restaurants

36 Hours on Lopez Island

Sunset Bay

Sunset Bay

“Don’t change Lopez Island,” one cheerily hand-penned sign read in the window of a village shop. “Let Lopez Island change you.”

There is something magical about crossing water to reach a destination. Even when that location is only roughly 90 miles from home, I could not believe how different Lopez Island felt.

As the honorary contributing beverage writer for Rain or Shine Guides I wanted to pick a destination not too difficult to reach, but still within a day’s drive. One of the San Juan Islands seemed ideal, and after reading about a blazing newish restaurant (more on that soon), I booked a full weekend on Lopez Island to explore.

Spoiler alert: Do not travel to Lopez Island just for the beverages. Lopez Island Brewing Company may have a website and a physical address, but neither yielded tangible results. As for Lopez Island Vineyards, tastings are held as “pop ups” or at Summer Farmers Markets — neither of which we located on a November weekend. Our beverage scouting will have to wait for further developments.

Having said that, DO visit Lopez Island for everything else. Here are the top hitters.

The Scenic Calm

Lopez Island is quiet and dark with very few cars and unpolluted skies flush with stars. As my husband and I lay in the bed of our garden cottage next to a warm wood stove, we fell asleep watching The Milky Way tilt and slide above us through the skylights. If you need a place with 63 miles of stark, hushed coastline, you could do worse than Lopez Island.

TIP: Many businesses, and even Spencer Spit State Park, are fully closed during the offseason, (shhhhh! we hiked to the spit anyway). However, if solitude is what you seek, consider the lower cost and non bustle of booking a Lopez trip in the offseason.

Driftwood at Spencer Spit

Driftwood at Spencer Spit

The Wildlife

Stepping out of our cottage I was surrounded by friendly jackrabbits. Just by walking 300 feet to the coastline, I spotted a lazy seal turning somersaults in Fisherman Bay.  A clear day yielded to a stunning salmon and terracotta-streaked sunset featuring a lone, gliding bald eagle. Nature envelopes you at every turn on Lopez Island, from quaint farms filled with braying goats to fish leaping from brackish ponds.

TIP: For an unadulterated coastal vista filled with sea birds, seals, and sometimes orcas and porpoises, visit Shark Reef Sanctuary on the south-western end of the island. Leave your car in the tiny pullout and hike a half mile to the cliff edges along a well-marked and maintained trail. Nature favors those who wait, so bring a sandwich, perch on a rock, and see who decides to pass by.

Vista at Shark Reef Sanctuary

Vista at Shark Reef Sanctuary

The Charm

Famously nicknamed “Slowpez,” nothing moves quickly on Lopez Island. Being open to adventure will serve you well. Cafe closed for the winter? No worries! Just a few miles down the road at Sunnyfield Farm we encountered the Lopez Island Little Winter Market. Crowded with local vendors peddling fresh bread, herbed cheeses made right on the property, and spiced cider, you can support the thriving local farm trade while enjoying a string band playing in the hay rafters.

TIP: Don’t be alarmed when everyone on Lopez waves at you from their cars. It’s polite, customary, and becomes completely natural within an hour or two. It’s just another piece of local charm that solidified Lopez Island’s place in my heart.

Little Winter Market inspired lunch

Little Winter Market inspired lunch

The FOOD!

But the number one reason to visit Lopez is to try Ursa Minor, a creative agrarian Northwest restaurant right in the heart of the village. Recently featured in Edible Seattle, this rustic and imaginative dining experience did not disappoint and ranked as highly with us as our recent experiences at Michelin-starred restaurants in France. This is the closest to food terroir I’ve had yet in the northwest.

Ursa Minor

Make Ursa Minor the star of the evening and stay late to share plates like the burnt cabbage, sunflower seeds, wild onion & chestnut dish or tide-tumbled fresh oysters topped with frozen kimchi. Our entree of chicken, potatoes, chanterelles & black garlic was artfully presented and quickly devoured. And for a lady who doesn’t like dessert, I struggled to share the hay ice cream, poached quince, malt, and honey crumbles with my date. I will seriously dream of those honey crumbles for weeks to come.

A fairly priced and solid wine list made pairing easy with glasses of sparkling Fruili to start and a 2013 bottle of Crozes-Hermitage to take us the rest of the way through the meal.

TIP: While there’s no tasting menu (YET) at Ursa Minor, do talk to co-owners Chef, Nick Coffey and Front-of-House, Nova Askue to hear what’s good right now. Most items are sourced on the island so they will know what’s showing best when. Reservations are recommended, so book ahead.

Lamb leg, roasted koji, daikon & mustard greens at Ursa Minor

Lamb leg, roasted koji, daikon & mustard greens at Ursa Minor

So close to home, yet so very different, try Lopez Island. Do reserve your space on the outbound ferry as passage is never a guarantee. Bring binoculars for the amazing sights you will see far and wide. And let me know if that brewery ever opens its doors to visitors. Salud!

Amy L. Dickson is a communications professional, freelance writer, Level 1 sommelier, and a contributor to Rain or Shine Guides. Follow her at @amyldickson75



Insider's Guide to the Best Restaurants in Pike Place Market

It always shocks us to hear that some think Pike Place Market is just flying fish and flower bouquets when it's so much more! Particularly a food mecca that has literally something for EVERYONE! We decided to put our favorites down in a blog for locals and tourists to reference when they are thinking about food and need a place to go. 

Breakfast

Seatown Seabar 

We've said it before and we will say it again - the hashbrowns at Seatown are crack nuggets. Their Dungeness Crab Benedict is delectable and their Fried Egg Sandwich takes it up a notch with the dahlia bakery english muffin that is so fluffy you'll want to die. And for the love of god, don't get any other side besides the hashbrowns. 

The Crumpet Shop

The Crumpet Shop

The Crumpet Shop isn't the spot you would give a second glance to if it was your first day at the market - but if you make the mistake of missing out on these british buns of joy it is going to haunt you for the rest of your life. Kristina loves the savory pesto, fresh tomato, and ricotta. Sarah obviously goes for the sweet with chocolate hazelnut and ricotta. Oh - and this place isn't a secret, so prepare for a line on the weekends! 

Storyville Coffee

Guess what? We like this place for their food, not their coffee - shocking we know. Storyville is tucked away on the upper level of the Corner Market building and they make some legit breakfast fare, including the Tillamook Breakfast Sandwich (the bun has sea salt on it) and the cinnamon roll that has sugar crystals that burst on your tongue as you eat it, 2,000 calories and all (just kidding - it isn't that many calories, but it tastes so good you'll feel that guilty).

Lunch

El Borracho

El Borracho

We've talked about El Borracho plenty before this post. Well, when something's good it deserves accolades, so stop hating. This spot has our favorite tacos and burritos, and when you throw in their chips and guac you have yourself a meal made in Mexican heaven! Check out our 8 Best Mexican Spots in Seattle for more on our obsession. 

DeLaurenti 

DeLaurenti

Italians are crazy amazing people. They learned how to put together things like carbs, cheese, and wine to create pure beauty in this world. DeLaurenti is an Italian market in The Market (yes, a market in the market - nuts!) that we love for many things, one of which is lunch. Head here to get a delicious Italian sandwich - the Arrosto and Grinder are our personal favorites. If you need a side, head over to the deli counter and grab some dolmas or a stuffed pepper to top it all off! 

Pike's Pit BBQ

Kristina is a Missouri native, so she has a little bit of a thing for BBQ. Pike's Pit offers a place to get a hit of that good stuff - pulled pork coated in a delicious, sweet/spicy bbq sauce. Like a true BBQ joint they offer giant portions, so we would recommend getting the "Mini-me" with your favorite meat and "Wickle it." :) 

Honest Biscuit

Honest Biscuit

They aren't lying when they say their biscuits are the best. Get it? Honest Biscuit aren't lying?! This spot got a new location in the new Waterfront Market Building, so you can enjoy your biscuit with great views of the Puget Sound! If you're hungry hungry we would recommend the Fried Chicken Butterhole Biscuit. If you're not that hungry or hate fried chicken (which is basically a sin) we could say the Pimento Cheese Biscuit is your best bet! 

Piroshky Piroshky

Piroshky Piroshky

Prepare to have your nose try to break off of your face to chase the scent of these pastries down the street. Once you get a whiff all the rest of our suggestions will be out the window. We love so many different types, the smoked salmon pate, the chicken, rice, and mushroom, the potato and cheese... the list continues - go grab the one that speaks to you! The only thing about Piroshky is, at least to us, it's an awkward amount of food. Do we get one, and still have room for more after, or do we get two and have to take a nap after because we are too full? Probably the nap...

Dinner

Steelhead Diner

Steelhead Diner

Steelhead is a market staple and for good reason. They have a unique spot that truly feels like a diner, but offers upscale food that embodies the pacific northwest to a T. Their view of Post Alley and Puget Sound make it a great place to spend a couple of hours eating. Start with the clam chowder and charred broccoli, move on to your favorite seafood, and then finish it all off with one of their many mouthwatering desserts! 

The Pink Door

The Pink Door

It's best in the summer, but if you want some amazing traditional Italian, most likely served with some live entertainment, then head to Pink Door any night of the year! If it's warm, make sure to wait for a table on the patio - it's worth it! Our favorites are the risotto and the lasagna, because...well that doesn't need an explanation - risotto and lasagna are the two best Italian inventions outside of pizza.

Place Pigalle 

Place Pigalle

It's going to cost you, but Place Pigalle offers one of the best dining experiences in The Market. Their quaint, french restaurant is perched on the edge of the back of The Market and their menu is stacked with amazing and rich food to swoon over. We love their mussels and french onion soup, all their entrees are seasonal, but they usually have an incredible salmon and lamb dish to knock your socks off.  

Sushi Kashiba 

Hot damn, Shiro's done it again. Sushi Kashiba is the second restaurant from famed sushi chef, Shiro Kashiba. Just go prepared to get the Omakase and drop like $200, they will put dish after dish in front of you that melts in your mouth and showcases flavors you didn't even know existed. It's an experience everyone should have before they die. Yes - we are that serious about this, we mentioned death.

Drinks

Jarr Bar

Jarr Bar

Head to Jarr Bar to get amazing cocktails. The El Cochino is our absolute favorite and goes perfectly with their food offerings. 

The Athenian

The Athenian

This is the best happy hour spot in The Market! Head to the back of the restaurant, grab a booth in the bar, and enjoy a cold, local beer in a frosty mug. The views don't hurt the experience either. 

Radiator Whiskey  

This is one of those dark bars where you go to sip whiskey and brood about life. Brooding isn't required though - head up to their spot to experience some great selections of whiskey and also you can eat a pig head if you want... so there is that. 

Alright folks - go forth and conquer! These are the best spots as of today, but the market is ever changing and evolving so we will be sure to report back with any new amazing, drop dead they make you feel so alive, spots to grab a meal in Pike Place Market! 

Seattle Neighborhoods: Greenwood

Bus stop art

Bus stop art

Seattle has a crazy amount of cool neighborhoods. There are the big hitters, Fremont, Ballard, Capitol Hill. Then there are the ones that fly a bit more under the radar, but have just as much, if not more, to offer. Phinney Ridge, Ravenna, Georgetown, and the one we are featuring today, Greenwood. 

In March many of you probably heard about the tragic gas leak that lead to an explosion that completely demolished three businesses in Greenwood and damaged dozens of other businesses in the surrounding area. After the explosion, stories of kindness and compassion started to spread. Coyle's owner, Rachel, firing up her kitchen to bake for the first responders. Muralists came and painted the ugly plywood that covered so many broken windows and doors to bring some vibrancy to a dismal situation. Countless Seattleites donated funds to get the Greenwood neighborhood back on their feet. 

Now, almost 6 months later, Greenwood is going strong and although it is missing 3 staples, there are still a ton of amazing businesses up and down Greenwood Ave. that have earned their stripes as Seattle establishments. And a few other newbies that have wiggled their way into our hearts too! 

Let's start at the north end of Greenwood Ave and work our way south through our favorite spots! 

North Star Diner

Get your greasy breakfast/lunch/dinner/late night here! It isn't anything to write home about, but it might remind you of home and sometimes that hits the spot. 

Hounds Tooth Public House

Full transparency: we know the owner. This is your spot to get some safe bar food and a good stiff drink while you watch the game. The staff is friendly and they have a great happy hour. Also, we have to mention one menu item: Frito Pie. If you don't know what this is, you haven't lived. 

Flying Bike Brewery

Flying Bike Brewery

Flying Bike Brewery

This is not only a Greenwood favorite, it is one of our favorite breweries in Seattle. It is a coop, which is awesome and results in super original and diverse beers on tap AND the staff is so friendly. Grab a pint, order some loaded fries from Munch Cafe (located next door, served to your table), and grab a board game for the table! Handicap accessible, dog and kid friendly! Everyone is welcome, go! 

Naked Brewing

This is your big hitting brewery in the neighborhood. Full restaurant with a huge draft list (RoS Tip: Quittin' Time IPA) for your drinking pleasure! They also have a large event room where they screen films and host events. Check out the calendar here

Luna Azul tacos and margaritas!

Luna Azul tacos and margaritas!

Luna Azul

This is the place in Greenwood for authentic, homemade, delicious Latino food. Their happy hours = yes. Their tacos = YES, and their margaritas = YESSSS. The prices are low so you can try a bunch! 

Teacher's Lounge

This place is our favorite to grab a cocktail in Greenwood. The owners will create you something original if you ask, but their menu is great too if you don't like surprises. The bar's theme will bring you back to your days in elementary school and the scoop of cookie dough you can order off their menu will be the icing on the cake!

The cool, torn walls of Gainsbourg

The cool, torn walls of Gainsbourg

Gainsbourg's poutine

Gainsbourg's poutine

Gainsbourg

This is a dark, romantic french spot that we love for their great small plates. You can sample so much delicious food for a great price and their cocktails go spot on with the atmosphere. 

Space Travel Supply Co.

Space Travel Supply Co.

Greenwood Space Travel Supply Co.

This is a unique shop on Greenwood Ave. Walking past you wouldn't know it was devoted to mentoring Seattle youth to become better communicators. Sales from their storefront help support their tutoring programs to help kids read and write. The swag is cool and the cause is right, don't miss this spot!

Chaco Canyon Organic Cafe

This coffee shop has delicious sweet and savory options and a great philosophy around food we definitely feel we can get behind. We love the honesty! The soul-warming coffee doesn't hurt either! 

Great selection at Couth Buzzard Books

Great selection at Couth Buzzard Books

Couth Buzzard Books Espresso Bueno

You might not venture into this place without an invitation (the name is weird, we know), but we are here to tell you that it is a gem! They offer a great selection of new and used books. There is a LEGIT cafe inside and their events calendar is full of programs they host to support the Seattle community and their creativity. 5 stars.

The Yard

The Yard is our go to when we want some patio dining. It is a bar/mexican joint and they have a cool ambience (think communal tables, exposed brick, rough around the edges kinda place), decent menu, and good drink selection. 

Coyle's Bakeshop

This place started in our favorite bookstore, Book Larder, and eventually found its permanent home on Greenwood Ave. We have no doubt (and also pray) that this will be a place we can go to in Seattle for decades to come. Why are we so confident? The owner, Rachel Coyle, merged a croissant with a pretzel (name: cretzel) and if that wasn't enough she created apricot mustard to pair with it. It's famous, it's delicious, and it's instagramable. What more do you need for a long and prosperous business life these days? Ok, but seriously, everything in this bakery is beautiful and mouthwatering-delicious. It is one of the best and it shouldn't be missed. 

And a few others, right off Greenwood Ave, that are worth the teeny tiny detour! 

Gorditos

Home of the Baby Burrito! Gorditos boasts "healthy mexican food" but we doubt if you eat their entire Burrito Grande (literally the size of a newborn baby) your body will thank you. We usually go with the chicken nachos or the smaller burritos. 

The Cozy Nut

This is a relatively new spot in Greenwood, but every neighborhood needs one of these bars. It's cozy, classic, and has Rainer for cheap. Come as you are, with your group of friends, pull up some chairs and throw some back. 

Taproot Theatre

This intimidate theatre always has spot-on, quality performances (plays and musicals!) and is a great place to experience Seattle culture without the big price tag. While you might feel a little squished in the seats, we love that the actors move throughout the theater and audience, which really draws you in to the performance. There is a little cafe next door where you can get beer and wine before and after the show.

Greenwood boasts one of our favorite  Henry  murals

Greenwood boasts one of our favorite Henry murals

 

 

Seattle's Best Sustainable Restaurants

Remember when we used to eat Cap'n Crunch and Spicy Hot Cheetos and didn't know that they would eventually kill us? Aww, those were the days. Now we have all this evidence (damn you science) that tells us we should probably be eating more like the Flintstones (sans Moonshine, boo, they take away all the good stuff!) and less like Saved By the Bell. And, lucky for us, we live in this awesome place that really takes this seriously. We have lots of restaurants who put organic/local/sustainable/all other healthy buzzwords inserted here at the top of their list of priorities. Double lucky for us that this food usually tastes better. We picked our favorite spots around the city that serve delicious and sustainable food. 

And just for the sake of clarity we will leave the definition of sustainable and delicious here: 

Sustainable: adjective  sus·tain·able \sə-ˈstā-nə-bəl\ involving methods that do not completely use up or destroy natural resources

Delicious: adjective  de·li·cious \di-ˈli-shəs\ very pleasant to taste

Photo credit:  Local 360 Instagram

Photo credit: Local 360 Instagram

Local 360 is a Belltown spot that sources almost all of their ingredients from places within a 360 radius of the city. Recommendation: The fried chicken will make you feel like you can live forever.

Stumbling Goat in Phinney Ridge has an atmosphere that feels like home and ingredients that came from the organic farm around the corner (well not literally, but you get it).  

Homegrown this sandwich shop crafts some legit sammies. Plus they really do make sustainability their #1 priority. Recommendation: Bacon, Egg, and Beechers for breakfast or the BLT for lunch!

Mashiko was the first fully sustainable sushi restaurant in Seattle. Hajime serves up creative, authentic and sustainable sushi in West Seattle and also offers sushi cooking classes! Recommendation: Nami Omakase is a ton of food at a great value.  

Tilth is one of the many restaurants in Seattle you can find a James Beard award winning chef who cooks up mouth watering food. It is beautifully presented and a bit pricey, but you get high end ingredients you don't have to feel any guilt chowing down on. Recommendation: Pan seared scallops

Portage Bay Cafe is not only sustainable, but quite possibly one of the happiest places to eat on earth. Recommendation: 1. Go for brunch. 2. Get the Pancakes or French Toast which will gain you access to the best toppings bar you've ever seen. 3. Go to town. 

Photo Credit Top Left:  Mashiko , Top Right:  Portage Bay , Bottom Left:  Tilth , Bottom Right:  Stumbling Goat

Photo Credit Top Left: Mashiko, Top Right: Portage Bay, Bottom Left: Tilth, Bottom Right: Stumbling Goat