Monday, June 23, 2008

There is Something for Everyone. . . On Broadway

Broadway is the epicenter of Capitol Hill, one of Seattle’s most eclectic and diverse (read alternative) neighborhoods. The “Hill” is fun, interesting, and entertaining for those with open minds. You find many people with hair dyed primary colors, and various exotic piercings and tattoos, attired in thrift store couture -- it is sort of like a National Geographic special. It is the locus for many young, and not so young people exploring their boundaries, who in a couple of years will decide to attend law school or get their MBA and shortly after drive Volvos. If you are curious about Seattle’s grunge scene this is where you need to visit.

Stretching north-south along the western crest of Capitol Hill, Broadway is anchored by the Harvard Exit Theatre and the Landmark Egyptian Theatre on its southern end. Both regularly feature great art and alternative films (as does the Northwest Film Festival on parallel 12th Avenue).

Factoids: the Seattle International Film Festival, held annually from mid-May to mid-June is the largest film festival in the nation; the Seattle Fringe Theatre Festival holds the title of being the longest continuously producing festival of fringe theatre in the United States. There are three colleges along Broadway: Seattle University at its south end, Seattle Central Community College in its center, and then an arm of Cornish College of the Arts at its end. Actually the term Broadway is pretty – broad – and includes the sights and sounds of the many streets that intersect it such as Pike, Pine, Denny, and Roy.

The strip sort of begins with the Jimi Hendrix statute located on the Northeast corner of Broadway and Pine Street (note: Pine is parallel to and north of Pike). Close by is The Garage: Bowl/Pool/Food. It is very hip and was developed by a number of partners, including Mike McCready (Pearl Jam). It served as an auto repair garage from 1928 to being transformed in 1996 and has exposed ceilings, special lighting, and distinctive features. It is open daily from 3 pm to 2 am and besides bowling, playing pool, and being a bar it has a diverse ethnic and American menu. In other words, it is a fun place to hang out.

If you want to hang out, close by on Pike Street is the Elysian Brewing Company and Public House. It has floor to ceiling windows, a half-block long bar, and a slew of beers including six brewed on the premise. The pub grub is excellent, and it is a comfortable hang out for carpenters, plumbers, attorneys, and university types.

A tres cool new hang out is Quinn’s Pub (1001 E Pike). The atmosphere includes exposed wood and iron, the requisite earth tone walls, candlestick sconces and framed art of barnyard animals (think British Isles). The Anglophile will find familiar pubby food (fresh sausage; hanger steak with frites) and more than a dozen beers on tap.

If you want upscale and chic drinks Licorous on 928 12th Avenue (perpendicular to Madison and one block south of Broadway) is a great destination. It features eight “specialty” cocktails, which come solo or are paired with “small bites that enhance their flavor,” as well as a very nice wine list. The atmosphere is warm as is the wait staff, and it neighbors swank Lark, a tapas restaurant that is currently in vogue with the smart set – better yet they share the same chef. What’s not to like?

Across the street is very informal Café Press, a French bistro/sports bar where you can kick back and drink a Stella (or pastis) while watching soccer (aka “football”). It offers great French bistro (i.e. bar) food like Croque Monsieur, and inexpensive good wine: best yet, it’s cheap. It is also a terrific place for dark coffee and brioche in the morning for breakfast.

Walking north along Broadway is Dick’s Drive-In, a long standing feature of Seattle culture that has five locations. It features three American classics: burgers, fries, and shakes. It is a final destination for many playing late and is open from 10:30 a.m. utill 2:00 a.m.

There are a variety of ethnic restaurants along Broadway – particularly good are its two Thai restaurants, from which we often order food when the staff is getting crabby on dark, wet, work intensive January and February days. Jai Thai is at 235 Broadway, and on the north end is Siam on Broadway. Both are excellent; Jai Thai has perhaps more atmosphere.

While our friends from California and the Southwest might find Mexican food pedestrian an extremely fine dining experience is Galerias on Broadway. This isn’t a variety plate restaurant. It has lots of atmosphere (sheer draperies, sun yellow walls, wrought iron chandeliers, and metal encased menus that can double as barbells.)

Entrees feature things like chilies en nogada (stuffed with meat and fruit in a light sauce), filete uruapan (shirt steak with sautéed vegetables in avocado sauce), enchiladas chipotle, or a spinach feta tamale. The drinks are comparably good; those liking margaritas can opt for quality or for those who prefer volume and to be conspicuous while drinking there are aquarium sized options.

La Spiga at 1429 12th Avenue is currently very hot. Its atmosphere is all exposed beams and rafters with large windows in the back offering views of downtown Seattle as a backdrop. The food is good and Tuscan oriented and it has a great wine list, but be advised the wait staff is composed of young Hill denizens with a very good self images and a lot of attitude.

There are myriad options if you want a slice. Every self respecting Seattle yuppie prides himself on patronizing Pagliacci Pizza, which has a branch at 426 Broadway. There are always seasonal specials: currently they are emphasizing asparagus/proscuitto and Walla Walla onion options. Here you can always get the goat cheese, sun dried tomato and artichoke heart, and feta cheese toppings that are part of the typical yuppie diet. The quality is always high and you are guaranteed good service and no attitude.

If you want a more traditional red and white checked vinyl tablecloth and plush booth experience there is Piecora’s at 2701 Madison (one block south of Pike) which usually has a very eclectic population. It’s a great place for pitchers and thin crusted pizza. Then there is Via Tribunali at 913 East Pike with its marble topped bar and wood fired oven. This is a hipster’s bar and Neapolitan-style pizzeria where you can check out beautiful people sitting in high backed booths sampling sliced proscuitto with buffalo mozzarella.

After eating, you might want to visit Bailey Coy Books in the middle of Broadway, a superb boutique book store described in an earlier post. The renowned Dilettante Café (Xanadu for any lover of high quality chocolate), which conveniently neighbored the bookstore has moved, but the happy news is that it will be reopening a block north on East Mercer and Broadway. Readers of even earlier post will note that Dilettante is the ultimate destination for those who enjoy rich, decadent, chocolate tortes and cakes – apparently the new location will include alcoholic drinks like chocolate martinis – which sound dangerous.

Of course, there’s coffee. While everyone in Seattle regularly patronizes Starbucks it is not cool to admit liking it.

Seattleites pride themselves on preferring one of the multitudes of independent coffee shops in the city. The Hill is riddled with them. Bauhaus Books and Coffee at 301 East Pine Street offers coffee with an urban, beatnik heartbeat and a great place for people watching.

Stumptown Coffee 1115 12th Avenue represents a back to basics Portland coffee invasion. Café Vita at 1005 East Pike is a classic Capitol Hill stop featuring excellent coffee and espresso. They roast the beans on site and many Seattle restaurants pride themselves on serving Café Vita beans.

Pettirosso is a very small, very quaint coffee shop on 1101 East Pike, which neighbors the chic Aria Salon, should you decide you need a trim. Coffee Animals 550 12th Avenue is a former motorcycle garage that has been converted to a café/blown glass studio with great coffee. But, I am leading you too far off the beaten path…

If you like to dance, there is the Century Ballroom and Café at 915 East Pine which is described as a first class salsa, swing, and Lindy Hop joint. If you want an edgier environment there is Neighbours Night Club, which while defined as gay is a regular destination for straight young women and men as well who want to dance and party at night. However, it costs nothing to experience the Broadway Dance Steps. East or west along the sidewalk in the middle of Broadway you will notice life sized bronze numbered footprints accompanied by numbers accompanied by plaques with musical rhythms. There are eight Broadway dance steps. So eat, drink, and then learn how to do the Mambo, the Foxtrot, the Rumba, the Lindy, or the Obeedo. Let loose, don’t worry, you won’t stick out, this is Capitol Hill.

I have barely scratched the surface here in describing Broadway and the Hill. By the way, it is about a 1 mile walk east (uphill) from the Convention Center.

Michael K. McKeon
Dean of Admissions
Seattle University