City Guide: Seattle

Our next city guide is all about Seattle. The town is surrounded by mountains, water and evergreen forests, which has earned it the nickname “Emerald City.” Here, Molly Wizenberg of Orangette shares her insider tips (including the best oysters!) for making the most of this beautiful place…

Molly Wizenberg

Molly Wizenberg: Although I was born and raised in Oklahoma, graduate school brought me to Seattle in 2002, and I’ve never left. It caught me off guard, how right it felt, and how right it still feels: the views of the mountains, the proximity to water (it’s *everywhere*), the muted silvery light in the winter (yes, it’s overcast a lot, but the rain is no biggie), the thrill in the summer when the sun is out and the days are long. Seattle is growing quickly, but somehow it still feels wild. There’s greenery everywhere — even blackberry thickets along highway off-ramps! — plus, great farmers’ markets and all the oysters, wild mushrooms and salmon. I don’t ever plan to leave.

The Walrus and the Carpenter

City Guide: Seattle

The Walrus and the Carpenter

WHERE TO EAT:

For delicious oysters, try The Walrus and the Carpenter in Ballard. Oysters here are plentiful, and they’re spectacular: plump, briny, and — a boon for the faint of heart — generally smaller than East Coast oysters. This is my favorite place to eat them. Though the seafood restaurant is hidden away at the back of a building (facing industrial boatyards and warehouses that serve the local fishing industry), it’s always packed, and well worth the wait.

For an awesome breakfast or lunch, try Vif (pronounced “veef”) in Fremont. Order their house-smoked fish, homemade English muffin, or the red lentil and chickpea “ful,” with yogurt, pickled radish and a soft-boiled egg on top. There’s also a small wine shop inside, with a wonderfully curated selection of bottles to take away.

For the best Seattle-style food, try Sitka & Spruce in Capitol Hill. They take the best Pacific Northwest ingredients (think foraged mushrooms, wild watercress, local fish, wild berries) and punch them up with flavors from Turkey, Italy, and Spain. My favorite meal there is brunch, and if they’ve got their house yogurt with warm dates and olive oil, do yourself a favor and get it.

For an intimate setting with wood-fired pizza, try our restaurant in Ballard, Delancey! My husband and I opened it seven years ago this summer, and I usually wind up there a couple of nights a week – it never gets old. Don’t miss the white pizza with shaved garlic and housemade ricotta; whatever seasonal wood-fired vegetables we’re doing at the moment; and our salted chocolate chip cookie, which has been a staple on the dessert menu since day one.

City Guide: Seattle

Bainbridge Island Ferry

WHERE TO HANG:

Take an $8 ferry from downtown to Bainbridge Island (approximately a 30-minute ride) and get blackberry ice cream at Mora, which is a short walk from the ferry terminal. A perfect afternoon jaunt, no matter the weather.

Take a walk in Discovery Park, located in the Magnolia neighborhood. Park in the south lot, walk up and over the hill, down through the meadow that slopes toward Puget Sound, and then wind your way down through the woods to the beach. It’s beautiful, year-round.

In the summer, the entire city spends most of every day outdoors, or so it seems, and you should too. Go swimming in Lake Washington, either from the T Dock in Leschi, where there is almost always a band of beautiful people drinking rosé, or from Madrona Beach, which has a handy bathhouse and lots of sand to keep the kids happy.

If you are looking to hang out at a bar, try Nacho Borracho in Capitol Hill. DO NOT miss the avocado margarita there, which comes from one of a half-dozen slushie machines behind the bar. They also have classic cocktails like Negroni and El Diablo on tap.

London Plane in Seattle

London Plane

WHERE TO SHOP:

The best clothing store in town — or pretty much anywhere — is Totokaelo in Pike-Pine. It isn’t, ahem, cheap, but it’s so thoughtfully curated that it’s worth going there just to browse the selection. Baby & Co. in downtown is also a good bet for designer clothing.

For home stuff, you can’t go wrong at Fremont Vintage Mall, which has everything from antique lawn chairs to industrial-style desks, or at Pacific Galleries in the Industrial District, where they have an entire area dedicated to mid-century modern pieces.

For ceramics, try the London Plane (this place is also part café, part grocery store, part floral workshop and part dreamland) in Pioneer Square.

Last but not least, you could spend the better part of a day in Elliott Bay Book Company in Capitol Hill, which carries the best selection of new books, as well as a large collection of bargain editions. It’s also conveniently located next door to Totokaelo! Hint, hint.

Dunbar Room in Hotel Sorrento, Seattle

Dunbar Room in Hotel Sorrento

WHERE TO STAY:

Seattle is very much a city of neighborhoods, and if you only see downtown, you’ll miss out. Instead, stay a little further afield in Ballard, a neighborhood known for its Scandinavian population and connection to the local fishing industry. You’ll see bungalows, boats and warehouses. There are tons of charming AirBnBs.

For a more urban feel, with lots of music venues, bars and late-night options (plus great tattoo-watching and crosswalks painted with the Pride rainbow instead of the ordinary old white lines), opt for a rental in Capitol Hill.

If you’d like to have a base close to downtown, stay at Hotel Sorrento. It was the first boutique hotel in Seattle, opening its doors in 1909, so it has a beautiful vintage spirit, but it’s also stately, classic and well maintained. And close to so many things, without feeling scene-y.

City Guide: Seattle

FINAL TIP:

If you’re in town on a Sunday morning, there’s nothing better than Dance Church, a dance workout class for people of all shapes, sizes and identities. It’s fun and uninhibited. And the crowd is pure Seattle.

Thank you so much for the tour, Molly! Have you been to Seattle (or do you live there)? What else would you add?

P.S. Where to stay, eat, shop and hang in Minneapolis and Nashville.

(Top photo and ferry photo by Dan Cole. City guide graphic design by Miss Moss. Photos of Molly by Brian W. Ferry. Oyster photo via Andrew Zimmern. London Plane photo via Double Dipping. Thanks to Stella Blackmon for editing this series.)