When I moved to Seattle more than a decade ago, a tiny part of me was worried. I'd heard of the rain, of course — never mind that the stats told me Seattle gets less rain than New York, Boston, or Washington, DC. What really concerned me was the chill. Seattleites have a reputation as sometimes cold, unfriendly folk. But from the moment we touched down, we've felt the opposite.
It started the first month. Because our moving van was delayed by an astounding seven weeks, we had our first house, but lacked the basics — no work clothes, no furniture, and, most immediately problematic, no table or cooking utensils.
Neighbors appeared with a table and chairs here, a cutting board there, cups and plates. While sky blessed us with six weeks of clear fall skies, strangers rained down help and encouragement. The best was when neighbors we hardly knew sent a detailed email suggesting where we would need to eat and drink while we were taking advantage of our somewhat kitchen-less state.
We'd get our morning coffee at Herkimer Coffee, two blocks away, where we'd revel in just how lucky we were to live in what we, like most people, perceived to be the country's coffee capital. We'd have burgers for lunch (deluxe with cheese and bacon) from Red Mill, right down the street, and venture downtown to try Tom Douglas's signature spice-rubbed salmon at Etta's.
But the list went further than coffee and salmon; they recommended tomato vendors at farmers markets and must-try microbrews, hole-in-the-wall bars and the best croissants. Everywhere we went, people were excited to introduce us to the city, and especially happy to talk about food.
Seattleites made our situation feel almost intentional — as if we hadn't really committed to moving to The Emerald City yet, and were in fact just camping in an empty house on purpose, waiting to be convinced we'd spend the rest of our lives here.
We were smitten, of course, by that edible welcome mat. We fell in love with the comforting cafes in our own neighborhood, the buzzy tables downtown, and Asian food of all colors in the International District. (We also learned that no matter the morning weather, there's often a sun break between 2 and 4 p.m.)
Since then, I've made an effort to saddle up our own welcome wagon whenever I can. Sometimes that means helping newcomers land softly — offering dinner to strangers who have a house filled with boxes is never a bad thing, and sometimes you make a friend out of it — but more often, it simply means getting excited about my favorite places when someone visiting Seattle wants to see beyond coffee and salmon and beer (oh my!).
It means taking two minutes to tell people when to get in line for wood-fired pizza and that incredible Jersey salad at Delancey (as early as you can), how to mix ice cream and alcohol best (the boozy shakes at Hot Cakes), and why they need to try the herring toasts at The Whale Wins, despite whatever they may have seen in the dust-covered jars of their youth.
The list changes, of course. Last winter, I was addicted to the posole at La Carta de Oaxaca. Just last week, I fell in love with the Malaysian fried rice at Kedai Makan. (How could it have taken me so long to try it?)
But that's exactly what I love so much about Seattle — that the more I try, the more people I meet who are excited about something I haven't tried yet. I'm still being welcomed to my own city, so we'll be here for a while yet. Maybe forever, even with the rain.