Monday, December 14, 2009

Hippie chic meets Power walker meets Pub crawler ( + Cup o' Joe Monday, Installment XIV)

New decaf favorite: steamed milk with vanilla!

In anticipation of a busy (as always) Monday, I "worked" ahead and hit up a new coffee-spot yesterday so I wouldn't miss another Cup o' Joe review this week! It was a good day for trekking to a new spot, too, as yesterday appears to have been the last sunny day in a long streak of beautiful rain-free weather. Now that the rain's trickling down my windows again tonight, I'm filled with a bit of trepidation for the coming months...the cold but sunny days have been nice. The sky starts getting dark around 3:30 p.m. this time of year, so when it's gloomy all seven hours of "daylight", it's a bit of a bummer.

But anyway - I dropped/broke my phone yesterday on my run, so what was supposed to be a long, relaxing afternoon off from work turned into a necessary trek downtown to the Verizon store to solve my phone issue. The issue with the Verizon store is that it's Seriously Downtown. No reasonably priced parking anywhere nearby, horrendous traffic to get there, even as a pedestrian...I kind of miss the little Oberlin Verizon store I could hop on my bike and be at in about two minutes flat from just about anywhere in town. But, on the bright side, I realize how rarely I ever get down to Serious Downtown Seattle, despite living within easy walking distance of it. So it was a good, get-me-out-of-my-bubble experience.

A friend from college (it feels strange to refer to anybody as a "friend from college", but I am, simply because I can), John, visited Seattle a couple weeks ago. I got together with him toward the end of his few days here, and he was very Ehh about Seattle as a city. I was more or less horrified by his blase attitude toward what I think is, hands down, the best city in the world - but after yesterday, I think I kind of understand.

Maybe it was just the Christmas-shopping-frenzy, but Serious Downtown Seattle (where, likely, the majority of visitors and tourists spend their time here) is kind of...awful! It's swarming and overrun with people, and there's too many buildings, and it's all icky department stores and overpriced boutiques...basically, all the reasons I don't consider myself inclined to urban living at all. I got accosted at every street corner, and then some, by everybody from political activists to aggressive homeless people to drunken tourists to creepy men to a couple obnoxious AT&T salesmen hassling me about my Verizon shopping bag. It was stressful!

Miraculously at some point, though, I was pacing down a pedestrian-swamped downtown thoroughfare (think flashing billboard ads and Macy's and H&M and a line around two city blocks to sit on Santa's lap in Nordstrom's) and suddenly heard my name being called out. I snapped out of my harried city-goer haze and caught a familiar face - someone I met in Kaplan training several months ago. Fun to be getting to that point where I run into people I know wherever I go...seeing an Obie a week at REI, running into my cycling instructor at Capitol Hill coffeeshops, bumping grocery carts at Trader Joe's with the cute couple who always plays duets at my favorite local open mic night...

I love Seattle for its neighborhoods - for the fact that in any direction, there's a little microcosm of self-contained, distinct culture, whether it be the gay-fabulous hippie chic of Capitol Hill, the down-to-Earth, indie/artsy vibe of Fremont, the live-music, late-night, bar-hopping, pub-crawling wildness of Ballard, the runners' and power-walkers' paradise of Greenlake, or the theater-boasting cultural mecca of Lower Queen Anne. Anywhere you go, you can feel like you've walked into a quaint little village, each with its own distinct coffeeshops and ethnic restaurants and local shops, fraught with its own parks and hills and various views of the Space Needle, the Sound, Lake Union, Lake Washington, the Cascades, the Olympics, Mount Rainier...the multitude of familiar Seattle icons, but each neighborhood set to its own soundtrack.

Yesterday was, miraculously, the first time that I've actually gone to the infamous, fish-flying Pike Place Market since moving here. (No, I still haven't been up the Space Needle...) It was kind of cool to see it in all its Christmas spirit, and full of saltwater smells and fresh fruit stands and the distinctive scent of pine needles:

But all of this rambling, and no mention yet of my coffeeshop d'jour! I had hauled my camera and laptop along with me on my whole downtown adventure, with the thought that I might come across some adorable little cafe somewhere...but at least on all the streets I traversed, there was nothing but the big three: Starbuck's, Tully's, and Seattle's Best Coffee. No can do. So I trekked on back to good ol' Capitol Hill and hit up the other Victrola - on Pike Street.

It has far less seating than the one up on 15th - but on the upside: the smaller, more intimate setting lent itself to a much cozier feel than the other one. The baristas were much friendlier here, and the giant group tables made this place more conducive to hanging out collectively with strangers, rather than plunking down at a tiny, solo table to burrow away alone and work. Also, in further complaints against the 15th location, Seyeon and I met there for coffee ( juice for me; steamed milk for her...haha, we're such sophisticated young urbanites!) a few nights ago and they played the most atrocious, eardrum-destroying noise I'd ever sat through in a coffeeshop. Just awful.

Complete with Cute and Trendy Hipster Girls.

But at this location, everything was mellow and cozy and inviting. The exposed brick wall is a nice touch...the current artwork a little too gothy and morbid for my taste, but I understand that stuff rotates.

Complete with Cute Artist Boy in a Hoodie.

The other cool thing about this place is that it has an in-cafe roasting room. If I knew more about the coffee-roasting process, I could probably better articulate just what goes on in that room, but frankly, I'm clueless. Nevertheless, I got the same excited feeling you get when you're at a brewery and the giant beer-brewing tub-things (obviously, I'm clueless about that, too) are in the next room over, separated from you only by huge panes of glass. You feel like you're getting in on some kind of awesome, secret process, and it's kind of cool. So overall a thumbs up for this place. I'd write more, but I already feel as though this entry has overstayed its welcome and dragged on a little too long. So I'll leave it there, and just say...

Good night, Seattle!


  1. Oh big city living, I can definitely relate. I HATE the super-touristy places of NY that are crawling with obnoxious people, and trying to do a simple task can sometimes take hours. BUT I'm glad that your area, like mine, is a little off the beaten track :) You definitely make a good case to visit Seattle!

    p.s. was that John Russell you were referring to?!

  2. John Russell indeed! He was on an epic cross-country road trip and got to hang out for a few days in Seattle. But other than the amazing sight of Mount Rainier looming over the backdrop of the city, he was fairly unimpressed with the city as a whole.

    Except the rental price of my apartment. Quote: "Holy crap, Yitka, this is like a house! This place would cost a fortune in Boston!"

    Anyway. I'm sure someone with as impeccable taste as yourself will fully appreciate the beauty and amazingness that is Seattle :) I can't wait for you to visit! And I'll be working as hard as I can to make it back to NYC one of these days...once you're home again, of course :P