I recently spent 6 weeks on a jury at King County Superior Court in the Pioneer Square area of Seattle. It was a heavy case, the defendant charged with several counts of aggravated first-degree murder (verdict: guilty). We were given over an hour for lunch every day, which was enough time to either eat a packed lunch in the jury assembly room, or pop over to Columbia Center to eat in the food court. Instead, I decided to explore the neighborhood. I needed the time to be alone, and to be looking at and thinking about things utterly unrelated to the case. A mental palate-cleanser, if you will.
Here are the highlights of my lunch break adventures; if you find yourself on jury duty in Seattle, you, too, might check some of these out.
You’ll blow your $10/day jury pay to get in (and then some), but the Sky View Observatory in Columbia Center offers a 360-degree view of Seattle, from the 73rd floor.
The most entertaining place I visited was the Seattle Pinball Museum. Pay your admission, and you can play all the vintage games you want, no tokens needed. I was having so much fun, I was in very real danger of not leaving in time to get back to the jury room.
For years I’ve heard of the deli Salumi, run by the family of famous chef Mario Batali. Lines, reportedly, were always out the door and around the block. On Mondays, though, it’s take-out only, which made it easy for me to grab a monster porchetta sandwich, which I took to Waterfall Garden Park to eat.
Waterfall Garden Park has a security guard to keep things orderly (no drug deals, no one sleeping under a bush), and lots of small tables for neighborhood workers to eat their lunches. The witch hazel was blooming while I was there.
One day I hiked up Cherry St. to the Frye Art Museum. It’s free. Here’s a somewhat creepy painting by Stuck, from the permanent collection:
Another day I went to the Last Resort Fire Department. It’s full of antique fire trucks, including the very first fire pump in Seattle, from the early 1800s. I was the only one there, and got a private tour from Galen — he and his father are responsible for the place existing.
Sometimes I’d just wander the streets, seeing what I could see. A fun manhole cover; a walrus on the Arctic Building, with Smith Tower in the background. I wanted to go up to the Chinese Room at Smith Tower, but it’s closed for renovations.
Sometimes I’d go have coffee and watch passersby, like here at Caffe Umbria:
I had the free chocolate truffle tasting at Intrigue Chocolate, and was seduced into buying a boxful to take home. They gave me an insulated bag with a cold pack, so they wouldn’t melt.
At Glasshouse-Studio, I watched the artists blowing molten glass. The furnaces kept it toasty warm in there.
There were a couple museums I never would have gone to otherwise, but since they were free, why not? One was the Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park, where I found these cool boots in the display talking about local shoe-seller, John Nordstrom. He made his first fortune as a prospector.
Another was Milepost 31, all about the tunnel project and the boring machine, Big Bertha. My favorite parts were the scale model of Bertha, and these tubes that illustrated the soil composition of various parts of Seattle. Apparently a lot of Seattle is built on sawdust, and rubble from the Great Fire. Yikes.
There were more parks, more museums, more coffee shops I went to, plus art galleries and antique shops. It’s surprising what you can find in a city, given an hour to poke around.
The next time you receive a jury summons for Seattle, don’t think of it as an annoyance. Instead, think of it as a chance to play pinball and eat chocolate, and to finally get to see all those parts of your own city that you’d never get around to otherwise.