I flew out to Seattle last week to visit my brother. We hadn’t seen each other in almost two years, so I wanted to check in with him. It was a pretty good visit. He didn’t know I was coming, so neither one of us had anything planned, but he made some suggestions for places to check out, and I had a good time exploring.
Dinner Tuesday was at Smokin’ Pete’s BBQ, at 1918 NW 65th St (65th and 20th). I cannot recommend this place enough. I ate there in 2004, and it was just as good last week as I remembered from that visit. My brother and I split The Combo – a sampler of chicken, ribs, brisket and sausage with two sides and a choice of hushpuppies or cornbread muffins. We had beans and Seattle greens for sides, and some of the moistest hushpuppies I have ever had. They serve Thomas Kemper soft drinks there, made locally with cane sugar, not HFCS. I had the Black Cherry soda, and it was great. My brother had the Blood Orange, which he pronounced “pretty good.” Great service there, too. They also run Thursday Night Live, from 6:30 to 9:00 PM weekly. Check out this page to see recent groups.
Wednesday night we ended up at La Isla, a Puerto Rican place down on Market Street. It’s been around for about five years, and claims to be the only Puerto Rican restaurant in Seattle, and possibly in the state of Washington. Great atmosphere and décor. I had the Ropa Vieja: shredded skirt steak, julienned peppers and onions, red wine, and adobo. I substituted Arroz Con Gandules (Yellow rice and green pigeon peas) for the rice and beans usually served. I had a Malta wheat style root beer that didn’t appeal to me, but others may like.
I did touristy stuff Thursday, making my way down to Chittenden Locks and the Pike Place Market. I grew up in a small river town. There were locks and dams in the county, but nothing close to my part of town, so I never spent much time there. That made the Chittenden Locks that much more interesting. The Locks provide boat passage between Puget Sound and Lakes Washington and Union, maintain the water depth of those lakes at about 20-22 feet, and prevent salt water intrusion into the freshwater lakes. Officially opened in 1917, the Locks operate 24/7 and move 165 boats per day on average, and over 60,000 per year, making it the busiest set of locks in the country.
If you’ve never watched a boat pass through locks, it’s quite interesting. The boat enters the lock chambers, and massive doors close behind it; the doors in front are already closed. Water is then added to or drained from the lock chamber, depending on which direction the boat is traveling. Some locks use pumps to move the water, but Chittenden doesn’t, relying on gravity to move the water. When the water level is high or low enough, the appropriate doors are opened. During the day, traffic is steady enough that there are always boats waiting, so there’s rarely a need to cycle the locks while empty.
There’s a gift shop and Visitor Center at the Locks, as well as the Carl S. English, Jr. Botanical Garden. It’s a fun way to spend a couple of hours. Be sure to check out the salmon ladder, too.
After the Locks, I headed down to the Pike Place Market. The Market is one of Washington’s most frequently visited tourist destinations, with over 10 million visitors annually. It was created in 1907 by City Councilman Thomas Revelle in response to exorbitant price increases on groceries. The idea was for consumers to meet the producers face-to-face, and they still do. Pike Place is home to some 190 craftspeople and approximately 100 farmers who rent table space by the day, along with over 200 regular commercial businesses, and another 150 street performers. You can easily spend an entire day down here and not see it all, but you’ll be well-fed when you’re done!
Friday I made my way up to Everett, and the Future of Flight Boeing Plant Tour. This is the only regularly-scheduled aircraft factory tour in the country, and it’s quite interesting. Make sure you go on a weekday, so you see the productions lines in operation. You’ll see the 747, 777 and 787 production lines, but all you’ll have is memories: no photos allowed, and they’re pretty strict about it. You’re not allowed to take any electronic devices on the 90-minute tour. If you’ve got a kid who’s an aviation buff, this is a must-see. They’ve got a great fun and educational gallery to spend some time in; kids even get to design their own plane!
After the Boeing tour, head to the other end of Paine Field and check out the Flying Heritage Collection, home to 16 beautifully restored flying aircraft from the early days of aviation.
Seattle is a great place to visit. Plan your trip soon. I know we’ll be back.