Are you planning a trip to Seattle? On this episode of Streets and Eats podcast, we interview Mary Jo Manzanares who researched and wrote the book Secret Seattle during the pandemic. Find out all the secrets here!
Disclaimer: Some of our articles may contain affiliate links; when you click on these links you’ll have the option to purchase or register for a service at no extra cost to you, but doing so helps us run this blog. That’s awesome!
0:53 – Intro Mary Jo Manzanares and her book Secret Seattle
1:29 – Researching a book during the pandemic
4:49 – Enjoying the sketchy history of Seattle
6:47 – Seattle International District
10:25 – First time in Seattle – Stay Downtown
12:31 – Some of Mary Jo’s recommendations
21:55 – What to do when it rains?
25:53 – Where to Eat
32:31 – Where to find more from Mary Jo
Chinese History in Seattle
Tai Tung Restaurant
Our Khinkali Dumplings from the Republic of Georgia
Pike Place Market
Seattle Art Museum
Uwajimaya Asian Market
Woodland Park Zoo
Point Defiance Zoo
Woodland Park Rose Garden
Secret Seattle book.com
Podcaster Bios for Jim and Corinne: Jim and Corinne are a married couple who love everything travel, and are the owners of Streets and Eats. This podcast is all about travel all over the planet. Jim and Corinne met and married in Germany, and they’ve never stopped. Along the way, they have raised two kids, visited over 90 countries, all 50 United States, and have plenty of stories and travel tips to share. Read more about them on our About page.
Full Transcript of Show
Jim 0:00 Well, hello there, everybody. Welcome back to another episode of Streets and Eats. Today we are going to be visiting with author Mary Jo Manzaneres. She wrote secret Seattle, A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful and Obscure. And we're going to be learning about all those crazy places in Seattle that we never knew we needed to see. Welcome to Streets and Eats the podcast where we want to inspire your next trip by telling you about some fantastic destinations, and the best food to eat while you're there. Now remember until the world opens completely back up and you feel safe to travel again, use this time to research and plan. That's what we're here for. In this episode, we're going to take you to one of my favorite cities, Seattle, and we'll be meeting up with Mary Jo Manzaneres, author of secret Seattle, A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful and Obscure. Corinne 0:53 Well, hi, everyone, and welcome to our guest, Mary Jo Manzaneres. She is also from the Pacific Northwest. Well, and she was here before I was, because we just moved here in June of 2020. But she's been here her whole life. And therefore, she was able to write this really cool book called Secret Seattle. And it tells you all these quirky little vignettes about all the sort of fun things, history...I mean, there's quite a bit in there. Mary Jo 1:29 Yeah, it's, it's just all the stuff that you didn't know. Because you just didn't know it. You know, we were taught things in school that may not be completely accurate. You know, things have certainly been whitewashed or greenwashed. And the other thing is, there's just a world of discovery. When we live somewhere, all of our lives, we tend to only see the things we've always seen, do the things we've always done. And so writing this book was a chance for my husband and I did to constantly turn to one another and say, "Ah, I didn't know that." Corinne 2:04 Well, that's great. And I was reading your story about it and how you were doing it during the pandemic, which must have added a nice little level of extra difficulty to it, I'm sure. But how did you come up with all these interesting things? Did someone tell you? Or did you have a list somewhere, some of these things I would have never even tried to look up? Mary Jo 2:32 Well, there's a format for the book, it's part of a series from Reedy Press, Secret Cities. So I had some great authors to take a look at what they had done, and then tried to see what I could find that represented Seattle. There's a style, obviously and a format to follow, but in terms of the types of, of choices, those were left up to me. Corinne 2:57 And I see in your sources, it says, "site visit, site visit, site visit..." So I'm assuming you were quite busy, even though the rest of us were all vegging during the pandemic, you were off checking out these little places. Mary Jo 3:12 And a lot of them weren't open. And so, because I was writing a book, I was very fortunate to be given access at a time when it wasn't open to the general public. So a lot of places were willing to let us in under limited conditions just to do a quick photo shoot and then get out. And fortunately most, but not all, of them are open now. And that's very exciting too. now everyone can go and see those places. Jim 3:44 That is exciting. There are a lot of really off the wall places that you recommend in there. I'm just wondering if I could go back a little bit. Did you find a really good source for these things? Are there places that you've just kind of learned about throughout the years that you've been in the area? Mary Jo 4:05 Well, you know, Google is my friend. And for a lot of reasons. But you know, what you find is that once you start researching one topic, it's like going down a rabbit hole that takes you through all sorts of areas into things that you never thought of, and before you know it you have five or six ideas just from researching one concept. Now not all of them work out to a story, but some of them might workout for little sidebar item or provide an entry into something that will work out for a vignette. Corinne 4:39 So which one was the most fun to research? Mary Jo 4:45 Well, all the ones that show Seattle, well let's just say it's show Seattle's sketchy side. Just because, you know, we've always had this period, is this notion, of our founding city fathers as being certain type of people and there was a pretty sketchy side to it all. The history is not as flattering to some of those men, because they were all men--white men, as they might have hoped. I mean, there certainly was a lot of abuse of the native tribes that they found here, predominantly the Snowamish. And there certainly was the severely difficult history with Chinese, predominately Chinese labor, but other Asian laborers that came to work here, and you were never really taught that in Washington state history, which I had, I think in sixth or seventh grade. It's sort of glossed over. And I think, given today's times, it's really important to come to a better understanding of what really happened and how that fit into that eras history. Corinne 5:59 I think it is very timely for that reason. And I have to tell you, one of the reasons that Jim and I settled here, mainly because my daughter, our grandson live here, but on top of that, we've lived in Asia for a number of years, a total of nine years, maybe, or something. And so we really love Asian cultures, and we love being around that. Seattle and Tacoma area is so rich in Asian culture that it just sort of makes us feel at home, we get to go out and have foods that we're used to eating. We just moved here from Tokyo, from the Tokyo area, in June of 2020. So it's really fresh in our minds. And I'm glad, I'm glad that you're bringing some of that to light and that now I think it is more celebrated anyway, every year, some just wonderful places to go. Mary Jo 6:47 And our International District has expanded and grown to include so many of the other Asian countries. It was originally predominately China, which is where it got its traditional Chinatown name. And it's greatly expanded with so many variations of dialects and countries represented that it's just a dynamic place to be and a great place to go if you're hungry. Corinne 7:13 Absolutely. We were just there a couple of months ago. But we didn't eat at Bruce Lee's favorite restaurant because we didn't even have your book yet. Tai Fung is it? Mary Jo 7:25 Tai Tung. Corinne 7:25 Right. Tai Tung. And did you get a chance to eat there? Mary Jo 7:30 Yeah, that's one that I knew about. Going back to college days, because at the time, gosh, I think I was up until three or four in the morning, which for a college student doing late night cramming for exams, with not very much money, it was a perfect spot to eat. We would refer to it as "Oh, who's doing a Tai Tung run?". And somebody would go down and pick up a big order to keep us tided over while we were doing our studying. So that one I did know about on my own. Jim 7:58 Okay, I liked a bit of the history that you found on that one, where they had originally had the neon sign that said Chop Suey, and then that had to go away at one point. But now it's back. Mary Jo 8:14 That's a real difficult story, because I'm certainly not qualified to pass commentary on that. I've, I've talked to people that are on both sides of the issue in terms of, yes, they feel it's a racist comment. No, that it's not. And so I just put it out there, and everyone's gonna have to do their own research and decide where they come down on it. Because there is certainly, you know, no agreement on it. But the sign is back. Corinne 8:44 Well, that's interesting they would bring the sign back. Obviously, they're okay with it. It's really cool. What's your favorite food though? Just because, we will go. Mary Jo 8:54 Dumplings. Dumplings, I just love good dumplings. That's right. Jim 9:00 Yeah, we love dumplings, too. In fact, we have a dumpling project that we've been working on over the years. Because every country that you go to has their own dumplings. And so we're trying to present those. And some of them we've even taken lessons on how to make like the Khinkali in Georgia. And then Ukrainian dumplings. And so we'll put those on our website. And it's just great to find a good dumpling place anywhere. Mary Jo 9:27 And I think people underestimate them. I don't think they're all the same, they're not. And I think they, they might seem the same until you have some really good ones. And then it's like, wow. And I, you know, I love the dumplings at Tai Tung. Corinne 9:44 Okay, well, we'll try the dumplings when we go because we haven't been there yet. We haven't actually done tons and tons of things in Seattle because we've only lived here for I guess a year. Year and a half. And things weren't open. And plus with our grandbaby, we had to be super careful because he can't be vaccinated. So you have to be careful. So, getting to Seattle as a destination, do you think that there's a lot of really cool places that people could hang out? How much time do you think Seattle takes? Mary Jo 10:25 As much time as you have, it's, it's one of those. You know, it's one of the places that for a first visit, you know, stay downtown, hit all the recommended tourist spots, I mean, get a city pass and do the aquarium and see the museums and all that kind of stuff. And for a first time visit, or especially like someone who might be adding on a few days before or after a cruise, that's what I recommend doing. It's what I go do when I go to another city, is to get those things out of the way. If you have longer, then you get to get in a little deeper, do some of the things that maybe fit your particular interests or things that are a little bit harder to get to. Maybe they're not quite in the city, you need to have a car, some of those kinds of things. But for first visit, do the basics, and then add on based on how much time you have. Corinne 11:22 Yeah, I mean, I would agree with that. We all do that when we're traveling. Right? And especially because there's so much to do in a city. Mary Jo 11:33 There is and I think, unfortunately, that sometimes the major attractions get a bad rap because it's like, "Oh, it's too touristy." Well, what's wrong with being a tourist? I mean, there are several times that we get a hotel in the city and go do all of those basic things. Because there's a reason they're so popular; they are special. And while I don't want to do them every time I visit the city, you know, do them once and then add on. Corinne 11:59 Yeah. 100%. So, living in Washington state, as long as you have, what are some of your favorite places that you go to hang out to just feel better? To get out of the house? Because you know, that's what traveling is meant to be, it's sort of an escape, right? Mary Jo 12:20 Yeah, it's really hard because outside my office window here it is just pouring... Corinne 12:28 It is atrocious lately. Mary Jo 12:31 sideways rain, and honestly, this is a time of year where the thought of slogging somewhere in this kind of weather is depressing somewhat. But yet when I get out and do things, then it's so enjoyable that I wonder why do I don't do it more often. So it is kind of a double edged sword. I always like going to the Pike Place Market. I just shop there. When we go into the city, we go to the market to buy whatever we need and take home and it'll last us for as long as it does. We we get a hotel in the city probably, well up until 2020, five or six times a year. We go to the market, we get our wine, we get all sorts of snacks for the room. And so we've just developed our favorite spots to stop and get flowers and food and wine and we do that regular. So I don't see that as a tourist kind of thing. I'd see that as, oh, let's go shopping at the market. And it's always fun.There's always a just sort of a vibrancy that that goes on there. The other place I really like is the Seattle Art Museum. They've got a nice assortment of permanent and rotating exhibits. It's easy to get to from the market. So those two often go hand in hand. If we're staying close by the market. We'll probably manage to do one or the other of those both days. And so that's always a treat. If I want to go shopping in the International District, I always hit up Uwajimaya because there are so many things I never knew I had to have there. Corinne 14:16 We walked through there thinking, "oh my gosh, we missed this so much." Jim 14:20 That's worth a good hour on an afternoon, anyway, just to walk through Uwajimaya, Mary Jo 14:25 Right. Because it's sort of like "Oh, I need that and I have no idea what it is." So that is always fun. And those are sort of...I'm thinking of indoor places now because it's winter time. During the summer, with the outdoor weather, Gasworks Park is just delightful, a gorgeous place. So much room, you can walk you can hike, you can take a picnic. You can go out to the water and look at the houseboats across the way; or we call them floating homes now, sorry. So that's that's a real treat. Corinne 15:00 I think Gasworks Park is great for Instagram, people want to go take their Instagram pictures there. And for portraits, I did a whole photo portrait shoot there. And it's just fantastic backdrops. Mary Jo 15:11 It's just gorgeous there. One of the places that we're really excited about getting back to now that things are opening up again, is someplace that we didn't know about. That's the Pinball Museum. Corinne 15:26 That is on our list now too. Mary Jo 15:30 They kindly and graciously opened up so that we could take a quick look and get some photos. We did a brief interview with them. They're, they're a lovely couple, they actually live very close to us from home, but we weren't able to actually get in and play. And so now it's like, there's some stuff that goes way back. So we're gonna try to figure out a time. And we're doing some remodeling in our basement that we're trying to figure out. There might be a pinball in our future. Jim 16:04 You did mention that they can give you information on where to buy pinball machines and stuff like that. Mary Jo 16:11 Yeah, they can help make that purchase. And I think that's, we're not quite, we're not quite there yet. We're probably a couple months from that. But there are a couple corners that might be perfect for a pinball machine. Jim 16:24 We're looking at looking at a new house ourselves. And it's got a nice big basement. So that could be on our shopping list, too. Mary Jo 16:32 Yeah. And one of the other places I recommend for people visiting here is wine tasting, your, grapes predominantly grow on the eastern part of the state, although there is some grown up in Whidbey Island area. They have a tasting room here, go taste some Washington wine and get to know a little bit about the grapes that we're known for, You can do that at some places in the Pioneer Square area, or you can get out to Woodinville and there's, you know, 100 and some wineries and tasting rooms out there. So those would be the some of the highlights I'd recommend. Corinne 17:07 Oh, that sounds like fun. We haven't done that either. Mary Jo 17:10 And there is, since we don't live too far apart, there is a little local winery that has the state grapes, here in Federal Way, just a few miles from where we live. And it's been here for I don't know, 10 or 15 years. You know, we've been here much longer than that we had no idea it was down there until well, until after the book went to went to press. So we'll be hitting that up again. Corinne 17:39 Jim loves to go wine tasting. Jim 17:41 I do! Corinne 17:41 We lived in Europe for so many years that wine tasting was something that you did as a general rule. Of course, no matter where you were, there's a winery or brewery to try. Mary Jo 17:53 Well, I'll send you the information. Maybe we can meet there for some wine tasting. Corinne 17:56 That would be fun. We will do that. Well, what else? Can you tell us about you know how you enjoyed researching the book, or maybe something else that you found surprising. Mary Jo 18:10 What I really appreciated were the people who are willing to help share information that I'm guessing often get overlooked. You know, a restroom attendant, a janitor. You know, a bellman, everybody has stories to share. It's just a matter of tapping in and asking them and they were, you know, fountains of information that lifted me off in a variety of directions. And I think that's just good information for all of us, no matter where we're traveling, we can get information from, you know, people beside the front desk or the concierge. And that's not to minimize them, they provide a very, very valuable and important service. But it's always helpful to get information from someone who I think of as being kind of just like me, just an average kind of person looking for a diner or for something that's just casual. Corinne 19:11 Well, that's one of Jim's and my big, big things, is always talk to really everyone to get their recommendations. Because, you know, especially when you're overseas, it may not be so hard in the United States because we speak English and we understand, since we live here, which reviews to look at and maybe how to read them, kind of get the nuances of them and stuff like that. But when you're overseas in a foreign country, you may not be looking at the right app, or you might not know the language well enough or Google Translate hasn't translated quite well. I think the best thing to do is ask locals, "where would you go" and I know I actually shy away from concierge at the hotel just because a lot of times they've been told, don't tell them to go here, go here, Jim 20:03 Yeahm they have a pre existing relationship. Corinne 20:07 They don't want to really give you their own opinion. Mary Jo 20:10 Well, a great concierge is worth their weight in gold, because they will give you an honest answer about what you're looking for. But so, so many seem to be, I don't know if it's a matter of staffing, or they're just not not hiring the expert, but they have a list of a handful of places. And that tends to be where they steer people. So you really have to know who you're asking and have a realistic expectation of what you're getting for an answer. Corinne 20:39 And have established a little report maybe ahead of time. So they know they can be honest with that. Mary Jo 20:45 Well, because sometimes I want that fancy schmancy you know, steakhouse dinner, and sometimes they, you know, I'm in my sweats and a T shirt. I just want to grab, you know, grab something on the run. Corinne 20:57 Yeah, I just like to know where people want to go themselves, because that tells me that that's going to be a good hidden gem maybe. Jim 21:07 So that's usually how we open up the conversation, "Well, where would you go on a Saturday afternoon for lunch or a Friday night?" And yeah, from as many different people as you can, throughout the area where you're at. Mary Jo 21:25 Well, everyone's gonna have a different answer. I mean, my husband and I have a different answer to that question. Corinne 21:34 That's right. Yeah. I agree with that. So if you're coming to Seattle, and it's November and it's raining cats and dogs, other than the museum, and you know, Pike Street Market which is indoors, where else can we go and have some fun? Mary Jo 21:55 Well, my favorite, my favorite rainy day activities, perhaps because I live here, are pretty basic. It's wine tasting. It is all the museums, I try to do them, you know, on a cycle every winter. Do all the museums, both Seattle and Tacoma on a cycle throughout the winter. I will sometimes do the zoo in the winter just because it's a little different pace. If it's really pouring down rain, then no, but if it's just kind of cold and you know, Seattle, misty, both Woodland Park Zoo and the Point Defiance Zoo can be great. The aquarium I try to do that once a year as well. Poking along the waterfront, Seattle waterfront, it's always fun, you can be outside if it's a little bit drier and pop in if it gets a little bit wetter, but those are those types of things I tend to do during the rainy season. Corinne 23:07 And what about when spring comes along? Where are you aching to go and get outside? Jim 23:13 Where are the best flowers? Corinne 23:17 We know the university has beautiful cherry blossoms. Mary Jo 23:22 And the arboretum, the Rose Garden at the Atwood the Park Zoo is is great. And you know part of the reason it's so great is because they use Zoo poo which we talked about in the book. And you know the Ballard Locks is a great place during the summer. Of course it was closed this past year, but the fish ladder is open. I think the biggest run is probably going to be late July, early August if I remember correctly. And that's that's a fun place to get and take a picnic, watching the boats going through the locks. And it's free. Like, you know, I mean, I'm used to looking at larger locks where people spend a lot of money to take their boat through and because it's free we have a lot more boat traffic than then one might think. So those are places that I would go because I wanted to just be outside I didn't necessarily want to do anything specific just I wanted to enjoy being outdoors. Kubota Gardens, which is in southern South part of Seattle is great. We have a couple of rail trails along Lake Washington, the Burke Gilman trail starts in, well, I grew up calling it Golden Gardens, but it kind of starts in the water there in Ballard and actually goes through all the way up to Bothell with a with a brief missing mink, is what they call it, a repair that's not officially a trail that they now we're going to finish. That's a great walk if you've got a lot of ambition. Or maybe you just want to, to walk and stop off for a beverage and something to eat and, and call it a day. So those are all great. Warmer weather, drier weather activity. Corinne 25:15 That sounds like fun, we haven't done, I don't think, any of that really. Though we've done the locks. Mary Jo 25:19 Kubota Gardens is just, it's just a gem. And so many people don't realize that it's here, because it's south of the city and sometimes people only think of downtown. It also has an incredible history of the family who was interned during the Japanese internment during World War Two. And it's an incredible story of family and perseverance. And it's now run by a foundation. Corinne 25:50 Oh, fantastic. I love that kind of thing. Jim 25:53 Well, you mentioned one of my favorite things, which is food. Are there any places that you find yourself going back to fairly regularly for food? For eating out? Mary Jo 26:04 Yeah, and that's, that's both a good thing and a bad thing. It's a good thing because you know, you have your favorite, favorite waiter and everything, but it's also a bad thing because you sometimes forget to try new new places. So saying this, it's like I realized, oh, but there's so many places I missing. You know, for us steakhouse dinner where we're partial to El Gaucho and Daniel's broiler. And those are, you know, those two are go to places when we're doing a steak dinner or taking some someone else for for a nice meal. I do like Tai Tung in the International District. I've already said that. Corinne 26:51 What about seafood, Seattle is known for seafood? Mary Jo 26:56 I like Ivar's down on the waterfront. Ivar Haglund was a colorful chap. And I'm not sure if all of the stories about him, or spun about him, are true or not, but they are at least enough grounded in fact that they keep getting repeated for decades. And he was a colorful restauranteur and a big Seattle supporter. That was was the place my parents took us for our 12th birthday special you're-going-be-a-teenager-soon dinner. And so going back there, especially to the one on the waterfront, is always a treat. He's got, you know, fast food, walk up bars and other restaurants around the city. But the one on the water is still my favorite. You know, for, for view. Also if you're down by the market, I like Heather's, which is just at one end of the Pike Place Market there. It's easy to just go in and have a seat in the bar and have a drink and have some appetizers. And call it a nice Seattle day, especially if there's a nice view out in the water. So those are just you know, those would be the ones that we go to over and over without without thinking. And there's also an Italian restaurant that we recently discovered, thanks to the recommendation of friends, called Machiavelli. And that's a new favorite spot for us. We've gone a couple of times. It's a small family owned place and they have a great menu and wine lists. It's easy to get to, on Capitol Hill. They don't take reservations. So that's the downside. You don't want to go in the cold weather because you'll find yourself standing outside. But we've gotten before the weather turned and it was really a delightful, small cozy kind of place that we really like. Corinne 28:54 Well, I'm not sure about the listeners, but I've got a big list of things I need to do. Mary Jo 29:01 We're neighbors, so anytime you want to go, just shoot me an email. Jim 29:06 But you're right, it is you do feel kind of, not bad, but like you might be missing out on something when you do go back to places that you really like. because Seattle is full of so many great restaurants. But it's always good to get a locals idea. Mary Jo 29:25 You know, when things started opening up again, we said that, you know every week we were going someplace new. Whether it was for lunch or cocktails or dinner or whatever, because we really wanted to support those restaurant that were struggling to survive. And we, you know, we then just fell into going to the same old places again and we need to, we're starting up again next week. We're going to go to Dukes up on Alki in West Seattle and they have Monday night half price wine. So that was that we're going to go do. We'll go up there, which hopefully won't be too, too nasty of weather. We're going to walk the waterfront and then have an early dinner and bottle of wine. Jim 30:14 That sounds like sounds like a perfect Monday night. Corinne 30:26 That about sums it up. We have a lot to do being in Seattle, we're definitely not experts on it like you are. We're just now discovering our new state, and we're really enjoying it. I'm glad that things are opening up so we can get out more. It makes a huge difference. And like Jim said, we're buying a house, so I guess we're gonna stay for a while, at least for a while. Jim 30:52 We'll be sure and use your secret places in Seattle for exploring. I don't know if I'll go to the gum wall. Corinne 31:00 Well, that's a really popular place actually. Mary Jo 31:05 It is. And I have heard about it for years and years and years. I had never been there. I never wanted to go there. It's just disgusted me. But for the book, it's like, Okay, I've got to get down there and take a picture. And Yuck, yes, yes. But packed. People are down there having their prom pictures or wedding pictures. I don't get it. Corinne 31:30 I don't get it either. But if you did decide that you liked it after all. And you go to Prague, there was also one there. Mary Jo 31:39 We were in San Luis Obispo just a couple of months ago. They have one there. Yeah, the Seattle one is the second germiest sites in the world. It's right behind the Blarney Stone. So Oh, yeah. Yep. Yeah. Corinne 32:00 The Blarney Stone. I did kiss the stone. And then I read that it was the germiest place, but it was before the pandemic. Mary Jo 32:07 Yeah, I'm not a germaphobe. But still yuck. Corinne 32:09 Yeah, yeah. Okay, well, Mary Jo, where can the listeners find you if they want to? Well, first of all, I mean, they can get your book on Amazon. That's not a problem. But other than that, where can people find you? Mary Jo 32:31 I have my travel blog, which is TravelingwithMJ.com all my social media spins from there, and you can find the book and more information about the book at Secret Seattle books.com. Jim 32:47 We'll make sure we include all those links in our show notes. Thank you. Corinne 32:51 Absolutely. Okay, well, I guess that's gonna do it for this episode of Streets and Eats. We really appreciate you coming on. Jim 33:01 All right. Well, that wraps up another episode. Thanks for joining us here at Sreets and Eats where we want to encourage you to saviour the adventure. We'd love for you to come to our website, RovingVails, or a sister site, Reflections Enroute, and sign up for our newsletters. That way you'll never miss a podcast or a blog post. And join us on Facebook in our private Facebook group, Streets and Eats, where we talk all things travel, get advice from fellow travelers, answer questions, and just have a great conversation. Thanks for listening. Corinne 33:35 And Ciao for now. Transcribed by https://otter.ai