due to the health emergency we currently live with. (Not sure that I would want to visit Seattle, or any other major city right now anyway.) Of course, as Seattle is a major metropolitan area, there are plenty of hotels that welcome GLBT guests as well.
The Paramount Theatre
When we return to a more normal life, one thing to check out is Seattle’s Paramount Theatre. Built originally in 1928, the Seattle Theatre seated 3,000 and was built to show silent pictures (accompanied by a 4-manual Wurlitzer Theatre Organ). It also served as a venue for Vaudeville performances. Through some feat of architectural magic, the auditorium could convert to a ballroom. It was quite the spot. And still is. On the National Register since 1974, the Paramount often hosts national touring companies performing shows like Wicked, Hamilton, and the one I saw there, Stomp.
Looking at the schedule for the 2020-21 season, nine shows are currently on the schedule, and I would love to see many of them. Hamilton is returning, and that’s one show Kevin has mentioned wanting to see. Of course everything depends on how we all survive Covid-19. In a rather ironic twist, the show next up in the 2019-2020 season (supposed to open tonight) is the musical The Play That Goes Wrong. Described as the “illegitimate Broadway baby” of Sherlock Holmes and Monte Python, Covid-19 has killed The Play That Goes Wrong.
Eating out in Seattle
It shows how long it’s been since I spent anytime in the central city when I learned this morning that my favorite Jewish Deli, Matzoh Momma, closed in 1995. I remember going in for breakfast the morning we were heading home to Missoula, looking around, sniffing the air, and telling the waitress “Wrap it all up to go!” She knew I was kidding, but seriously, I would love to have that food available on a daily basis. Matzoh Momma continued catering at least until 2013, but apparently even the catering business has passed on.
Restaurants fill the business section of Capitol Hill, and you will easily find excellent food, although you may have to pay for it. Yelp lists 77 restaurants within a 1 mile radius of central Capitol Hill, and most of those have received four star or higher ratings. And the variety! Thai, Vietnamese, Tapas, Italian, New American (whatever that means).
The Highline Bar
Looking through the ratings, I couldn’t help but smile at those written for the Highline Bar. Listed as “Dive Bar, American (Traditional),” the first review to catch my eye said “Alright here’s the deal. This place rocks. If you like great food that doesn’t even chop off animals heads to facilitate its service… then welcome to flavor country.” With that lead in, I had to read on. And on. AND ON. Turns out the Highline Bar serves Vegan bar food. Who knew that was even a thing. And they have live music.
Another reviewer said “Walked up to Highline after an evening of throwing axes down below. Had some awesome local bands playing while enjoying our fairly stiff drinks and vegan eats.” Axe throwing downstairs? I may have to check this place out next time I’m in Seattle.
The U District
Seattle and King County have a wealth of places for fine dining, or even cheap eats. But after Capitol Hill, my favorite area is the University District. Centered on the campus of the University of Washington (U Dub), the University District stretches for several blocks along University Way NE north of Portage Bay. I love walking through the District and marveling at the variety of eateries to be found there. Yelp lists 258 eating establishments in the area, although some a bit far afield. It was in the U District that I observed a waitress ask a customer who had ordered 4-star heat for his Thai meal, “Are YOU all right, sir?” I seem to remember steam coming out of his ears.
Pike Place Market and the Waterfront
No tourist visit to Seattle is complete without spending time at the Pike Place Market. My Video of the Day is a walking tour of the Market, complete with the famous flying fish. It’s not far from Pike Place to the Waterfront, but you have to get across Alaskan Way. Both Pike Place and the Waterfront have restaurants galore, and the Waterfront offers the Seattle Aquarium as another venue worth visiting. And when you want seafood, between the Aquarium and the Ferry Terminal (6/10s of a mile), you’ll pass The Crab Pot, Elliott’s Oyster House, Ivar’s Fish House, as well as Waterfront Park, the Seattle Great Wheel, and the terminal for Argosy Cruises.
Just a couple of blocks toward downtown you’ll find Noi Thai Cuisine, Nijo Sushi Bar and Grill, and Fado Irish Pub (north to south). From the Ferry Terminal, you’re just a few blocks from Pioneer Square and the Beneath the Streets Tour of Underground Seattle. Pioneer Square is also home to the Smith Tower, the tallest building in Seattle from 1914 to 1962 when the Space Needle surpassed it.
Many people think that Pioneer Square is where Seattle began, but actually the first boat of European Americans landed at Alki Point in 1851. A monument there states “At this place on 13 November 1851 there landed from the Schooner Exact Captain Folger the little colony which developed into the city of Seattle.” (NOTE: The ship was the Schooner Exact. Captain Folger was the ship’s captain.) In late April, 2012, Kevin was driving a Semi hauling a load from Blaine, Washington on the Canadian border to Williston, North Dakota. I rode shotgun on that trip. As we started up Snoqualmie Pass, something alerted Kevin that we had problems. Turning back to Seattle, we left the truck at a repair shop and had three days to sightsee. I had never been to West Seattle, so we headed there and found the light house shown above, the Alki Point monument, and a great little restaurant where we bought crab sandwiches to enjoy on the shoreline. Wish I could remember the name of it.
On the same trip, we also visited the Museum of Flight. Established in 1965, the Museum is a private entity located in the town of Tukwila, just south of Seattle proper. In addition to the rotating exhibits inside, there are a number of planes on display outside the Museum. This is the only place I have seen a Concorde.
The Seattle Metropolitan Region includes King County as well as Snohomish County to the north and Pierce County to the South. Looking just at Seattle and King County, the city itself has a 2018 population of 744,955 people, while King County shows a population of over 2.25 million. Obviously there is a lot more to King County than just Seattle.
The urban core includes the cities of Auburn, Bellevue, Federal Way, Kent, Kirkland, Redmond, Renton, Sammamish to name just the cities with populations in excess of 50,000. Looking at a map, the urban area takes up less than a third of King County, with the other two thirds largely roadless forest land in the Cascade Mountains. Driving east on Interstate 90, you begin climbing very quickly as the Cascades form a natural barrier to urban growth.
West of Seattle lies King County’s other “rural area.” Vashon Island, the largest Puget Sound island south of Admiralty Inlet, and nearby Maury Island, cover roughly 37 square miles and have a population less than 11,000. (For comparison, Brooklyn, New York, covers almost 70 square miles with a population of 2.5 million.) The fact that no bridge connects Vashon Island to the rest of Washington State has help keep the area rural. To visit Vashon, you have to take a Washington State Ferry. Ferries to Vashon run from Fauntleroy in southwestern Seattle and Southport in Kitsap County.
While looking for a recipe (see below), I discovered the Thrifty NW Mom website/blog. This site is chock-full of content on travel, shopping, family life, cooking and a host of other topics. My only quibble is that there is no “About Us” page, but visit the site and get lost in all the great information available. If you want to know more about the Northwest, visit the Thrifty NW Mom.
Seattle is, of course, a seaport. Even though it faces Puget Sound, not the Pacific Ocean, seafood is plentiful and delicious. I first found Ivar’s Clam Chowder at a restaurant on the waterfront. Now, whenever I’m visiting Seattle and King County, I have to get some Ivar’s Clam Chowder. (You can read about Ivar’s story on the Ivar’s website.) You can buy the chowder at Costco, but somehow it’s just not the same as eating it while smelling the unmistakable scent of the waterfront. In full disclosure, I haven’t made this soup yet, but when I started thinking about Seattle, I knew that if I could find a recipe for Ivar’s clam chowder, that would be my featured recipe. So, from the Thrifty NW Mom website, here’s the official recipe for Ivar’s Clam Chowder.
Pike Place Market sells just about everything. A cross between a farmer’s market, a fish market, (I’m tempted to say a flea market), this Seattle institution dates from 1907 when the city set aside a space for farmers and consumers to come together. It would be difficult to describe the variety of scenes within the 9 acre market, so I’m leaving you with a virtual tour thanks to Records Travels fifteen-plus minute video. There is no narration. None is needed. Just watch and feast on the visual banquet that Pike Place Market provides. (And don’t miss the flying fish at 2 minutes in.) Next time you find yourself visiting Seattle and King County, you’ll know what to expect at the Pike Place Market.
I hope I have enticed you to visit Seattle and King County. Lots to see and do, great food, womderful adventures to be had. And I haven’t even mentioned all the great parks in the area. Another time, eh?