Two decades after a motley crew of flannel-shirted musos put Seattle on the map, the Emerald City is being heralded for its entrepreneurial spirit and rich culinary and craft traditions.
Galleries, boutique hotels and upscale restaurants are opening in dizzying succession alongside those original dingy dive dens as Seattle shows off a clear glimpse of its personality – now equal parts grunge and glam. In addition to exploring the city's Sub Pop hangs, a prerequisite for a perfect weekend in Seattle is ticking off great places to eat and drink.
If you're looking to link elbows with someone, as per that serendipitous hook-up in Sleepless in Seattle, check into the Thompson Seattle Hotel, opposite Pike Place Market in Belltown. The landmark property is much loved for its rooftop bar and lounge, The Nest, where you'll find Seattle's techy tribes. The midcentury-styled bar is softly lit, with crackling fire pits and an expansive terrace overlooking the Olympic Mountains and Elliott Bay. Plant yourself near the bar for a pre-dinner cocktail.
Small producers are key at Scout PNW, where executive chef Derek Simcik's menu is one of unceremonious simplicity, with dishes such as albacore crudo with baby spring vegetables and a main of duck with a confit sunchoke, salsa verde and rhubarb agrodolce. Farmers' table-style meals are served in the warm, convivial bistro operated by the Huxley Wallace Collective, a restaurant group that also oversees Vestal, Kiki Ramen, Westward, Great State Burger, The Nest, Saint Helens and Quality Athletics.
The city's grunge heritage remains evident in its fashion, art and culture. Many of the '90s hangouts are still top spots to observe Seattle's subcultures. Linda's Tavern was reportedly the last place Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain was seen alive, so it's crawling with pilgrims and insiders who were part of the original Sub Pop scene (the indie label that gave the world grunge). You can also enjoy a wee dram at Canon, which has America's largest spirit collection, or head underground to Bathtub Gin & Co., a Prohibition-style speakeasy full of sipsters nursing cuatros manos.
Join Road Dog Tours to be drip-fed jolts of java during a bespoke jaunt around the city's coffee scene. The tour wheels you to some of Seattle's best, including Caffe Umbria and Americana. If it's a milk-based coffee you're after, head to Milstead & Co., which nails the velvety smooth texture Australians crave. If you're a cold-brew fanatic, head to General Porpoise, where you can pair that house-made doughnut filled with jam and cream with a piccolo.
Forgo lunch and head to Salty's on Alki Beach Seafood Grill, which has taken out the best brunch in Seattle gong for years. Salty's is a special-occasion place to enjoy local seafood, with views of Puget Sound and the city skyline. After nabbing a banquette with a view, head straight to the stand serving Dungeness crabs and oysters. Quality Athletics is another bright outpost for brunch or lunch as it's close to the home grounds of the Seahawks (American football) and Sounders (soccer). Gnaw on some buffalo wings then join the river of people pouring into the nearby stadium to cheer on their team.
At smart casual fish house Steelhead Diner you'll find chef Kevin Davis and his Australian-born wife Terresa. The restaurateurs, who also own Blueacre and Orfeo, have curated a rotating menu of Creole-inflected dishes such as jumbo crab cakes and gumbo, which support sustainable fisheries. Pop in for a nightcap at nearby Radiator Whiskey, a sweet little boozer in the Pike Place Market.
Sunday mornings in Seattle are for sleeping in and then moseying to a market. First-time visitors should sign up for Savor Seattle's signature tour of Pike Place Market, which opened in 1907 and is one of the oldest continuously operated public farmers' markets in the US. The tour offers a progressive breakfast in the form of small bites from some of the market's most famous merchants, including Beecher's Handmade Cheese and Piroshky Piroshky. Those who like to talk and taste should also visit Ballard Farmers Market, where you will find farmers with the day's dust still on their boots.
You won't see Seattlites getting lit at Seattle's original craft brewery, Redhook Brewlab. This is a brew bar for connoisseurs and those who appreciate the company's long-term commitment to cutting back on beer miles. In addition to the sustainable brewing methods, the menu takes advantage of the best local produce available. Pair a pub burger, with gruyere and fancy sauce, with a Big Ballard Imperial IPA.
Darkness falls like a curtain in Seattle. And when it does, one of the best places to be is Capitol Hill. Use your maps app to navigate around the back alleys of Chophouse Row to find restaurants and bars with minimal signage such as Bar Ferdinand, which is popular for its dry-aged meats. One of the neighbourhood hotspots is Poquitos, where regulars come in for carne asada and tortilla soup. Back in downtown Seattle, Hotel Theodore has swung open the doors of Rider restaurant, where a waitress with blue hair pirouettes around the space with plates of carrots with spiced honey and feta and pull-apart rolls with crab butter. Peel yourself off the banquette for a nightcap in the adjacent bar, where, after a few negronis, those left-field ideas may well flourish.
Carla Grossetti was a guest of Visit Seattle.
Where to stay
Thompson Seattle Hotel, thompsonhotels.com
Where to go
The Nest, thompsonhotels.com
Linda's Tavern, lindastavern.com
Bathtub Gin & Co., bathtubginseattle.com
Road Dog Tours, roaddogtours.com
Milstead & Co, milsteadandco.com
General Porpoise, gpdoughnuts.com
Quality Athletics, qualityathletics.com
Steelhead Diner, steelheaddiner.com
Radiator Whiskey, radiatorwhiskey.com
Savor Seattle, savorseattletours.com
Pike Place Market, pikeplacemarket.org
Ballard Farmers Market, sfmamarkets.com
Redhook Brewlab, redhook.com
Bar Ferdinand, barferdinandseattle.com