On a recent business trip to Seattle, we had a bit of time to tool around to sample some of the city’s food-and-beverage establishments. First we headed off to Pike Place Market, just a few blocks from where we were staying at the Fairmont Olympic Seattle, a grand dame hotel if we’ve ever seen one. Pike Place, set on the bay, is a farmer’s market (below) that’s been around since 1907. Over the years it’s grown to offer restaurants, food stands and other retail outlets. It all has quite a quirky, vintage feel and is just oozing with character. This is the place where you can have a giant fish thrown to you at the fish market, if you’re into that kind of thing. Actually, that custom was started by the fish stand guys who need to toss the catch of the day to each other over a high counter, but they’ve let the public get involved and now allow you to catch the fish as well. So you can go home and say you did that.
We were rather overwhelmed by the many offerings the market had to offer. We did love that we were able to purchase fresh fruit (think papaya and mangoes) for our daily breakfast, but we sort of moved on after awhile and made our way back up toward the Fairmont. Wouldn’t you know it, just across from the hotel we found a place quite fitting with our style, Purple Café and Wine Bar (1225 4th Avenue; www.purplecafe.com). The setting (below) is stunning, with high ceilings and a towering wine rack that wraps around a spiral staircase in the center of the bar. Consider this place for a lovely dinner or for a great place to meet someone; we loved sampling the Washington State white wines and Pinot Noirs, but the offerings extend to wine regions all around the world.
The general manager here is Eric Rabena ([email protected]) if you’re thinking of hosting a private event in Seattle.
We also enjoyed dining at Palomino (1420 Fifth Avenue. Suite 350; www.palomino.com). It’s set on the top floor of a retro office building, City Centre, which sounds weird until you get there by escalator and realize the restaurant has the entire floor with views down to the lobby. It has subtle lighting, a great bar (we hear happy hour pricing is amazing) and nearly every table is a good one.
The general manager here is Paul Evans ([email protected]) if you’re looking for special service. We enjoyed it for lunch and we’re sure dinner would be just as fine.
Ever the fans of Italian cuisine, we also dined at Il Fornaio (600 Pine Street; www.ilfornaio.com). We found it to be flush with stylish locals enjoying a good dinner out on a Friday night. The restaurant goes beyond the same-old, same-old and offers new spins on Italian food, often linked to the ingredients available for the season.
One of our favorite activities while in Seattle was sitting in the Fairmont’s lobby bar, listening to live piano music, where we just people-watched our little hearts out. Here you’ll find locals enjoying one of the city’s finer spots to imbibe, before dining at the hotel’s quite posh Georgian restaurant; it’s AAA 4 Diamond and has what it calls French-inspired Northwest cuisine. Whatever they call it, we thought it was pretty swell and there was a jazz band in the room that Friday night. Call (206) 621-7889 for reservations.
Related story: If you want to sail Washington State's coastline, click here
During our trip, we stole away to the Fremont section of North Seattle. It’s just a short cab ride away but it’s also an entirely different world from urban Seattle. Fremont is sort of still lost in the 60s; it’s filled with coffee houses, antique clothing stores, gift shops and then there’s an enormous statue of Lenin, yes, there is. It was recovered from Slovakia, after it was removed following Czechoslovakia’s “Velvet Revolution.” A resident of Washington State came upon the 16-foot bronze sculpture in a scrap yard and got it to Washington. There’s more to the story, you can read it here.
One of our favorite funky spots in Fremont is called Edge of Glass (www.edgeofglass.com), where local Pacific Northwest artists display, and sell, glass sculptures, lamps, plates and other objet d’arts. The gallery even has sales to clear out the stock in order to make way for the new. If we weren’t flying on a plane with restricted carry-on allowances, we’d have definitely stocked up on some gorgeous pieces for our home and for gifts for the family. Nice Touch: Edge of Glass offers Hot Glass Working Classes, taught by expert James Curtis, who has 11 years in the business. Classes are customized to your ability and you can even bring a friend.
If you're truly a fan of glass artwork, you're in luck, since Seattle is home to Chihuly Garden and Glass Exhibition Hall. You'll know Dale Chihuly's work if you've been to Bellagio in Las Vegas, looked up in the hotel lobby and been mesmerized by the glass works on the ceiling. The exhibition hall is a local favorite, it was recommended to us by several people during our stay who said they go there as frequently as possible.