Literary City Guide | seattle, wa


All those ninnies have it wrong. The best thing about Seattle is the weather. The world over, people have ocean views. But across our ocean is Bainbridge Island, an evergreen curb, and over it the exploding, craggy, snow-scraped Olympics. I guess what I’m saying: I miss it, the mountains and the water.
— Maria Semple, Where’d You Go, Bernadette?

Tour Guide: jenny stockton

Jenny first visited Seattle as a student attending a high school journalism conference in 1998. She and her husband relocated to Seattle from Denver in June, 2014 and are expecting their first child in April, 2015, so while she’s been busy exploring the city, she’s missed out on a handful of Seattle’s best offerings (oysters and cocktails, mainly). You can find her online at jennystockton.com.

Q&A

 

Relationship to Seattle: Lover since my first visit in high school and very new resident (about 8 months) 

Writer you’d like to invite to dinner: George Saunders

Chef you’d like to prepare the meal: Jeff Osaka

Writing soundtrack: The Goat Rodeo Sessions, Madeline Peyroux, Ludovico Einaudi

Pen or Pencil: Pencil

Coffee or Tea? Coffee

Paperback or Hardback? Paperback


Good Reads


BOOKSTORES

Elliott Bay Book Company. Located in Capitol Hill, this is probably the city’s biggest and best-known independent bookstore. They have a fantastic collection of staff recommendations and host all kinds of author readings and events, including a monthly book group for teens in grades 6-12.

Book Larder. Also known as “A Community Cookbook Store,” this place is a food and book lover’s dream come true. They host author events, cooking classes and demonstrations, and are known to give away leftover treats when they’re available. The interior of the store is beautiful, so even if you don’t want to carry cookbooks home with you, it’s worth a stop just to look.  

Left Bank Books. Because it’s at Pike Place Market, this is the only bookstore I visited on my trip as a high school student. I remember being shocked and delighted by their stickers that read “Read a fucking book.” They’ve been around since 1973 and specialize in “anti-authoritarian, anarchist, independent, radical and small-press titles.” If you stop in there, be sure to also hit the Ellenos Greek Yogurt stand around the corner.  

Ada’s Technical Books and Cafe. Named after Ada Lovelace, this shop caters to the geeks and provides a place for building community among Seattle’s tech types. They carry a uniquely technical selection of books, puzzles, games, and prints, and have a fantastic selection of children’s items. Their cafe specializes in local vegetarian fare.

LIBRARIES

Seattle Public Library - Central Branch. The main hub of the Seattle Public Library system, this branch is always busy. They have 400 computers with wireless access that are free and available to the public, so it’s no surprise it’s a popular place to be. The building itself was totally redesigned and opened to the public in 2004, and in 2007 it was voted one of the American Institute of Architects’ 150 favorite structures in the U.S. If you go, be sure to take a stroll through the red hallways on the 4th floor. 

University of Washington - Suzzallo Library. Shortly after we arrived in Seattle, someone asked me “Have you seen the Hogwarts library at UW?” and I knew I would need to make a trip. The reading room at Suzzallo is truly something to behold, and the grand staircase that leads to it from the main entrance is worth the extra little bit of exercise.

Seattle Public Library - Open Air Library. SPL acquired a pop-up library designed by The Uni Project just a few weeks after I arrived in the city. I was super excited to hear the news but, regrettably, I haven’t seen the Open Air Library in real life. Yet.

READINGS & CONFERENCES

Hugo House. In addition to a wide variety of classes, the folks at Hugo House offer a handful of regularly scheduled free events such as Works in Progress (first and third Monday of every month) and The Cheap Series (Cheap Beer & Prose, Cheap Wine & Poetry).

Seattle Arts & Lectures. I first heard of this organization (also known as SAL) after seeing the movie Wild and searching out Cheryl Strayed’s speaking schedule. They host a literary/arts series, a poetry series, and a number of other events including lectures by University of Washington faculty. They also have a ‘Writers In The Schools’ (WITS) program that places local professional writers in public schools to “spark interest and develop skills in reading and writing”.

Lit Crawl Seattle. I missed out on this one last year, but it’s a literary pub crawl that happens annually in 9 cities around the world and, in Seattle, involved more than 65 authors at more than 20 readings in 2014.

OTHER FINDS

Book-It Repertory Theatre. I have yet to see one of its productions, but this theatre was founded 24 years ago and its mission is “to transform great literature into great theatre through simple and sensitive production and to inspire its audiences to read.” I’d like to catch a performance of Little Bee or Slaughterhouse Five (or both!) before this season ends.

Good Eats


COFFEE SHOPS

Caffè Fiore. My favorite because it’s our closest neighborhood coffee shop for walking to on the weekends. They serve only organic coffee and there are four locations throughout the city. If you’re a fan of coffee and the combination of orange and chocolate, try a Sevilla. 

Slate Coffee Roasters. Possibly the most serious of all the coffee shops I’ve visited, this one is small and delightful. They roast their own beans off-site (you can become a subscriber!) and they offer something known as a “Deconstructed Latte,” which alone is worth the trip.   

Milstead & Co. This spot was ranked #1 “snobbiest” coffee shop in Seattle by Food & Wine last year, but I have never encountered snobbery there. Yes, they care a great deal about their craft, but I have found that to mean the baristas are both knowledgeable and helpful. The space is big, too, and the wifi is fast. The Fremont Troll is just around the corner, for those interested in seeing the local sights.

A PROPER MEAL

Serious Pie. I’ve never had anything short of a great meal at this place, and they make the best pizza I’ve ever eaten. The sweet fennel sausage, roasted peppers, and provolone is my favorite, but their specials are always fantastic as well. Bonus: you can order the coconut cream pie from Dahlia Bakery for dessert.

The Whale Wins. Possibly the prettiest setting for a meal I’ve ever eaten, this place is definitely not one to miss. The food is outstanding, and they’re only open for dinner so be sure to plan ahead. If you have room for dessert, the butter roasted zucchini bread is magical.   

Daniel’s Broiler. Steaks have been one of my more prevalent pregnancy cravings, so we tried this famous steakhouse for my husband’s birthday a month and a half ago. I’ve been wanting to go back ever since. They have a burger and a filet sandwich on their happy hour menu, too, if you’re not committed to going all out on a fancy steak dinner.

Delancey. Chances are you’ve heard of this place, if you’re a literary foodie type. Opened in 2009 by husband and wife Brandon Pettit and Molly Wizenberg, Delancey is also the title of Wizenberg’s second (NYT bestselling!) book. The pizzas are excellent, but be sure to try the Jersey Salad and chocolate chip cookies too. 

The London Plane. Located in Pioneer Square, this place is worth a stop even if you’re not hungry for a proper meal, though you won’t be disappointed if you do decide to sit down and eat. Described as “part cafe, part specialty foods grocery, and part floral workshop”, there’s a little something here for everybody.

TREATS

Trophy Cupcakes & Party. The best cupcakes I’ve ever eaten, hands down. And I’ve had my share of cupcakes. They’re big, so sharing can be a good idea, but they’re just the right amount of sweet to not make you sick if you end up eating the whole thing yourself. My favorite is the salted caramel, but the flavor of the month is always worth trying.

Parfait. I visited this ice cream shop, which started as a food truck, more than once a week throughout the summer and loved every flavor I tried. Their ingredients are all organic and locally sourced, and all of their utensils and containers are made of biodegradable and compostable materials.

Hot Cakes Molten Chocolate Cakery. I accidentally ended up at this spot one afternoon when I went out in search of coffee. Talk about a happy accident. They’re known for their molten chocolate cakes, but they also serve boozy milkshakes and offer a $5 cookie + milk during happy hour M-F from 3-6pm.


Seattle

jenny's 5 Favorites


1. Favorite view: The city from the viewpoint at Kerry Park is pretty spectacular, but I’m still enamored by what I see out the windows anytime I drive across a bridge. 

2. Favorite place to write: At my little writing desk in the corner of my bedroom.

3. Favorite museum: So far, Chihuly Garden and Glass, but MOHAI and The Center for Wooden Boats top the list of museums I’m wanting to visit next.

4. Favorite coffee shop: Caffè Fiore

5. Favorite thing about Seattle: The combination of mountain views plus water everywhere is hard to beat.