Emerald City Obsessions

There are a few things this city can’t get enough of. Explore Seattle’s hottest obsessions, from the long-time love of coffee and beer to the more recent pinball and cirque—and the Seahawk-inspired handbags people adore.

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A pinball obsession culminates in the Seattle Pinball Museum

Charlie Martin lost count of his pinball machines somewhere around 160. He and his wife, Cindy, own the Seattle Pinball Museum, which houses just over 55 machines from their collection.

The first seed of the museum started when Charlie grew frustrated at network television.

“They’re parading all these people with misery in their lives … I need to be lifted up, not beaten down. So I told Cindy that I was going to buy a pinball machine.”

Now, this museum is celebrating its sixth year in the city, after getting a start through a program called Storefronts Seattle, which granted space to artists and creative projects in areas with high vacancy rates. The initial three-month grant turned into six months, and from there, the Martins have grown their business into a thriving hub of activity in the International District.

For $13 for adults and $10 for kids 7-12, visitors can play all the pinball machines (as well as a few arcade games) they want. And with machines from the 1960s through 2014—including the world’s largest pinball machine (it uses a pool cue ball)—there’s a huge variety to keep the family entertained.

Now the obsession for the Martins has turned to helping others: “There’s really nothing like seeing the look on a cancer patient or a Make-A-Wish kid’s face when they come in here and they go ‘Wow! This is cool!’,” said Charlie. “They leave and they’re just glowing. If everyone would just work to bring one moment of joy or happiness to people around them, could you imagine what this place would look like?”

Q&A: Ben Wendel, Trapeze Artist

Ben Wendel, along with his wife Rachel Nehmer, are Duo Madrona, trapeze artists who regularly perform with Teatro ZinZanni. He’s currently starring in “Hollywood Nights,” showing at ZinZanni until Jan. 31, 2016.

Q: Besides Teatro ZinZanni, Seattle has a few circus arts schools. Why is it so popular?

A sort of nucleus was formed maybe about 15 years ago, and Circus Contraption was going on at the time, shortly thereafter the first of the circus schools opened in 2004. So that sort of formed a nucleus, because you had a touring performance group and then you had a local professional theater that was bringing in international talent with Teatro ZinZanni ,and then you had a circus school that was promoting recreational circus. All the sudden a lot was going on.

Q: You were a scientist prior to this. How did that happen?

We were in college to get a degree and we both happened to choose molecular biology, and we were lab partners. We moved out here and both got jobs at the University of Washington. While that was going on, Rachel brought back to life her circus interest. As a kid out East she went to performing arts camp each summer. It was a big part of her childhood. On our last year at school she decided to get back into it. She got a trapeze and threw it in a tree, and she taught me the basics. I got really into it—I got obsessed with it. We moved out here in June 2004 and we had this trapeze, but we had nowhere to hang it. So we started calling around … SANCA [The School of Acrobatics and New Circus Arts] let us hang the trapeze and practice there. We just got better and better and we found performance opportunities … We ended up working for two years in the lab, and that second year, Rachel was performing with The Aerialists, and we formed our act [Duo Madrona] as well. We made our debut at the 2005 Moisture Festival.

Q: Explain Teatro ZinZanni.

To me it really falls into the category circus cabaret … I think what’s different than other circus cabarets around is that ZinZanni is also immersive theater. The performance is woven through that and the audience is actually sitting on stage. When we’re on the trapeze we feel like we’re over the audience. So those first few tables—they’re getting sprayed with sweat and saliva, I’m sure.

Q: Tell me about your character in “Hollywood Nights.”

I will be playing the star Hollywood actor, so I’ll be quite full of myself naturally. And I will also be a method actor. Meaning I’ll be taking my roles to an extreme level, even off camera. There’ll be some fun surprises. I’m excited. It’ll be my first time working without Rachel, because Rachel is pregnant, so we’re finishing the current show and then Rachel is going to take a break and I’m going to be doing a new act with my long-time friend, Terry Crane.

Q: Congratulations!

It’s been a really exciting time this summer to be performing together while Rachel is pregnant. It’s a really powerful connection for us. We can’t wait to show our baby—you were in this room while Rachel was flying around in the air.

Raise a Glass

Seattle’s obsession with beer extends across the city—in nearly every neighborhood, you can find locals creating outstanding brews, or at least a bar with enough local taps to keep your mug full long into the night.


Possibly the beer Mecca of Seattle neighborhoods, it’s easy to walk from one brewery to the next. Many Ballard spots are family-friendly, and although most don’t have food, they often partner with food trucks. Start at Hilliard’s Beer (1550 N.W. 49th St., 206.257.4486)—you can’t miss the logo-emblazoned building—before hitting up Peddler Brewing Company (1514 N.W. Leary Way, 360.362.0002), a spot that loves bikes as much as beer, with ample bike parking and a spot for tune-ups. From there, head to Stoup Brewing (1108 N.W. 52nd St., 206.457.5524), a popular spot that often has food trucks at the tap room, followed by newcomer to Ballard Lucky Envelope Brewing (907 N.W. 50th St., 206.659.4075), which opened in May. The spot is kid- and dog-friendly, and has food trucks on Fridays and Saturdays. Just around the corner, find Populuxe Brewing (826B N.W. 49th St., 206.706.3400), which a covered, heated outdoor patio, two fire pits and room for the littles to roam. From there, it’s downhill to Hale’s Ales Brewery and Pub (4301 Leary Way NW, 206.782.0737), where you can grab some dinner before calling it a night.


The Outlander Brewery and Pub (225 N. 36th St., 206.486.4088), a 21-and-older establishment, specializes in specialty ales. The constantly rotating taps and ever-changing selection (they don’t often brew the same beer twice) mean every glass is a delicious adventure. The website has a list of past varieties, to get a feel for the selections. Another fun spot in Fremont is Fremont Brewing (1050 N. 34th St.), a family-owned brewery with an Urban Beer Garden open daily 11 am-9 pm. In addition to the year-round brews, in October find the Bonfire Ale, with dark barley and a bit of hops; and the Brother Imperial IPA, brewed with twice the amount of barley and five pounds of hops per barrel.

Georgetown and SoDo

Head south of the downtown core to explore even more options. Though not as densely packed as Ballard, these breweries are pouring beer just as tasty. Two Beers Brewing Co. (4700 Ohio Ave. S, 206.762.0490) has a tasting room called The Woods, with 24 tap handles, an outdoor patio, pool table, darts and more. The space is shared with Seattle Cider Company and is 21-and-older only. The focus of Georgetown Brewing Company (5200 Denver Ave. S, 206.766.8055) is draft beer, so stop in to get a growler filled. City favorite Manny’s Pale Ale is a Georgetown Brewing beer—you’ll find it on tap around town. Machine House Brewing (5800 Airport Way S, Ste. 121, 206.402.6025) creates English-style ales that are ready to sample at the tasting room, which is open 3-9 pm Wed.-Fri., noon-9 pm Sat. and noon-6 pm Sun.


If you don’t have time to explore the outer neighborhoods, don’t worry—even downtown Seattle has spots for great beer. At Pike Brewing Company (1415 First Ave., 206.622.6044), enjoy one of the signature brews with lunch or dinner. Another option is Gordon Biersch (Pacific Place, 600 Pine St., 206.405.4205), where the beer is made in a room behind the bar—on the top floor of a shopping center!

Local on Tap

Want to try multiple brews in one spot? These places around town have plenty of taps to sample.

Giddy-Up Burgers & Greens

This spot in Ballard has a massive beer menu with brews from around the region—and tasty burgers to help soak up the alcohol. 4600 Leary Way NW, 206.782.2798

Local 360

With 90 percent of the ingredients at this Belltown spot coming from within 360 miles of the city, nearly everything is local and fresh—including the beer, wine and spirits. 2234 First Ave., 206. 441.9360

The Pine Box

Capitol Hill’s Pine Box has more than 30 taps—see what’s available on the website. Open until 2 am daily. 1600 Melrose Ave., 206.588.0375

Beveridge Place Pub

Head to West Seattle for this favorite. There are 36 taps and a huge bottle list. Check out the Menu Book if you’re hungry—it’s filled with spots that deliver. 6413 California Ave. SW, 206.932.9906

Sweet Success

It’s no secret the Emerald City is Seahawks crazy. From T-shirts and window signs to bumper stickers and tattoos, the 12s proudly display their loyalty.

It was that dedication to the hometown team that pushed Laura Silverstein’s line of vinyl handbags to the forefront of the trend.

“Bags that were vaguely the Seattle sports teams’ colors—people would come up to me and be like ‘That’s a Seahawks bag!’ Well actually, it’s just a turquoise bag with a daisy on it, but OK.”

The comments sparked an idea and the Seattle Colors collection was born. “They’ve really been popular around football [season] it seems like, because all of Seattle was so crazy.”

Her bags, which range from small wristlets and travel cases to cross-body bags and larger totes, are made from soft, sparkly vinyl in Seattle. And people love them: “A woman told me she was walking down an alley in downtown Seattle and a car started following her. So she was walking faster, and the car pulls up and a woman was like ‘I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be creepy, but where did you get that bag?’”

Find Glittersweet bags at Phinney Books, 7405 Greenwood Ave. N.

Art of the Brew

Erik Liedholm is taking Seattle’s coffee obsession to a new level as the city’s first certified coffee sommelier

Some people might call Erik Liedholm a beverage expert. The Wine Director for John Howie Restaurant Group is an advanced level wine sommelier, a certified distiller (he co-owns Wildwood Spirits Co.) and now, the Emerald City’s only accredited coffee sommelier, after completing an invitation-only program hosted by Nespresso in Switzerland.

“They teach you about the botany of coffee, how to pull a proper espresso and then actual pairings to find the relationship between coffee and food, coffee and spirits, even coffee and different types of water,” which Liedholm said was an epiphany during the program. “After you take a sip of water, it refreshes the palate, and then you take a sip [of coffee] again, and having the sip of water changes it completely. It was really cool. I thought water, man this is so gimmicky, but afterward all of us were looking at each other like ‘Holy crap.’”

Among Liedholm’s favorite spots for coffee in Seattle is the hometown king, Starbucks. “[It] might sound kind of dorky, but Starbucks is great. There’s a lot of reverse snobbery with Starbucks, but consistently their coffee is really good. They started this coffee madness worldwide, but really they want to make delicious coffee. They started all these micro-roasteries and coffee shops with interesting direct trade coffees.”

Other spots on his list include Caffe Vita, Caffe Ladro and Vif in Fremont. “It’s night and day from Starbucks,” Liedholm said of Vif. “But at the same time, you couldn’t have a place like Vif if Starbucks hadn’t done what they did in the ’70s.”

Hot Spots

Check out these places for your coffee fix.

Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room

This beautiful spot in Capitol Hill gives you a chance to chat with coffee specialists, see the process of roasting beans and try coffee made with a variety of brewing methods. 1124 Pike St., 206. 624.0173

Caffe Vita

This local company sources their coffee from farmers committed to sustainable practices. There are a number of coffee houses around town, including Capitol Hill, Queen Anne and Pioneer Square. Check the website for locations.

Caffe Ladro

Started in Seattle in 1994, Caffe Ladro started roasting their own coffee in 2011, sourcing directly from farmers. Locations including downtown, Capitol Hill and Fremont. Check the website for locations.

Published in WHERE Seattle, October 2015

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