Sleepy in Seattle

Maybe it was the cool, misty air. Maybe it was a full day spent outdoors at a music festival. Or maybe it was the lunch burrito the size of a newborn baby. Whatever it was, I slept like a rock every night I was in Seattle. For a person who finds slumber in strange beds difficult, it was just one of many, many good things about the Pacific Northwest city.

This was the second trip to Seattle in two years. Husband and I didn’t want to do anything that we had done in the past. We walked right past Pike Place Market down to the piers on the shoreline. We were here to see something new.

For someone who likes an authentic experience, the piers below Pike Place Market are the last place you get authenticity. Swimming with tourists, there are enough souvenir and fish shops for everyone. But we were hungry and needed dinner. Stat.

The restaurant we focused on had a great, pre-World War II sign. There were black and white photos in the windows of waiters circa 1946. What we later discovered was the McDonald’s of seafood, the place won us over with proof that it had been around a long time. Plus, how can you not be won over by a place called Ivar’s Acres of Clams?

Ivar’s walk-up windows and sit-down restaurants are sprinkled throughout Seattle. We were at the original, on pier 54. Dark wood and a sizable menu impressed from the start. But what won us over was happy hour. Served every day from 3:00 p.m. until close, you can eat and drink from a special discounted menu in the large bar. Between the two of us we had a strawberry spinach salad, Ivar’s famous clam chowder, six oyster shots and a olive and veggie hummus plate, plus drinks from local breweries and wineries for about $20. Solid food with ambiance on a budget gets a thumbs up, no matter how touristy the locale.

With a reported 114 microbreweries in Washington state, it’s tough to find a really bad beer, even at a franchise like Ivar’s. If you are looking to experience a really good beer unknown outside of the tri-state area, sample Mac & Jacks. Located in the northeast suburb of Redmond, brewery tours in the strip-mall-office-park are Sundays at 3:00 p.m. Unfortunately our arrival on a Friday meant we were left with looking over t-shirts and beer glasses in the tiny retail store. However, Mac & Jacks was a recommendation from a trusted beer connoisseur, and husband was able to enjoy a pint later that evening. His review? Two thumbs up. Way up.

Day two in Seattle consisted of an early morning photo shoot, which didn’t produce much due to clouds, wind and mist. But it was fun to explore those unknown parts of the city, including Gas Works Park and the University of Washington.

Our beer connoisseur friend had come through with Mac & Jacks, so we decided to indulge on his second recommendation – Gorditos – a Mexican restaurant on North 85th Street in the Greenwood neighborhood. Advertised as a healthy, all natural Mexican restaurant, Gorditos is about burritos. They have dry and wet burritos, the wet being a sauce of salsa, melted cheese and sour cream poured over the top and browned until bubbling. They also provide fresh chips and homemade salsa with every order, and even have a salsa bar. Its house salsa is medium, with a delicious smoky spice and chunks of green onion.

You can order your burrtio’s heat as well, so I stuck with a veggie, veggie burrtio, medium, with no cheese or sour cream, and husband ordered the famous burrito grande mild.

The pictures hanging on the wall of newborn babies lying next to plates of Gorditos burritos should have been a warning, but we were willing to take the plunge. The burritos did not disappoint. My burrito was the size of two Chipotle burritos and husband’s grande burrito was the size of – you guessed it – a baby. I suddenly felt like Adam Richman from Man vs. Food. We ate to our fill and grabbed a takeaway box for the road.

Next stop on our Seattle tour de force? Bumbershoot Music & Arts Festival. In addition to seeing family and friends, our trip to Seattle was part of a larger plan to visit one of the nation’s premier festivals, and Bumbershoot didn’t disappoint. The big acts of the night were all good – The Decemberists, Neko Case and Bob Dylan all flexed their musical muscle for thousands at the main stage. But the little finds were groups like The Constellations that proved to be a band to reckon with, and Justin Townes Earle, the son of legendary Steve Earle.

Looking back, it was an exhausting 48-hours, but memorable since everything we saw was new to our eyes. I didn’t want to sleep just because there was so much to do. So, I got myself another large latte with soy.