The Pike Place Market smells like anchovies and piss. The Ballard Locks are interesting for about three minutes. The Seattle Art Museum is free one day a month. The monorail tends to catch on fire. Seattle Center is a concrete wasteland, perfect for solitary reflection. And the food at the Space Needle tastes like you're flying coach.
Welcome to Seattle.
Now that we've gotten the major attractions out of the way, I would like to acquaint you with the few haunts that redeem this place. As someone who grew up here but was too lazy to get off his ass and move to a real city, these are the things about Seattle that keep me sane. Some you'll visit without any prodding from me—you'll be dragged to the Cha Cha by friends, you'll be reminded that Pagliacci serves Seattle's favorite pizza by every best-of-the-city readers' poll, and you'll face the surly bouncers at clubs recommended in local papers. But the best spots are never the ones recommended by hack writers who think they know what's cool, anyway. So check out these spots—which were cool until the second this paper went to print.
Where to Shop for Food
Vietnamese Grocery Stores: Take $40 to 12th Avenue South and South Jackson Street in the International District and you'll leave with more fresh produce, halibut cheeks, and hot sauce than you can cram into your beer fridge. (Hau Hau Market, 412 12th Ave S, 329-1688; Viet Wah Super Market, 1032 S Jackson St, 329-1399.)
Trader Joe's: Seattle has three of them, all selling mostly prepared meals. And if you have access to a microwave, you'll never starve. More importantly, they sell wine for three bucks a bottle. (U-District, 4555 Roosevelt Way NE, 547-6299; Capitol Hill, 1700 E Madison St, 322-7268; Queen Anne, 112 W Galer St, 378-5536.)
Mutual Fish Company: Nobody actually shops at Mutual Fish, so don't feel like you should, either. But if anyone asks, they have the best seafood in town. (2335 Rainier Ave S, 322-4368, www.mutualfish.com.)
Erotic Bakery: Need an anus Bundt cake? Sure you do. (2323 N 45th St, 545-6969, www.theeroticbakery.com.)
Where to Shop for Everything Else
Value Village: The Seattle hipster faces a quandary at the city's premier used-stuff emporium. It has the widest selection of undersized ironic T-shirts in town... but the proceeds go to support a good cause. (Multiple locations, including 1525 11th Ave, 322-7789, www.valuevillage.com.)
Display and Costume: Posters of hot chicks on your ceiling make for solitary fun, but a giant papier-mâché gorilla is sure to impress the ladies. Serving all your chicken-suit-rental and Barbie-piñata needs since 1952. (11201 Roosevelt Way NE, 362-4810, www.displaycostume.com.)
Daiso: Bizarre yet practical housewares you've come to love from the Japanese—all at dollar-store prices. (Westlake Center, 400 Pine St, 625-0076.)
Left Bank Books: You can't shoot down your friends' retarded conspiracy theories unless you know them yourself. Also, find manuals on nefarious skills they'll never teach you in school. (92 Pike St, 622-0195, www.leftbankbooks.com.)
Rudy's: The haircuts are under $20 and look better than your best attempt with a Flowbee. Ideal for thrill seekers willing to test their luck with a hungover hipster wielding razor-sharp scissors. (Multiple locations, including 4738 University Way NE, 527-5267 and 614 E Pine St, 329-3008; www.rudysbarbershop.com.)
Liquor Stores: All hard liquor by the bottle is sold in state-run stores, operating roughly the same hours as banks. (Multiple locations, 360-664-1600, www.liq.wa.gov/services/storesearch.asp.)
Babeland: Sex stores don't all have that creepy smell or ponytailed bears working behind the counter. Babeland's charming staff makes your most acute kink seem downright wholesome. Also, check out the Crypt, with the aforementioned scent and clerks, for everything you can't find at Babeland. (Babeland, 707 E Pike St, 328-2914, www.babeland.com; The Crypt, 113 10th Ave E, 325-3882.)
Where to Drink
The Crescent: Much more fun if you call it the croissant, the interior is grimy and the karaoke is atrocious. (1413 E Olive Way, 726-1774.)
Twilight Exit: Rehashed classic pop passed off as "indie rock" and feckless hipsters remind you that at least your life is going somewhere. (2051 E Madison St, 324-7462.)
Thompson's Point of View: A down-home, authentic African-American establishment that is so down-home and authentic most of my black friends are afraid to go inside. The food is tasty and the drinks are Herculean. (2308 E Union St, 329-2512.)
The Zig Zag: Murray Stenson is the best bartender in Seattle. If there were no bar for him to tend, he would be another mad genius on the loose. Keep him busy and tip him well. (On the Pike Place Market hill climb, 1501 Western Ave #202, 625-1146.)
Big Time Brewery & Alehouse: Learn the history, chemistry, and politics of beer. Or learn history, chemistry, and politics while you drink beer. (4133 University Way NE, 545-4509, www.bigtimebrewery.com.)
How You'll Get There
Metro Buses: Metro's slogan is, "We'll get you there." They promise nothing more, so don't expect it. However, a few bus lines are fast—the downtown to U-District express lines run every 15 minutes—but most others are slow, smelly, and sporadic. (Trip planners, route maps, and schedules at www.transit.metrokc.gov, BUS-TIME.)
Bike: Buy a bike, wear a helmet, and learn to love the hills. You can also put your bike on the bus at no extra charge.
Where to Procrastinate
Golden Gardens Park: Setting shit on fire at the beach is one of life's simple pleasures. Pour your beer in a cup or police officers will make you pour it in the fire. (Way out in Ballard: 8498 Seaview Pl NW, www.seattle.gov/parks/parkspaces/golden.htm.)
Seattle's Best Karaoke: BYOB private karaoke rooms—because practicing "Don't Stop Believin'" before you butcher it at Ozzie's is only courteous, and because singing "Holding Out for a Hero" is too shameful even in the shower. (1818 Minor Ave, 343-6599, www.sbkaraoke.com.)
Cascade Mountains: You're not in Kansas anymore—we've got big rocks covered in snow. Join the masses escaping the city's wet, gray winters by heading for the pass and skiing and snowboarding at one of the many nearby slopes. Smoke dope on the chairlift. (www.summitatsnoqualmie.com.)
Central Library: I'm writing this at the downtown Seattle library, which has free Wi-Fi and hot guys. The phenomenal architecture features lofty spaces to hang out with your laptop and a multistory "spiral" makes for fun getting lost while looking for books. (1000 Fourth Ave, 264-1120, www.spl.org.)
Coffee Shops: You can identify tourists and suburban commuters by their Starbucks coffee cups. You're not a tourist: Develop your own trademarkable coffee order with 26 modifiers at one of Seattle's bajillion independent coffee shops. (At least one within a stone's throw of where you stand.)
Where to Smoke Pot
All Over: Pretty much everywhere within Seattle city limits is a haven for tokers since voters passed Initiative 75, which made marijuana possession by adults the city's lowest law-enforcement priority. Rejoicing aside—and as the leader of the campaign to pass the measure, I want to you to rejoice—don't blow pot smoke in a cop's face or commit another crime while in possession and expect to beat the rap. Also important, don't get caught smoking in UW dorms—UW campus rules are set by the state's laws, not the city's, so residential advisers are required to call UW officers on puffin' pupils, who then face arrest and expulsion. Harsh toke.
Where to Have Sex
Your Dorm Room: "Hey, roomie. Me and Ted need a couple hours of study time, m'kay? And The Stranger has this nifty guide to the city, see. Here's 20 bucks. Have fun." Wear a condom.
Those Nasty-Ass Motels on Aurora: They were built for pilgrims attending the World's Fair in 1962, but now serve working girls and their johns, and those with a fetish for coating everything they touch with Lysol.
That Vast Field of Tall Grass and Shrubs Just East of Husky Stadium: Although it isn't one of the many unlandscaped spaces managed by the parks department, which are also prime for your publicly private affairs, these vacant acres are useful when your Jeebus-lovin' roomie threatens to return home at any moment and you need a nearby place to play hide the sausage.