We booked an apartment through Seattle Oasis Vacations in Belltown, two blocks away from Pike Place Market and conveniently located above a city Target. They are a small, family run vacation rental company that shares their listings on VRBO and Airbnb, but it’s actually cheaper to book with them directly to spare yourself the host fees. They were extremely accommodating and professional from the original inquiry to the moment we left Seattle. The building and location were wonderful, and the apartment very comfortable, nicely decorated and well-equipped. Not only would I recommend Seattle Oasis Vacations, but staying in Belltown proved to be an ideal, central location.
For our first night, we wanted to have a nice dinner that was within walking distance from our apartment and was a light cuisine, like Mediterranean. After flying all day, I never crave something too heavy or rich. This lively restaurant with an open kitchen by celebrity chef and restaurateur Tom Douglas serves a modern take on Greek cuisine with local ingredients. We ordered a variety of small plates to share, including the most tender grilled octopus, delicious squid skewers with chermoula, fresh grilled baby zucchini with green chermoula and feta, and a surprisingly delicious cauliflower anchovy spread. My parents also enjoyed the Manti lamb ravioli and baklava dessert with fig ice cream. Needless to say, this was a great start to our Seattle culinary adventures!
Across the street from Lola is another Tom Douglas restaurant, Dahlia Lounge. We were so pleased with our experience at Lola that we decided to check out the bar here for a drink. It was also our way of staying awake a little longer to avoid jet lag! I love Moscow Mules of any variety, so I couldn’t pass up on the opportunity to try their Blueberry Shrub Mule. It was a perfect twist on the classic and introduced me to shrubs being used in cocktails, something I later learned is very popular in Seattle.
Next to Dahlia Lounge was Dahlia Bakery, another Tom Douglas spot we took a quick peek in. It’s very small, but their breakfast and sweets menus looked great! They provide some of desserts to his restaurants, such as their signature Coconut Cream Pie. If you thought 3 Tom Douglas-owned spots in a 1-block radius was impressive, there’s one more around the corner – Serious Pie! This was personally recommended to me numerous times, however from what I could tell, they didn’t offer gluten-free options.
Umi Sake House
With Seattle being famous for it’s fantastic seafood, and Japanese culture being prevalent on the West Coast, we knew we’d be in for a treat at this popular spot. It took us a while to decide what to order, because the menu was extensive and the majority of the items very interesting. Their sake menu, like the name suggests, was so impressive! I ordered the lychee sake cocktail and loved how well it complemented my entire meal. They also had a wide variety of specialty rolls. We chose the Moonraker Roll, which was flavorful with a spicy kick. Unlike many specialty rolls I’ve had, this was a large portion, justifying the price. To appreciate the high-grade fish they offer (sourced locally and from around the world), we got the omakase. While everything was delicious, the highlights of the meal were the special appetizers of black cod, salmon collars and Pacific geoduck! Especially when it comes to seafood, specials tend to always be the best.
Bathtub Gin & Co.
Around the corner from Umi Sake House is this dark and cozy speakeasy serving Prohibition-era cocktails and an international gin list. Like any good speakeasy, we had trouble finding it at first! As Google Maps didn’t clearly show, it’s located in a dark alley between the blocks with a wooden door and small, unlit sign. It’s in the basement boiler room of a former hotel, and had a small bar upstairs and a couple small rooms downstairs.
I ordered The Exterminating Angel cocktail with gin, Orgeat, lime and cardamom bitters. The menu explains that Orgeat is an almond syrup hailing from France and is lightly added for this bright, tart cocktail. It was recommended to me by our server and did not disappoint. I’m not sure if I’ve ever had Orgeat, but this time it was memorable. Fellow gin lovers, do not miss this spot!
Petra Mediterranean Bistro
This Middle Eastern spot is close to Seattle Center, but not too close that it’s touristy, and therefore makes for a great lunch/dinner spot before/after exploring the nearby attractions. The Lunch Mezza Tray is nice to share for the table or as a meal. They even provided crudite (free of charge) to substitute for the pita to accommodate a gluten-free diet. My boyfriend and I ordered the Combo Kebab to share, while everyone else got their own dish. All the portions were enormous! The food was very flavorful, but out of many of the other restaurants we visited, I wouldn’t say it was a must visit due to the old fashioned look and lack of atmosphere.
Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP)
This popular tourist attraction located in Seattle Center, also home to the Space Needle, Chihuly Glass Museum and more, was both a hit and a miss for us. Dedicated to contemporary popular culture, it was founded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen in 2000 as the Experience Music Project. To date, it features 3 floors of exhibits with iconic artifacts and hands-on experiences. Since I have never seen and know very little about Star Trek, I wasn’t too interested in the entire floor dedicated to its legacy. I expected it to be more current than it was, so I think older generations might appreciate it more. My favorite two exhibits were the Sound Lab, where you can have your own jam session on guitars, pianos and drums, and the Guitar Gallery, displaying guitars used by some of the greatest musicians of all-time such as Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Kurt Cobain, Eric Clapton and more.
It wouldn’t be a post about Belltown without mentioning the Space Needle! We did not go up for a few different reasons – some of us aren’t great with heights, we didn’t want to wait in lines and because it’s the most iconic landmark of the Seattle skyline which you obviously wouldn’t see when you’re on it! However, it’s worth getting a good view of at some point whether it’s from the Bainbridge Island ferry or seen at the right angle while wandering the city. Up close in Seattle Center, you can tell it’s actually not very high or large in size! They also have a rotating, high-end restaurant at the top.
We had planned to visit the Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum, but honestly got tired after walking around the Museum of Pop Culture and ran out of time. I’ve seen his work in the Bellagio Las Vegas – it is pretty spectacular! In fact, this museum is rated #1 of things to do in Seattle on TripAdvisor. If you are interested in visiting at least 3 of the main Seattle tourist attractions, I think the City Pass is worth checking out.