Aka: When Your Delicious Destination is Right Outside Your Door!
Where the frigid waters of Puget Sound meet the thriving metropolitan city of Seattle is my latest delicious destination. With cocktails and fabulous food on nearly every corner, it was a no-brainer for a BFF weekend with my friend, Rosie. With stretchy-pants and draped-dresses packed, we set out to take on the emerald city’s fabulous food scene. 🙂
The State Hotel was my home for two nights in Seattle, and I couldn’t have been more smitten with what they offer. An artsy hotel lobby/living room greeted us as we walked in off Second Avenue. Kitchy wallpaper and sky-high open ceilings and spaces immediately grabbed my eye. But what struck me even more was the level of hospitality at check-in – and I saw it with every guest. These folks are pros – and everyone is welcomed like a superstar, whether they’re gals on a fun weekend, a couple preparing to get married on the rooftop, or a friends ready to take on the city – by fork.
Our room was uber-comfy with trendy touches, views of Pike Place Market, and the A-team of hospitality at our beckon call. A fun surprise: the wallpaper in the elevators and vestibules. Kate Blairstone‘s whimsical patterns married so many elements I love about the Pacific Northwest – from bright flowers and funky iconic souvenirs to the bounty of the sea. This artsy touch set the tone for the entire hotel evoking a warm, fun feel that couldn’t help but to make you smile. The fresh macarons and rosé that greeted us in the room were the icing on the cake.
Once settled in, we had less than two hours to enjoy a delicious meal before heading a block down the street for the Friday night improv show at Unexpected Productions in nearby Post Alley. I’d lunched at Ben Paris, the hotel’s restaurant, shortly after their opening, but couldn’t wait to sink my teeth into their dinner menu. The restaurant itself has a rich history – back in the 1920s, their namesake – Ben Paris Lunch, Cigars & Cards – had billiard rooms and an eatery. It’s easy to mentally turn the clock back 100 years and imagine the sights and sounds then, and compare it to the upbeat hum heard again today with happy diners and clinking glasses. The Ben Paris of today offers stellar cocktails and a menu fit for a true Seattleite with fresh options and an upscale-comfort-food flair. We opted for their ‘Tour the Menu’ option, but put them under the fire to make it happen in the hour-and-a-half we had available prior to our show.
As expected, course after course was timed impeccably and served with friendly expertise. The octopus was a highlight with northwest flavors and a tender bite. Fresh pea risotto was magnificent with a complex vegetarian broth and an abundance of flavorful, fresh English peas. A seared albacore loin was accompanied by sweet, low-heat piquillo peppers and toasted pine nuts. The star of the show (in my opinion, of course) was the duck-leg confit. This tender dish was paired with smoky delicate squash, bacon, lentils and subtle thyme. This family-style menu concept is perfect for folks like me who enjoy a little taste of everything, but would be waddling out the door with full-sized portions.
With many options for nighttime entertainment, we turned to something local, fun, and unpredictable: Unexpected Productions‘ improv comedy theatre – just a block away in Pike Place Market. A quick stroll past the early-evening bustle of the Market brought us to the famed Gum Wall. As we waited for the doors to open, I was reminded that the Gum Wall’s history began back in the early ’90s when patrons of the theatre pitched their gum before entering the venue. It’s taken on a life of its own since as one of the city’s most asked-about attractions.
If you’re looking for entertainment with a side of full-on belly laughs, you’ll love Unexpected Productions. They’re the area’s oldest improv theatre company, setting their roots in the 1980s, but finding their official home in the Market in 1991. My first venture in (years ago) was for their improvisational version of A Christmas Carol and I’ve been hooked ever since. With shows (currently) Thursdays through Sundays, and improv classes on Wednesday nights, there’s something for everyone.
Set in a venue accommodating roughly 100 guests, the Theatresports team went head-to-head in competition for giggles – integrating audience suggestions in the most hilarious ways. If you’re a curmudgeon, you’ll hate it, but if you’re open to inventive on-the-spot comedy, this place will be a welcome addition to your local entertainment repertoire.
The next morning called for a brisk walk through the city. The city was humming already when we headed out the door and into the Pike Place Market area. We made a loop that included gawking at ferries on the waterfront, walking through Belltown, and the ubiquitous stroll through the Market (with a heavy dose of eating, of course!). Honest Biscuits was our first stop of the morning for a quick bite prior to mani/pedis. Fortunately, we arrived right at opening, so the line was short. Their fresh-made biscuits were pillowy inside, crispy outside, and filled with egg, ham and cheese. Big enough to share, we quickly devoured ours at a little cubby in the Market. Nearby, Daily Dozen Donuts called out like a siren’s song with their powdered and sprinkled confections.
An hour later, and with newly-polished nails, we moved on to enjoy a meal at Cafe Campagne – which had just opened for in-person dining the week prior. Their crab quiche is as delicious as it is legendary, and lent itself nicely to a Saturday brunch on my bestie’s plate. I opted for their luscious oeufs en meurette – perfectly-poached eggs on crisp toast points in a sea of velvety red wine sauce. What brings this dish to next-level status is the foie gras and demiglace (and, of course, the piping-hot frites with aioli for dipping). I’ve never found a brunch dish I’ve enjoyed more, nor a place to enjoy it more than Cafe Campagne. This, coupled with chef Daisley’s legendary cassoulet will forever make me a fan.
After an afternoon of shopping the Market, we took a breather back in the hotel’s comfy lobby, then began our trek to meet friends at a favorite Capitol Hill haunt. Midway up the hill on Pike, we made a welcome stop at Rumba – Seattle’s premier rum bar. With a list of rum-forward drinks, all made with fresh ingredients, I decided on their Turnbuckle – a tart-yet-sweet drink with Cynar, passionfruit and orgeat. Their guacamole (Rumba-style with mango, avocado, and served with crispy plantains) was just the thing for our brief respite. Arguably, Rumba is Seattle’s tastiest people-watching spot (with a heavy dose of Vitamin C, to boot)!
With a bit of a trek still ahead, we were back on Pike Street walking up to Herb & Bitter on Broadway. Greeted immediately at the door, and with our table (and friends) waiting, I was reminded why this place brings me back again and again. Their aesthetic is dark and moody, but their service is anything but that. Their waiters are friendly and really know their stuff. While the menu mentions “small bites”, I believe the grazing menu we chose went far beyond that. With everything from roasted asparagus with ramps and goat cheese to pickled beet salad, an “all green everything” salad with sheep’s cheese and arugula, their menu is as diverse as the neighborhood where they’re perched. The half a smoked chicken, and delicious fritters may have been overkill, but that didn’t make them any less delicious. We cruised their cocktail menu with influence and suggestions from their knowledgeable bar team starting with drinks bubbly and light, and working our way to those dark and bourbon-y. Their menus change frequently, so every trip in is new and interesting.
After an evening of fun, we caught a ride back to our cozy accommodations and called it a night. Before heading back home on Sunday morning, we tried a new-to-me spot on Capitol Hill just down the street from where we’d been the night before. Rapport caught my eye on a couple of local food blogs, but it was after seeing a post that they’d have crab eggs Benedict on the menu that morning that cinched the deal. In the previous location of Seattle’s ‘Secret Starbucks’ on Broadway, the restaurant’s concept is interesting – and quite new to the Seattle area. They’re a wine bar on steroids – with a self-pour concept that’ll let you enjoy wines on your own timeline. With more than 100 wine choices, you can choose a personal wine-tasting experience, or just enjoy a glass or two with friends. Not into wine? Their cocktails and beer selections are equally robust! Along with offering a small-but-tasty happy hour, lunch and dinner menus are 3-course dinners. I’ll have to remember this for my next trip in! My eggs Benedict was fabulous with silky hollandaise, perfectly-poached eggs, and a Spring salad with ingredients sourced from local growers.
After 48-hours of eating, walking and laughter, I was ready to head back home – but already crafting another perfectly delicious trip back into the city soon. Until next time, Seattle!