The spread at Le Pichet is a Francophone dream.

Best Spots to Practice Ukulele

Burke-Gilman Trail

You probably know this trusty bike route from Bothell to Golden Gardens—but maybe not that it hosts numerous sun spots for those who like to sit and strum. Like among the reeds of the mini-beach in Kenmore, or on the white steps south of the University of Washington campus, or by the benches overlooking Shilshole Bay, all peaceful outposts for an activity such as practicing a small, stringed instrument. Every neighborhood has its own nook just off the road, or a lawn for settling into the dappled light. Maybe your roommates need a break from your umpteenth rendition of “Riptide”; maybe you’re shy about singing at home. On the Burke, you’ll have an ephemeral audience of everyone and no one at once. —EW 

Best Place to Swoon Over Vintage Furniture

Epic Antique

If 2010s Reddit culture made you distrust the word epic, let SoDo’s warehouse of curiosities restore your confidence. This enormous store is a true hero’s journey through every era of furniture, from nineteenth-century rarities to modern Milo Baughman pieces. A variety of vendors, each with their own ethos, ensures any vintage enthusiast can walk away with a find, from a 1980s art deco etagere to an 1880s French room divider. Certain corners—particularly the large swath run by cofounder Tom Gorz—feel like visiting a design museum and being told the exhibits are yours for the taking. —ZS

➸ I am a sucker for history; thus, I’m a sucker for old brick buildings where notable things appear to have happened (even if nothing did!). So while I’ll guide different visitors variously—beer geeks to Ballard, skyline fetishists to Gas Works—I’ll direct most anyone to two of the city’s oldest neighborhoods, Pioneer Square and Chinatown–International District. They offer some expected draws, with the underground tour and Uwajimaya and art galleries, storied brick buildings and burning neon and beautiful parks. There are also smaller lures: Need some occult books? Mortlake and Company. Need a Korean corn dog clad in fried ramen? Chung Chun Rice Dog. If you’re seeking the city’s variety and history by foot, you can do no better. —SM

Best Backdrop for a Tipsy Selfie

Bar House

Few bars that embrace novelty succeed at extending it to the bathroom. In the main area of this Fremont joint, a sign (“Space Back Here”) leads to a room covered in cosmic black light—but the powder rooms are where the magic happens. In the upstairs facilities, tropical fish swim by on a screen cleverly placed behind a toilet-adjacent porthole, and a photo booth provides in-line entertainment. But new this year is a second, downstairs space, equipped with dive bar paradise: an entirely gold bathroom save for the plunger, complete with spinning disco ball, sparkly floors, and its very own speaker. Designed by local artist Eric Fisher, it’s basically a stoner film’s depiction of diving into a can of Rainier. —ZS

Bar Houses glimmering bathroom makes every night feel like lowbrow New Years Eve. 

Best Geography Lesson

Annapurna Cafe

Never mind that Americans use the single term “Indian food” to categorize the varied culinary history of 1.4 billion people. The menu at Capitol Hill’s basement spice factory of a restaurant—actually born a Nepalese joint—deftly hops from India’s Goa to Tibet’s Lhasa within a single curry section, linking traditions across borders. Besides familiar tikka masalas and vindaloos, diners meet the rich goat meat of khasi ko masu and plump Tibetan momo dumplings. The building’s landmark designation in 2020 might not save the eatery from relocation when construction inevitably reshapes the light rail–adjacent block. Still, its constant line of takeout pickups throughout the pandemic bodes well for a clientele who’ll follow Annapurna’s serious spice profile if and when it’s forced out of the basement. —Allison Williams

Best Nostalgia Machine

Vanishing Seattle

Through five years of astronomical growth for the city and the inevitable change that followed, one online account kept account: Vanishing Seattle. The independent media collective—founded by Cynthia Brothers in 2016—produces short films and social media content documenting the businesses, landmarks, and communities that close and disappear. A recent docuseries highlights the country’s first karaoke bar in Chinatown–International District and a Black-owned art and community gathering space in the Central District. Cities are fluid and ever-changing, but it’s difficult to overstate the value in preserving a place’s shared memory. —Sophie Grossman

Best Place to Curate Your Life

Prism

Personal style extends far beyond checkered sunglasses or a pair of pastel bike shorts—it’s also the candles we light and the jigsaw puzzles we solve. Yes, the Ballard boutique stocks dreamy fashion in spades, but co-owner Aimee Butterworth also extends a curatorial eye toward home and living. The candles? Boy Smells’ latest drop. The jigsaw puzzles? Designed by local artist Michael Doyle. The pipe? Edie Parker’s delicate pink borosilicate glass flower. Shopping at Prism is at once soothing and thrilling—the satisfying result of an aesthetic that just clicks. —ZS

Prism offers a stylishly edited collection of curios for everything from your coffee table to your closet.

Best Confusing Combo

Sip and Ship

Remember when you were a kid, and your mom would promise that you could have a treat if you behaved yourself while she ran errands? This Ballard institution is the grown-up version of that particular form of bribery; a trip to the post office seems so much less tedious when you factor in seasonal lattes, macarons, and scratch-made banana bread. The female-owned centralized hub for notary services and iced coffee also has a location in Greenwood, and both offer a discerning selection of chic stationery, scented candles, and other trinkets suited to the procrastinating gift-giver—because, of course, you can ship them on the spot. —SG

➸ Any time I have company, I make sure we meander through Milagros Mexican Folk Art, an unexpected fount of original creations. Bright papel picado flags zigzag overhead, but their vivid hues are mellow compared to the carnival of colors in the trippy alebrijes, hand-painted pottery, and peyote vision–inspired yarn paintings. Situated on First Avenue, Milagros just marked its 31st year at PPM. Don’t be fooled by the copious Day of the Dead art: The store’s former owner and current buyer Heather Stockdale works with established artists in villages throughout Oaxaca, Jalisco, and Puebla. I may have first wandered in for the lotería paraphernalia and quirky Frida Kahlo art, but Milagros’s lasting charm is in the history lessons its staff delivers on any of its wares, like those yarn paintings hand-pressed by Indigenous Huichol people. —SN

Milagros Mexican Folk Art shuns kitsch in favor of hand-picked works from Mexican artisans.

 
Best Alterations You Didn’t Know You Needed

Superb Custom Tailors

From March through September, brides descend upon this modest Queen Anne tailor. Some have new dresses; others want to fit into their grandmother’s gown, or excise the puffed sleeves from a vintage 1980s find. During high season, sisters Misook and Haeyang Chung dedicate most of their time to these high-stakes alterations. But they apply that same level of craft when adjusting suits or skirts or jeans. Bring in a pair of denim to shorten and the sisters will match the color and thickness of the thread, even if that means blending several spools. Unseen inserts ensure stretchy fabrics hang properly after a new hem. Most customers don’t notice these specific details, just how sharp they look in their new pants. —AV

Best Brazilian with a Side of Therapy

Focus Wax and Skin

It’s hard to imagine a skill more important than dexterity for a professional waxer. But bedside manner just might outrank it as the key performance metric. Sure, Mericke Kohler perfected the hands-on (and hair-off) portion of her trade over years at a larger Capitol Hill salon. But when she relocated to a solo practice at Focus in the north end of the neighborhood last fall, the virtues of her calm and cheerful demeanor became as much her signature as a clean bikini line. Soothing chatter, quick repartee, and an impressive memory for the vacation plan you told her about three visits ago—all help the painful part pass quickly. Imagine a therapist who listens supportively without suggesting annoying emotional “work,” or a friend who never minds that you only blather on about yourself. Her hydrating facials, on the other hand, deliver a clear-mindedness so zen that the skincare almost feels like a bonus rather than the point. —AW

Best Setting for a Tantrum

Clover Toys

This Ballard shop knows what really matters when shopping with children: product demonstration. An open play area once hosted a toy kitchen and wooden train, cars zipping across the floor, balls bouncing around. It may yet reopen post-pandemic. The sense that it’s okay for little ones to hang here makes the place more relaxing as a parent. The deft toy selection, often handmade, tends toward creative play; think well-made musical instruments, not a lot of cheap plastic stuff. And consider that the staff always seems genuinely happy to see us again—even though we probably exited amid a toddler meltdown on the previous visit. —NB

Best Second Floor Scene

Joe Bar

At the risk of sounding like the grumpiest of old farts, they don’t make them like this anymore. Just imagine telling a modern builder you want a cramped coffee bar with not one but two narrow staircases leading to second-floor balconies packed with rickety wooden chairs. Starbucks could never. While the little cavern of a coffee shop would fit right into a cozy English village, its mix of java, crepes, wine, and art shows cements it as a very particular specimen of Capitol Hill life, that ultra-local, kinda-quirky vibe that feels like a relic even as Joe Bar hums along as always. No wonder; the view from that second floor goes back decades. —AW

Best Place to Put Your Feet Up

Old Style Shoe Shine

Seattle might not sport flashy footwear very often, but our perpetual drizzle dims leather quickly. Clayne Wheeler’s Downtown shop offers those suffering soles a remedy. His “Seattle Shine” polish includes multiple coats of wax to keep shoe surfaces waterproofed and gleaming through weeks of wet weather. Lawyers, bankers, and commercial realtors (and their assistants) often stop in for a 15-minute glow-up in his high chair, and people send shoes for repairs from as far as Germany. He’s mended many a scuffed toe, once salvaging a $12,000 pair of handmade Ferragamos. And his rubber sole additions have undoubtedly spared a sidewalk wipeout or two. —BC

➸ I wish I could remember what I exclaimed when I had my first sip at Coffeeholic House (although we probably couldn’t print it anyway). The Vietnamese coffee shop’s bestselling drink—nutty robusta coffee topped with cream cheese foam—delivers a sweet-and-salty combo so scarcely found in beverages that it drives me to Columbia City most every weekend. And I hate driving. I proselytize whenever I get the chance, so take it from my drip-coffee-drinking mom. Her Coffeeholic first-sip moment I do remember: “I get it,” she said, fresh off a half hour in the car. “This is the best coffee I’ve ever had.”—ZS

Coffeeholic House pours a cup that's more than worth a drive.

Best Place to Feel Seen

Costco

The last time I replaced my member card at Costco, I stepped up for the requisite glassy-eyed identification photo. The guy behind the camera gestured to my three-year-old son, just out of view. “Lift him up,” he commanded. Now I flash my card at the entrance and admire our two grainy faces, grinning at this act of benign nonconformity.

The Seattle-born warehouse store puts the “big” in big-box, but its aisles of industrial metal shelving feel personal. Buyers have an impressive pulse on a bulk-buying population others might consider too boring to track. Here I can encounter the same dehydrated cheese snacks I discovered at Whole Foods the week before. A tiny package for $5 was a splurge; a pillow-size bag for $10 is a freaking steal. Of course, the next visit, they’ll be gone. Costco is forever changing. Just like its customers. I have two kids now, and on Saturdays we fill an enormous cart with fruit pouches for lunchboxes and Aperol for after-bedtime cocktails. They each get a hot dog and soda combo on our way out the door—lunch, handled, for less than $5. —AV

Best Shop for Tchotchkes that Aren’t Cheesy

Venue

For a region so packed with art, a curated, one-stop shop of this quality is rare. The classy showroom, just off Ballard’s busy Northwest Market Street, sells lacquered earrings made of elm and alder, handmade charcuterie boards, and wall-size originals painted by the mountain enthusiast Erin Oostra. Think Fireworks, but fewer inspirational quotes—and 100 percent local. In other words, there’s a little something for every possible kind of giftee. —EW

Venue is part gift shop, part local gallery.

Best Champion of Seattle Sports

Mama Blue

Patti Hammond could have phoned it in a while ago. The 90-year-old Seahawks diehard better known as Mama Blue was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1999. She was the first fan to raise the “12” flag. She has her own action figure. But Hammond still applies the same iconic getup—blue wig, glasses, and feather boas—for every game, and she’s still liable to yell “pass interference!” like she’s back in the Kingdome. Hammond even has her own fan club: Fellow 12s donated to help her pay for pancreatic cancer treatment last year, when the Seahawks named her the team’s top fan. —BC

➸ As a born-and-raised Pacific Northwesterner, it pains me to admit that yes—the Seattle Freeze exists. That predisposition for distanced, vaguely polite communication, a tendency to promise to make social plans but never follow through? It us. But consider the flip side: If we thaw enough to get close, we re-freeze into a solid unit. Once formed, our friend bonds have the structural integrity of a glacier (er, one of the not-so-melty ones) with all the attendant power to carve out a canyon. Plus our experience with awkward socialization primes us for the coming post-Covid era, in which we’ve all forgotten how to connect in person. While the rest of the country stumbles over the weirdness, we Seattleites will catch a whiff of halting, ambiguous interactions and breathe a sigh of relief: back to normal. —AW

 
Best Tables to Pass the Time

Le Pichet

What a difference a caramel can make. And a baguette with butter. Years ago, restaurants started charging for such things. At Le Pichet, they arrive unsolicited and gratis—bread with the meal, a honey caramel with the check. A sense of nonchalant welcome. It helps that the food is consistently excellent; smart French bistro fare, classical without being basic or overwrought. And it helps that a satisfying glass of wine costs $6 or $7. That the atmosphere has a brassy grace. That the staff is affable. And that the hours, in normal times, run daylong, so the place is as amenable to a book-and-coffee morning as it is to a cocktail-and-charcuterie night, and all the hours in between. —SM

At Le Pichet, a table guarantees excellent bistro fare and a prime seat for watching passersby.

 

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