Wednesday, March 19, 2008


It wasn’t until the day before our adventure that we decided Greenwood would be the first destination for Seattle Neighborhood Watch. J.See had a bit of experience with the area, but I had virtually none (although I did get my driver’s license in Greenwood – almost 12 years ago now --so what I did have was a happy memory).

Greenwood is in northwest Seattle, but not all the way north or all the way west. We took I-99 northbound (aka Aurora Ave) to get there which quickly goes from a semi-highway to just a faux-highway-street the farther north you get. We passed by seedy motels, sex shops, and odd squalid stores for miles and definitely passed a few strange “attractions” we can’t wait to have an excuse to visit when we survey other neighborhoods.

After a little bit of griping about the possibility that it’s not technically in Greenwood (Greenwood is generally thought to begin just west of Aurora), we headed just a few yards east of Aurora for our first stop: Big Star Beer Market.

From the outside, this mega beer store looks like any old mini-mart that I’d most likely avoid. Besides the gigantic sign, it seems fairly nondescript. Even inside it looks like the love child of a liquor store and a small urban grocery – which is to say, not very interesting. In fact, I wasn’t really convinced that it was worth visiting until I took a good look at what was lining the shelves.

BEER! BEER EVERYWHERE! And not just regular beer (though there was that, too) but WEIRD BEER! And BEER FROM RANDOM PLACES! BEER WITH WEIRD NAMES! and STRANGE LABELS!

I am a complete sucker for odd merchandise (something perhaps my Britney Spears Viewfinder can attest to), so I was immediately drawn to the weirder looking bottles. Most of the aisles were organized by location—the Japanese bottles were the cutest, and both J.See and I couldn’t resist a gigantic and overpriced bottle of ginger brewed ale decorated with an adorable cartoon owl (we drank them later that night. It wasn’t the worst thing ever – we both finished our bottles – but there was a sort of wet dog after taste).

J.See got a bottle of her favorite and not widely available Duchesse de Bourgogne (that she calls “the Duchess” though it’s pronounced doo-shay and her boyfriend, Tally McTallerton, disdainfully calls “mustard beer” because of its odd vinegary flavor). I wasn’t able to resist a bottle of Salvation, Belgium-style but brewed in Denver, even though I am sure it is just a clever commercial manipulation tool created for suckers for tacky religious things. Who knows? It might be good.

Other highlights we saw but did not purchase included some “milky” sake and pomegranate wine. It’s important to note that the lady running the place (Tally McTallerton has expressed his belief she is the owner) was exceptionally nice. Not only was she friendly to us, but I overheard her offering to help someone out to their car with their heavy twelve packs. I definitely foresee future visits to the beer store (especially because I like to buy things with labels I can’t read and be surprised).

We left the store excited and ramped up for further adventures, but maybe ten minutes later we were stuck in “traffic” (I put quotes only because it was traffic where there shouldn’t be traffic – on random arterial roads with plenty of lights and not really too many cars, just too many cars wanting to turn left at the wrong places) and were only seven blocks away at best.

I started to get a little grumpy about Greenwood, and the drivers especially, even though I am not generally the type of person who gets road rage, or anything like that. It didn’t get better much better when we were almost side swiped by a crazy person in a parking lot and then, as pedestrians crossing a street, another car turned a corner at high speed and nearly hit J.See. To make matter worse, it was raining and neither of us was really dressed for it and I swear to you the raindrops were fatter than in other neighborhoods.

Luckily for us and you, dear reader, the day took a turn for the much better. We ran through the raindrops (the size of quarters!) to Olive You, a Mediterranean restaurant we hoped would satisfy our growling tumms.

As soon as we walked in to Olive You I felt immediately engulfed by a friendly coziness. There was just something warm about the way the place looked. It’s a fairly small place in a rectangle shape, lined in exposed brick, with a full bar set up towards the back left and a deli case full of amazingly delicious looking bites in front. We sat right next to the deli case so we could ogle it at every opportunity. Our waitress was super personable and friendly. She was laid back in the way that we felt comfortable talking and joking with her and asking about things, but not laid back in the way that she neglected us at any time.

It was the greatest meal I’ve had in recent memory. We started with an olive sampler that included what J.See, the most olive obsessed person I’ve ever met, refers to as “crack olives” but were labeled as plum olives (they really were the most delicious, though all the olives were good. The crack olives were really meaty and had a sort of milder flavor). Since we were sitting right by the deli case and staring in at these trays full of stuffed peppers marinating in olive oil, we couldn’t resist getting some feta and olive spread stuffed peppers and some stuffed peppadews as well.

They were all amazingly delicious but the peppadews were TO DIE FOR. After popping one in my mouth I closed my eyes and sank back in my chair and sighed with delight. We both followed the treats with a lamb burger that was just as tasty, cooked crusty delicious and smothered in feta and hummus. Not only was everything we ate incredible, and the atmosphere and service wonderful, but the whole shebang only cost us something like thirty bucks, including tip. By the time we walked out of there I felt like I’d never eat again and that made me sad because I really wanted about a hundred more stuffed peppadews.

The sun was shining by the time we waddled out of Olive You (which had been nearly empty when we went in and was now somewhat bustling). There’s something about post-rain sunshine, and in Greenwood this seemed intensified. Everything smelled fresh and earthy and just seemed welcoming, and all negative thoughts of the neighborhood quickly disappeared and I mentally wondered if I maybe secretly loved juicy raindrops more than their spittle counterparts.

We wandered less than a block away to the Greenwood Space Travel Supply Company something I’d always vaguely wanted to visit because a) it sold space travel supplies, wtf? and b) because all proceeds from the store go to fund the connected 826 Seattle, a free of charge tutoring center that focuses on writing. Seriously, how cool is that?

Little did we know that this was where our adventure would truly begin.

We had been in the store no more than two minutes, glancing around at the comical merchandise, when someone asked if we’d like to join their Pluto protest. Um, what? We could see a small crowd of giggly people next door at 826 Seattle holding protest signs and getting ready to march out into the street.

Of course we enthusiastically agreed. Where would our journalistic integrity be if we failed to take part in this obvious display of Greenwood neighborhood culture? We followed the group out the door, were supplied with a sign and tramped along with the group, chanting with them for Pluto’s rights. The whole group was giggling and the signs were hilarious and so creative.

Yes, people were staring, yes, it was a little strange, and yes, it was a thrill a minute, but nothing prepared us for the excitement of what was to come as we reach the mid-way point of the protest parade and came upon… COUNTER PROTESTERS!

There was another group across the street with anti-Pluto-as-a-planet signs, chanting their message of hate and exclusion (hey, I don’t know if I actually care if Pluto is considered a planet or not, but that was the side of the protest I was on). They antagonized us as we continued our march that ended at Neptune Coffee.

The Pluto as a Planet group congregated and there were speeches and hollers of support. I actually learned a fair amount of facts about Pluto that not only would I never have learned if not for this experience (Pluto is actually smaller than our own moon), but were actually pretty interesting – did you know that Pluto was named by an 11 year old school girl? Or that it was discovered and its existence proven by a 22 year old kid from Kansas who had (at that time) no college education? Not only do I find both of those things impressive, but fitting that this was basically a publicity stunt put on by 826 Seattle, a youth writing center.

Things did get exponentially weirder when “Brother P-Touch,” Reverend of the Celestial Church of the Ninth Order (or at least something like that) came out and preached to us about the importance of Pluto as a planet and … well, some other stuff that sometimes made sense and sometimes didn’t, but was always hilarious. He held his Astronomy book high above his head and had us all call out, “Planet Pluto!” instead of “Hallelujah!” I did feel a little like I was taking crazy pills, especially when he performed an exorcism of sorts on a man who wasn’t entirely convinced that Pluto should be considered a full planet. But, you know, that’s Greenwood for you.

The rally came to a close with the performance of a short play written by a young tutee of 826 Seattle, and J.See and I could do barely anything more than stare at one another incredulously, as if to ask, “Did that really just happen?” We can only hope all of our surveys of neighborhoods end up as such full adventures.

The only real course of action we could take at that point was to get a coffee from Neptune, because as we’d been sitting there the delectable aroma had been teasing our senses. The coffee was phenomenal (I noticed they brew Stumptown, which I’ve also admired at other locations. Mmm, delicious). On a different day I would have loved to sit back and spend some time just chillaxing at Neptune, which was big and open, with shiny wood floors and sunlight that streamed through the windows in the best way, but today was Greenwood day and there was a bit more adventuring to do.

So we did a tad more walking around and made a few stops. We went back to Greenwood Space Travel Supply Co. so I could load up on astronaut ice cream (a delicacy at casa de superpana), and made our way into a few other shops. We stopped in at Pema Kharpo Tibetan Treasures whose incense bouquet had enticed me when we had passed quickly by during the protest. The place was small and full of interesting treasures, as well as a number of books and CDs. We talked a little with the man running the place that day. There had been a sign on the door urging human rights in Tibet before the Olympics in Beijing.

J.See found dress that was 50% off on the rack in front of Emma Jean’s Consignments and, though she was first unsure if it was super awesome or just plain old ugly, she tried it on and it was indeed super awesome. The people at Emma Jean’s (one of them maybe Emma Jean herself?) were also really nice and friendly and it made me stop and wonder if maybe Greenwood really was that way all around. It seemed like too many coincidences of good nature to be purely accidental.

We finally decided to wrap up our day, feeling confident that we got a good snapshot of what it means to be in Greenwood, and capped everything off with a trip to Carkeek Park. It was beautiful and looked gorgeous out, the incoming clouds bringing more rain giving the appearance of an early sunset. We didn’t go down to the beach, but did walk over the concrete bridge structure over the train tracks, where J.See had once come at night while a train roared beneath and claimed it was quite the thrilling experience. I thought just being on the seemingly unsteady structure and looking down was excitement enough and couldn’t get down fast enough.

Goodbye, Greenwood! We called as we drove away. We hope the fun here is a sign of things to come as we visit other neighborhoods.

Overall Grade: A+


Jan said...

Love it, love it, love it !!! :)

Jennifer said...

that was awesome! i would have never known about the beer market were it not for you- and I thank you from the bottom of my sodden liver. excellent writing, very entertaining! I can't wait until the next neighborhood.

Carlita S Pants said...

thanks for this!
Carly (from yelp)

Derek said...

I loved it, it's a great exploration of a neighborhood. And you're very right about the oddness of the traffic flow in Greenwood, I think it's best to park and walk a longer distance, which may or may not prolong your visit.

The beer nerd part of me especially appreciates that it started with Big Star!

However, the beer nerd combined with my francophilia, crossed with my inner know-it-all wants to tell you that it's not "doo-shay," but "doo-shess," as it ends in an "e." Sorry, it's a pet peeve.

Duly bookmarked. Can't wait to read the next neighborhood.

BunBun said...

keep it up! Love the Greenwood area. The Beer Market location is debatable but I suppose Greenwood sounds better than Northgate.

J.See said...

Oh, we'll probably do the actual Aurora and Northgate areas eventually, and maybe include the Beer Market again? Just for an excuse to go there again and get more goodies!

Anonymous said...

Sweet. Olive You is AWESOME. A good friend of mine was a chef there for a while and ran the kitchen, which was a great excuse to go there a couple of times. The food is AMAZING!

Sharon said...

That was fun! I love Greenwood! But I wouldn't include the Beer Mart in that neighborhood, personally. That is a weird limbo area that is more "Oaktree" in my lexicon. I forget the name of the area officially...its escaping me. But not Greenwood. But further up Greenwood Ave would have brought you to Pig N Whistle, Wing Dome, Diva Espresso, and the dance studio where I teach. And going more West, there are some cute shops there, too, including "Squirrels Accumulate" secondhand, which amuses me greatly, and the amazing peat bog being built on over by the Fred Meyer (go read about it--it's fascinating!). Much more to Greenwood!

Where to next??!!

Sharon said...

I should say "further down Greenwood" : south. And don't forget Gary's Games (best game shop evah!), the North Side Grill, and Warfarer Coffeehouse (with live music and local artists)

Jeremy said...

Sunny Teriyake on 105th and Greenwood has some of the best Chicken Curry in the city. The Wayward Coffee House near 85th is also one of my favorite coffee shops with open Mics on Snudays and really good coffee and sandwiches.

Pana and J.See said...

All these Greenwood recs are awesome! Thanks to Sharon, Derek, Jeremy, etc. We'll have to redo neighborhoods with all of your insights! Keep them coming!

inanna said...

I am so glad you like my neighborhood. We sort of ended up here by default, but now i am so happy we did!

i can't wait to read more of your adventures!