8 Ways to Get Weird in Seattle
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because naked bike rides and unicorn balls.
By Lyndon Conrad Bell
Among the things Seattleites avoid sharing with outsiders is their affinity for the rain, so frequently disparaged by the rest of the U.S. But that disdain for sogginess is considered a plus for those who look past the precipitation to enjoy the secret spaces that Seattle has to offer, weird spaces that have remained favorite guilty pleasures to those in the know. So feel free to explore the likes of the Space Needle and Pike Place with everyone else, but to really know what the city gets up to? Check out these random camp experiences.
Dick Spady was serving great burgers fast at low prices in Seattle long before Ray Kroc happened upon the McDonald brothers in San Bernardino, California. Some 63 years later, in a city with a remarkably sophisticated food scene, more than 175,000 denizens of the Emerald City recently vied with one another to get Dick’s in their neighborhoods. In what has to be the epitome of understatement, Jim Spady, company vice president and son of the founder, says, “Our most valuable recommendations always come from satisfied customers.” With a menu virtually identical to that of the first location in 1954 (burgers, fries, shakes, soda and sundaes — period), Dick’s and, of course, making Dick jokes is loved by Seattleites.
Fremont Solstice Naked Bike Ride
Speaking of dick jokes … each year, the Fremont Solstice Cyclists give the annual Fremont Solstice Parade everything they’ve got — and, for some, that means giving up their clothes. Many opt to cycle naked with the parade each year to celebrate the return of summer. In fact, the event has become something of an institution in the city’s artsy Fremont neighborhood, which is known for its heavy counterculture influence. “The ride is a celebration of ‘Fremont weird,’ ” says Lynsi Burton, who writes for Seattle pi, a local news website. “It’s about friendship, bonding and community, not exhibitionism.” Still, when it comes to celebrating the summer solstice, certain residents do go all out — literally.
The queen of the alternative scene in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, Unicorn combines a French circus atmosphere with wickedly powerful drinks and bar food delicacies such as Unicorn Balls. OK, so they’re actually deep-fried pork balls with ginger, scallions and sweet chili aioli, but every food that Unicorn serves is deep-fried — including its hamburgers. The signature dessert— Unicorn Droppings — has been described as what would happen if a banana and a chocolate bar wrapped themselves in a blanket of pastry and copulated in a vat of boiling fat. This, along with Unicorn’s carnival atmosphere, death-defying drinks and raucous crowds (seemingly all celebrating their 21st birthday), make for a night you’ll struggle to remember. Truth be told, yeah — it’s probably best you forget.
Go There: More Emerald City Weirdness
- Mystery Soda Machine: Nobody knows who put this rusting pop dispenser on the corner of John Street and 10th Avenue, nor who restocks it and collects the coins. Press the mystery button and see what fizzy beverage fate hands you.
- Topless Coffee Shops: Women wear bikinis, lingerie or just pasties while pouring your steaming-hot coffee — the only drawback being that it tastes like coffee poured by women wearing bikinis, lingerie or just pasties.
- Weird Steve’s House: An ode to “horror vacui” — the fear of empty spaces — this klepto’s dream home is filled with quack instruments, funeral paraphernalia, antique toasters and wreaths of human hair. You can view it all online.
- The Fremont Troll: He’s 18 feet tall, encased in concrete and clutching an old Volkswagen. And while your mother may have taught you not to hang out beneath overpasses, it’s perfectly safe to pay him a night visit.
- Meowtropolitan: Cat cafés are all the rage in China, but we’re skeptical. Still, if you can get over the ickiness of paying to see cats in what’s essentially a feline strip club— touching allowed! — then more power to you.
- Lyndon Conrad Bell, OZY Author Contact Lyndon Conrad Bell