By Kim Voynar Voynar@moviecitynews.com
SIFF 2012: SIFF Visitors Guide to Coffee, Eats and Happy Hours
If you’re coming Seattle for a few days for the Seattle International Film Festival, whether as a filmmaker, or press, or just to enjoy the outstanding programming our fest offers, you need to know where to get the best food, the best coffee, and the best happy hours, right? Seattle’s got a wide variety of nooks and crannies and neighborhoods, each with it’s own “must tries” and spots to check out. Relax, I’ve got your back. Here’s your guide to the SIFF venues and what’s near them that’s worth checking out. These are the places I tend to frequent myself, and no doubt I’ve overlooked many places other locals would recommend. If I missed yours, please give a shout to your own fave places.
Venue: SIFF Cinema Uptown and SIFF Film Center
About the neighborhood: Queen Anne, located very near the SIFF Film Center (see below) has quite a few options within walking distance from the theater. Generally a pretty safe neighborhood to walk around at night, and easy access to buses heading downtown, where you can connect with buses going pretty much anywhere, if only you can decipher the Metro King County Trip Planner.
What to Avoid: The food court at Seattle Center, unless you’re desperate. Tends to be overrun with tourists, strollers and screeching toddlers due to the proximity to Seattle Children’s Museum, EMP and the Space Needle.
Where to get coffee: Uptown Espresso (525 Queen Anne Ave N) and Caffe Ladro (600 Queen Anne Ave N) are both close to the Uptown. The coffee is a little better at Ladro, but it sometimes comes served with a side of hipster “you’re so lucky we’re even making you coffee” attitude that can be a bit annoying. Great pastries and quiche and stuff at Ladro, though, if you’re looking for a quick snack on the run.
Where to get breakfast: For my money, Toulouse Petit (601 Queen Anne Ave N), located right up the street from the Uptown, can’t be beat, especially if you can get there before 11AM. They have a breakfast happy hour from 8AM-11AM, where you can try their awesome breakfast items for super cheap and everything is delish. I haven’t tried Peso’s, right next door, but they also do a breakfast happy hour. My other favorite breakfast food spot in Queen Anne is Mecca Cafe (526 Queen Ave N), located right across the street from the Uptown. Mecca is a true Seattle dive bar, great for everything from breakfast to lunch to late-ish dinner; the food is nothing spectacular, but hey, they have a juke box, and we were there late night the other night after the opening gala and had a terrific waitress and perfectly cooked pancakes and omelets. Yum.
Where to get a cheap lunch: Mecca also has a good cheap lunch, and Athina Grill (528 Queen Anne Ave N), also across the street from Uptown, has decent Greek fare. If you’re looking for something a little faster there’s also Mo’s Subs (621 Queen Anne Ave) is really good, and new enough that they still try to please customers. Pagliacci Pizza (550 Queen Anne Ave N) is a Seattle favorite, though I’ve never been quite as enamored of it as many folks seem to, but they have a slice-and-salad buffet and are quick). If you’re in a burger mood, you’ve got Kidd Valley hamburgers, and Seattle staple Dick’s (500 Queen Anne Ave N) – with the caveat that this Dicks location is not my favorite (more on Dick’s below). Metropolitan Grocery on Mercer has a nice salad bar and hot bar — a bit spendy, but fresh and you can find something healthy there. If you don’t mind a little stroll, The Rock Wood Fired Pizza (300 W Roy) is better than Pagliacci, and they have a lunch buffet too.
Where to get dinner: Toulouse Petit (yes, again) is great for dinner, but reservations are a necessity and it is LOUD and crowded, not the best spot for intimate conversation. Peso, located next door, is another good bet. Down on Roy closer to SIFF Center you’ll find Bamboo Garden (364 Roy St), which has some of the best Asian-themed vegan food in the city, and Banh Thai (409 Roy St), my favorite Thai place near SIFF Center. The Rock Wood Fired Pizza is a good dinner option if you’re in the mood for that and didn’t have pizza for lunch.
Best happy hour/late night dining: Toulouse Petit also has TWO evening happy hours, one from 4PM-6PM and another late nights from 10PM-1AM, with an awesome cheap menu (most items are $5, 15 yummy cocktails for $7.50). Mecca is open until 2AM Mon-Thurs, 4AM Friday and Saturday, and has a juke box. Great spot to soak in the local flavor and eat some good greasy fare. The Rock Wood Fired Pizza has a great happy hour as well, and is open until midnight.
Venue: Pacific Place Cinemas
About the neighborhood: Pacific Place is right in downtown, between Pike and Pine and 6th and 7th. The well-lit, relatively safe parking garage is a bonus. Bussing to Pacific Place is pretty easy from most parts of Seattle, too. There’s usually a handful of panhandlers/homeless/pregnant teens/buskers/runaways hovering around, but they tend not to be quite as aggressive as the panhandlers in the U-District or Cap Hill, probably because there’s ritzy shopping in this area and rich people don’t like to be reminded there are poor people.
Where to get coffee: Your best bet for coffee in this neighborhood is, sadly, probably going to be Starbucks. There’s one located on 6th, right near the parking garage entrance, and another inside at Barnes and Noble.
Where to get breakfast: Your best best here is probably to grab a pastry or a bagel at Starbucks. Von’s, right across the street at The Roosevelt, does offer breakfast if you just need a sit-down meal to start your day, but I’ve never been impressed by the food or service here.
Where to get lunch: Unless you’re a vegan or vegetarian, you won’t want to miss a stop at Salumi Cured Meats in Pioneer Square while you’re downtown. You’ll want to hop a bus or cab it over, as Pioneer Square is fairly far-removed from Pacific Place, but it’s worth the schlep over. A Seattle legend, run by the family of celebrity chef Mario Batali, and hands down the best Italian cured meats you will ever have in your entire life. This place is TINY and you should expect a 30 minute wait in line. Think of it as part of the experience and make a friend in line while you wait. Expect that menu items will sell out while you’re waiting, and just trust that whatever you end up with will be amazing. They are only open M-F 11AM-3PM, but they are now doing a private lunch thing for parties of 8-10 on Weds and Thurs for $40/person if that’s more your thing and you can get in for that.
If you don’t want Salumi, there are other options for you. Pacific Place has a number of choices on the 4th floor by the movie theater, including Johnny Rockets (diner-style burgers) and a chowder joint — not quite as good as Ivars IMO if you’re looking for the Seattle fast-food chowder experience, but it’ll do in a pinch.
Where to get dinner: Also in Pacific Place are Thai Ginger (decent chain-type Thai food when you’re stuck at Pacific Place), a Mexican place (decent food and guac, though some of the items enchiladas are not the traditional Tex-Mex you’re used to though), and Gordon Biersch, which has a nice variety on their menu and a solidly good happy hour. My favorite place to eat at Pac Place is the froyo joint down on the concourse level, though. If you feel like venturing out and you love sushi, you don’t want to miss dining at Maneki, which has been serving locals and tourist some of the best sushi in town for over 100 years. It’s down in the ID (International District) on 6th between Jackson and Jefferson, a bit of a jaunt, but so worth it. For sushi closer to Pacific Place, try Dragonfish (right at 7th and Pine). They are okay and have good drink specials and sushi specials during happy hour especially, but service can be snooty and inattentive, especially when they’re busy.
If you’re going to venture out from Pacific Place anyhow, Palace Kitchen at 5th and Lenora in Belltown is hands-down my favorite place downtown to eat. This Tom Douglas establishment does pretty much everything right. They’re on their spring menu now, and the broth soup with carrot dumplings is fantastic and loaded with fresh, bright veggies. And do not miss the coconut cream pie here. SO good. Caveat: It’s a little spendy, but you can keep your bill under control by sticking with the burger ($15), which is super good. Another fave spot is Wild Ginger, which isn’t far from the W Hotel – spendy but delish. And while I’ve not tried it myself, I’ve heard many raves for Purple, a trendy-spendy spot that’s also near the W Hotel.
Best happy hour/late night dining: It’s a little touristy for me, but if you want to check out Ivars Acres of Clams down on the piers on Alaskan Way, they have happy hour from 3PM-10PM Monday-Thursday and 3PM to 11PM Friday and Saturday. Monday night is all-night happy hour at Club Noc Noc, which boasts some impressively strong cocktails and one of the best happy hour menus in town. Closer to Pacific Place, happy hour is perhaps the best time to check out Dragonfish (see above) In a pinch, Vons, located next to the Roosevelt Hotel right across the street from Pacific Place, has a brief happy hour from 5-6PM and an impressive selection of alcohol. I usually get a pear martini when I pop in there, but there’s plenty to choose from. Downsides: Very touristy, especially in the summer, and very crowded, and the service can be sllllllooooooow.
Venue: The Harvard Exit
About the neighborhood: First, let me say this is one of my favorite SIFF venues for the ambience and this particular Capitol Hill neighborhood is on my short list of places I will move when I no longer have six kids living at home. Supposedly there’s a ghost residing in the Exit, though to my disappointment I have yet to encounter it myself. This is an older theater with older seats, but it’s Landmark so they have real butter with the popcorn, and if you get a coffee at Joe Bar across the street they’ll let you bring it in. Downside of this venue is the parking is all residential and it completely sucks during the fest, but on the plus side it’s a fairly safe neighborhood when you’re walking back to your car late. PARKING HINT: There’s a pay parking lot that takes debit/credit cards tucked away behind the gas station at Roy and Broadway — very close to the Harvard Exit if you’re running late for a screening and can’t find reasonably close street parking.
Where to get coffee: Joe Bar is right across the street, and they make a good coffee and generally have some breakfasty options. However, Vivace Coffee a short walk down Broadway is not to be missed. I think it’s a city ordinance that you have to try a coffee at Vivace when you visit here. Seriously perfect coffee here, every single time. The Vivace cafe, which is closer to Harvard Exit, can get crowded, but there’s a quiet “study room” where you can drink your coffee and have some quiet if you’re in need of a little downtime. The outdoor storefront location halfway between Harvard Exit and The Egyptian (right across from Broadway Grill) is more fun, as it’s usually staffed by the snarkiest gay baristas and you can entertain yourself listening to their commentary of the fashion choices of passers-by while you wait. If you are on Cap Hill and get coffee at Starbucks, you are missing out on the opportunity to experience real Seattle coffee. So just don’t.
Where to get breakfast: Turn right coming out of Harvard Exit and you’ll hit Broadway, the main drag with lots of options. The Broadway Grill is a standby, and their patio is a great people-watching spot on a sunny day, but the last few times I’ve gone there the service has been so abysmally bad that I’m not sure I’ll keep going back. Joe Bar, as aforesaid, has limited items like quiche and pastries. Further down Broadway you’ll find Julia’s, which a lot of locals rave about, especially for breakfast. If you have a car, you could zip over to the other side of Cap Hill and try out Coastal Kitchen on 15th, which does good breakfasts and amazing coffee cake (you must get a slab to share while you await your meal). Victrola Coffee is right down from Coastal so you can grab a coffee to go on your way to your next screening. If you turn right coming out of Harvard Exit and walk up Roy to Summit, then hang a left (about a two minute walk) you’ll hit Top Pot Doughnuts. Worth the hike if you are a doughnut person and the hike back up the hill works off a few of the calories. Coffee here is decent-ish too.
Where to get lunch: There are tons of lunch options in Cap Hill, and when the weather is nice in June, many of them offer outdoor seating. Some of the best, most vibrant people-watching in Seattle is on Broadway in Cap Hill, unless you’re a fundamentalist Christian or hardcore Republican. Just take a stroll down Broadway and you’ll find everything from Greek to tacos to Mexican and Indian buffets to Pagliacci Pizza. Plenty to choose from, whether you’re in the mood to sit and relax or grab and go.
Where to get dinner: Olivar, located next to Joe Bar right across the street, is a place I’ve never tried because they are spendy and not the kind of place you go for a quick bite. But if you’ve got time to kill and money in your wallet, it’s probably worth trying as I’ve heard some raves about this place. If you have a vehicle and want soul food it’s worth trekking to The Kingfish Cafe (609 19th Ave NE) for the fried chicken and waffles and other such yumminess. And then here are abundant choices all down Broadway, depending on what you’re in the mood for. Than Brother’s Pho is a must-stop, especially if you’ve never had authentic pho like we have in Seattle. SO good and comes with a cream puff.
Venue: The Egyptian
About the neighborhood: My other fave SIFF venue, and also home of the midnight screenings. Located at the other end of Cap Hill, across the street from Seattle Community College. There’s limited street parking (metered until 8PM, pay attention to signage because Seattle traffic cops love them some parking tickets during tourist season especially). There is a parking garage diagonal to the theater, it’s fairly well-lit and safe for late night. Bus transit to this theater is super easy from downtown, though. It’s even walkable from downtown (I’d allow a good half-hour) if you don’t mind a good ass-crunching hill to keep those festival popcorn calories from settling in to stay.
On weekend nights especially Cap Hill is packed with college kids, punks, hipsters, musicians, artsy types and your usual panhandlers. Late Friday and Saturday nights there are the occasional bar fights and drunk girl friends smacking around boyfriends with their purses and such, which can be mildly entertaining if you stay out of the line of fire. All in all, though, one of my favorite Seattle neighborhoods to hang in.
Where to get coffee: For this end of Cap Hill near this venue I usually choose Caffe Vitta out of comfort and familiarity. They can get crowded but there’s also an upstairs and their wi-fi is decent. The other way down Pike you’ll find Cafe Victrola (good wi-fi here too) and Kaladi Brothers. Head down Pine toward downtown and you’ll find Stumptown Roasters and Bauhaus, which is worth popping into for the ambiance. Cupcake Royale, just up from Caffe Vita, also does surprisingly good coffee and you can get a yummy cupcake to go with it. They even have a gluten-free variety!
Where to get breakfast: Not a lot of breakfast options right near the Egyptian, so you might grab a pastry or bagel with your coffee. Somewhat nearish (especially if you have a car or like to walk) are Coastal Kitchen (429 15th Ave E, see above), Glo’s (1621 Olive Way E), Saley (1321 E Olive Way) for some awesome savory crepes, and Julia’s on Broadway (300 Broadway E, see above).
Where to get lunch: Hands-down, my favorite sammich stop in Cap Hill is HoneyHole (703 E Pike St.) Huge sandwiches – the pulled pork is great. Looks like a hole in the wall, but trust me, good eats — although like much of Cap Hill service can be questionable. Guanacos Tacos Pupuseria (219 Broadway E, between Olive and John) is one of Seattle’s best-kept secrets. One of my fave lunch places in this area, though, is Oddfellows Cafe (1525 10th Ave), which has great history and a very nice menu with lots of fresh, local ingredients. I have dreams about their grilled cheese, which has gruyere, carmelized onions and pear slices. They have a great selection of cookies and their biscuit with strawbery jam is very popular. Also: avoid the Indian place around the corner from the Egpytian, there is much better Indian elsewhere in Seattle.
P.S. Molly Moon’s Ice Cream (917 E Pine) is right around the corner. Expect a line in the summer but SO worth it. My fave here is the Lavender-Honey, but I also like the Salted Caramel. Lots of unique flavors, freshly made, and the waffle cones are yummy. Definitely a must-try if you’re visiting here and seeing films over at The Egyptian.
Where to get dinner: Most of the lunch places listed above are also not bad choices for dinner. To them I would add Ayutthaya Thai Restaurant, right around the corner from the Egyptian (727 E. Pike St). Definitely my fave Thai food on the Hill. A close second is Jamjuree (509 15th Ave E, near Coastal Kitchen), which I list as second here only because it’s not really walkable from the Egyptian and Ayutthaya is. There are also just a TON of cutesy little restaurants for dinner options all up and down Pike and Pine, many of which I haven’t tried, so you could also just roll the dice and check one of them out.
Best happy hour/late night dining:
A short hike up from the Egyptian you’ll find Boom Noodle (1121 E. Pike St), which I like much more as a happy hour stop than for dinner or lunch. Decent happy hour menu, I love their edamame puree and calamari, but pretty much everything I’ve had here is yummy. Good happy hour drink specials and the service tends to be friendly here, not Cap Hill snooty.
Late night, my two very favorite eating options in this part of Cap Hill are the hot dog vendors (try it with cream cheese, trust me), which can usually found somewhere near Comet Tavern (also a great spot to catch some Seattle music) and Big Mario’s New York Style Pizza (1009 E. Pike, also near Comet Tavern). Absolutely the BEST late-night slices in Seattle, real NY-style, thin crust pizza with a slightly spicy sauce, served up proper on a cheap paper plate and dripping with grease. Hell yeah. Sidle up to the pizza bar and grab your slices to go, and eat out on the sidewalk with the array of interesting Cap Hill late night characters.
For more “civilized” options, Oddfellows Cafe is open until midnight Mon-Thurs, 2AM on Friday and Saturday, and also has good drinks. Tavern Law (1406 12th Ave) has some truly fabulous cocktails and a super-secret teensy upstairs bar where the bartender will custom-make a drink based on your taste. Worth the experience if you’re not on a budget. But there’s plenty of places to drink cheap in Seattle, and also an abundance of LGBT hangouts. Just ask around if that’s what you’re looking for.
There’s also a Dick’s a little hike up Broadway from The Egyptian, and this is a better Dick’s than the Queen Anne location. Here’s the things about Dick’s: Walk-up counter only. Always lines, but they move quickly. Know what you want by the time you reach the window, they have no patience for , “Um, let me think ….” once it’s your turn to be served. There are NO special orders, and it’s cash only. My Dick’s go-to is the Deluxe with cheese, fries and a chocolate shake. The shakes here are the bomb. Warning: DO NOT JAYWALK to get across the street to this Dick’s. The police stalk this location, especially at night, to ticket jaywalkers. A jaywalking ticket in Seattle is not cheap.