Along with the water comes the waterfront, which stretches from Pier 51 on the south to Pier 70 on the north. It's touristy, to be certain, with its shops and restaurants and vintage trolleys -- but that doesn't mean it isn't fun. At Ivar's, a local chain of seafood restaurants that one Seattleite compared with Boston's Legal Seafoods, I found the red clam chowder a worthy alternative to New England style. At Ye Olde Curiosity Shop at Pier 54, I paid the obligatory visit to the shop's two most curious items, Sylvester and Sydney, two genuine mummies -- a bit too genuine for my taste -- as well as a preserved 8-legged pig and a giant geoduck, a bizarre mollusk indeed. What I liked about the many shops, such as those in the restored wharf on Pier 70, were that they were non-repetitive. In an age of malls that feature the same chains, here was a variety of stores featuring locally made goods and unusual items, including Indian and other Pacific Northwest crafts and art.
Pioneer Square was where the pioneers settled after their arrival in 1851. It is where the term Skid Row originated -- from Skid Road, where logs were skidded downhill to the waterfront. It is where handsome brick buildings were built after the Great Fire of 1889 ate up most of the first flimsy shacks. Today those buildings, many of them newly restored, house what else but shops and restaurants -- and reputedly more galleries per square foot than any other city in the nation. I spent an amazing hour browsing in an amazing store called Ruby Montana's Pinto Pony, a place so filled with kitsch that my eyes continually flicked back and forth like the eyes on the store's Kit-Kat clocks. There were Elvis lamps and Spam T-shirts and plastic flamingos and 3-D postcards and a lot of other stuff that I really can't mention. I couldn't stop chuckling.
The city has about 2,000 restaurants, many featuring what has come to be known as Northwest cuisine, which stresses the taste of natural ingredients. The Georgian Room at the Four Seasons is of striking Italian Renaissance design and features such innovative dishes as grilled halibut stir fry. Fullers at the Sheraton Seattle Hotel and Towers specializes in Continental-Asian cookery, served in a plush atmosphere. The Dahlia Lounge mixes local and international cuisines, and offers unusual vegetarian dishes. Cafe Sport, at the North End of Pike Place Market, features such items as fried oysters and grilled tuna brushed with soy, sage and sesame. The House of Hong in the International District is known for its dim sum, and El Barcolino is noted for its Italian dishes. Seattle, the home of Starbucks Coffee Co., has come to be the coffee capital of America., with espresso shops in many locations. It is a beer-lovers' city; area breweries include the Red Hook Ale Brewery, Thomas Kemper Brewery, Hales Ale Brewery and Yakima Brewery.