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Day 18: Bimbos

April 12, 2011

One of my brother’s best friends, with whom I’ve always had lively debates about college sports, culture, urban hiking and most importantly the country’s most awesome cities, loves Seattle.  He has loved Seattle for years.  Every couple of months or so, he’d just start jones-ing for the great Pacific Northwest and announce that he needed a Seattle fix.  Needless to say this city had a lot of live up to.  One of my brother’s other friends is a semi-professional photographer.  He ends up at a lot of art openings, concerts and clubs to take photos.  Long before I moved to Seattle, I was visiting my brother in the OTHER Washington one night when we all ended up at this small club to hear a band called Los Straightjackets perform.  They’re a really fun surf rock band from Tennessee that just happen to wear Mexican Wrestling masks while performing.  It was a great night that (along with a certain Homestarrunner animation series) has endeared me to Mexican Wrestling Masks.

Now, when I planned my first visit to Seattle, it was totally spur of the moment.  It was the Fourth of July, and I just jumped in my car and started driving North.  Seattle was just going to be a stop on my great American road-trip to Vancouver, BC.  I got to Seattle and met up with friends who frequented the Capitol Hill Arts District.  Starving (as I often am–I have been described as either chewing or hungry), we ended up at Bimbos for a nacho plate and a couple margaritas.  Besides the neon, and the obvious  big arrow, its decor was warm, welcoming, and endearing because, you see, everything has this velvet painting mexican wrestler theme.  I fell in love.  I had let my brother know I had arrived safely in Seattle.  He texted me a name of a restaurant of which he and his Seattle-loving best-y had fond memories.  My phone said, “Bimbos.”  My response was that I was already there, brother.

Bimbos does not serve terribly authentic Mexican cuisine, it doesn’t serve Tex-Mex, or even Mexicali. I’d say it’s authentically  Seattle-Mex. They offer food allergy restricted options and do not shy away from making anything vegan.  Their Margaritas come in pint glasses not something with a frilly stem, and the salsa is more on the pico de gallo side than picante sauce.  Whatever your criticism, the happy hours, however, are great. I can go with MY best-y split a large plate of soy cheez nacho with beans and guac (added chicken) and couple margaritas for under $20.  It’s filling, it’s fun, and it’s affordable.  Now that I have moved to Seattle, and Bimbos is within walking distance of my digs, it’s pretty high on the restaurant rotation.  It’s festive enough to always seem celebratory, but homey enough to still feel like a local bar.  No matter what, though, it will always remind me of three DC lawyers who know how to have a good time.

Day 17: Wheedle’s Groove

September 9, 2010

So, as I mentioned before a couple weeks ago I was sitting trying to find out where someone could go out and hear some soul.  I searched the Stranger to no avail.  Later that week, I managed to hear some some soul filled Doo Wop down by the market.  Street performers of all variety can be found around the market.  I was temporarily satiated.

I had yet to really understand what Wheedle’s Groove is and where I could find it.  Jennifer Maas (a local Seattle filmmaker) put together a documentary called Wheedle’s Groove that revisits and reassembles Seattle’s nearly forgotten soul and funk scene of the late 60s and 70s.  As the film states quite often, people have come to think of music when they think of Seattle, but they don’t think funk.  They think grunge; they think rock.  Wheedle’s Groove provides the music I have been searching for and missing.  Besides a film, Wheedle’s Groove is also the name of the retrospective album Maas’s husband put together of “Seattle’s Finest in Funk & Soul 1965-75.”  It’s a compilation of a lot of popular singles or tracks of that era.   Since the movie and the album (and the inevitable, but fortunate reunion of what artists are still around and playing), Wheedle’s Groove has become a band.  Formed from original recording artists featured on the album, they have performed at local clubs like Chop Suey, rocked Bumbershoot, and have a gig lined up a Neumos in October.   The mayor of Seattle even declared Sept 4 “Wheedle’s Groove Day.”  So, now, finally Wheedle’s Groove is also a day!  It’s fun to see a city that sometimes takes it’s music status for granted enjoy reliving part of its musical history with such zestful enthusiasm.  All this said, to me, Wheedle’s Groove is just good music.

Day 16: Sur La Table

September 8, 2010

Sur La Table has been one of my favorite kitchen specialty shops for awhile now.  I think I first heard its name uttered on Oprah, but I most definitely fell in love with it in Los Angeles.  Little did I know that it was born in Seattle.  A woman by the name of Shirley Collins opened the (now flagship) store at Pike’s Place Market in 1972.  Stocked with every kitchen gadget or appliance imaginable, the store is just absolute heaven for me.  Collins sold the shop in the Nineties to another Seattle family who expanded the number of stores across the country–delighting home chefs and foodies nationwide.  The Los Angeles shop I knew and loved at the Hollywood Grove is a bit sprawling, where the original shop at Pike’s Place is more reminiscent of an old library with narrow aisles and stacks of treasures floor to ceiling.  Some may find the Seattle store bit cramped, but one is quickly distracted by all it has to offer.  This evening, I stopped in to grab a few fun Halloween decorations (their spider cake stand is adorable) but after a couple impulse purchases I made myself leave before I blew my budget.

Day 15: Sun Liquor

September 7, 2010

When did Bartenders become Mixologists?  I feel like the title was somehow a result of the metro-sexual movement.  Mixology brings about images of high end spirits gently muddled with fresh herbs and mingled with hand squeezed juices.  An establishment that leans in this general direction is something completely different than a bar where you knock back shots and order a beer.  Sun Liquor gestures towards Mixology.  If you’re craving a pub-ier environment for your libations, do not worry because there is one just next door, The Summit.  That being said, Sun Liquor offers no pretension, just very yummy cocktails.  It’s cozy and kitschy and the perfect spot for those nights where you want you having a drink to feel special.  If you’ve watched one too many episodes of Mad Men and you’re craving a Tom Collins this might be just the gin joint for you.  While researching this blog entry, I came across Cask Strength, a blog by a Seattle Bartender.  I particularly enjoyed #5 of his “10 rules of drinking like a man”: Order the right drink in the right bar at the right time.  It offers what may seem like common sense, but is very sage advice.

Day 14: Seattle Storm

September 6, 2010

Seattle gets a bad rap as far as its sports teams, and the city is still pretty sensitive about losing its NBA team.  It’s WNBA team, however, is spectacular.  I’ve been a big fan of what I respectfully call “chick basketball” for over over ten years.  I’ve seen the Liberty play in New York and the Sparks play in Los Angeles.  So, I’m thrilled that the Storm just won the West Coast Finals against Phoenix.  Unfortunately, I haven’t had the opportunity to catch a live game yet, but that means I’ll just have to get myself to Key Arena for the Finals (against Atlanta or New York whoever wins this week)!

Day 13: Ada’s Technical Books

September 5, 2010

Located in Capitol Hills historic Loveless Building (built in 1930 as a live/work studio space for artists) is Ada’s Technical Books a tiny book shop dedicated to computer, science, math, and innovative books.  The shop, named for Ada Lovelace, (the 19C daughter of Lord Byron who is now generally considered the world’s first computer programmer) is a quaint and cozy book shop with lots of comfortable chairs,  a small lounge and a fireplace.  There are nooks and crannies filled with old, new, and used books for the scientifically minded.  This shop does not have the vast collection of books Opamp has in Los Angeles, but it does have a warmer ambiance and hint of sophistication only the ghost of Ada Lovelace could provide.

Day 11 & 12 Outdoor Entertainment

September 5, 2010

So, I’m belated 2 entries.  I will combine 11 street musicians  and 12 public geek-wear into the overarching Outdoor Entertainment.  This weekend is not only Labor Day weekend, it is also PAX weekend and Bumbershoot.  All of it makes for pretty great people watching.

Friday, I took a long lunch and managed to hear some great street musicians perform down by the market.  I have been a longtime fan of Doo Wop.  I had been searching the Stranger for leads on rhythm and blues shows to no avail just last weekend.  So, stumbling upon four men singing good old fashioned Doo Wap under the construction hit the perfect chord with me.   When I lived in LA I had thought the live music scene even at public outdoor venues was one of the city’s hidden treasures.  I am just discovering what Seattle has to offer in this respect.  This is the 40th year of Bumbershoot a Seattle music and art festival amusingly named for a word meaning “umbrella” that attracts performers from all over the country.

Concurrently, Penny Arcade is holding their PAX convention/festival for gamers.  The weekend attracts close to 70,000 attendants and last year helped to spread the H1N1 with over 100 attendees reported feeling sick.  Thank goodness, that doesn’t seem to be a problem this year.   So, yesterday, it me took a moment to realize why a man in a black leotard and a cap was walking down the street with a sliverclad maiden.  Oh, yeah, PAX!  This is not the only time of year Seattle streets are filled with costumed warriors.  In the spring, Seattle hosts Emerald City Comicon which one again fills the streets with spectacularly garbed attendants.  Honestly, I cannot wait until Halloween.