Friday, March 23, 2012

Emerald City Comic-Con: A Guide to the Emerald City

I go to a lot of comic book conventions.  Despite digital publishing and social networking making the medium more accessible to new creators, conventions are still a necessary part of paving your way to steady work in the industry.  For many creators, especially those on the independent circle, convention travel can be very expensive.  The cost of conventions are the cost of doing business, and for most, that cost is time they would otherwise spend traveling, either on their own or with their families.  For those creators who have yet to make comics their full time job, that sacrifice can be a difficult one.  Given that, it’s always been kind of surprising to me that so many creators stay so close to the convention center and, in doing so, don’t really get much of a feel for the cities which they’re visiting. After my first con visit, I made a promise to myself that regardless of what business I had to conduct at the convention, I would leave myself one day to explore the city surrounding it.  Because of this, I’ve discovered things I might never have otherwise and met friends I likely never would have.  After Emerald City Comic Con last year, it occurred to me that I should share some of the cool stuff in each of these cities with you guys.  So this year, leading up to each major convention, I’m going to be publishing a City Guide for con-goers. I won’t be doing this alone though.  For each city, I’ve called upon the talents of a local expert to help craft the guide.  Consider it a sort of No Reservations for the nerd contingent.  And for our first installment, Seattle, for Emerald City Comic-Con, we have Seattle writer and photographer, Geoff Carter, ECCC organizer Jim Demonakos and, least of all, yours truly.

The Pink Door at Pike Place Market ( serves Italian food in a beautifully unique setting. Do not be frightened by the trapeze hanging above the dining room - it does get used. Saturday nights there's Burlesque at 11pm (but show up as early as 8:30 to ensure a seat!). "A bit spendy, but the cocktails, entrees and appetizers are great, and occasionally there's a chansons band that plays the cantina music from 'Star Wars: A New Hope.'"

Not many con-goers tend to venture east of the freeway, up Capitol Hill, but this area is where you'll find some of the best options for food and drink.

The Six Arms ( is a McMenamins Family pub two blocks uphill from the Convention Center. Sturdy meals, featuring burgers and their own beer. "Good beer, good tater tots."

The Knee High Stocking Co. ( is a straight-up speakeasy. Hard to find, and not made for casually whiling away an evening, you have to text them (206-979-7049) to reserve a table. On the other hand, the drinks are strong and the food is made with care. Not good for large groups.

Still Liquor ( is also inspired by 1920's prohibition, though in a more relaxed way. Built in an old garage, Still is a bar only - (though since food service is legally required, there are a few overpriced options), but if that's what you're after, it's right around the corner from the Convention Center.

Sun Liquor Distillery (, as the name implies, makes their own booze: gin and vodka. If you are a fan of vintage 50s style and classic cocktails, this is your dream come true. Fancy, but not snobby. "One of the best Negronis I've ever had."

Further up -- maybe a short cab ride -- is the Elysian, Skillet, Linda's Tavern, HoneyHole Sandwiches, Old School Frozen a certain point, it's hard not to find good food and drinks on Capitol Hill.

Belltown, over on the west side, is another pocket of goodness for the discerning conventioneer. A 15 minute walk or 5 minute drive to 2nd and Blanchard will put you in range of these gems:

Shorty's Coney Island (, as the name would imply, is the place for hot dogs and arcade games. A full-service bar and veggie dogs put the cherry on top. Must be seen to be believed. "A John Wayne Gacy'd dive with more pinball machines than God."

Mama's Mexican Kitchen ( has been in business for 31 years, and serves up a wide range of options, including tofu fajitas. Call ahead to reserve the Elvis Room for a special experience.  "Great stick-to-the-ribs Mexican."

The Rendezvous ( is part of a collection of venues that include the Jewel Box Theater and the Grotto. The menu is unpretentious, from chicken tenders to burgers, and the bar has a hot mint julep. "Mac and cheese is tangy and fucking great."

Juju (, formerly "The Bad Juju", is a favorite bar for many Seattleites. Happy hour until 9 every day, party-sized booths (reserve a booth for 8 or more and you get $50 to spend on drinks), Old school hip-hop and house on Saturday nights... This may be the place to wind up your nights. "Just like drinking inside of Keith Richards."


The White Horse Trading Company ( is a great little bar/bookstore hidden in Post Alley, which is located right by Pike Place Market.

Il Bistro ( is also near Pike Place Market.  This simple Italian restaurant has an excellent evening happy hour with fantastic food specials.

Dragonfish Asian Cafe ( is another place that has an awesome happy hour with really excellent food and great drinks, the best thing about Dragonfish is that it’s located on the first floor of the Paramount Hotel.  The Paramount is within walking distance of the convention and where, I imagine, many of you will be staying.

Tap House Grill ( has over 150 beers on tap.  Really, what more needs be said?

Beechers Handmade Cheese ( has two locations and Seattle is lucky enough to get one of them (the other is in NY).  It’s right across the street from Pike Place Market and boasts the best macaroni and cheese in the city.


Local 360 ( is located a mere half a mile from Pike Place Market and offers one of the most interesting and challenging menus in the city.  One of the places I discovered on my walkabout last year, I was lured in by the restaurant’s mission statement; 

We believe in real food, grown and harvested by the good folks in our community who take care of their land for future generations. We believe in whole, natural flavors. We believe in sustainability, not as an abstract concept, but as a conscious daily choice. We believe in hands; the hands of our local farmers, products made by hand, and the goodwill fostered by such hand-in-hand relationships.” 

Everything in the restaurant (other than coffee and sugar) comes from no farther than 360 miles from the front door of the establishment and that commitment to locally sourced meat, produce, grains, alcohol, etc. makes for a uniquely PNW experience.  Great service from a staff that clearly believes in the mission and a unique menu full of options for the foodie in you, Local 360 is a must visit.

 Nitelite Lounge ( is located near the Paramount Hotel and is a pitch perfect dive bar.  Populated by friendly bartenders and a local crowd that have their backsides permanently imprinted on the barstools, the Nitelite is a great place to start your night or to close it out.  This is unpretentious done right, with cheap cans of American beer and a solid happy hour.  If you’re going to dive in the downtown area, this is where to do it.

Zanadu Comics ( is on 3rd Ave., again a short walk from the market, and is Seattle’s premier destination for comic shopping.  While going to a comic convention can sometimes create a bit of comic fatigue, I still like to get away from the show and check out one or two local shops.  Not so much for the shopping, but for an interest in seeing how the comics market operates outside the confines of my own town.  Zanadu is worth a stop.

Old Town Ale House (, located in the Ballard neighborhood, is a great place to check out when you’re ready to get away from the downtown area.  A craft beer nerd’s dream come true, Old Town is a small and intimate pub atmosphere with good food and a great beer selection.  The prices are better than you’d expect (imperial pints for $4.75) and the taps rotate every week, so there’s always a fresh selection of beers to try.  But far and away the best thing about Old Town is the cask they keep behind the bar which has a rotating cask aged ale selection.  Whatever else you do while here, make sure you sample whatever is in that cask.

King’s Hardware ( is a short walk from Old Town Ale House and it’s a great place to sit down and tie one on.  A laid back place with a hipster crowd, King’s is a converted hardware store that’s equal parts barcade and Twin Peaks.  Tattoos and drink specials abound in this fun and inviting space.  If you’ve decided to bypass dinner at Old Town or you just spent a little more time drinking than you expected and need to coat your stomach with some food, King’s has some great bar food to go along with the fabulous beer selection and aesthetic.  This is a must see place for nerds visiting the Emerald City.

Of course everything above is just a suggestion.  What I want more than anything is for everybody experiencing the fun of a convention to take the time to get out and experience all the great things offered by the city itself.  Whatever your path to adventure, I hope that you have a blast!  Tune in over the next few months for guides to Portland (Stumptown Comic-Con), Boston (Boston Comic-Con), Chicago (C2E2) and others!

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