Explore Seattle with Designer Terry Marks

It’s a sunny day here in Seattle as I write. Ah, yes, the very reasons why we live here: Water, sun (mild, mind you), trees and fresh air abound. Little can top summer in the Northwest. It’s the best three weeks of the year.

A trite jab at our weather notwithstanding, Seattle is a great city. Nestled in the tree-laden Pacific Northwest, situated on the gorgeous Elliott Bay, with the Cascade Mountains to the east, Mt. Rainier to the south, the Olympic Mountains to the west and the Space Needle pointing the way north, it’s a lovely little place to be.

If you should have the good fortune to visit our little burg, there are endless suggestions that could be made for food, drink and fun. While my charge is to enumerate the top must-visit venues for the design-oriented, I will demur and promise to hand out a few that nearly anyone should enjoy. Superlatives are so five minutes ago.

Where to Stay
The design-oriented will enjoy the Ace Hotel on First Avenue in Belltown. Surrounded by all that is noisy and hip, it’s in the middle of the foray. (acehotel.com)

If you’d like a vaguely more serene existence (and a guaranteed private bath), The Hotel 1000 might fit the bill. Also on First, (at 1000 First Ave. no less) it boasts a modern aesthetic with artwork at every turn. The level of care and hospitality is truly impressive and personable. On the Robb Report for top 100 Luxury hotels and winner of numerous other awards, the rooms have every detail considered from digital concierge phones, to heating/cooling systems that will learn your preferences and true high-def TVs with every connection known to man right down to LED flashlights, should you ever need one. Even the doorbell (yes, rooms have doorbells) has an infrared sensor so that housekeeping will never interrupt should there be a person in the room. Spacious bathrooms have rainfall tubs (that inject nitrogen into the water so it fills as a perfect column) with a glass-walled baths and high-end soaps and amenities. The fitness facilities are more than adequate as is its virtual championship golf center. After all this, you might need a trip to its on-property spa. For dinner and cocktails, the surprisingly good Boka will more than suffice. To wind down, the fireside room is yours to enjoy at your whim. Overall, a great place to stay. (hotel1000seattle.com)

Where to Dine

Seattle is a wonderful, and ever-changing, place to dine. Amidst it all, choosing only three is a tall order. Being a fan of wine list, the Bo La Lot—flank steak wrapped in la lot leaves—and the ever-tasty Drunken Chicken, I have to mention Monsoon. Their grilled prawns with cucumber and lemongrass striped bass are worth a try, too. Approachably sophisticated and a beautiful twist on Vietnamese, Monsoon is a little masterpiece crafted by brother and sister Eric and Sophie Bahn. Go—as soon as you land. (monsoonseattle.com)

On the cozy side, those who love good food and wine will enjoy the 20-seat Sitka & Spruce on Eastlake. Casual and somehow upscale at the same, the tiny gem leans on the local, touting lush seafood—halibut cheeks, salmon, scallops—and oh-so-fresh vegetables with a menu that constantly morphs, depending upon what is available. You’ll enjoy small portions of many tastes and are sure to find a few winners. Like a sublime experiment in the culinary, the sum of it all is well worth the trip and the not inordinate cost. (sitkaandspruce.com)

Lastly, I prefer a place that is in the Queen Anne neighborhood, complete with a full bar and a menu that’s treated with love, perhaps spelled “l-u-v”: Moxie. The tag-team creation of Chef Laurie Carter and veteran restaurateur Pete Morrison, Moxie focuses on food that is for sheer enjoyment. With surprising portions and obviously detailed attention to preparation, Moxie’s entrees such as Pork Tenderloin and Wescott Bay mussels are bold and the service is professional, pleasant and just right. Start with a cocktail, move on to wine with your meal let them pick the dessert. It’ll be a great night.

Hot Spot for Java

While espresso, neé coffee, is ubiquitous in RainCity, there’re a few spots that deserve mention when you need caffeinated. Particularly good java is to be had at any Caffe Ladro or Caffe Vita. If you see Caffe Unmbria’s logo, feel free to dive in. If you need a cupcake to go with it, try Cupcake Royale where they use Portland’s Stumptown Coffee. For a particularly beautiful experience, the Panama Hotel Teahouse (& espresso) is quite nice. Good goods to be had at Zeitgeist as well.

Where to Stop for a Drink

When drinking’s on your mind, try Linda’s Tavern (Pike or Pine on Cap Hill) or Cha Cha Lounge (also on Cap Hill). If you’re in Ballard, aka new hipsterville, get thee to King’s Hardware and after, maybe go close down Hattie’s Hat. It’s been there forever and many are the notable names who have stumbled out it’s doors.

For the discerning buyer, check out Peter Miller Books at First and Virginia. (Then take in a pint at the Virginia Inn across the street). Just up the block, Paperhaus is sure to have a thing or two you’ll like. Take a stroll through the International District for your fill of odd and beautiful things from the East.

Take in the City
To work up your appetite, take the Ferry to Winslow on Bainbridge Island. It’s like falling off the city. Being on the water is a blessed thing. If you miss the new downtown Seattle Public Library, you’ll miss our homage to the Borg cube. It’s a fantastic landmark the city needed. Down by the water, the new Olympic Sculpture Park is better than one might expect. The Seattle Art Museum (SAM) boasts the handiwork of Pentagram. What’s not to like?

There’s a slice of my city. I hope you enjoy it.

Terry Marks is principal of tmarks, a multi-disciplinary creative firm in Seattle, WA. He is a published author including Color Harmony: Layout, Mr.Crumbly Dreams A Tiger, a HOW “Perfect 10” and Good Design. Terry is a frequent speaker on design and inspiration. He is an AIGA Fellow, has helped guide the Seattle LINK program for 15 years is an evangelist for the SAPPI Ideas That Matter program. His mother still wants for him to be a doctor.