View of downtown Seattle, with Mt. Rainier in the back, from Kerry Park on Queen Anne Hill at night as photographed by my friend and fellow Yelp Elite, Sy-Yu Chen, in March 2017
Recommendations updated for my June 2018 Trip
Seattle was the last leg of my 2014 end of summer West Coast swing. A few of my friends currently reside in Seattle, including one of my closest childhood friends. As a result, it was an opportunity to catch up with old friends and visit a beautiful city I have yet to visit. Seattle is a serene, surreal haven tucked away in Pacific Northwest corner of the country. There is a misconception that it rains too much. While it may rain more frequently than other places, it is very rare that there is a torrential downpour. Of course, I encountered one of those one off downpours as I was driving back up to Seattle after a short trip to Portland. Nevertheless, a significant more amount of rain falls in New York City on average each year than Seattle even though it occurs more frequently in Seattle. Since it rains more often, there is a lot of moisture in Seattle so everything is green. Moreover, there is plenty of great food in Seattle. In particular, its seafood is second to none. You will definitely want to explore the famous Pike Place Market. The city itself is small and most places are within a 15 minute drive.
In my opinion, you need 2-3 days to explore the city. Nevertheless, I recommend spending at least a few more days to enjoy the natural wonders in the state of Washington. The Pacific Northwest is great for hiking. Washington has three national parks: Olympic, North Cascades, and Mount Rainier. I initially wanted to visit Olympic National Park. However, it is a long drive since you need to drive around Puget Sound to reach it. It is good as a long weekend trip and I did not have that time to spare. Similarly, the North Cascades are right at the Canadian border and best enjoyed with a couple of days. Accordingly, I decided to only visit Mount Rainier National Park since it can be done and enjoyed in a day. On a clear day, you can see the majestic mountain from the city of Seattle. Mount St. Helens is another popular destination in Washington. However, it is at the south side of the state and actually closer to Portland. In addition, some of the best places to hike are lesser known. I received great recommendations from my friends of those hidden gems. For the National Parks, admission can be paid as you enter. However, other places require you to purchase a pass ahead of time and display it on your dashboard. Before going to hike anywhere, make sure to review the fees for each location at http://www.wta.org/.
Seattle is one of the safest places in the country. One of the reasons is that it has traded a little bit of freedom for security. It is a little bit of a police state. My friend told me a couple of stories about it. As we know, Seahawks fans are extremely passionate and their team won the past Super Bowl. Nevertheless, the people in Seattle still made sure to observe all the pedestrian traffic rules and obey all crosswalk signs even in the midst of the celebration immediately following the Super Bowl win [for fear of tickets]. It is one of those situations where outside observers simply say “Only in Seattle”. My friend also noted it is also a place where 5 mph speeding tickets are not uncommon. Another one of my friend’s uncle is a Seattle police officer. He mentioned that the Washington police are notorious for targeting out of state drivers and do not even respect the badge of other officers. In reality, most places will probably be more like Seattle in the future anyway since municipalities need to make up budget deficits. If you are on vacation anywhere, remember that you are not in a rush anyway so just take your time with everything.
2018 – A Vastly Different Seattle
Seattle is one of the fastest growing cities in the country. The natural beauty is still incredible. On the other hand, the economy and jobs are booming. Accordingly, it is attracting a lot of white collar workers to the city. For better or worse, transplants from across the country are transforming the culture. From my recent experience, Seattle feels a lot more like San Francisco now. I like San Francisco and have been there multiple times. Nevertheless, I do not go to Seattle for the San Francisco vibe. In my opinion, Seattle has lost a bit of its unique West Coast flavor, with a small town feel in a city, I really enjoyed back in 2014. Of course, the spike in population has strained traffic. The city never planned for there to be so many people. Consequently, the highways and bridges were designed to converge in downtown without regard to the possibility. If the city accounted for the large number of people today, it would have likely rerouted the roads. Unfortunately, it is too late to correct that issue. The traffic is significantly more intense now but it is still not a Los Angeles level of terrible. The bigger issue for the city is socioeconomic. The abrupt and drastic influx of white collar workers has increased the price of everything, especially housing. Sadly, a lot of residents are priced out of housing and the homeless population has spiked. A significantly higher number of residents are living in the streets in tents. There are stories of teachers living in tents. I spoke to resident and vendor at Pike’s Place Market in my recent trip. I asked her about the change in the city. She noted that she moved from New Jersey to Seattle thirty years ago for the Seattle vibe and culture. She felt that Seattle has become a lot more like New Jersey in a short period of time. She also commented on the homelessness problem and the need for the city to adequately address it. She confirmed the observations I made during my second visit to the Emerald City.
Nevertheless, Seattle is still an awesome city I have really enjoyed and recommend. Below is my guide for the city.
1. Points of Interest
1. Pike Place Market
If there is one spot you must visit in Seattle, it is Pike Place Market in the downtown area. Seattle is known for its incredible seafood. Pike Place is an epicenter of seafood with its famous fish market. If you hang around the market, you will get treated to a show of the “fishmongers” throwing large salmon back and forth to each other. Besides seafood, there are plenty of great places to eat and drink at the market. Street parking is impossible downtown. As a result, I highly recommend just paying $15 for all day parking in a lot. From my perspective, it is nothing since $15 may only get you an hour at a parking garage in a high priced city like New York.
1. Rachel’s Ginger Beer (1530 Post Alley)
I am allergic to something in soda. However, ginger ale somehow does not affect me. Fortunately, it is one of my favorite soft drinks anyway. Rachel’s Ginger Beer has the best ginger ale I have tasted. I tried the pink guava flavor (bottom picture on the left) and it is phenomenal. It is exactly what I needed on a warm September day to explore Seattle. On the other hand, it is $4 which is a little more than I would like to spend on ginger ale even if it is the best. Nevertheless, it is definitely worth it to try once.
2. Pike’s Place Chowder (600 Pine St, Seattle, WA 98101)
It is one of the more popular spots in Pike Place Market. I always saw a line to sit there every time I walked past it. However, you can go inside the market and head to the to-go window to get an order of chowder to go if you do not want to wait to sit. If you want to sit and do not want to wait on line, you can also walk north to Pacific Place [mall]. There is a Pike’s Place Chowder on the top floor next to Din Tai Fung. It has plenty of seating and a lot less traffic. I tried a cup while I was waiting for Din Tai Fung. The New England clam chowder is definitely the best I have had outside of New England. It may actually be the best New England clam chowder period even though it was not from New England. The chowder was very creamy and smooth. Naturally, the clams were very fresh.
3. Mee Sum Pastry (1526 Pike Place)
Due to my heritage, I have eaten a lot of roast pork buns during my life. I like them but they are not on the top of my list of favorite Chinese dishes. None of the buns I have eaten in my life have blown me away… until I tried Mee Sum Pastry (bottom picture second to the left). The shop is small and you order at a window. Without a doubt, the Roast Pork Hom Bao is the best roast pork bun I have ever tried. I was fortunate enough to get the buns right out of the oven. The bread is perfect. It is big and very soft. The pork is tender and full of flavor. My friends recommended Mee Sum Pastry for the red bean pastry. Unfortunately, it did not have any at the time. I tried the Lo Paw Bang (“wife cake”) instead, which is a pastry with winter melon and almond paste. It is good and met my expectations based on all the other I have eaten. Regardless, the Roast Pork Hom Bao is the must try here.
4. Beecher’s Handmade Cheese (1600 Pike Place)
I ordered a cup of mac and cheese (bottom picture second to the right). At first, I was not too impressed and stopped eating after a few bites. However, I started eating again after I gave it enough time to solidify. Once the cheese hardened, it was amazing. I could not stop eating it and devoured it. You may get stuck behind a long line for Beecher’s. While it is worth the wait, I just walked around to explore the market then returned when the line dissipated. Subsequently, I found out that Beecher’s has a location in New York. Moreover, it has a restaurant in the basement called “The Cellar”. The mac and cheese at the New York location is better and the best I have eaten. Nevertheless, the location in Seattle is a worthy branch that serves excellent mac and cheese too.
5. Ellenos (1500 Pike Pl, Seattle, WA 98101)
It is an unassuming kiosk that is slightly inside the market. It can be difficult to spot at first because of the fruit stands in front of it. Ellenos offers excellent Greek yogurt. Of course, it is still just yogurt. It is obviously lighter but not as satisfying as a top notch ice cream. Accordingly, it is a great alternative to ice cream if you want a healthier choice to satisfy your sweet tooth while you are in Pike’s Place Market. I recommend the mixed berries yogurt. It was awesome.
6. Starbucks (1912 Pike Place)
It is the first Starbucks… well sort of (bottom picture on the right). The actual first Starbucks shop is gone. When it was closed, they moved the shop to Pike Place. As a result, the current location is the first Starbucks after it moved to Pike’s Place. It has been transformed into a tourist shop and tourist magnet. I walked past it and peered inside. I had no interest in going inside since there is always a crowd. Nevertheless, it is nice to see the origins of an iconic company from Seattle.
2. Space Needle
The Space Needle is the most iconic landmark in Seattle. It is the legacy of the 1962 World Fair. From a distance, it looks amazing. Ironically, it becomes less impressive as you draw closer since the rust and age of the structure become apparent. The observation deck is $21 which is a rip off. I knew it before I went up. However, I traveled a long way to Seattle so I decided to pay just to experience it. I took a quick stroll around the observation deck for 5 minutes and took the elevator back down. The views at the top of the Space Needle are very good. For example, you can see downtown, the sports stadiums (e.g. Safeco Field, CenturyLink Field, etc.), and Puget Sound (pictures left to right). However, there are better views of the city (ones that include the Space Needle) that are free within the city. As a result, enjoying the Space Needle from afar in the city is sufficient. On the other hand, it is in an interesting area that is worth walking around. Nearby the Space Needle are Key Arena (former home of the former Seattle Supersonics), an IMAX theater in a science center, Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, etc. The area is a 20-25 minute walk northwest of Pike Place if you pay for all day parking downtown and do not want to move your car.
3. Kerry Park (211 West Highland Drive)
Kerry Park has my favorite view of Seattle. It is on top of Queen Anne Hill so you get an elevated view of the skyline of the city with the Space Needle front and center (as seen in the cover photo). When I visited the park, there was a wedding party taking pictures. It is an amazing background for a photo and there is no admission fee since it is a public park. Kerry Park is approximately a 20 minute walk north of the Space Needle so 40 minutes northwest of Pike Place.
4. Discovery Park Loop Trail (4.4 miles round trip/ relatively flat)
On a sunny or partly cloudy day, I highly recommend a walk around Discovery Park. The west side of the park provides amazing views of the Olympic Mountains across Puget Sound to the west. Moreover, the loops connects to a trail down to the beach. There is also a lighthouse at the northwest corner of the park. The loop has modest elevation change. It is relatively flat. There are stairs where there is any kind of steepness. It takes approximately 1 ½ – 2 hours to enjoy the walk leisurely.
5. Golden Gardens Park (8498 Seaview Pl NW, Seattle, WA 98117)
It is one of the best spots for sunset in Seattle. On a clear day, the glow of the sunlight from the end of the day glimmers off the Olympic Mountains and Puget Sound. Moreover, there are barbecue pits and the light from the fires contrasts majestically with the sunset. For those reasons, the park is a picture perfect and peaceful location for sunset.
6. Green Lake
If you are looking for a place to run or bike; Green Lake, located in north central Seattle, is the place to be. It is a pretty lake with jogging/ bike trails that loop around the lake for 3 miles. There are also plenty of other recreational activities to do (e.g. swimming, basketball, etc.).It is a happening place for exercisers so you will see a lot of Seattle residents there. My friends live close to the lake so it was convenient for me to walk over to it. I went during sunset and it was beautiful.
1. Salty’s on Alki Beach (1936 Harbor Ave SW, Seattle, WA 98126)
Is this place for real? I heard great things beforehand. Nevertheless, I was not expecting to experience and enjoy the mother of all brunch buffets. Salty’s Sunday brunch truly exceeded all my expectations. The food is absolutely top notch. Specifically, the seafood is exceptional. It includes Dungeness crab legs and oysters that are so fresh you can slurp the ocean off of them. Moreover, the restaurant also had the best oyster shucker in the Pacific Northwest rapid fire shucking the oysters. His title was showcased by the gigantic trophy standing behind him. Naturally, Salty’s also featured multiple types of wild salmon. The huge King salmon, sitting as a centerpiece of a spread, and the sockeye salmon lox were delicious. The brunch also had other great breakfast items such as salmon eggs benedict and an omelet bar. It had a pasta bar too but I was too full to try it. In addition to seafood, the prime rib was legitimately great. It would probably be easier to list the items I did not enjoy: the fish and chips. The fish filets were too mushy for my tastes. Of course, one dud is more than acceptable. Next, the restaurant starts you off with a plate of mini doughnuts. They were good but still a waste of space. Nonetheless, definitely leave some room for dessert. I totally enjoyed the madeleines, white chocolate mousse, very fresh strawberries that I dipped in the chocolate fondue fountain, and cream puffs.
At $62.99, it is definitely not cheap. Nevertheless, the premium items certainly justify the price. In contrast, I have tried a $93 Sunday all you can eat brunch in San Diego. It was good but overrated and overpriced. It offered unlimited mimosas but did not come close to offering the top end quality featured at Salty’s. Next, the restaurant is on Alki beach and offers tremendous views of the Seattle skyline [on a clear day] while you dine. Of course, the Sunday brunch is very popular. I highly advise making a reservation ahead of time.
2. Rockcreek Seafood & Spirits (4300 Fremont Ave N, Seattle, WA 98103)
It is one of the best seafood restaurants I have been to anywhere. The food was out of this world good. For appetizers, my friend and I shared some oysters. They were super fresh and it was like slurping the ocean when I ate them. On the other hand, the sauce was a bit sour and not my taste. For my entrée, I ordered a Branzino [Italian sea bass]. The fish was cooked perfectly. The meat was so tender that it fell apart in flaky chunks. Moreover, the skin was very crispy. The clams that came with the dish were exceptional and the chorizo was very good. Of course, a Branzino has a lot of bones in it. Definitely accept the offer for the server to filet and debone the fish for you. In addition, my friends ordered the Point Judith Calamari ‘Kari Out’. It is a brilliant play on words as the fried calamari comes inside a container that looks like a Chinese takeout box. I tried one piece of it. It is not an exaggeration when I say it is the best fried calamari I have ever eaten. The calamari was perfectly breaded, which provided a distinct crunch. It also featured great seasoning with a kick. If I get the privilege and chance to return to Rockcreek, I will absolutely order the Kari Out.
3. Duke’s Chowder House (2516 Alki Avenue)
Seattle is known for its incredible seafood. I highly recommend Duke’s since it is a casual dining restaurant with affordable prices where you can try some great seafood. I started with a clam chowder and Dungeness crab cake (first two pictures). They are the best clam chowder and crab cake respectively I have ever tried. Moreover, I do not like crab meat. However, Dungeness crab is something else. It is tender and full of taste. I could not stop eating and started devouring it quickly after having one bite. Seattle is keen on wild salmon rather than farmed salmon. In fact, it exudes a distinct disdain for farmed salmon. I liken the sentiment to how New Yorkers elevate their pizza above all others from other regions. Naturally, Duke’s features wild salmon. It tastes like a completely different fish and is amazing. While it does not cause me to forsake farmed salmon since I perceive them to be different fish and I really enjoy the smoothness of a well cooked, farmed salmon; wild salmon is a must try in Seattle. Duke’s has multiple locations in the city. I highly recommend the spot at Alki Park in West Seattle. The park is beautiful. You will also see the gorgeous Olympic mountains in the background on a clear day. It is a sight to behold at sunset.
2. Asian Food
1. Din Tai Fung (600 Pine St Suite 403, Seattle, WA 98101)
It is a famous Taiwanese chain that has extended its reach to the West Coast of the United States. It has three locations in the Seattle area: Pacific Place [mall] just north of Pike Place, University Village next to the University of Washington, and Bellevue. I went to the location on the top floor of Pacific Place. As you wait outside to be seated, you can peer through the windows to look at their team assembling their famous xialongbao [i.e. soup dumplings]. They are actually smaller than the xialongbao that I am accustomed to eating. Our waiter explained that some visitors from New York do not like Din Tai Fung’s dumplings because they are used to the fatty ones at Joe’s Shanghai [the most well-known xialongbao in New York]. Although I am used to the dumplings that taste like Joe’s, I also enjoyed the xiaolongbao at Din Tai Fung. They are different but also delicious. Since they are small, the soup is not sizzling hot. I usually bite a small hole in bigger soup dumplings and slowly suck out the soup so I do not burn myself. It is not necessary for smaller dumplings because there is not as much soup.
My friend and I also shared a braised beef noodle soup and wontons. For the noodle soup, the soup was rich and tomato based. It was spicy and had a kick. Nevertheless, I did not feel it was overly spicy. The handmade noodles were very smooth. The beef was excellent and tender. Moreover, there was a generous amount of beef. Next, the wontons were great. They were some of the more memorable wontons I have eaten in my travels. The noodle skin was smooth and generally awesome.
2. Ma’ono (4437 California Ave SW, Seattle, WA 98116)
I have been to Hawaii twice and a month in total. I did not know Hawaiian fried chicken existed until I dined at Ma’ono. The crispy fried chicken skin was the thickest and crunchiest I have ever tried. The fried skin was so thick that it almost looks like jagged, granite stone. Fortunately, it was very crunchy and not rock hard. More impressively, the meat inside was still relatively tender. It is a difficult feat because the heat needs to penetrate the thick skin so the meat is not undercooked but not be too hot that it dries it out. Not surprisingly, there were some small spots that were dry but it was impossible not to be. In addition to the fired chicken, the poke was excellent. The fish was very fresh and marinated well. On the other hand, I did not care for the spam musubi. The spam was too salty for my tastes.
If you want to try the fried chicken and going and going to Ma’ono with others, I definitely recommend making a reservation and reserving a full chicken ahead of time.
3. Harbor City Restaurant (707 S King St, Seattle, WA 98104)
It is a solid dim sum restaurant in the International District, by the two stadiums. The servers come around in carts with most items and you can order the other items you do not see to the table. Most of the dim dishes I tried were very good. There were two standouts. The first was the beef rice noodle. It was amazing. The beef was high quality and the noodles were very smooth. It was definitely one of the better beef rice noodles I have had in a while. I also really enjoyed the sticky rice in lotus leaf. It had a unique taste. The rice soaked up a lot of the leaf flavor.
4. Billy Beach Sushi & Bar (5463 Leary Avenue Northwest)
If you are looking to eat sushi in Seattle, Billy Beach is a solid choice. I went there hungry so I ended up ordering a lot. Naturally, I chose some rolls (2 pictures on the right). I usually go with a Philadelphia Roll when I eat sushi. I added a tuna avocado. I also ordered one of the specialty rolls, Ballard Crunch, which includes salmon, avocado, and tempura. All the rolls are good but not Earth shattering. On the other hand, the poke (first two pictures: second of the two pictures shows the sashimi after I ate off the top layer) is incredible. It was the first time I have ever tried the dish. It is a sashimi salad dish. It is also a Hawaiian, appetizer dish. The fish is fresh and full of flavor. The other ingredients (e.g. cucumbers) complemented the fish brilliantly. I could not stop eating it. If I return to Billy Beach, I would definitely order two of the poke.
5. Momiji (1522 12th Ave, Seattle, WA 98122)
It is an excellent spot for sushi. I started with Otoro. I wanted the Toro but it was sold out. Nevertheless, the Otoro was a great cut of tuna. It was not as fatty and tender as Toro but still delicious. Next, I had the Poke roll. It featured fresh tuna and avocado. It also had a spicy kick to it that shows up in the after taste. Momiji is also known for unique rolls. The most interesting roll I tasted was a piece of my friend’s Orange Crush. It tasted like an orange creamsicle.
1. Portage Bay Café (900 NE 65th St, Seattle, WA 98115)
It is a popular, local chain for breakfast. I have been told the lines are ridiculous on the weekends. On a weekday, I walked right in without a wait. The Bananas Fosters French Toast was incredible. The toast was super soft and very sweet. Although I have a sweet tooth, the sweetness actually overpowered me by the third piece of toast and I had to box it to go. In addition, it was one of the breakfast entrees that came with the unlimited fruit bar. All the fruit was fresh. The local strawberries were especially good. The side of roasted potatoes I ordered were great too. They were cooked well and seasoned immaculately. The skin of the potatoes was crisp yet the inside of the potatoes were not overcooked. It was a difficult, delicate balance to achieve.
2. Biscuit Bitch (1909 1st Ave, Seattle, WA 98101)
There are multiple locations throughout Seattle. I went to the one by Pike Place Market. There is very limited seating at this small location. Consequently, I recommend going to another location if you want to comfortably sit down. Not surprisingly, the restaurant serves biscuits. The quality of the food truly backs up the audacious name. I ordered the top seller: Gritty, Scrambled, Cheesy Bitch. Per the recommendation of the cashier, I added bacon. I am glad I did. I usually do not care for bacon. However, Biscuit Bitch had very crispy bacon that was memorable. Moreover, the biscuit and scrambled eggs were really good. I have had grits in the South and generally do not care for them. Nonetheless, I even ate the grits. It is a testament to how good they were. My only regret was that I ate Biscuit Bitch at the start of a food tour through Pike Place Market. It was heavy so it greatly diminished my ability to try and eat more in the Market.
4. More Food
1. Bongos (6501 Aurora Ave N, Seattle, WA 98103)
It is a great Caribbean restaurant by Green Lake. The atmosphere is casual and laid back. There is outdoor seating with tables and chairs on a manmade beach. I ordered the Bucco chicken plate. The chicken was tender with a good barbecue char and a great citrus marinade. The sides, included in the plate, were excellent too. The maduros were sweet and tender with a sweet caramel glaze. The cold slaw was fresh and very crunchy. The black beans were delicious. I also ordered a side of Yuca fries. They were awesome. The accompanying sauce was like a tartar sauce and very good. I thoroughly enjoyed the chicken but I my mouth watered looking at the pork dishes.
2. Paseo Carribean Restaurant (4225 Fremont Avenue North)
Before my drive up to Seattle from Portland, I had a heavy meal. When I arrived at Seattle, one of my friends wanted to get dinner and bring me to Paseo to grab a sandwich to go. Even after a long drive, I did not feel hungry. Nevertheless, I am never against trying more good food. I did not know what I was getting myself into by agreeing to go to Paseo. We both ordered the Caribbean Roast Pork sandwich, which is the most popular item on the menu. The sandwich is incredible. With my most conservative estimates, it is at least within my list of top 3 sandwiches I have eaten. It is arguably the best. The sandwich features pork shoulder. In my opinion, it is the most delicious part of the pig. The chunks of meat are large, full of flavor, tender, and perfectly marinated. It really melts in your mouth. The bread and caramelized onions are also amazing. The portions are very generous. You definitely want to be very hungry before eating a Paseo sandwich or split it with someone else. Since I was not that hungry to begin with, I was struggling to continue after eating half of the sandwich. Consequently, I made a critical decision to stop eating the bread and focus solely on the pork. Nevertheless, I regret wasting the delicious bread. The Caribbean Roast Pork sandwich is not the most photogenic picture. It is a bit sloppy. I give it a 6 at best for looks but a 10 for personality. Of course, I aim to eat a sandwich and not date it. I would definitely recommend making a strong effort to try Paseo. Definitely try the seafood in Seattle first. Paseo is a must try afterwards.
3. Pie (3515 Fremont Avenue North)
As the name implies, this restaurant serves pie. I ordered the mushroom with other vegetables, mac and cheese with ham, and almond cream. They are all very good and very filling. I am notorious for my ability to eat a lot of food. Even after a few hours of hiking, the mushroom and mac and cheese pies filled me up and I had to wait a little while before I ate the almond cream for dessert. While Pie is not a must try, it is definitely worth a try and I recommend it.
4. Rain City Burgers (707 S King St, Seattle, WA 98104)
It is a solid, local burger joint in Seattle. They name a few of their burgers after their current and former local sports teams (e.g. Mariners Burger, Sonics Burger, etc.). I ordered the “Mariners”. The meat patties were good. On the other hand, there was probably more mayonnaise and sauce than there needed to be and it made the burger a little messy to eat. As a side for the burger, I highly recommend the tater tots. They were excellent. Rain City Burgers will not blow you away but it provides a steady drizzle of good burgers.
5. Molly Moon’s (2615 NE 46th St, Seattle, WA 98105)
It is a local ice cream shop chain in the Seattle area. I went to the location in University Village by the University of Washington. I tried a couple of their flavors. The earl grey tasted exactly like earl grey. The Stumptown coffee tastes like coffee. Accordingly, Molly Moon’s does a great job replicating flavors in ice cream form. Nevertheless, I decided to order the Scout mint. It was very good. I have been to a lot of great ice cream shops around the country. I cannot say Molly Moon’s is at the top of my list. Nonetheless, it is very good and worth a stop if you are feeling ice cream in Seattle.
6. L&L Hawaiian Barbecue (18613 International Boulevard, SeaTac, WA 98188)
If you are hungry after arriving at the airport, I highly recommend stopping at the nearby L&L Hawaiian Barbecue to grab a quick bite. It has a hole in the wall feel. The food is relatively cheap too. The Hawaiian Barbecue Chicken is awesome. It is full of flavor and very tender. The menu also features a Ramen Burger. I had yet to try one so I decided to take the opportunity to do so. I did not like it at all. However, I do not blame my opinion on the quality of the cooking. The taste of Ramen as a bun does not agree with my taste buds. The burger was cooked well. L&L is also a part of mall complex. As such, there is a parking garage for customers. I had a difficult time spotting it while driving so I recommend parking first and walking to find it.
1. Mount Rainier National Park
The magnificent and majestic Mount Rainier can be seen from the distance in Seattle. However, it appears closer than it actually is at approximately 2 ½ hour drive south of Seattle. You can definitely spend a whole day wandering in the park. My friends recommended entering the park on the north entrance near the Sunrise section and driving south towards the hiking trails within the Paradise region near the mountain. However, I was more interested in hiking. Moreover, the driving from the north part to the south part of the park would have taken a few extra hours. As a result, I drove directly to the Henry M. Jackson Visitor Center in Paradise. I recommend hiking the Skyline Loop. In my opinion, the most beautiful aspect of the hike is the green, lush meadows at the beginning contrasting with the snow on the mountain (middle pictures). As you ascend up the mountain, there are great lookout points to see the gorgeous valleys that were carved by glaciers (top left and top right pictures). There are also streams that run down the mountain and past near the loop. Near the end of the loop, there is a very pretty waterfall (picture on the bottom right). I also advise taking the High Skyline Loop (bottom left picture) once you can connect to it from the Skyline Loop. In addition to a better view of the park, it is a much better path to walk on compared to the alternative section of the Skyline Loop that is covered in snow. This hike is approximately 5.5 miles and took me about 2 ½ hours to complete. It is moderate difficulty. You will feel it is a good exercise but you will not be totally exhausted. The entrance fee (unless you have an annual pass) is $15. It is well worth it. Even if the proposal to increase the fee to $25 goes through, it is still worth it. Be advised that the mountain has its own weather. Definitely bring a jacket. I was hot at the beginning and took it off but needed it once the elevation increased as I walked closer to the mountain. Mount Rainier National Park is one of the best highlights of my trip.
2018 – A Trek Through the Land of Always Winter
The experience was vastly different at the end of June compared to the first time I went in September 4 years ago. It takes a long time for the snow to melt from the winter. Paradise is not open to visitors until approximately late June. It may be later depending on the accumulation of snow from the winter. When I went in late June, thick layers of snow were still packed tight. Accordingly, it was solid enough so I could walk and hike on the snow. Nevertheless, it was still snow. Even with hiking boots on, I felt myself constantly slipping backwards a little as I hiked up. It was like walking on a steps machine at the gym where the ground is consistently moving down as you try to step up. It was a lot more difficult than my previous hike in September when there was no snow on the trails. On the other hand, the snow covered trails provide a different experience in terms of fun and beauty. When there is snow, there are markers and flags placed by the National Park Service that guide the way towards Panorama Point for hikers. Accordingly, the route I took in June was Skyline Loops towards the intersection for the paths to Pebble Creek, Camp Muir, and the High Skyline loop that connects to Panorama Point. When there was no snow in September, I continued to complete the Skyline loop. With the snow, I did not attempt it. I followed the markers that brought me back to the intersection for Pebble Creek, Camp Muir, and the High Skyline then continued back down the trails where I hiked up from the Visitor Center.
2. Olympic National Park
It is one of the most magnificent and massive National Parks in the United States. In the words of the NPS site, it features “several distinctly different ecosystems, including glacier-capped mountains, old-growth temperate rain forests, and over 70 miles of wild coastline.” I can honestly state that I have not seen anything like what I experienced at Olympic National Park. If it is feasible, I highly recommending adding or including 3-4 days on a trip to Seattle to drive out to the Peninsula to experience the park.
3. Lake Twenty Two [(#702) Mountain Loop Highway within the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest]
Some of the best of places to hike in the state of Washington are the lesser known locations. Lake Twenty Two is definitely a phenomenal hike that tourists probably do not know about. When I first heard the name, I thought to myself “Is this like Area 51? Are there experiments or is something hidden there?” In fact, Lake Twenty Two is a preserve designated for research. On the other hand, there are no secrets that would spark the interests of conspiracy theorists the way Area 51 does. I love this location because there is a lake nestled at the top of mountains (bottom two pictures). It provides an excellent payoff for the hike. As you climb, you can turn to see amazing, green views of the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest (top right picture). The hike is 2.7 miles one way. It is a good exercise but not overly strenuous. The paths are also very well maintained. In addition, the beginning of the hike has wooden roads that are very easy to walk on. The only obstacle on the hike is a giant tree that fell on the path. Although you need to be careful when you go over it, it is not overly dangerous. If you reach the lake around noon, you will be greeted with an overwhelming glare of the sun as you walk through the entrance to the lake. If you have seen the Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, the glare is what the orcs must have felt at Helms Deep when Gandalf leads the Rohirrim down the hill and uses his staff to blind the orcs with the bright sun. It took me about 2 ½ hours to make the round trip hike and enjoy the lake.
My GPS also did not have a direct address to the trailhead. As a result, make sure to research and have the directions to get to the parking lot. In these situations, I usually go to Google Maps to find something close to the destination then remember the final turns of the trip. The parking lot is not overly difficult to find as it is right off of Mountain Loop Highway and clearly marked. You will also need the appropriate annual or daily pass to display on your dashboard in order to park. Lake Twenty Two is approximately two hours northeast of Seattle.
4. Oyster Dome
Oyster Dome is another very good, lesser known hike. The payoff is excellent with a clearing at the top that allows you to relax and enjoy a beautiful view of north Puget Sound (pictures above). The hike is not overly strenuous. However, there are definitely a few, very steep inclines that made me huff and puff. It is a very good exercise. The paths are also well maintained. I slightly rolled my ankle but it was due to a wrong step rather than an issue with the road. I would have avoided it completely if I were wearing hiking shoes rather than running shoes. The trailhead is on the milepost 10 marker on Chuckanut Drive, which is off of exit 231 on I-5. It takes a little over an hour to drive north to the beginning of the trailhead from Seattle. You will park right on the side of the road. In addition, you will need the related annual or daily pass to park. When we arrived at the beginning of the trailhead, we saw a sign in a car that read “Oyster Dome or Bust” from a bachelorette party. My friends and I had the same mission statement. There was no bust.
Coffee is a word that is synonymous with Seattle. However, there are a lot of coffee shops in Seattle that are pretenders and living off the reputation of Seattle. Starbucks is exhibit A of a coffee shop, originating from Seattle, which sells overpriced and mediocre coffee. Of course, it has built a global empire off of brand recognition rather than substance. Unfortunately, I fell victim of assuming the coffee in Seattle must be awesome everywhere in the city and foolishly relied on Yelp ratings to select a couple of coffee shops to try in my first trip to Seattle in 2014. I found redemption in 2018 when I returned with a list from my friend who is a coffee fanatic.
1. Seattle Coffee Works (107 Pike St, Seattle, WA 98101)
It is a coffee shop in Pike Place. I arguably had the best latte I drank in Seattle here. There was no bitterness in the drink. Moreover, the texture was smooth and rich. After the top layer, it was a bit watery in the thin second layer. However, it maintained its smoothness after that slight flaw in the rest of the drink. There was also a sweet aftertaste throughout the latte. In my opinion, Seattle Coffee Works also had the best latte art of the shops I visited in the city.
2. Elm Coffee Roasters (240 2nd Ave S #103, Seattle, WA 98104)
It is a coffee shop in International Place by the two stadiums. Inside, there is a good space to sit, do work, or relax with a cup of coffee. However, I cannot say it was in one of the more aesthetically pleasing locations in town. Nevertheless, I had one of the best lattes I drank in Seattle at this coffee shop. It was perfectly smooth and rich. Moreover, it had a flawless thickness.
3. Espresso Vivace (532 Broadway Ave East, Seattle WA 98102)
There was not a hint of bitterness in my latte. The drink was very smooth. There was a great balance between the smooth texture and richness of the flavor. There was also a hint of something sweet. It tasted like almond milk. In addition, the latte art was excellent.
4. Victrola (310 E Pike St, Seattle, WA 98122)
There are a few locations throughout the city. I went to the shop on E Pike St. There was not a hint of bitterness in my latte. The drink was very smooth and foamy from top to bottom. I also thought the shop was a good spot to do some work. The décor was very hip, modern, and comfortable.
5. Milstead & Co (754 N 34th St, Seattle, WA 98103)
There was only the slightest hint of bitterness in my latte from Milstead. Accordingly, it was basically perfect. The texture was rich and smooth throughout the drink. It offers a great spot to drink your coffee, study, read, or sit and relax with plenty of tables inside. The shop also offers great views of the harbor. On the other hand, it is in the middle of Fremont by the Fremont troll. Consequently, it is difficult to find parking in the area.
5. Seattle International Airport
The airport is south of Seattle in Seatac. With traffic, it is approximately 40 minutes from Seattle. It is a solid, small airport. I took a Red Eye flight back home and I was able to get through security quickly. While the food is obviously not as good as it is in the city, it is still very good. I ate at Ivar’s Fish Bar and the clam chowder in a bread bowl is solid. Like a lot of airports, I needed to take a shuttle to my rental car location but the ride is very quick. You can also take the Link Light Rail from the airport to downtown Seattle. The end point is by Pike’s Place.
About Pat Wong
Patrick is a contributor for Rookerville. He is an avid sports fan. Before joining Rookerville, he was part of a defunct New York Yankees message board, NYYankeefans, where he was its top poster and was inducted in its Hall of Fame for his contributions. Patrick is also a passionate fan of movies. He has enjoyed reading movie reviews over the years and is excited about the opportunity to review movies. Patrick is also a passionate foodie. He is Yelp Elite for three years in a row and shares his great finds in New York and his travels.