Soggy in Seattle

I was working in Seattle for three days this week, so I tried to explore the city a little bit since I had never been there before. The two things I really wanted to do were to go to the famous Pike Place Market (where they throw the fish) and find a really funky Seattle coffee shop.

The first thing I learned, at lunch on Tuesday, was that just because you’re in Seattle, it doesn’t mean the coffee is going to be good. In fact, the coffee they served in the diner where we ate lunch was pretty nasty.

Not surprisingly, the weather was nasty, too. The temperatures were in the low 40s the whole time we were there, with strong winds and rain to make it feel completely miserable. Umbrellas didn’t help, because they turned inside out, so I spent three days with very attractive Hood Hair from wearing my raincoat the whole time.

We went to Pike Place Market early one morning. The market is pretty cool, although I’m not sure who really shops there. I enjoyed the neon signs and the mix of vendors. The fish throwers are famous, but that part just felt so touristy…I was not a huge fan.

In the market area, I ducked in to a Seattle’s Best Coffee shop and ordered a latte to warm myself up. The shop was cute in a trying-to-be-cute sort of way, and the baristas were friendly (and also cute, as if cuteness is a prerequisite). It definitely was not the grungy, Kurt Cobain-worthy coffee shop I was looking for.

A few more blocks past the market is Pioneer Square, a historic district with art galleries, antiques, bookstores, restaurants, and bars. One of the city’s oldest neighborhoods, it’s really not a square, and it’s home to a lot of homeless people and odd sorts. The streets were fairly quiet when we were there in the morning, so it wasn’t threatening, but I’d be wary about going there at night. I liked the architecture and I’m sure the shops would have been fun, but I was with my photographer/friend Jim Heemstra and he is not one for shopping.

As we traveled the city to our photo-shoot locations, I kept an eye out for the city’s most sincere and authentic coffee shop. Downtown, everything seemed too upscale. In the areas around the universities, I didn’t see anyplace that oozed the ambience I was looking for. I actually drank one cup of coffee at the University of Washington bookstore café, but it was in a paper cup and nothing to get very excited about.

At one point during our visit, the rain stopped long enough for us to take a walk in Discovery Park. The walking paths took us through rainforest, along a driftwood-stewn beach, and down to a lighthouse. We also got to see some breathtaking views of Puget Sound.

On the way to the airport Thursday morning, we attempted to find a neighborhood called Georgetown that Where magazine described as “beautifully gritty.” It’s not an area that’s easy to find, we learned, since it’s wedged in a triangular-shaped area with a rail yard on one side, an airport on another side, and the freeway on the third side. Trains, planes, and automobiles, indeed. I was ready to give up twice and go on to Sea-Tac, but Jim did a lot of his famous U-turns and persisted until we came upon a scroungy, industrial couple of blocks filled with the most wonderful little shops. There was a coffeehouse called Ground Control, presumably a nod to the nearby airport, and around the corner another one called All City Coffee. That’s the one we chose, and it was utterly delightful in a minimalist, grungy, real-Seattleites-with-lots-of-piercings-hang-out-here kind of way. I had the most awesome latte, served in a brown mug, with one of those little foam designs on top. A coffee-lover’s mecca! And the perfect ending to my trip to Seattle.

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1 comment so far

  1. judy schaefer on

    A very descriptive blog. I’m glad you found great coffee. Thanks for the pics, too.


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