Monday, July 30, 2018

Where to Travel: Downtown Seattle



Earlier in the summer, I headed to Seattle for a beautiful wedding. Aside from celebrating this lovely occasion, I also was very excited to visit, as it was my first time in the Pacific Northwest. I had already heard so many wonderful things about the region — that it has the best fresh seafood, breathtaking sights and scenic green landscapes that stretch for miles and miles beyond — so I couldn’t wait to explore as much as possible in my short time here.

Not only was the weather perfect — no raindrop in sight — the downtown cityscape was surely a sight to take in, sitting right on edge of the Puget Sound, with the majestic snow-capped Olympic Mountains across the water. The downtown area, even with its fair share of hills, is easily walkable and is minutes from so many sights and attractions.

Even though I was only visiting for a hot minute, like any adventure-loving, sleep-hating traveler, I packed in as much as I could during my time there. From indulging in coffee to partying in Pioneer’s Square and eating way more tasty, delicious meals than I ever expected to, I had such a fun time that I was inspired to write this #WilsonsGuide Top 10 List of Downtown Seattle post.

While not exhaustive — there’s still so much I didn’t get to see or do — this list, in no particular order, offers a few suggestions to keep you busy and entertained, should you find yourself here, hopefully at a time with gorgeous weather like I had in July.

And if you’ve been to Seattle too, what are your must-see recommendations? Drop them in the comments section below!


10) Where to Be Merry: Space Needle 



A visit to the Space Needle is a given, as it’s one of Seattle’s most iconic landmarks. As interesting as it is to marvel at this observation tower's modern architecture, it’s even more incredible to ascend it, 520 feet into the sky. At the top is a circular platform enclosed by glass panes, providing sweeping, breathtaking 360-degree vistas of Seattle below. There are so many spectacular views to behold: the Olympic Mountains and Puget Sound to the west, Lake Washington to the east, and all around, the picturesque cityscape. Tip: Head here at night, too! It's open until midnight, and the later you go, the more likely you’ll beat the daytime crowds that can easily cramp your photo-taking sessions. Plus, it’s a sight to see everything lit up at night. 

For more info




9) Where to Eat: Biscuit Bitch



Whenever I asked for restaurant recs from locals, everyone would rattle off of a few different suggestions, however, one suggestion in particular kept coming up again and again: Biscuit Bitch. And as much as I love saying its name, I loved their breakfast options even more. The tiny one-roomed eatery serves up the most buttery, flaky — and filling — biscuits, which can be served a la carte, as breakfast sandwiches or as these wondrous creations called biscuits and gravy. In the latter dish, biscuits are smothered in fixings like garlic grits, crumbled bacon and hot links. Pictured above is the Hot Mess Bitch, a monstrosity of garlic grits, cheese and jalapenos, all smooshed between biscuits and Louisiana hot links. Aside from tasting so freakin' good, the items here are beyond filling; halfway into my sandwich, it felt like a ton of bricks had hit my stomach and I didn’t need to eat another meal for a good few hours. Open now for 8+ years, the downtown location is the original and there are also two other locations throughout the city.

For more info


8) Where to Be Merry: Chihuly Garden and Glass


I'll be honest; checking out glasswork wouldn’t be high on my list of things to do or see when visiting a new city for the first time, but let me tell you, I was blown away (yes, pun intended) by the Chihuly Garden and Glass. The museum features the works of Dale Chihuly, a world-renowned glass sculptor whose exhibits have debuted all across the world. Eight galleries, a 40-foot tall glasshouse and an expansive garden all house various artwork from throughout Chihuly’s career, including one of my favorites, the Cylinders series, the first photo below, which features glass-thread drawings on glass pieces to emulate Navajo textile designs. From sea creatures brought to life in the Sealife Room to the colorful Mille Fiori glass garden, also pictured below and inspired by his own mother’s garden, it’s magical to see so many ways that glass can be delicately shaped and fashioned to create intricate pieces of art.

For more info





7) Where to Be Merry: Museum of Pop Culture 


Hailing from the mecca of entertainment, a.k.a. Los Angeles, I was a little skeptical about heading over to a museum of pop culture…in Seattle. I mean, if there ever was going to be a museum on pop culture, wouldn’t it be in L.A., literally the home of all things pop culture??? Yet lo and behold, my assumptions quickly melted away after a few hours in this remarkable space. Three floors of exhibitions span the evolution of horror movies, sci fi films, fantasy flicks and more. There’s even the Sound Lab — an area dedicated to music, where you can learn about various aspects of creating music and even rock out on various music instruments, from drums and guitars, to keyboards and even mixing stations. Overall, what I loved the most were two exhibits in particular that paid tribute to two music icons originally from Washington: Jimi Hendrix and Nirvana. Both exhibits give behind-the-scenes, never-before-seen glimpses into their personal lives, providing further insight into how they became the rock stars they were destined to become. I thought I'd only be in the museum for about an hour and ended up staying a solid four hours. So much to see and experience!

For more info


6) Where to Be Merry: Pike Place Market


As Seattle's original farmers market established in the early 1900s, Pike Place Market is bursting at the seams with hundreds of vendor stalls, art exhibits & stores, dining spots and shops, all within historic buildings that bear the marks of decades past. Sitting right next to the waterfront, the market stretches across several blocks and is spread out on several levels. You can spend only a few minutes here, dipping in and out of the crowded halls; or if you choose, take a few hours to sample foods and buy knick knacks and souvenirs to support local businesses. Tip: stop by Eighth Generation by Louie Gong, a Native owned-and-operated Seattle-based company that sells thought-provoking artwork and awesome personal and household goods, including carved wooden sunglasses, wool blankets and dope phone cases. I literally wanted to buy the entire store!

For more info 




5) Where to Eat: The Summer Weekday Brunch @ Cafe Campagne


Strolling around Pike Place Market, there's not a shortage of tantalizing eateries to select from, ranging from high end to casual, seafood to fresh produce, and everything in between. And since Seattle is well known for its coffee and seafood options, I slightly surprised myself by ending up at a French restaurant, eating a very French brunch in a very French setting. Yet after receiving raving reviews from a couple who frequently dines here, I came to Cafe Campagne one morning to kickstart my day. About a block or so from the main hustle and bustle of Pike Place Market, it offers quintessential French favorites, such as quiche and croques. My French-rolled omelette made with herbs and Comté cheese and served with chicken & pork sausage, roasted potatoes and baguette (pictured below), was a fairly simple option and didn’t have a lot of spices or ingredients. Nonetheless, it was bursting with flavor (yes, the pork and chicken sausage was everything!). Definitely make grabbing brunch here one day a priority and make sure to sit on the quaint patio, which is perfect for people watching.

For more info 



4) Where to Be Merry: Kells Irish Restaurant & Bar 


For all my night owls who are looking to keep the festivities going into the wee hours of the night, Kells, a traditional Irish pub located in Post Alley, is one option to keep on your radar. According to its website, there’s live Irish music each and every night, and the night I went, a DJ spun an eclectic mix of hip-hop (new and old) and sultry Latin tunes (including salsa, reggaeton and bachata). The ambiance is laid back and super chill, with some people getting up to dance and many simply congregating amongst groups of friends and drinks. A casual, no-frills bar that I enjoyed winding down at!

For more info



3) Where to Be Merry: No Cover Turn Ups @ Xtadium Lounge


And if you really want to get the party started, Xtadium Lounge in Pioneer Square is most certainly a fun lounge to check out. Apparently only open since September 2017, Xtadium features different themed nights — i.e., Tuesday Bachata and Salsa Dancing, Thursday Latin Night, Friday Ladies Night and Saturday Night Party — all with no cover. While on the smaller side, the lounge’s décor is reminiscent of trendy Vegas and Miami nightclubs. On the Friday Ladies Night when I went, it was packed to the brim, with a contagious, excited vibe pulsing amongst the crowd. Mostly everyone energetically danced and sang along to the latest hip-hop songs until the club shut down at 2 a.m.

For more info 


2) Where to Be Merry: First Thursday Art Walk @ Pioneer Square




Should you find yourself in Seattle on the first Thursday of the month, definitely head down to Pioneer Square for the First Thursday Art Walks, from 5 – 10 p.m. The name’s a bit deceiving; it's actually a lot more than art — including food and local vendors — and it actually spans multiple squares. Nonetheless, there’s lots to taste, see and take in, and it’s a fun way to pass time. Plus, nearby Occidental Square, where many of the vendors are set up, has free games to partake in, including hula hoop and ping-pong pictured below. Also, don’t forget to try a macaron or six from Alexandra’s Macarons (pictured below, too); coming in flavors like strawberry shortcake and champagne strawberry, they're delicious!

For more info






1) Where to Be Merry: The One-Hour Harbor Cruise @ Argosy Cruises


Argosy Cruises offers six public sightseeing cruises, including a Harbor Cruise that lasts about an hour. While this tour doesn't go that far out — it literally makes a small loop within the Elliot Bay, staying quite close to the waterfront — it still offers priceless views of the Seattle landscape. Plus, the tour guide entertainingly rattles off interesting facts about the city’s history and various marine-based industries. His narration provides a good explanation of everything you see. Since our boat was completely full with passengers, I was concerned it would be hard to snag good views. Fortunately, that wasn't the case. If anything, finding a seat on the outdoor deck was probably the hardest, but there was plenty of room to snap that perfect panoramic shot. All in all, a great way to spend a bit of time on the water.

For more info




**Bonus: The Seattle CityPASS**



At $89 per adult with the option to visit five attractions — a whopping 47 percent savings — copping a Seattle CityPASS is most certainly the way to go. Included in the pass are tickets to the Seattle Aquarium, the Argosy Cruises Harbor Tour and the Space Needle, which, you can actually visit twice in one day. Plus, you get the option to stop by the Museum of Pop Culture or the Woodland Park Zoo, and also the Pacific Science Center or Chihuly Garden and Glass. Getting this pass was a hassle-free way to see many of Seattle’s main attractions at a discounted rate. The only caveat is that for many of the places — including the harbor tour, the Space Needle and the Chihuly Garden and Glass — advanced reservations are either required or highly recommended, especially during high season. 

Monday, July 2, 2018

Where to Eat & Drink: The Daily Happy Hour @ Culver Hotel’s French Garden



The Eats & Drinks: Ten colorful cocktails and six unique “Chef’s Bites”

The Location: Culver City

The Vibes: Garden setting, outdoors, exquisite

Good for: Alone, dates, small and large groups

When-To-Go: Daily, 4 – 7 p.m. for happy hour

The $$ Factor: Apps, $5; cocktails, $9; beers & wines, $6 - $7

The 4-1-1: Originally named Hotel Hunt and once owned by Charlie Chaplin, the Culver Hotel is an official National Historic Landmark, too

Parking Situation:
Nearby valet and city parking structures

I’ll Be Back…: For the Atlantic Salmon Tartare and Lavender Collins!


I’m loving this amazing summer weather — I must admit, I’ve been looking forward to it all year long.

One of the reasons why I adore this season so much is because there are so many super cute patios around the city to enjoy a nice cocktail and a few nibbles.

Somewhere in particular that’s always been on my radar is the historic Culver Hotel, right in the heart of downtown Culver City. Many restaurants may come and go around it (and trust me, there have been plenty), but this beauty has firmly stood its ground for almost 100 years. Originally opening in 1924, it’s a breathtaking masterpiece to behold. It has a grandiose European flair that nods to a classic era long gone. Within the main lobby, there's an impeccable fireplace in the main lobby, plum wine drapery covering massive ceiling-to-floor windows and Renaissance-styled touches in everything from the chandeliers to the intricate ornamentation on the top of the columns.

Outside in the French Garden, pictured below, it’s just as equally gorgeous. Shrubbery surrounds individual seating to create secluded hideaways; strings of lights and bird cages delicately hang from the canopy of trees above, adding a touch of charm. Whether it’s at the high top tables, the Parisian style café tables or next to the worn wooden tables, there’s literally no bad place to grab a seat here!



The daily happy hour features ten colorful cocktails and six different “Chef’s Bites,” along with beers and wines. What blew me away was the price point for the quality. There aren’t many places you can grab $5 appetizers that are both well-portioned and quite tasty, or $9 cocktails that have as much flair as the ones here.

Food options seem to grab their inspiration from around the globe — there are Morrocan Spiced Nuts Furikake Green Beans and Polenta Fries Marinara & Parmesan. My favorite so far is the Atlantic Salmon Tartare, pictured below. I love all of the flavors in it and it’s great to share.



Out of the cocktails, I’ve tried the Lavender Collins, pictured below, a subtly sweet concoction of crème de Violette, lemon juice, lavender syrup and lavender spring. There’s a nice range of other options, too — whether you’re looking for rum, gin, brandy, tequila or whiskey.



And, make sure to save room for dessert! Although it’s technically not on the happy hour menu and probably about 50,000 calories, the Crème Brûlée de Jour, pictured below, is so. freakin. good. The custard filling is just the right amount of sweetness without being overbearing and the texture is just the right amount of thickness.



Also not on the happy hour menu but still worth the splurge is The Ruby Slipper, pictured below. It’s a delectable blend of vodka, raspberries, agave nectar, lime juice and sparkling wine.



So, the next time you’re in the mood for a beautiful cocktail to sip and decadent appetizers to munch on — all in an enchanted garden setting — I recommend checking out Culver Hotel’s French Garden. The ambiance alone is enough to keep me coming back for more.

See you there soon!


For more information: 




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Monday, June 18, 2018

Where to Eat: Smoked Beef, Southern Sides and Pies @ Pearl’s Texas BBQ


The Eats: Texas-style BBQ rubbed down with salt and pepper, then smoked for 14 hours

The Location: Downtown (Arts district-adjacent)

The Vibes: Outdoor, Western, eclectic

Good for: Alone, dates, groups (small and large)

When-To-Go: Daily, noon – 6 p.m.

The $$ Factor: Meats, $11 - $28; sides, $4 - $5; desserts, $8 - $9

The Names behind the scenes: Pitmaster Dana Blanchard

The 4-1-1: Pearl’s hosts live country music bands and movie nights on select days; check her Instagram for upcoming events.

Parking Situation: Ample free street parking

I’ll Be Back…: For the beef short ribs!


By the time you exit the 10 freeway, cruise up Santa Fe Ave., passing quiet industrial, graffiti-covered industrial warehouses, and then turn down an alley to get to Pearl’s Texas BBQ, you literally felt like you’ve left the hustle and bustle of the big city life. Throw into the mix a larger-than-life Texas flag proudly on display, worn mint green picnic tables and benches amongst dirt floors and Western relics scattered around, and you’ve really felt like you’ve been transported to Texas Hill Country.

Opening at the beginning of 2018 at this location, Pearl’s has transformed a wide, open dirt lot into a casual, al fresco BBQ joint. There’s a bright red pick up truck, two bull dummies to lasso, and an oversized bingo board. Truth be told, I almost expected to see a few tumbleweeds roll by, at any given moment. Slightly off to the side, but probably one of the most significant parts of the entire place is a smoker, pictured below, where beef that’s been rubbed down with salt and pepper gets smoked for 14 hours, each and every night.



Out of a vintage metallic silver Airstream, piping hot BBQ gets served up on paper trays. Selections aren't extensive — only beef, in the form of short ribs or briskets — plus a handful of sides, beverages and two types of pies to round out the menu.

The stars of the show, hands down, IMHO, are the short ribs, pictured below alongside the cowboy caviar and coleslaw. The ribs are so moist and tender, falling right off the bone. Even though they’re only covered in salt and pepper, they’re extremely flavorful, too. They come with pickles, onions and sliced white bread.



Sides to select from include baked beans, cowboy caviar — a mix of corn, beans, red pepeprs and spices, which can also be accompanied by avocado — coleslaw and potato salad, pictured below. I tried everything but the baked beans as they had run out when I stopped by over the weekend, but my faves were the coleslaw and potato salad, which are both mayonnaise-based. I’ll look forward to trying the beans, hopefully next time I’m there.



Make sure to save room for dessert! Pearl’s has two pie options from the renowned bakery Sweet Lady Jane: apple or pecan. The pecan is out of this world, with sweet buttery nuts packed into a thick pie crust. The apple pie has subtle hints of cinnamon and I bet would taste great served warm. 



Rounding it all out are bottled beverages like Mexican Cokes and Nesbitt’s Honey Lemonade, pictured below. 



With summer slowly inching its way right around the corner, grabbing BBQ outdoors on a lazy afternoon sounds like it should most certainly be part of the upcoming schedule rotation. Pearl’s provides a carefree ambiance, smoked meats and Southern sides, so it surely ain't a bad place to stop by.

See you there soon!

For more information: 




Disclosure: I received complimentary services; all views and opinions reflected are my own and not influenced by any other third-party sources.
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