Best of the City 2008

You're about to see your city in a whole new way.

With Steve Wiecking, Kathryn Robinson, James Ross Gardner, Leah Finn, Laura Cassidy, Ben Schock, Stefan Durham, Christopher Werner, Roger Brooks, Lee Fehrenbacher, Rachelle Robinett, Sarah Anderson, Kelly Huffman, Erin Pursell, Laura Peach, and Wilson Diehl Edited by Jessica Voelker December 28, 2008 Published in the July 2008 issue of Seattle Met

Faced with a place that is busting with “bests,” how do we choose what’s the Best of the City? We focus on the new and the newly discovered—183 shops and services, activities and eateries that offer fresh, exciting viewpoints on the city and force us to define ourselves anew.


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Seattle’s suddenly sprouting creperies like champignons after a cloudburst, and our favorite is the tidy little boîte on Madison, La Côte Crêperie. We love the crisp French nautical decor, the good wine, the crisp-edged buckwheat crepes (particularly divine filled with Yukon Golds, crème fraîche, bacon, and Fleur des Alpes cheese), the sweetly simple dessert crepes (lemony Citronnée is a hit), the lovely small price tags, and the servers who know their customers by name. La Côte Crêperie, 2811 E Madison St, Madison Valley, 206-323-9800

Weekend Brunch
Leave the icing-bomb cinnamon rolls and the all-you-can-eat groaning boards to other brunchers. Boat Street Kitchen cooks up something simultaneously more sophisticated and more down-to-earth, offering take-your-breath-away dishes like rustic cornmeal custard cake or baked eggs topped with buttered crumbs—all taken from a decidedly Old World playbook but made to the discriminating specs of the modern-day epicurean. Boat Street Kitchen, 3131 Western Ave, Belltown, 206-632-4602;

Coffee Tasting
Seattle’s a little embarrassed about its ecstatic devotion to Stumptown Coffee Roasters—it is, after all, a Portland import. But the combination of a sustainable business model, exacting small-batch roasts, hip urban locations (two on Capitol Hill), and, at the 12th Avenue roaster, daily 3pm “cuppings” where patrons taste and compare brews pretty much eliminates the shame. Stumptown Coffee Roasters, 616 E Pine St, Capitol Hill, 206-329-0115. 1115 12th Ave, Capitol Hill, 206-323-1544;

Food Tour
The new three-hour Tour de Chocolat begins with tea and truffles downtown at the Chocolate Box, then continues with a scenic drive to the Theo chocolate factory in Fremont, followed by another tasting at Fran’s in U Village. By the time the chocotourists get to Oh! Chocolates to learn the art of covering graham crackers with melted—you guessed it—chocolate, many find they’re too full for free samples. Well, almost too full. Tour de Chocolat, 108 Pine St, Downtown, 206-443-3900;

New Neighborhood Joint
The best restaurateurs know it’s not just about the eating. And although Austin Cantina serves up tremendous Tex-Mex eats—big fiery platters of beer-braised pulled-pork tacos with apple chutney and beans and rice; plates of silken garlic-chipotle shrimp—the big love goes to its great prices, killer margaritas, Southwest soundtrack, and hearty welcome from affable proprietor Jefe Birkner. Austin Cantina, 5809 24th Ave NW, Ballard, 206-789-1277;

Fast Food
Dick who? Burgermaster boasts a broader selection (Veggie burger! Salad bar!), a kids’ menu, shakes and malts, the better claim to history (it was founded in 1952—two years before Dick’s), and Bill Gates as a regular. Just try and beat the Baconmaster or fries dipped in their garlicky-delicious tartar sauce. Burgermaster, 9820 Aurora Ave N, Greenwood, 206-522-2044. 3040 NE 45th St, Ravenna, 206-525-7100. 10606 NE Northup Way, Bellevue, 425-827-9566;

Villa Victoria (born in Madrona, relocated to Columbia City) is simply the apotheosis of perfect takeout: a sweet space up the road from Rainier Ave, a large selection (chilaquiles verdes, tofu burritos with guacamole), a fleet of dependable regulars, and those headliner tamales—moist and jalapeño flavorful. Villa Victoria, 3829 S Edmunds St, Columbia City, 206-329-1717;

Seattle’s got no shortage of restaurants whose crowd, ambience, decor, and neighborhood placement add up to that thing we call “vibe.” But this year’s best was an easy pick; as easy as walking into the capacious, Tokyo-hip, lime-green Boom Noodle and lighting at one of the shared cafeteria tables for a steaming bowl of wild salmon udon. It’s just as right for an afternoon nosh as for a drenched-in-cocktails destination dinner. Boom Noodle, 1121 E Pike St, Capitol Hill, 206-701-9130;

New Chef
He’s not exactly a rookie—at age 39, Keith Luce has already worked alongside La Côte Basque’s Jean-Jacques Rachou, cooked for the Clintons at the White House, and walked away with the James Beard Foundation Rising Star Chef of the Year award. He’s just new to Seattle—as head chef at the Herbfarm lucky us. Luce’s gifted palate and subtle hand make bright new music of Cascadia’s bounty. Keith Luce, The Herbfarm, 14590 NE 145th St, Woodinville, 425-485-5300;

Steak Frites
At Betty, the Crow people’s newer joint at the top of Queen Anne, the signature dish also happens to be the best of its ilk in town. Here, the steak is a Brandt Farms rib eye, gilded on the grill, oozing glorious juice, heaped with a mess of crisped fries, flavorful in every bite—and utterly fork tender. Betty, 1507 Queen Anne Ave N, Queen Anne, 206-352-3773;

Sweet-Potato Fries
We loves us some sweet-potato fries. And where do we love ’em the most? Pig Iron Bar-B-Q, of course, where Georgetown meets Shangri-la. Sure, whatever, have some baby backs or some sliced brisket. But the must-orders here are the sides, from the corn-bread dressing to the mashed-potato salad to those beautiful orange fries—those crisp, salty-sweet little beauts for which, try as we might, we can’t stop driving to Georgetown. Pig Iron Bar-B-Q, 5602 First Ave S, Georgetown, 206-768-1009;

Restaurant Row
Great restaurants cluster—from Queen Anne to Madrona, Ballard to Madison Valley—and there’s no better than those on (or near) Columbia City’s Rainier Ave Row. Just imagine the progressive dinner: a meaty salad from Tutta Bella, a Moorish pasta from La Medusa, a Georgia Gold sandwich from Roy’s BBQ, a cheese plate from Verve Wine Bar, French toast from Geraldine’s Counter, corn bread from Jones Barbeque something good and rummy from the newest import, the Caribbean outpost called Island Soul. Columbia City’s Rainier Ave Row, 4800 and 4900 blocks of Rainier Ave S, Columbia City

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Mexican Restaurant
Ballard, the neighborhood with its own gravitational pull, really reels ’em in around dinnertime, when the aromas of organic blue-cheese burgers, wild-boar ragú, and extra-añejo tequila mingle into an olfactory siren song detectable from Bothell to Burien. But local noses begin to downright quiver when they isolate the black chili mole of La Carta de Oaxaca, that Old Mexico eatery with the consistently stunning food, ever-present crowd, and undying devotion of Seattle diners. La Carta de Oaxaca, 5431 Ballard Ave NW, Ballard, 206-782-8722;

In a perfect world every server in Seattle would be a food lover. Every server would inform without condescending, advise without pandering, attend without hovering, and possess that brilliant sixth sense that tells him or her when to advance and when to retreat. Guess what? Café Juanita, where owner and chef Holly Smith, a 2008 James Beard award winner, rigorously trains every employee, turns out to be a perfect world. Café Juanita, 9702 NE 120th Pl, Kirkland, 425-823-1505;

What was the likelihood that Pike/Pine’s Via Tribunali one with the medieval candlelight, wood-fired pizza, and bracing urban buzz—would duplicate its Neapolitan ambience so faithfully? The Queen Anne outpost offers the same sexy Italian atmo, the same impressively blistered pies, even the same low profile from the street. We’ll see if the big new Trib in Georgetown (set to open as we went to press) will follow suit. Via Tribunali, 317 W Galer St, Queen Anne, 206-264-7768;

This year’s restaurant revitalizations came in all shapes and colors: new chefs at Artemis and Beàto, a more affordable menu at Union, and new looks at Sazerac and Elliott’s Oyster House. But our favorite improvement happened at local legend Le Gourmand. Say what you will about the new vanilla color palette and the new decorative element of suspended puppets. It beats heck out of a floral mural and grandma’s pink upholstery. Le Gourmand, 425 NW Market St, Ballard, 206-784-3463

Happy-Hour Menu
Brasa, that sprawling Iberian dream world in Belltown, is this city’s number-one place to be weekdays after work. It simply fires on every cylinder, with a creamy room that accommodates the gamut from intimacy to celebration; a chef and co-owner, Tamara Murphy, invested in every single dish; a signature plate, roast pig, that stuns; and a terrific happy-hour deal—half-priced everything—that has seriously addicted the locals. Brasa, 2107 Third Ave, Belltown, 206-728-4220;

New Seattle Restaurant
Count us among the many who would walk a mile (you might have to park that far) and wait an hour (you’ll wait that long) for the golden-skinned roast chicken at Café Presse. Sweet, simple French fare aside, what we love best about this Gallic nosherie is its ambience: a centuries-old sense of place evident in everything from the old trees out the towering windows to the Lillet in the cocktails. Café Presse, 1117 12th Ave, First Hill, 206-709-7674;

New Eastside Restaurant
It’s Trellis, of course, the Kirkland Heathman Hotel’s farm-to-table dining room, and as such, the most serious new enterprise east of Lake Washington. The room is Napa chic, the ingredients Northwest fresh (chef Brian Scheehser’s farm supplies much of the produce), and the preparations—from pan-roasted brook trout to the chef’s signature leafy-topped flatbread—solid and fine. Trellis, 220 Kirkland Ave, Kirkland, 425-284-5900;

There is now a clear answer to the question everyone asks restaurant critics: Where is the best place to go for a great bowl of pasta? Though a few exemplary spots come to mind—Café Lago, Volterra, Sorrentino most outstanding is the tiny new joint with the great big name, How to Cook a Wolf. Order up a bowl of trofie with parsley-walnut pesto and pecorino Toscano or garga-nelli with tuna and capers and you’ll see that Wolf’s pasta’s all about big flavors, flawless execution, and, well, magic. How to Cook a Wolf, 2208 Queen Anne Ave N, Queen Anne, 206-838-8090;

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Image: Curt Doughty

It’s the hottest trend going—restaurants that aren’t exactly restaurants. Like tiny and idiosyncratic [email protected] and Sitka and Spruce, or One Pot, which is not technically a legal operation (Shh!). Or like Skillet —the Airstream trailer, which lands in one parking lot one day, another the next, serving delicious kobe-style burgers and Moroccan-style lamb sloppy joes. At press time Skillet was opening a permanent installation Downtown—but, adventurers, don’t despair. The Airstream will still be roaming, its daily location accessible online. Skillet,

The first was a novelty, the second happenstance, the third clear evidence of a trend. Minimal pure white decor once seemed so LA, but as more white places opened—Veil, Taste began to appreciate how appetizing food can look against a stark backdrop. But dang if our favorite hasn’t remained Crush, where wunderkind Jason Wilson shows us night after stunning night that a restrained decorative style plays beautifully off a lush extravagance of flavors. Crush, 2319 E Madison St, Madison Valley, 206-302-7874;

The marrying of cuisines known as fusion has become so commonplace we barely use the term anymore. Unless we’re at Joule, where Northwest ingredients, French technique, and the pickled and fermented delights of Korean cuisine commingle to form a hybrid so unprecedented, intelligent, and flat-out delicious it can only be called thrilling. Really, what else are you going to call kalamata gnocchi with Gruyère, almonds, and pickled red pepper? Joule, 1913 N 45th St, Wallingford, 206-632-1913; www.joule

Organic Restaurant
Seattle has a green-certified Italian restaurant, a 75 percent organic pizzeria in the making—and even a ristorante, Bizzarro, which gets almost all of its food from within a 300-mile radius. But the Most Organically Correct By Far is Tilth, Maria Hines’s 95 percent organic eatery in Wallingford, one of two organic-certified restaurants in the country, and one of the finest fine food establishments in town. Tilth, 1411 N 45th St, Wallingford, 206-633-0801;

Late-Night Restaurant
The more cosmopolitan we become, the later we nosh—and the newbies understand that, from Tavolàta to Café Presse. So why do we still find ourselves midnight-supping on the apple-wood-grilled chicken and Burger Royale at Palace Kitchen, which serves dinner every night till 1am? Because everyone we know is eating there too. Palace Kitchen, 2030 Fifth Ave, Belltown, 206-448-2001;

Time was you had to cross international borders to get the small-plate pub food that the Japanese tuck into after clocking out for the day. But it’s caught on here—from high-end Umi Sake House in Belltown, to Capitol Hill newbie Vi Bacchus, and the one we love most is the dimly-lit I.D. walk-up, Maekawa Bar, where authentic little snacks—seared tuna with ponzu, squid legs with pickled cabbage—keep the happy late-night hordes coming back. Maekawa Bar, 601 S King St, International District, 206-622-0634

Gourmet Ice Cream
While we certainly have cupcakes covered, Seattle once fell short when it came to the cold, creamy stuff. That all changed with the much buzzed-about opening of Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream in Wallingford. An 11pm closing time and flavors like Balsamic Strawberry and Vivace Coffee hinted that owner Molly Moon Neitzel wasn’t just catering to the kiddies. Her rich scoops turned out to be well-balanced, complex confections that please even the most persnickety adult. Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream, 1622½ N 45th St, Wallingford, 206-547-5105;

Bar Menu
Pub grub has evolved, and it’s the most burgeoning category in town, thanks to publicans like Linda Derschang, who injects restaurant energy into her watering holes (see King’s Hardware, Smith), and restaurateurs like Scott Staples, who injects bar energy into his restaurants (see Quinn’s Pub, Restaurant Zoë). But the best remains the foodie bar extraordinaire: Licorous. There is just no spot in town that matches it for culinary verve or spirit(s). Licorous, 928 12th Ave, Capitol Hill, 206-325-6947;

Locally speaking, it was a banner year for liquor, and our fave new concoction results when something fruity takes a long bath in good vodka. Infused vodkas are the rage all over Seattle (try the pear vodka cocktail at Crush), and—happy for us—the specialty of the house at South Lake Union’s tiny Venik Lounge. Just see if you can resist a shot of Venik’s cherry vodka. Venik Lounge, 227 Ninth Ave N, South Lake Union, 206-223-3734;

Dive Bar
If we were designing the perfect dive, we’d put it in South Park and get the folks from the 9LB Hammer to run it. We’d wood-panel it rumpus-room style and add booths and a back patio. Then we’d hire a sassy staff to sling $3 burgers to the sort of souls who love nothing more than a round of Yahtzee and a belt of whiskey. What would we call it? Loretta’s Northwesterner sounds good. Loretta’s Northwesterner, 8617 14th Ave S, South Park, 206-327-9649

Tequila Tavern
To think that The Saint, the new, Tiffany-blue-painted agave bar at Bellevue and Olive Way, once housed the Wing Dome. Inside, owner Quentin Ertel (the man behind Havana) has stocked the bar with 80-plus specialty tequilas, white-washed the walls, and hung framed portraits of notable mejicanos. The effect is calming and classy, and offers a welcome retreat from the rowdy cantinas that pepper this slice of Capitol Hill. The Saint, 1416 E Olive Way, Capitol Hill, 206-323-9922;

Beer Bar
Once a hippie holdout, Fremont now hosts the city’s frattiest bar—goers, but that doesn’t keep connoisseurs of the sudsy stuff away from Brouwers Café. The occasional chugging contest is worth an endless list of global beers, first-rate frites, and a patio that’s as much like a beer garden as anything between here and Leavenworth. Brouwer’s Café, 400 N 45th St, Fremont, 206-267-2437;

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Film Series
Whether we’re talking monorails or movies, Seattleites like nothing more than a good old-fashioned debate. At the ITVS Community Cinema Seattle’s flagship series, our penchant for polemic is provoked when freewheeling discussions follow film screenings. In one memorable moment a Starbucks rep came to watch the Ethiopian coffee contemplation Black Gold—then defended the very company the doc condemned. The fourth season opens this September with Chicago Ten, from the team behind the Robert Evans docu-pic, The Kid Stays in the Picture. ITVS Community Cinema Seattle, SIFF Cinema, 321 Mercer St, 800-930-6060;

Arts Channel
Sorry, KCTS, but while you were rerunning Andre Rieu’s European kitsch concert for the umpteenth time, Seattle Channel hooked us with its Art Zone programming and claimed the prize for top-notch television. Nancy Pearl has monthly Book Lust; Nancy Guppy does In Studio appearances to take the pretense out of theater and gallery work; KEXP’s John Richards sounds out The Local Music Show; and there was even an opening-night special for the Seattle International Film Festival. We’re staying tuned. Seattle Channel, Cable Channel 21,

Media Arts Program
Native Lens, a function of local Longhouse Media, puts Seattle’s Native American youth in touch with their world, and themselves, through technology. A partnership with the San Juan Islands’ Swinomish tribe, the program (a 2007 Mayor’s Arts Award winner) gives each kid a camera, and then industry professionals teach them how handle the film equipment. What these young people choose to express—peer pressure, self-esteem issues, the bonds of community—finds a compelling home on celluloid. Native Lens, 206-778-8394;

Indie Craft Fair
Though the cozy, seams-on-the-outside, DIY craft movement makes a happy home in Seattle year round, each December we’re particularly graced during Urban Craft Uprising. At this mother of all craft revolutions, held at Seattle Center, clever vendors sell earrings fashioned from Barbie-doll shoes, journals made out of old textbooks, and clocks created from melted vinyl records. Urban Craft Uprising,

Block Party
Capitol Hill’s Microsoft-sponsored hoodfest draws the big-name bands, but for a more homespun hoedown, we suggest the South Lake Union Block Party. From the barbecue burger cook-off to the beer garden to the dog-show obstacle course, the August event hits the perfect pitch for a low-key summer afternoon in the city. South Lake Union Block Party, Westlake Ave & Denny Way, South Lake Union, 206-342-5900;

Artist-Run Gallery
Tucked behind a wooden fence at the convergence of Olive and Denny, Crawl Space can be tricky to find, but it’s worth the extra effort to watch the emergence of the seven member artists—including Anne Mathern and her deadpan commentary on falseness and sincerity in the form of large-format photographic portraits—and Diana Falchuk’s exploration of death and decay in the form of food sculptures. Crawl Space, 504 E Denny Way, Ste 1, Capitol Hill, 206-201-2441;

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Bowling Alley
What better metaphor for a rapidly changing city than its bowling alleys? Not four months after Ballard’s Sunset Bowl turned out the fluorescent lights for good, LA-chic Lucky Strike Lanes opened a new, superluxe location in Bellevue’s Lincoln Square. It has none of Sunset’s lowbrow charm, but Lucky Strike’s posh, candlelit setting—where tenpinners sip upscale cocktails while DJs spin dreamy house tunes—offers an ambient update on a classic indoor sport. Lucky Strike Lanes, 700 Bellevue Way NE, Ste 250, Bellevue, 425-453-5137;

“So I’m driving to the doctor,” the comic begins, “and I stop to get a latte [pauses for a beat] like anyone in Seattle would.” It’s all about timing at the Comedy Underground showcase, where recent grads of Stu Stuart’s multipart Beginning Stand-Up Comedy class display their newly developed wisecracking prowess. Stuart, a Seattle- and Michigan-based comedian who also runs beer tours in Belgium, flies into town several times a year to teach the class through the UW’s Experimental College, and boy, are his arms tired. Beginning Stand-Up Comedy, Experimental College, Husky Union Building, Rm G10, Stevens Way at University of Washington, 206-543-4375;

It’s been around forever—or at least since 1973—but the brick-walled basement of our beloved Elliott Bay Book Company (a store so compelling, transplants often list it as the reason they moved here) remains the best place to catch your favorite authors reading from their newest manuscripts. The store regularly hosts literary luminaries like Jane Smiley, Dave Eggers, Edwidge Danticat, and David Sedaris—and is the only one that serves wine while the wordsmiths work the room. Elliott Bay Book Company, 101 S Main St, Pioneer Square, 206-624-6600;

Theater export
Bartlett Sher forces the East Coast cognoscenti to look west in admiration. First the Intiman Theatre’s artistic director nabbed the prize for outstanding regional theater, and now Sher’s ravishing, clear-eyed revival of South Pacific at Lincoln Center is the hot ticket for “some enchanted evening” of musical magic. The production has earned this local boy his share of critical accolades, including the 2008 Tony for Best Direction of a Musical. Bartlett Sher, Intiman Theatre, 201 Mercer St, Seattle Center, 206-269-1900;

Neighborhood Arts Project
Community theater on a shoestring, it’s not. To create Arts on Beacon Hill, Michael Perrone bought an old grocery store, overhauled the roofing, plumbing, and electrical, installed a coffee shop and 49-seat theater, then unveiled the result last spring. The resident company, Seattle Novyi Theatre, has a clear international flavor, with members from around the globe and a dedication to the Stanislavski acting system. Sound insane in this financial climate? “I’m 50,” Perrone jokes. “The closer to death you get, the less fearful you are of taking chances.” Arts on Beacon Hill, 4951 13th Ave S, Beacon Hill, 800-838-3006;

Bargain Theater
For its inaugural season this spring, Richard Hugo House’s resident company Next Stage mounted the twisted corporate satire Demonology, but its First Week Free initiative made a more impressive debut. Every opening week of every play this season (August 15 through September 7) will cost you no more than what you’re willing to pay to support local fringe theater. Up next is 43 Plays for 43 Presidents, which begins with George Washington and ends with George…well, you know. First Week Free, Richard Hugo House, 1634 11th Ave, Capitol Hill, 206-322-7030;

Vaudeville Venue
There are no bad seats at Columbia City Theater, the burlesque boîte where Jimi Hendrix got his start. A full bar helps patrons psych themselves up for circus-style high jinks, and unobstructed views are plenty—even at the back of the house—always important when you’ve come to see Tamara the Trapeze lady fly across the stage. Columbia City Theater, 4916 Rainier Ave S, Columbia City, 206-723-0088;

New Dance Company
That Julie Tobiason and Timothy Lynch had performed with the nationally acclaimed Pacific Northwest Ballet didn’t assure their Seattle Dance Project’s January debut would be a sure thing. Taking direction from an ambitious range of choreographers (Seattle’s Donald Byrd, New York’s Molissa Fenley), the nine-member troupe melds ballet technique with a modern-dance mind set. Sizable crowds showed up to what proved to be a polished, assured performance—see what had them cheering when the Project remounts the program July 25 and 26. Seattle Dance Project, Meydenbauer Center, 11100 NE Sixth St, Bellevue, 206-325-6500;

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Early Music Program
Opera doesn’t get much earlier than Emilio de’ Cavalieri’s heaven-and-hell allegory The Portrayal of the Soul and the Body, composed in 1600. It had a comeback last fall when it premiered in Seattle with all the proper pomp and propriety, thanks to director Stephen Stubbs and his Seattle Academy of Baroque Opera. Stubbs will bring more such sacred musical history our way next spring with the debut of his company Pacific Operaworks, whose program begins with a staging of seventeenth-century composer Claudio Monteverdi’s Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria. Seattle Academy of Baroque Opera,

Classical Music Series
With virtuoso cellist Joshua Roman at the helm, Town Music pummeled at the boundaries of classical music presentation. Yes, there were some frustrations—one night found a performer thumping on his body as a means of percussive experimentation—but there was also an invigorating spirit of exploration as well as some crushingly beautiful music. Roman has since left the Symphony but, lucky for us, stayed on board at Town Hall for another season of playful programming. TownMusic, Town Hall, 1119 Eighth Ave, First Hill, 206-652-4255;

Art Bar
Part bar, part indie art gallery, and all brainchild of local guerrilla artists Greg Lundgren and Jeff Scott, The Hideout on First Hill draws artsy-fartsy types from all over the city with its velvet-draped interior and work by local artists hung salon style on every available vertical surface. If you’re feeling inspired, sit at the bar with a notoriously stiff drink and doodle or daydream or make music with the rim of your wine glass. No one’s going to stop you. The Hideout, 1005 Boren Ave, First Hill, 206-903-8480;

New Concert Venue
Another legendary Seattle rock venue is born. Though the Fenix Underground went under in the same location, Showbox SoDo—sister to the Showbox at the Market—soared above and beyond expectations after opening last fall. The 22,000-square-foot space feels small enough to let performers appear almost up-close-and-personal, yet seemed large enough last February when burgeoning pop star Mika displayed a charismatic, stadium-size flamboyance that just about blew the roof off. Showbox SoDo, 1700 First Ave S, SoDo, 206-628-3151;

That rocker dude must be on his way to Quinn’s, you think, watching him saunter across the street at Pike and 10th. But then he bypasses the hill’s yuppie-hipster drinks destination and walks into—what’s this?— The Wildrose, its oldest lesbian bar. Maybe he’s from out of town, or maybe he knows the Rose books some of the most dance-friendly DJs anywhere in town, and the anything-goes scene lures booty shakers of every orientation. It’s grown so popular that quaffers often have to queue up just to get a cocktail. Consider pregaming at Quinn’s. The Wildrose, 1021 E Pike St, Capitol Hill, 206-324-9210;

Debut Album
Sup Pop veterans Mark Lanegan (of Screaming Trees) and Greg Dulli (of Afghan Whigs) have been signed before to Seattle’s archetypal music label, but this March marked their first release as the Gutter Twins. The blazing album, titled Saturnalia, was worth the wait: It’s a blistering, pointed plunge into the search for some idea of salvation. “Oh, heaven, it’s quite a climb,” we’re told on one song. Amen, brothers. Saturnalia,

Venue Comeback
Once a cinema, then a stage for some of music’s most compelling acts (including the late, great Jeff Buckley in his last Seattle stand), King Cat Theater shut down and reemerged as a church before disappearing again. Now Arif Azhar—the brains behind Kirkland’s Bollywood-themed Totem Lake Cinemas—has purchased the venue, added a bar and lounge in the lobby, and promised to reopen in May with a full schedule of concerts, films (a little Bollywood, please?), and other events. King Cat Theater, 2130 Sixth Ave, Belltown, 206-448-2829;

The University District has a handful of off-campus studenty cafés where UW-ers stop in for an afternoon study break and end up staying till last call, but Kurt Geissel has perfected the model, lining Café Racer Espresso with comfy old couches, a casual, joke-cracking staff, and a menu with new twists on folksy faves (try the bacon-infused hot dogs). Geissel named the place for a vintage British motorcycle, and, while the theme never really materialized, the perfect U District watering hole did. Café Racer Espresso, 5828 Roosevelt Way NE, University District, 206-523-5282

Music Lover’s Locale
How Seattle is this? Two music-biz dudes open up a sake bar, then fill it with eco-friendly furniture and a mod rock soundtrack. After Carl Carlson’s art gallery Box Pop went kaput and Fallout Records’ Tim Hayes shut down his label, the two combined forces to create Tigertail: a sorghum-lined bar where Ballardites pop rainbow-chard-stuffed pot stickers then rehydrate with one of 15 different sakes, all while bopping their heads to garage rock and surf punk. Tigertail, 704 NW 65th St, Ballard, 206-781-8245; www.tigertail

The least pretentious of Seattle’s vodka-with-your-visual-art enclaves has to be the clean, compelling Grey Gallery and Lounge. Erik Guttridge’s Capitol Hill class act splits between an exhibit room featuring emerging artists (there are also works hung in the chic, comfortable lounge upstairs) and a fine, shining wood bar. Remarkably, neither facet seems forced and, as a result, both give your after-hours activities a shot of sleek culture. Grey Gallery and Lounge, 1512 11th Ave, Capitol Hill, 206-325-5204;

Last Call
It may be Ballard’s last untapped treasure. How anyone can still find an empty seat between 10 and midnight at La Isla simply mystifies us. The Puerto Rican eatery’s late-night happy hour features $3 mojitos, and an eclectic, laughter-infused atmosphere that feels sun-drenched on even the wettest winter evening. La Isla, 2320 NW Market St, Ballard, 206-789-0516;

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Between sessions, students shuffle in shushed serenity around the five acres of property at The Yoga Lodge on Whidbey Island—the retreat of choice for Seattle-area yoga, Pilates, and tai chi studios. Groups camp in tents or bunk down dorm style, while couples and solo soul searchers stay in the bed-and-breakfast and get in on the OM-my-God delicious morning meal featuring organic, island-grown produce. The Yoga Lodge, 3475 Christie Rd, Greenbank, 360-678-2120;

Spa Getaway
Seattle overflows with space—challenged urban spas, but if you want to truly achieve that getaway feeling, drive 30 minutes down I-90 to the spacious Spa at the Salish Lodge. A few hours inside this serene, warmly lit sanctuary, with its mineral soaking tubs and private massage rooms, will make any stressed-out city person feel far from the maddening crowd. The audible rush of the nearby waterfall makes for beautiful background music. Spa at the Salish Lodge, 6501 Railroad Ave SE, Snoqualmie, 425-888-2556;

Is it the limited sun exposure that keeps our faces so smooth, or is it facials at Napolitano Day Spa Salon? Longtime locals swear by co-owners Mary and Jerry Napolitano’s results-focused facials—which include home care tips and proper nutrition—to keep their skin wrinkle-free and glowing, come rain or shine. Last December, Napolitano opened a second location in Eastlake; it’s as much a low-key neighborhood affair as the Queen Anne original, and offers the same time-tested treatments. Napolitano Day Spa Salon, 3212 Harvard Ave E, Eastlake, 206-838-4700. 614 W McGraw St, Queen Anne, 206-282-4343;

Russian Bath
The Russians have invaded our city, and they’ve brought with them their timeworn tricks for coping with sun deprivation. Learn them at Banya 5, the authentic Old World bathhouse that blends deep-penetrating heat and exhilarating cold. Spa-goers follow a sauna sweat session with a plunge into a 55-degree pool, then head next door to Venik Lounge for vodka shots—another proven mood lifter that comes courtesy of the Slavs. Banya 5, 217 Ninth Ave N, South Lake Union, 206-262-1234;

Rolfer Anthony Rezac recently relocated to Seattle after a long stint realigning out-of-form New Yorkers, and thank goodness he’s back. You may whimper when he jams his elbow into your hip to get the soft tissue loose, but you will leave his office feeling like you’re walking on air. Best of all, Rezac’s upbeat aura and consummate conversation skills keep clients calm and entertained throughout intense and intimate treatments. Anthony Rezac, 609 10th Ave E, Capitol Hill. 10220 NE First Pl, Bellevue, 917-414-3073;

Urban Sanctuary
Contemplative strolls abound at the formal, Shin-style Japanese Garden in the Washington Park Arboretum, home to a quietly whispering world of maples, conifers, bamboo, rhododendrons, and mosses. Once serenity seekers reach the shrub-lined lake, they grab a seat near the shore to take in the lush and peaceful Eastern Eden. Japanese Garden in the Washington Park Arboretum, 1075 Lake Washington Blvd E, Madison Park, 206-684-4725;

Pilates Instructor
It may raise eyebrows in other cities, but the name Misty Moon Nickel seems almost commonplace in hippie-saturated Seattle. Her results-oriented approach to Pilates, however, is anything but. The veteran instructor has a knack for tailoring individual workouts, whether the goal is to rehab a serious spinal injury or buff up a booty for boat-lounging season. It’s also a fun place to exercise. Nickel’s mantra, “feel good after, feel good during,” shows in the smiles and laughter that permeate her Interbay studio. Misty Moon Nickel, Bria Pilates, 1107 Elliott Ave W, Interbay, 206-781-4576;

Fitness for a Cause
Next time you’re hoofing it around Green Lake, don’t be alarmed if you’re lapped by a bunch of ladies wearing purple T-shirts. They’re Team Survivor Northwest, the nonprofit whose members meet up to work out—pedal Seward Park, take swimming classes, or train for triathlons—and create community, hope, and strength among women receiving treatment for or recovering from cancer. If you’ve got some exercise expertise, sign up to teach or train—they may even offer you a shirt. Team Survivor Northwest, 200 NE Pacific St, Ste 101, Wallingford, 206-732-8350;

Fitness Trend
Are you ready for this? Nia—the martial-arts-inspired dance aerobics that’s sweeping Seattle—requires you to shriek, “Yes!” while rolling around on the floor, tossing up your arms, and gazing skyward. Cynics may smirk, but students leave Dina Innominato’s classes at Nia Underground feeling healthier, happier, and creatively turned on. Nia Underground, 340 15th Ave E, Capitol Hill, 206-355-4894;

Fitness Center
Who says gyms have to have drill-sergeant trainers and sweat-laden locker rooms? At Vera Fitness, Greenlake’s new women-only workout spot, everyone on staff has completed an “emotional intelligence training” course, the tricked-out Kinesis training room boasts floor-to-ceiling windows that reveal a woodsy setting, and a Web database helps members track their progress. Yes, you still have to work out. Vera Fitness, 6845 Oswego Pl NE, Greenlake, 206-453-4632;

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Image: Curt Doughty

New Detox
Whole Foods, Banya 5, and now a new spa: South Lake Union has become quite the natural-health neighborhood. At Vida Spa, the just-opened Ayurvedic treatment center in the Pan Pacific Hotel (the Canadian company’s first U.S. location), guests who pick the Swedana treatment detoxify inside a cedar steam cabinet that comes custom-stuffed with a blend of herbs based on their dosha, or Ayurvedic type. Their skin-smoothing to-go products are equally herbalicious and smell like a classier, more subtle version of patchouli—if you can imagine such a thing. Vida Spa, 2200 Westlake Ave, South Lake Union, 206-264-8432;

New Tea Shop
In the city of more than 600 coffee shops, Ballard’s Miro Tea offers a calm respite from the daily grind. Elliot Knapp, Miro’s staff tea specialist, samples new blends from around the world as he offers his customers advice on which tea to drink to ward off a cold (Immunity, with peppermint and licorice root) or a sore throat (spicy cinnamon ginseng). If it’s too steamy outside for something steeped, the Hemingway is a superhealthy, antioxidant-packed quencher, though Papa probably would have preferred something with more spirit. Miro Tea, 5405 Ballard Ave NW, Ballard, 206-782-6832;

New-Age Education
With shop locations both east (Bothell) and west (Ravenna) of Lake Washington, East West Bookshop ensures that Seattle-area new agers are never too far from their next spiritual awakening. The stores offer near-daily readings, lessons, and workshops on subjects like yogic chanting, chakras, the I Ching, and collage-making—check their Web site to see what’s up next on their packed schedule of enriching and uplifting lectures and events. East West Bookshop, 6500 Roosevelt Way NE, Ravenna, 206-523-3726. 22833 Bothell Everett Hwy, Ste 150, Bothell, 425-487-8786;

Spiritual Bookstore
Owner Tess Sterling describes her Bellevue boutique Stargazers Bookstore and Gallery as a “bookstore for the mind, a gift store for the heart, and a gallery for the soul.” Even Eastsiders whose decorating style doesn’t lean toward fairies and dream catchers enjoy meandering the many-chambered metaphysical library, and Sterling’s on-site healing center is one of the Seattle area’s most celebrated spots for receiving Reiki, an ancient Japanese relaxation technique. Stargazers Bookstore and Gallery, 12727 Northup Way, Ste 10, Bellevue, 425-885-7289;

The original Seattle herbal apothecary, 33-year-old Tenzing Momo and Company attracts Pike Place Market tourists with its spooky witch’s lair decor: Tarot cards, sage bundles, Tibetan statues, tinctures, and teas line dark wooden shelves and display cases, and the herbal aroma of incense permeates the place. Locals, meanwhile, come for the always enlightening readings presided over by one of the three gifted seers on staff: Thundercloud, Raven, or Faye Mills, the tattooed psychic. Tenzing Momo and Company, 93 Pike St, Ste 203, Pike Place Market, 206-623-9837;

Herb Dispensary
When it gets that feeling, Seattle needs natural healing, and the Bastyr Center’s Chinese Herbal Medicine Dispensary is where it stocks up on ancient Chinese remedies. The knowledgeable staff fills prescriptions for naturopathic patients and demystifies the world of Chinese herbs to walk-ins with a quiet approach, suggesting cures for everything from allergies to rainy-day blues. Bastyr Center’s Chinese Herbal Medicine Dispensary, 3670 Stone Way N, Wallingford, 206-834-4169;

Healthy Hangout
If you’ve been overindulging at the nearby watering holes and eateries, stop by Dandelion Botanical Company, the Old Ballard herb shop that owner Mary Kachi Cassinelli has dubbed her “healthy bar” and recuperate with an in-house tea blend. Eastern, Western, and culinary herbs, spices, and oils—and an empathetic staff—make Dandelion an urban oasis of relaxation and rejuvenation. Dandelion Botanical Company, 5424 Ballard Ave NW, Ballard, 206-545-8892;

Janani Lucas swears her cleansing rituals and positive-energy tips have chased bad juju from clients’ houses and helped move many a once—unsellable lot off the market. The Spirit of Place owner and good-vibes guru provides insight into color choice, furniture arrangement, and a host of other details to get the chi moving freely. “It isn’t ‘Move a desk, change your life,’ ” says Lucas, “but feng shui can shift the odds in your favor.” The Spirit of Place, 206-361-9382;

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Baby-Planning Service
Any baby book can recommend a stroller; to know which can conquer Seattle’s hills, however, you’ll need Kelly Oswald. Armed with a masters degree in public health and inspired by her own experience giving birth to her daughter, Oswald founded Seattle Baby Planners, a consulting service for mothers-to-be that helps with both the mundane, like decking out the nursery, finding flattering maternity clothing (yes, it exists); and also the major, like picking a pediatrician and crafting an effective maternity-leave proposal. Seattle Baby Planners, 206-274-1493;

Prenatal Yoga
Lamaze is so ’80s. Today’s expecting students deepen their breath, open their hips, and muscle up their lower backs during über-urbane prenatal class at Capitol Hill’s Eight Limbs Yoga—all of which is mighty handy, come labor time. Prepaid punch cards make dropping in easy, and, in case your little yogi pops out early, count toward postnatal Mom and Baby yoga classes, too. Eight Limbs Yoga, 500 E Pike St, Capitol Hill, 206-325-8221;

Splash Spot
When the sun’s in the sky and school’s out for summer, every kid dreams of getting wet at a water park—even the rain-drenched children of Seattle. Renton’s Henry Moses Aquatic Center has all the trappings of a special place—an 8,000-square-foot pool, a wave machine, two winding slides—and requires very little travel and expense. Henry Moses Aquatic Center, 1719 Maple Valley Hwy, Renton, 425-430-6780;

Brainy Birthday Parties
Do your left-brained little ones love the Sci-Fi Museum? Wait until they meet Proton Pam, Tsunami Shaw, and Jammin’ Joy—the peppy performers on the Mad Science of Sno-King team. In the spirit of celebrated Seattleite Bill Nye the Science Guy, these clowns in white lab coats show up to kids’ birthday bashes and mesmerize through a series of stagey experiments: blowing out candles from across the room, converting party guests into electricity conductors, and unlocking the mysteries surrounding dry ice. Mad Science of Sno-King, 1824 130th Ave NE, Ste 2, Bellevue, 425-556-0800;

Tea Party
What is it with kids and tea parties? Whatever it is, they’ve got it in abundance at the Queen Mary Tea Room, Queen City’s chintz-lined bastion of English civility, presided over by true-blue Anglophile Mary Greengo. The limited seating fills up quickly, so call for reservations for your afternoon tea date. Insider’s note: All you have to do is ask for a tiara, and matching crowns will be provided for your whole party. How very regal. Queen Mary Tea Room, 2912 NE 55th St, Ravenna, 206-527-2770;

Talk about community spirit. Local volunteers designed, funded, and built the Saint Edward State Park Playground—a sprawling wooden monument to fun at Kenmore’s massive Saint Edward park—braving splinters and sunburn to create the largest children’s playground in Washington State. And what a glorious place it is: Unofficially dubbed Castle Park, it boasts winding slides, swings, and monkey bars divided by turreted chambers perfectly designed for hide-and-seek; a climbing wall; and a separate area where the wee ones can toddle about at a safe distance from the big kids. Saint Edward State Park Playground, 14445 Juanita Dr NE, Kenmore, 425-823-2992;

Gym on Wheels
Six years ago, Bellevue-based Dizzy (“That’s what everyone calls me”) Fukutomi quit corporate life, bought a classic yellow school bus, and converted it into Dizzy’s Tumblebus, a mobile jungle gym equipped with slides and trampolines. Since then the bus has pulled up to schools and parties all over the Eastside, eliciting extreme excitement from cooped-up kids. The bus has become so beloved that, last year, Fukutomi opened Dizzy’s Bus Stop in Bellevue, a stationary play place where parents can stay or drop the kids off for a few hours of staff-supervised tumblin’ fun. Dizzy’s Tumblebus, 3205 148th Ave SE, Ste E, Bellevue, 425-564-8287;

Kiddie Garden
It’s mud pies with a purpose. Seattle’s youngest citizens learn about plants, flowers, and insects while digging in the dirt during visits to the Seattle Tilth Children’s Garden, a soil-filled swimming pool entirely planted, cultivated, and loved by local children. Sign your offspring up early for year-round programs, events, and classes like Insect-o-Rama, Harvest Hoopla, and Fabulous Flowers. They might even start helping around the yard. Seattle Tilth Children’s Garden, 4649 Sunnyside Ave N, Rm 120, Wallingford, 206-633-0451;

Baking Supplies
Forget the Easy Bake Oven. Seattle’s little batter mixers choose from cookie cutters shaped like unicorns and killer whales, gingerbread sets, and kid-size kitchen utensils—all in stock at Cookies, the tiny Ballard boutique that’s custom built for the baking obsessed. If you’re planning a birthday party, mini spatulas make great party favors, while edible glitter glams up any cake. Cookies, 2211 NW Market St, Ballard, 206-297-1015;

When the rain finally ceases and the sky turns blue, Emerald City kids (not to mention its grown-ups) go instantly kite crazy, and Gasworks Park Kite Shop stocks all the supplies they need to get airborne. Owner Kathy Goodwind (she changed her name from Goodwin) set up shop in 1979 and today carries her own designs as well as locally made stunt kites. Should your contraption sustain any crash-related injuries, Goodwind also performs kite repairs. Gasworks Park Kite Shop, 3420 Stone Way N, Wallingford, 206-633-4780;

Children’s Festival
It’s called The Seattle International Children’s Festival, but producing director Brian Faker scours the globe in search of spectacles that will entertain and educate Rain City culture lovers of any age. And does he deliver. Every year in May, his global performers descend upon Seattle Center to create a one-of-a-kind event with exotic delights like Japanese puppet theater, Guinean drummers, Israeli comedy acts, and dozens of others that will change your notion of children’s theater entirely. The Seattle International Children’s Festival, 305 Harrison St, Seattle Center, 206-325-6500;

Tanglewood, shmanglewood. The Northwest has its own idyllic summer chamber-music experience, the Olympic Music Festival. For the past 25 years the Philadelphia Quartet has hosted this summer musical series—held on a 55-acre dairy farm that happens to house a barn with pitch-perfect acoustics—and the foursome’s masterfully performed Mozart and Bach repertoire harmonizes perfectly with the warm summer sun, soft baying of animals at the nearby petting zoo, and breathtaking mountain backdrop. Olympic Music Festival, 7360 Center Rd, Quilcene, 360-732-4800;

Kids’ Race
A fun way to whip little ones into shape, the Seattle Kids’ Marathon really does expect children to cover 26.2 miles—just not in one day. Rug rats jog the first 25 miles over a few weeks (supervised by an adult), leaving the last 1.2-mile stretch for the day of the actual race. Created by director Louise Long, the marathon is meant to encourage kids along the path to lifelong fitness; and the training plan also includes reading 13 books and doing 13 good deeds by race day. Now that’s what we call healthy competition. Seattle Kids’ Marathon, 206-729-3660;

Dance Classes
High standards, state-of-the-art studio space, and the most driven little ballet, tap, and jazz students in the Seattle area set Sandra Baca’s British Dancing Academy apart from the pirouetting pack. Following the Royal Academy of Dancing’s strict curriculum, her on-point instructors emphasize technique and individual instruction, catering to each student’s ability and talents. British Dancing Academy, 1500 S 336th St, Federal Way, 253-838-4999. 18403 E Valley Hwy, Kent, 425-235-0304;

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Bird Boutique
Seattle’s best-loved birdies start their lives at Denise’s Parrot Place on Mercer Island. The noisy shop, presided over by Zoe, a massive blue macaw who loudly greets all who enter, is well stocked in verbose and brightly-colored birds: conures, hyacinths, African greys, cockatoos, and other species, many of whom were raised nearby by Denise’s avian-adoring staffers. Impulse adoptions are never an option: Customers are required to schedule several supervised visits with a feathered friend before they can elect to take the bird home. Denise’s Parrot Place, 7641 SE 27th St, Mercer Island, 206-232-8115;

Art Camp
Ah, to be a kid in Seattle, spending summer days painting watercolors or building 3D castles under the tutelage of a kindly artist, strolling out to nearby Meridian Park when in need of inspiration. With her children, grandchildren, and former students, Brit-born Linda Demirel Barnes runs Neo Art School year round out of Wallingford’s Good Shepherd Center, and in summer she invites art-loving kids to create all day long or for half-days, exploring every possible form as they develop their skill with her crew of attentive teachers. Neo Art School, 4649 Sunnyside Ave N, Rm 121, Wallingford, 206-632-2530;

Pony Camp
Local kids live out their pony dreams at Pony Paradise Rides’ day camp. During weeklong sessions at the Woodinville farm, children ages seven and up (there’s a separate peewee camp for little ones) learn to ride, groom, and care for the ponies, take lessons in breeding and farming, and even paint wooden horse statues during arts and crafts class. Yes, it will feed their obsession for all things equine; and it will also make their summer. Pony Paradise Rides, 8107 224th St SE, Woodinville, 800-753-7669;

Pet Accessories
Lurking in the shadow of the REI rock wall, Katie Rockwell’s Urban Beast caters to pet lovers, offering everything from pink-flowered collars to leashes assembled from recycled rock-climbing rope. Rockwell also stocks some of the healthiest pet food on the market: kibble made of 70 percent meat, bone marrow treats, and cat food fashioned from fresh fish. Urban Beast, 217 Yale Ave N, South Lake Union, 206-324-4400;

Dog Walker
We do love our dogs—over 60 percent of Seattle households have pooches—but exercising them? Not so much. Pooped-out pup owners trust David the Dog Walker, David Hogan’s West Seattle walking and training business, to take over leash duty. Hogan’s crack team—all well-educated and enthusiastic canine experts—make sure their furry charges get good workouts and even sneak a few training techniques and commands into the walk as well. David the Dog Walker, 206-753-7677; www.davidthedog

Cat Sitter
If Queen City cats seem exceptionally well adjusted, we have Lynne Madrigal, owner of Lap of Luxury Professional Cat Care, to thank. This longtime friend to felines quit her job in social services in 1997 to devote herself full-time to Seattle-area kitties, traveling to clients’ homes each day they are out of town to feed their pets, administer medicines, and stay to play for an hour or so. She even sends owners daily emails detailing how the fluff balls are faring. Lap of Luxury Professional Cat Care, 206-217-0317;

Small Dog Meet-Up
During our wet season (read: September through May), when parks becomes a wasteland of mud puddles, petite pooches mix it up indoors instead, at the Fuzzy Buddies Dog Daycare playgroup. On nonsummer Saturdays, owner Dana Mongillo opens her doors to dogs under 30 pounds. Best of all: Mongillo’s apprentice trainer Patty Tolnay referees to ensure the dogs play nice and offers owners complimentary training techniques and tips. Fuzzy Buddies Dog Daycare, 10907 Aurora Ave N, Bitter Lake, 206-782-4321;

Dog Wash
Trained as an architect, Dina Hidaka left the dog-eat-dog world of corporate design to open Redmond’s Ruff House, a self-service pooch primping station that’s saving bathrooms across the Seattle area from fur-clogged drains and muddy paw prints. Among the features lining Hidaka’s custom tubs: a dander vacuum and a foaming system that expedites soap removal. Lather up Fido at the 161st Street location or at the new Ruff House inside Marymoor Park, and leave the home shower to the humans. Ruff House, 8058 161st St NE, Redmond, 425-556-5103;

Dog Park
Marymoor Park
’s sprawling 40-acre leash-free area is the largest in the state and—as far as we’re concerned—it’s most beautiful. It’s a veritable pup paradise: green glens with dense shrubbery for hide-and-seek, sprawling fields where retrievers chase tennis balls with dogged determination, and mile upon mile of mulch-covered, tree-lined trails. Marymoor Park, 6046 W Lake Sammamish Pkwy NE, Redmond,

Dog Treats
Named for owner Mark Smith’s boxer, Railey’s Leash and Treat in Fremont is Shangri-la for Seattleites who love to spoil their dogs. Shelves spill over with goodies made with natural ingredients and doggie-friendly flavors—like the shop’s specialty, the peanut-butter-pickle-chip cookie. The treats taste so good, Smith says, he’s been known to have a nibble now and again. Railey’s Leash and Treat, 513 N 36th St, Fremont, 206-632-5200;

Muttley Crew Cuts
owner Kelly Rothenbuhler, whose three dogs are fixtures at her West Seattle pup salon and day care, chose Muttley’s location after learning its zip code has more licensed dogs than anywhere else in the city. Groomers customize cuts to clients’ tastes—Rothenbuhler says she’s shaved her share of mohawks. Muttley Crew Cuts, 3207 California Ave SW, West Seattle, 206-932-6888;

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Service & Repair

Event Planners
Seattle teems with creative types such as the ad execs at Wexley School for Girls, who bring an outlandish aesthetic to the corporate table. In that proud-to-be-weird spirit Aviva Palmer and Cori Ready, the party planners at The Adventure School, have shaken up Seattle’s events scene, transforming weddings, private parties, and corporate hobnobs into other-worldly scenes where cupcakes take the shape of snowballs, stilt walkers serve drinks, and mimes mingle (albeit silently) with the crowds. The Adventure School, 802 Sixth Ave S, Ste 6, SoDo, 206-354-3752;

Foodie Web Site
Becky Selengut fondly recalls her first trip to Seattle, when she walked Madrona’s streets snacking on fresh pears picked from backyard trees. Moving here in 1997, Selengut toiled in local restaurants, including the Herbfarm, then started her own chef business whipping up organic, 10-course meals for dinner parties. She also founded Seasonal Cornucopia, an indispensable online resource providing seasonal information for over 275 Northwest ingredients. A Web database detailing when and where to buy local produce? Sounds like someone’s gone native. Seasonal Cornucopia,

Produce Delivery
Long before the word “locavore” entered the American lexicon, Seattle-area shoppers regularly sought out all-natural produce grown nearby, and Carolyn Boyle’s New Roots Organics brought it to them. Since 1999, she has delivered luscious bundles of organic, recently picked produce to doorsteps all over the city, providing ingredients for countless low-impact, highly tasty meals. We’re just happy the rest of the world has caught on. New Roots Organics, 6259 Third Ave NW, Phinney Ridge, 206-261-2500;

Weight-Loss Coach
Just because we’re always topping those “Healthiest Cities in America” lists doesn’t mean we can’t use some tips when it comes to weight loss. Sammamish-based Deborah Enos offers locals a health overhaul that’s fine-tuned to individual needs. Raiding fridges, tagging along on grocery trips, and checking in via telephone, the ever-energetic Enos learns about the challenges each client faces, then creates custom solutions to target specific weight woes. Deborah Enos, 704 228th Ave NE, Ste 255, Sammamish, 425-996-0207;

Self-Defense Trainers
Our city’s one of the country’s safest, but when a crime wave hit Capitol Hill last year, denizens turned to self-defense studio Home Alive, where students kick and scream their way to safety during a three-hour “basics” course or develop their thug-thrashing skills through an intensive series. A true neighborhood gem, the 15-year-old nonprofit—founded by friends of a musician murdered on Capitol Hill—offers everyone the opportunity to feel buffer, tougher, and ready to take on the world. Home Alive, 1415 10th Ave, Ste 3, Capitol Hill, 206-323-4663;

Jogging Coach
No city in America logs more hours of hard-core cardio, but when Rain City needs a push to get off its tush, Tony Williams is its go-to jogging guru. The elite athlete started his coaching company Always Running in 1993, and today offers one-on-one training plus organized group runs at trail sites in and around town. Every level of fitness is welcome, but prepare to feel the burn: Signing up with Always Running has a way of making you feel like you’re doing just that. Always Running, 7300 E Green Lake Dr N, Greenlake, 206-985-7405;

Skin Care
Every entrepreneur should live here a while before opening up shop; that way they’d understand that though Seattleites love to be pampered, we hate to be pandered to. Jessica Campbell, Spa Scotta owner and Seattleite since 1993, knows her city, and has perfected a warm, low-key approach—clients awaiting treatment casually browse Scotta’s sweet little boutique or relax with banana chips and bottled water in a comfy area apart from the lobby—as well as effective skin care services like the High Frequency Treatment, which targets patients’ worst dermatological woes. Spa Scotta, 4915 25th Ave NE, Ste 103W, University District, 206-522-5800;

Hair Removal
Around these parts, people like to be well prepared for a day of sunshine, and High Maintenance Salon owner Naomi Lewis’s almost ouch-free waxing technique keeps our bikini lines beach ready. Combining oil and an Australian hard wax, Lewis creates a gooey elixir that vacuum seals the hair, and, once removed, leaves less irritation and fewer bumps than a traditional wax—so you can slip into your Speedos at a moment’s notice. High Maintenance Salon, 1706 Bellevue Ave, Capitol Hill, 206-322-6939;

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Inspired by his passion for vintage racing bikes, Seattle native Ian Halcott left the family fudge biz (his wife’s parents own Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory) to open Twinline Motorcycles, and his one-of-a-kind, motorized masterpieces are already dropping jaws in the cycle community. On any given day, Seatown’s seasoned speeders call upon Halcott and crew to build bikes to their exact specifications, track down hard-to-find parts, or just hang out and talk shop. Twinline Motorcycles, 6501 E Marginal Way S, Georgetown, 206-768-8686;

Bike Repair
Our city has an uncommon bond with its bicycles. So when our trusty rides fall upon hard times, we don’t let any old tinkerer tune up our recumbents and fixed gears. We call Kenny Hamm, The Bicycle Doctor. Hamm has been traveling around town for 18 years in his parts- and tools-packed truck, bestowing his tender touch on every gear adjustment, brake tightening, and parts inspection. The Bicycle Doctor, 206-789-7336;

Image Consultant
Francine Park
’s Kirkland boutique Promesse has elevated the Eastside to a fashion-forward burb of the first order, and the influence of her “effortlessly chic” aesthetic can be seen on downtown Seattle’s stylish set as well. When it’s time for a total overhaul Park will come aboard as your personal image consultant, unleashing her considerable expertise (garnered during stints at Prada and Saks Fifth Avenue) on your wardrobe to transform it into a cohesive ready-to-wear wonderland fine-tuned to your tastes and lifestyle. Francine Park, Promesse, 128 Central Way, Kirkland, 425-828-4259; 

Ninety percent of life is just showing up, and the staff at Seattle Works knows that’s especially true when it comes volunteering, so they’ve made it easy for our city’s altruistic young adults to turn good intentions into good works. Twenty- and thirtysomethings simply log on to the Works Web site, sign up for one of dozens of fun volunteer events—refurbishing school science kits, restoring parkland—and before they know it, “shoulda, woulda, coulda” turns into “done.” Seattle Works, 312 First Ave N, Ste 200, Lower Queen Anne, 206-324-0808;

Holiday Planners
Even famously laid-back Northwesterners come unhinged around the holidays, but Heather Nelson’s here to help. The owner of a Kirkland-based “virtual administrative services” company, überorganized Nelson opened Holiday Assistants last year, employing a team of tinsel-tossing experts who will do everything from buying (and wrapping!) gifts to frosting cookies, trimming trees, and slinging eggnog. Nelson will even dispatch a personal chef to cook your Christmas dinner (she won’t tell if you don’t). Holiday Assistants, 11410 NE 124th St, Ste 184, Kirkland, 888-627-7525;

Blame it on our passion for recycling: We Seattleites just don’t like to throw things away. Christa Patchen Wagner, founder of Savvy Solutions Organized helps her clutter-bug clients sort out what’s worthy of saving and what’s gotta go. Nostalgic types needn’t stress: Wagner’s service can actually help uncover the important things; she fondly remembers watching a couple unearth a box of their decade-old love letters while cleaning out a storage room. Savvy Solutions Organized, 206-227-5792;

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Seattle may be full of early adopters, but we know when Web apps are tired, too, and in the post–Evite Age bland digital blasts just won’t do. Instead head to mother-daughter owned Paper Delights in Wallingford for thoroughly inviting paper invites. Local designer Natalie Eden’s ’40s retro-styled notes announce a get-together in honor of the new baby, while an invite in the shape of a flip-flop, complete with a ribbon thong, brings news of a pool party. Paper Delights, 2205 N 45th St, Ste B, Wallingford, 206-547-1002;

Craft Supplies
It all started with the sacrifice of a BMW motorcycle. In 1977, Seattle printmaker Daniel Smith traded his prized possession for equipment to make his own inks. Now he peddles those paints worldwide and has two Seattle-area stores where Sunday dabblers and serious artistes can pick up Lyptus-wood easels, fine imported brushes, and hand-pressed Amate paper. Daniel Smith, 4510 First Ave S, SoDo, 206-223-9599. 15112 NE 24th St, Bellevue, 425-643-1781;

In a neighborhood full of idiosyncratic independent shops, Souvenir manages to stand out, thanks to collector extraordinaire Curtis Steiner’s discerning eye. Steiner displays delicate Japanese doll heads and postage-stamp-sized black-and-white vintage pictures in his well-worn wooden cases and, among the romantic curiosities, shows off his own exquisite line of jewelry and one-of-a-kind calligraphic cards. Souvenir, 5325 Ballard Ave NW, Ballard, 206-297-7116;

Bargain Gifts
Washington is one of just two lucky states with whom the Japanese share Daiso, a modern, Eastern take on the general store. Hidden in the belly of Westlake Center, the Seattle shop sells 80 percent of its goods—cutesy stationery sets, white porcelain rice bowls, bamboo salad spoons, fruit-shaped shower—curtain rings—for under $2 (and almost nothing over $10). Daiso, 400 Pine St, Ste 36, Downtown, 206-625-0076;

Fun Gifts
In a city all about personal style, a gift certificate to a big-box store just won’t do. A Sam Trout tee or an überpreppy recipe album from Cath Kidston make much better choices, and you’ll find them at Andaluz, Karla Esquivel’s Columbia City boutique. Your conscientious compadres will love the locally designed baubles, while nostalgic gag gifts—a ’50s inspired mini shoe-shine kit, for instance—make perfect presents for the vintage lover in your life. Andaluz, 4908 Rainier Ave S, Columbia City, 206-760-1900;

New Boutique
Design student Ly Tran dreams of having her own line some day. For now she has Bossi and Ich Ky, the chic new Pioneer Square shop filled with avant-garde yet approachable fashion for women and men (her boyfriend Tran Nguyen helps mind the store). What’s in a name? Bossi is their play on “bossy,” for him, and Ich Ky is Vietnamese for “selfish” for her—but we’re not buying it. This stylish Seattle couple is as sweet as can be. Bossi and Ich Ky, 112 First Ave S, Pioneer Square, 206-749-2830;

Teen Togs
Fashion-forward young things from both sides of the floating bridge fill Aritzia (one of two American stores by the Vancouver-based chain) where mirror-lined walls set the scene. Trendy teens—and thirtysomethings who can’t resist their fleeting fads—score bright,’80s-style hoodies by TNA and ultradark Rock and Republic denim, and no girl with a tiered tulip skirt can resist the shop’s customizable leggings. Aritzia, 118 Bellevue Square, Bellevue, 425-450-2287;

Mother-Daughter Attire
She taught you to accessorize, you taught her to show off her assets, and neither of you can resist a silk slip dress. Stylish Seatown ladies of all ages find much to covet amidst the brocade pencil skirts and chiffon tops of Les Amis, Becky Buford’s utterly charming and exceptionally well-curated Fremont boutique. Les Amis, 3420 Evanston Ave N, Fremont, 206-632-2877;

For nine years, Russian-born Seattle designer Madina Vadache has been sending brides down the aisle in inspired couture gowns, but this winter she’ll send her forward-thinking designs down the runway in New York’s Bryant Park. With a team of five local seamstresses, fabric specialists, and stylists, everything about her form-fitting fashions—punctuated by rich, inky colors, volume, and shimmer—says, “Here I am.” Madina Vadache,

Green Goods
Savvy and eco-conscious Seattle shoppers are always on the lookout for stylish yet responsible and earth-friendly buys, so we commend Ballard’s Olivine for tying simple green ribbons to hangers holding earth-friendly pieces. It makes Prairie Underground’s tunics, Loomstate denim, and other organic, local, and recycled wares easy to spot. Don’t ask, don’t tell, just look for the sweet little bows. Olivine, 5344 Ballard Ave NW, Ballard, 206-706-4188;

Indie Clothing
No one does vintage-chic style quite like Northwesterners, and no one in the Northwest blends old and new quite so seamlessly as Last Waltz proprietress Cybele Phillips. Just look what she’s done with an erstwhile Central Area storefront church: Under the soft glow of a lamp whose flower-shaped shade once served as a gramophone horn, a navy-blue jumper from local designer Suzabelle looks as timeless and romantic as the ’60s plaid skirt hanging nearby. Last Waltz, 1406 18th Ave, Central Area, 206-328-5512;

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Image: Curt Doughty

Poster Art
No, not that iconic image of Farrah Fawcett in a red bathing suit, or any of the great screen-printed rock-concert art for which Seattle designers and collectors are known. At Michael Maslan’s eponymous, nationally regarded shop, ethnographic photos, frail antique correspondence, and old picture postcards surround tables stacked high with gorgeous vintage travel, war, and advertising poster art—all highly suitable for framing. Michael Maslan, 109 University St, Downtown, 206-587-0187

Jennifer Carroll didn’t know what she was getting into when she splurged on her first hundred-dollar-pair of Parisian panties. Today she fills her Fremont boutique, Bellefleur, with the objects of her obsessions: the frilliest, sweet pink tutu thongs are paired with embroidered brassieres, while coral silk nightgowns slip over cream Simone Perle sets. Ooh la la, indeed. Bellefleur, 720 N 35th St, Fremont, 206-545-0222;

Dress Shoes
You cruise Columbia City in cream heels with frou-frou detailing and swing dance through Fremont in chunky Chie Miharas, but you always look like you’re walking on air. Your secret: West Seattle’s Clementine, where owner Linda Walsh looks for sexy-yet-sturdy styles with lightweight wedges, cushy sole padding, or sculpted toe stoppers that look modern and chic but wear easy. Clementine, 4447 California Ave SW, West Seattle, 206-935-9400;

Street Shoes
Sometimes you want to make a statement, and sometimes you just want to skate. At Goods street-wear shop, pink patchwork Pumas and brown “Bambi” Nikes—topped with faux fur—rest on glass shelves next to classic Adidas shell tops. Limited-edition sneaks by the likes of Air Jordan mastermind Tinker Hatfield could easily be considered works of art. Goods, 1112 Pike St, Capitol Hill, 206-622-0459;

There’s a time and place (Monday morning, a life-zapping conference room in a Belltown high-rise) for plain navy neckties. But come Friday night—or what the hell, Wednesday afternoon—a certain kind of fellow wants to have a little more fun with what is essentially the only accessory available to him. Enter Rag, where co-owner Apryl McCarthy stocks playful silk ties designed by Duncan Quinn, emblazoned with roaring lions and giant fleurs de lis. Rag, 10500 NE Eighth St, Ste 115, Bellevue, 425-637-3979;

Men’s Fashions
Time was when a Seattle guy with a flair for fashion was pretty much out of luck, but no more. Blackbird began as a prototypical jeans and tees men’s shop, but in the last year owner and buyer Nicole Miller introduced drapey sleeveless shirts by Diet Butcher Slim Skin and softly metallic white denim by Raf Simmons. Now there’s no more excuses for local guys to look slouchy. Blackbird, 5410 22nd Ave NW, Ballard, 206-547-2524;

A lifetime of travel (pops was a Pan-American pilot) prompted one Seattle jet-setter to design and manufacture luggage for every lifestyle. At the Tom Bihn Seattle Factory Showroom, messenger bags have ultrasuede-lined pockets for iPods, laptop cases are expandable and attractive, and compact-yet-roomy travel duffels let even pack rats look like they travel light. Tom Bihn Seattle Factory Showroom, 2203 First Ave S, Ste 200, SoDo, 206-652-4123;

Seattle’s full of great shoe stores, but very few shops specialize in that other female obsession: the handbag. Sisters-in-law Kimberly and Carrie Arrington found their niche with Clutch, where, in turn, plenty of Seattle shoppers satisfy their hobo, calfskin, and patent-leather obsessions. Kimberly always knows the scoop on the most buzzed about bags—Botkier’s woven—leather tote, Seril’s “Knockout” clutch—and tries them in her shop (though it’s tricky keeping them in stock). Clutch, 1212 Fourth Ave, Downtown, 206-624-2362;

Costume Jewelry
At Vu, decadent, gorgeous designer goods from times gone by are the main attraction and, fittingly, the accessory case holds some wonderfully oversize faux-gemstone rings. But in addition to combing the estate collections of Seattle’s best dressed, shop owner Han Vu also travels to Asia and returns with lovely new items. Check out the ring featuring the sweet white critter with a pale pink nose (Is he a bear? A rabbit?) and the jewel-encrusted owl piece by the same Taiwanese designer. Vu, 313 E Pine St, Capitol Hill, 206-621-0388

Diamonds, smoky quartz, and black onyx are a girl’s best friends, but you don’t necessarily need to own your intimates. Seattle designers (Maile) Roundtree and (Nicole) Richardson make wonderfully chunky yet elegant pieces available for one-night stands—say, the SAM gala or a wedding at the Sculpture Park—so even though you might pay $1,200 for their ornate, organic-looking hand-wired turquoise and 24-karat gold necklaces at a jewelry shop, it’s yours for the evening for $300. Roundtree and Richardson,

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Fremont feels French at Essenza, a glass-bottle-lined boudoir where sweet fig infusers mix with the amber overtones of powerful Parisian perfumes and water-lily-infused hand soaps wrapped in fleur-de-lis-patterned paper from Boston. Chic shopkeepers help you explore what you want in an aroma, then waltz you around the store until you ascertain which scent suits you best. Essenza, 615 N 35th St, Fremont, 206-547-4895;

Surf Shop
Catching a Washington wave became way easier when the bright boarder mecca Cheka-Looka Surf Shop opened 10 years ago in Fremont. In true laid-back So Cal–surfer spirit, Huntington Beach transplant Jeff Abandonato minds his store with one eye on YouTube—“Dude, you just gotta check this out!”—and the other on your new XCel wet suit and custom-made, classic long board. Cheka-Looka Surf Shop, 3507 Evanston Ave N, Fremont, 206-726-7878

Pragmatic Seattleites understand pottery’s sturdy, earthy appeal, and at Laguna Vintage Pottery practical meets precious. From the graceful contours of an Eva Zeisel dinner set to the vibrant, iconic hues of Fiesta mixing bowls (the real deal, of course, not reissues), owner Michael Lindsey carries retro lines with an Americana aesthetic and functional history. Laguna Vintage Pottery, 116 S Washington St, Pioneer Square, 206-682-6162; www.laguna

Though Igor Klimenkoff left Moscow more than 20 years ago, at recently opened Far 4, his family-run porcelain shop, you can feel the owner’s nostalgia for the finery of his native land. Shown alongside exquisite Meissen pieces and contemporary European and Japanese art and tableware, his own line of Moscow-made hand-painted plates and funny yet fragile figurines respectfully references the past with a stylish, modern air. Far 4, 1020 First Ave, Downtown, 206-621-8831;

Interiror Design
San Francisco–based Limn has designed its spacious showroom to feel like your dream home—although many of the European, postmodern pieces feel like they belong in your wildest dream home. Art certainly meets design when a snowball-like light pendant dangles over a walnut dinner table, which in turn rests on a psychedelic—print rug. Limn, 629 Western Ave, Pioneer Square, 206-696-7077;

Thanks to the careful yet fanciful eye of Liberty Hanson and her shop Liberty 123, Kirkland’s Park Lane has the flair of European decadence and the charm of a weekend cabin. Witness the baroque crystal chandelier, eighteenth-century German bed, and comfy linen cushions upholstered in Georgia. “You can tell that that’s an antique of the future,” says Hanson of the daybed. If she says so, it must be true. Liberty 123, 123 Park Ln, Kirkland, 425-822-1232;

Vintage Decor
Kirk Albert collects gene markers of industry, history, and culture from as far away as Tennessee and as nearby as Seattle’s south-end junk shops while always being “persnickety about silhouette and shapes and finishes.” His art-object emporium Great Stuff Vintage is right at home in arty, industrial Georgetown; a massive metal and neon sign spells out “Star,” but it’s Albert’s reworked lighting pieces that really shine. Great Stuff Vintage, 5517 Airport Way S, Georgetown, 206-931-6208;

Wandering through the sprawling 27,000-square-foot Pacific Galleries in SoDo takes one from cases of elegant, engraved silverware to a stall packed with gypsy fabrics, stained-glass windows from old Seattle landmarks, and mod modern decor. And then tucked into the rear of the building: a large carved, covered European bed from the 1850s and immense wardrobes suitable for lions and witches. Pacific Galleries, 241 S Lander St, SoDo, 206-292-3999;

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