a spontaneous trip to seattle

all vibes, no planning

november, 2021

My rationale for a trip to Seattle was simple. I wanted to go somewhere, to leave the city for a bit because that’s what people do during the holidays. But I didn’t want to have to deal with actually planning something. After all, I haven’t gone anywhere that truly requires planning since 2019.

Seattle was perfect. It was new — I had not visited since I was maybe 10ish. But it was easy — all I had to do was book a flight a show up. I could stay with a friend, hang out with familiar faces, do the quotidian things I’d be doing in New York City but with a different backdrop and a damper climate.

So this is a trip diary, but to be honest, it may as well be a food diary. But what else is new?

day one

FIRST STOP: LUNCH

I took an early flight the morning after Thanksgiving (yes, I was still full when I left for the airport), and landed on the other end of the country right around lunchtime. And if Seattle in November can be relied for one thing, it is that it will deliver on soup season.

So, first stop, before we even went home, was to get pho. Pho Bac has both the history (it’s been around since the 80s) and the aesthetics. There’s a downtown outpost but Chinatown/Little Saigon was on the drive up anyways so we stopped by the Sup Shop. This steaming bowl of soup that I had been dreaming of (NYC really needs to step up on their pho game) hit the spot and we were off to a strong start. 

CAFFEINATE

Hello Em Việt Coffee & Roastery

1227 S Weller St

@hello.em_coffee

After a brief intermission of dropping things off and getting settled in, it was time to make moves for the next meal. 

We opted to get take out and do a family dinner. Which apparently was easier said than done. Kedai Makan is so popular there was a line before it opened at 5pm. The Malaysian restaurant is very intimate, with just a few tables filling up the colorfully decorated space. For take out, even with a cap on the number of dishes each person could order, they were backed up fast. We were the third group to get take out (and probably like the 6th or 7th in line) and by the time we put in our orders it was an hour wait. Thankfully it was close enough to drive home and then drive back once the food was ready. Was the food amazing? Sure. But worth the wait? Maybe next time dine-in is a better option. 

Then it was Saturday. And you know what that means, yes, it means brunch because that’s what my basic self wants on a weekend morning. For brunch we went to The London Plane, which checked off all the boxes for aesthetics. 

After brunch, it started to actually rain. As in, more than the general misty drizzle. As in, I truly didn’t know if I’d feel sillier with an umbrella in Seattle or without an umbrella and just deliberately get rained on. Anyways, as an indoor activity, we went to the Chihuly Glass Museum. The walk from the car to the museum entrance was enough to have me wringing out my hair in the bathroom.  

I won’t lie, the museum feels a bit overhyped. Sure, it’s kind of an obligatory touristy spot for Seattle, but it’s quite small to walk through and niche enough to feel like an exhibition. Perhaps on a less rainy day it’d feel like a more substantial activity spending time in the gardens, but while it checked the box as a thing to do, I admit I was a little underwhelmed. Like it shouldn’t be the main attraction when it comes to art, but I suppose every city feels small when you are calibrated to New York City. 

Then it was back to pretending to be a local and doing quotidian activities. We went to Capitol Hill to do some shopping at the Glossier store and peruse The Elliott Bay Book Company (now this is a place I could happily spend a rainy day in). We grabbed coffee next door at Oddfellows for a little break, and before heading home, because I am a strong believer that any weather is ice cream weather, we stopped by Frankie and Jo’s for some decadent ice cream that just happens to be plant-based.  

The best part about lazy trips is that there is no expectation or pressure to do things all the time. And down time is underrated during travels. Was the night spent on the couch binge watching Selling Sunset? No comment. 

Ah Sunday. The day we go to the farmers market. I was told I’d like Ballard. That it was more my vibe based on the neighborhoods I gravitate towards in other cities. They were right. I like Ballard.  

The Sunday farmers market isn’t bigger than any old farmers market, but it makes up for that with all of the shops the line the street. We got there pretty early, and by the time we got coffee and made a round of the stalls, the shops started to open up. From curated home goods to kitschy gift shops to overtly PNW style boutiques, it’s a good mix for noncommittal shopping alongside farmers market snacks. 

Note to self: try to plan future trips to include a Sunday.

We did a quick drive by the Fremont Troll as an obligatory tourist activity (truly, Seattle, I have questions). And then grabbed donburi/poke bowls for lunch at Fremont Bowl. Which reminded me of how I’ve only had poke once since moving out of LA, where I had at one point gotten poke for lunch on a weekly basis. I should do this more often, I remember thinking as I dug into the glorious bowl of fresh fish. 

Pastry Packing @The Pastry Project

165 South Main St

https://www.thepastryproject.co/

@thepastryproject_

 

Comfort Food @Korean Bamboo

2236 3rd Ave

 

Then it was back down to Pioneer Square, right next to The London Plane, to The Pastry Project, a community enterprise that offers pastry classes to people who have barriers to employment, and the venue where volunteers were gathering to pack up pastry boxes. 

After a full afternoon of packing and dreary weather, all I wanted was soondubu. We’d be set on keeping it close and eating at the Korean restaurant across the street from my friend’s place, but of course they were closed on Sundays. And with the craving set in, we couldn’t settle for anything else, so after some Yelping we ended up at a place called “Korean Bamboo.” It felt like a suburban neighborhood family-run restaurant, the atmosphere was homey in the best way, and the food as nourishing as we needed it to be. 10/10. Sometimes the unplanned meals are the best ones.  

day four

COFFEE

PIKE PLACE MARKET

And then, finally time for the touristy shit. Can’t go to Seattle without the obligatory photo in front of Pike Place. And so on day four, we went to Pike Place.

But first, coffee. We started off strong with caffeine at Armistice Coffee and then walked down to Pike Place to get obligatory pastries at Piroshky Piroshky. The market was pretty quiet on a post-holiday Monday, and after walking a bit along the water (and popping into a newly opened H Mart because I’m not me if I’m not stopping in every Asian grocery store I pass), we decided to head over to Capitol Hill. 

AROUND CAPITOL HILL

The sun came out (!!) as we shopped around the neighborhood. We ate a healthyish lunch from Homegrown on the sidewalk (I’d wanted to go to Mamnoon but they’re closed on Mondays ugh) and then did the other obligatory thing: popping into the Starbucks Reserve Roastery, surprisingly small to me, but then again the only ones I’d been to are Chicago (the biggest in the world) and the one in New York.

I told myself I have to do outdoor things that I don’t get to do in my everyday city life, but I also know that my level of hiking is like Griffith Park before brunch, so we headed over to Discovery Park. Among the trees the air was damp but fresh for my lungs that have gotten so used to polluted city air. It felt good to be in greenery, just focused on the path ahead, saying the occasional hello to fellow hikers passing by. And I love a hike that rewards you with a view (honestly, probably the only thing that would motivate me to hike in the first place). 

On the way back we did a quick stop by Kerry Park for the quintessential postcard view of the city (very cute, Seattle, good job) and then sat outside an idyllic Queen Anne cafe with perfect cappuccinos. Name a more perfect combination brisk autumn air and hot coffee, I’ll wait. 

DINNER

19 GOLD Taiwanese Restaurant

3601 Fremont Ave N #101

And since the theme of the trip is comfort and laziness, we decided on Taiwanese mala soups at 19 GOLD. No frills. The familiar buzz of mandarin conversations around. Steaming bowls of soup with all the fixings. 

Last day of November, last day in Seattle, and last day off before it was back hurled into reality on the other side of the country. 

My gracious host was working today, so after packing up in the morning, I went on a coffee and pastry run to Umbria, white glove service of course. 

For lunch, I met up with a food friend (also visiting from New York) and we went to Taurus Ox, a small shop occupying a tight corner of a block serving up contemporary Laotian food. We took recommendations from the server and were not disappointed: everything was delicious, super flavorful and comforting. Taurus Ox seems like the kind of place I’d crave as a casual lunch spot, but also a great place to bring a couple friends and share. 

And then before I knew it, it was time for the last meal. And we made it a good one. An early bird special at Kamonegi, a soba specialty restaurant I’d been eye for ages (y’all know I love me some soba).  

We were seated at the bar, looking into the kitchen as everything was prepared, which was mesmerizing (like enough to have us crushing on everyone that worked there lmao). The food was so good, the noodles had a perfect bite that only comes from freshly made soba, and the duck was savory without being too rich. It was a good final meal. And definitely not the last time I’ll be going there. 

A LA PROCHAINE

And then because I hate myself, I boarded a red eye flight to JFK, landed bright and early at 6am, just in time to sit through 1.5 hours of traffic to get back to Brooklyn, crash for an hour, wake up to virtually join my morning meetings and then somehow haul my ass onto the subway and into the city to show my face at the office for management meetings, complain loudly about my lack of sleep, and then go home. Note to self: take the day off if you take a red eye. 

see also

A CHRISTMAS ESCAPE UPSTATE

A WEEK IN SAN FRANCISCO

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