Seattle for the Budget Conscious
Betsy Crouch, December 2004
Your bags are packed, your program for the meeting dog-eared, and you are geared up to hit the Seattle streets when your friend reminds you that Forbes.com recently named Seattle the most overpriced city in America. Have no fear, for there are some very good deals in town!
For inexpensive entertainment, wander through the new Seattle Public Library, an architectural wonder designed by Rem Koolhaas (1000 4th Ave.). Bargain shoppers can visit Nordstrom Rack, the off-price offshoot of the upscale store, at 2nd and Pike or the basement sale section at Bon-Macy's downtown store (4th & Pike). Pacific Place Shopping Center cinema and Loew's Meridian 16 sell cheap matinee tickets before dusk. Cinerama (2100 4th Ave.) offers student-priced tickets with ID and a memorable movie experience with its retro ‘60s décor.
Live music lovers can hit the Crocodile Café (2200 2nd Ave.) or see what's playing at the Showbox (1426 1st Ave.). The Liquid Lounge in the Experience Music Project (325 5th Ave. N.) is a cool place to get a drink, since there is no cover charge for the live music and you'll see part of the EMP on the way in. Local free weekly papers The Stranger and the Seattle Weekly list upcoming concerts and other events. (Caveat lector! These two are “alternative” media, so readers who prefer less risqué weekly newspapers may wish to consult the Seattle Times.)
Seattle means coffee; pay homage at the original Starbucks (1912 Pike Pl.). Also try Seattle's Best Coffee (506 Union St. or 400 Pike St.) or Tullys (925 Seneca or 701 5th Ave.) or a closer branch of Starbucks (721 Pine St.. or 600 University St.). Face it, wherever you turn, there's coffee. Caffe Ladro (801 Pine St. or 108 Union St.), Caffe D'Arte (125 Stewart St.), and B&O Espresso (204 Belmont Ave. E.) brew some of the best cups in the city. Uptown Espresso at 4th and Wall boasts of velvet foam, and in the University District, the Ugly Mug Café at 43rd Street and Brooklyn is a hot spot for a yummy mocha.
Now that we have covered your free time, let's turn to your mealtimes. Inside the Washington State Convention Center you'll find a number of dining opportunities; the best choices are the burritos at Taco del Mar (open Mon.–Sat., 10:30 a.m.–8 p.m. and Sun., 12–6 p.m.) or Subway Sandwiches (Mon.–Fri., 7 a.m.–10 p.m; Sat.–Sun., 9 a.m.–10 p.m.).
For excellent happy hour snack bargains, head to the Dragonfish Café at 722 Pine Street for happy hour specials available between 4–6 p.m. and again from 10 p.m.–closing. Try the $1.95 sushi plates and $2.95 small plates, but go early to beat the crowds. Another of Seattle's best deals is the happy hour (Thur. And Fri. 3:30–6:00 p.m. and 10:00–12:00 p.m.; Sat. and Sun. from 4:00–6:00 p.m. and from 10:00 p.m.–12:00 a.m.) at McCormick and Schmick's where selected menu items cost $1.95. You will find one at 1103 First Avenue and another at 722 Fourth Avenue. Go to the top of Pacific Place Shopping Mall (600 Pine St.) to fill up at the all-you-can-eat sushi restaurant, Todai.
Bakeries make for good affordable breakfasts. 2408 1st Avenue is home to Macrina Bakery, where the baked goods are heavenly. The Golden Bagel Café (1900 5th Ave.) or the Dahlia Bakery (2001 4th Ave.) offer perfect breakfast and lunch takeout. Some say the best donuts in town are served at Pike Place Market between the newsstand and the pig statue, while others argue for the mouth-watering fare at Top Pot Donuts (2124 5th Ave.).
Further away, restaurants that serve appetizing food at low prices include Ivar's Acres of Clams (1001 Alaskan Way). Try their fish and chips and other delicious seafood. At 2nd and Stewart, Mamacita's makes a killer burrito, as does Bimbo's Bitchin' Burrito Kitchen at 506 E. Pine. Wander down to South Jackson Street and the International District for some of the best Asian food in town. Shanghai Gardens (524 6th Ave. S.) offers a vast menu and Ocean City Restaurant (609 S. Weller) specializes in dim sum. Try the delicious sandwiches at Salumi (309 Third Ave. S.). Fans of phô will love Ballet Restaurant (914 E. Pike St.). In Belltown, the venerable Virginia Inn is always a good bet (1927 1st Ave.). For a wide food selection at reasonable prices, great people watching, and spectacular views visit Pike Place Market. Le Panier, the French bakery, sells fantastic baked goods and sandwiches; the Soundview Café combines gorgeous views with memorable food; and the Market Grill makes unforgettable clam chowder. El Puerco Lloran dishes up Mexican fare. Lowell's and the Athenian Inn offer good breakfast deals and about 15 or so other take-out places specialize in everything from hot dogs to piroshky. If that doesn't work, buy fresh foods from various market vendors and add a bouquet of flowers to brighten your hotel room.
Happy hour drink deals abound in downtown Seattle. At the Noc Noc (1516 2nd Ave.), some drinks sell for a mere $1 from 5–9 p.m. Locals favor The Nite Lite at 2nd and Virginia. For those out for a little fun, Shorty's Coney Island (2222 2nd Ave.) serves $1 Pabst Blue Ribbon from 12–4 p.m., and also features hot dogs and video games. Fans of brew pubs should head down to Pyramid Alehouse (1201 1st Ave. S.) to sample some of the Northwest's better brews. The Six Arms (600 E. Pike) specializes in pub grub and the Elysian Brewing Company (1221 E. Pike) combines appetizing food and excellent beers.
Capitol Hill, just up the hill from the Convention Center, is one of Seattle's hippest neighborhoods. Try Dick's Drive-In (115 Broadway Ave. E.), a Seattle institution where legendary burgers, fries, and a shake sell for less than $4. Enjoy flavorful, inexpensive Mexican food at Taqueria Guaymas (213 Broadway E.). At 611 Supreme (611 E. Pine St.), try the fresh crepes; across the street, Hot Mama's (700 E. Pine St.) offers great pizza by the slice. The Green Cat Café (1514 E. Olive Way) and El Greco (219 Broadway E.) dish up tasty breakfasts.
The University District is also home to bargain eats. Kai's Bistro (1312 NE 43rd St.) serves $3 food during happy hour and drink specials all night. The best Thai food in town is at the Thai-ger Room (4228 University Way NE) or Thai-Thom (4543 University Way NE). The Continental (4549 University Way NE) serves coffee, feta-cheese omelets, and potatoes for under $7.
Hope this helps make your stay affordable while still being enjoyable!
— Betsy Crouch is a PhD candidate at the University of Washington at Seattle and is the 2005 LAC assistant.