Taco Tuesdays: Buckley’s in Belltown

Buckley’s has become a tradition for my friend group in the last few months. We go here for Geeks Who Drink free trivia every Tuesday. We used to go to Leny’s Place near Green Lake, but several of our team moved to Belltown/Queen Anne, one of us moved to Kansas, and two of us work downtown, so Belltown ended up being most convenient for most of us. And they have really good tacos! There are a bunch of fillings to choose from, but I have been sticking to grilled shrimp, because everything else is just too spicy for me (judge away; I don’t care). They actually grill the tortillas, which are nice and thick and toasty, just the way I like them. Tacos are 2/$6 every Tuesday, all day and night (though I hear it’s not the best deal in town and I intend to find these cheaper but just as delicious tacos very soon). They also have really good fries: Soft, golden, sturdy, crispy, and flavorful. I’ve never had their burgers, but I have smelled them when Kurt and Neil have ordered one, and they smell divine.

While Buckley’s is very much a sport’s bar at its heart, the noise level is never that bad. You can hear each other talk and you can hear the announcer ask questions at trivia. There are TVs everywhere playing different games, but the sound is never on. The bar just plays just classic rock. After trivia is over, they switch to more modern, louder music. Usually top 40 hits. We don’t stay after though. Most of us have to get up early for work. I have to bus half an hour to get home most of the time. I’d be curious to see how different the atmosphere is during actual happy hour (we get there around 6:45 and leave around 9:30) or later on a weekend.

But my favorite part about Buckley’s is the service. We always have the same server, Lauren, who always greets us with a smile and is very quick to bring us menus, remembers our usual orders, and checks in the appropriate amount of times though she is so busy with several tables. I look forward to seeing her every week almost as much as seeing my friends. So, go check out Buckley’s if you love tacos, and then recommend me my next taco place to try!

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Grilled shrimp tacos with plenty of pico de gallo and special (Chipotle?) sauce
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Pitchers are $14, and at about 4 glasses a pitcher, that’s pretty good. My new favorite beer is Guinness, by the way. So smooth!
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Look at all those flags!
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Do these not look like the most perfect fries you’ve ever seen?

 

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Full acclimation

It’s always fascinating to me how quickly humans tend to acclimate to new situations. One that I’m always mentioning is the acclimation to a new climate. In Seattle, we have a mild climate, thanks to moderation from the Puget Sound. In an average year, the highest temperature is 64°F and the coldest is 41°F. This year has not been average. However, our highest temperatures this summer still did not compare to what people living in say, the midwest, or even on the other side the Cascade Mountain Range, experience every year. But when if you live here for even a few years, you get used to it. You forget what 90 degrees in your small hometown felt like every year of your life, and suddenly you are wishing fall were here again when you’ve had a week straight of low-80s! Or you’re waiting at a bus stop on a rare 32 degree day, bracing yourself against a biting breeze, apparently with no memory of waiting for the school bus in 10 degrees and a foot of snow for four years. You’ve acclimated. I acclimated very quickly. Just a few weeks ago, I took a quick road trip to Yakima for my cousin’s bridal shower and was not expecting the stifling heat of 92! I have been spoiled by this city.

Another thing I have found myself acclimating to (and the point of this post) is drinking less. Oh yes, we are being transparent and we are hitting hard. I realized last week that I was drinking too often and too much, so I’ve decided to cut back. It hit me while I was lying on the couch on Thursday, knowing I had to get up and shower and go to bed, but my mind was racing with anxiety. Wondering why I was anxious about nothing made me feel depressed, and I asked Kurt what was wrong with me. He asked me, “Well when was the last time you didn’t have a drink all day?” I thought about it. About a week. I also realized the only reason I hadn’t had a drink that night was probably because we ran out of alcohol in the house the day before and I didn’t have any plans with friends.

You see, when you can afford to go out whenever a friend wants to, and most of your social engagements involve drinking, and there’s hardly anyone around you who isn’t, and you have a bunch of bottles that just happened to go home with you after your birthday party at the beach, it’s really easy to just… go a whole week and drink everyday. Not get drunk, just have a drink. Usually one. But the previous Friday, I’d had too much. Like not even subjectively too much. Like absolutely too much. I don’t enjoy missing part of a night and having someone tell me how it went the next morning.

I’m not glorifying this. It was stupid, I know. It scared me. I won’t pretend it was the first time that’s happened, but lying on the couch a week later, realizing that I’d had a drink everyday since that night and then felt anxious without it, I realized I needed to make a change. At first, I was like, “Why? It’s not like it’s affecting my life that much. It was just one blurry night.” But then I started thinking about all the good things that would come out of just cutting back. My friends have all been supportive and have helped me stay the course and see the benefits as well: It’s better for my health. I’ll lose weight. I’ll save money. My tolerance will go down, which will be more cost-effective and make me want to drink less anyway. And it’s already working. I am amazed at how quickly my tolerance has changed. In the last 9 days, I have had a total of 5 drinks. My goal was 3 a week, if any, Sunday to Saturday. This week, I had 4, but nobody’s perfect.

I did learn that there are certain bars where I should definitely only get one, like the place where I met a friend for happy hour yesterday. They make them so strong! After leaving, I realized I had a buzz I normally felt after 4 drinks. Probably because those were both doubles, but on Monday and Wednesday, when I only had one drink all day, I did feel like they were having more of an effect than one drink normally would on me. And it’s only been a week. I’m actually pleasantly surprised by how easy this is. The Sunday after my first party where I consciously decided “only one drink tonight” was miserable. I hated my decision. I wanted to go back. But I have so many friends who are supporting me and have been through this before. I have friends who have quit completely, but I feel like that would be too stressful for me right now. Maybe I will in the future, but right now, 3 a week is already so much better than I was doing, and I am already feeling the effects. I’m glad I’m doing this. I am looking forward to feeling more awake and alert, enjoying the company of my friends without getting wasted, fitting into my favorite skinny jeans comfortably, and putting my money toward more worthwhile things. I look forward to full acclimation.

Foodie Friday: Cafe Solstice

On Sunday, I met with a new friend for brunch at a place neither of us had been to, which was why we agreed on it. It is, after all, my goal to try out every eatery in this city, even if it takes my whole life (which it might).

Cafe Solstice, only a few blocks from the Capitol Hill light rail station and Cal Anderson Park, as it turns out, is a fantastic place for brunch. Their menu extends beyond typical breakfast sandwiches, egg scrambles, coffee, and pastries to include a lovely variety of salads and sandwiches. The lunch sandwiches seemed rather pricey in my opinion, but I got a croissant breakfast sandwich, which was absolutely worth the price. Simply scrumptious. Maybe next time I’ll try a French dip and see if it’s worth the listed $10!

The atmosphere was modern and comfy, like what I expect to find in a cozy Seattle coffee shop. Heavy wooden chairs, smooth grey walls, dodecahedron metal frames each containing a single bulb hanging from the ceiling… Above the register, high on the wall, is a giant mirror that gives the illusion of more space and geometric lamps than there are. On the wall between the register and the kitchen hangs a stuffed buffalo head. I was intrigued by the signs at each booth that you could display if you chose: “Please join me,” which encouraged strangers to share a booth, to save on seating. The need for this innovation soon became apparent, as the shop began filling up with people around noon. I did think the cashier could have been more gracious when I didn’t know that you order everything at the counter instead of getting your order taken at a table. It was my first time there and there wasn’t a sign indicating this, that I could see.

Along the window-filled wall opposite the counter, simple wooden booths contained friends meeting up or solo professional types with their laptops and earbuds. There were a few tables of small groups of students or writers collaborating, one or two couples with a small child and a dog (I actually saw several dogs come and go), in addition to the people my age either meeting friends or working. I was surprised by the amount of customers working because the music was considerably louder than most cafes I’ve visited. It was almost too loud, but it didn’t stop me and my brunch date from having lovely conversations. Through the kitchen doorway, I could see the servers and cooks laughing and joking with each other, looking genuinely glad to be there. I also loved how my latte came in a tall glass, with a white heart on top.

Overall, Cafe Solstice earns an 8/10 for overall experience and I would come here again. Let’s break it down:

Tastiness: 10/10

Atmosphere: 9/10

Affordability: 7/10

Service: 9/10 

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Sausage, egg, and cheddar croissant sandwich and hazelnut latte, which were amazing!
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View of the balcony seating from my table, with my back to the door
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The tall windows looked out onto a beautiful tree-lined residential street
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I’m in love with these lamps

 

Happy Hour Mondays: Brave Horse Tavern

I have been to Brave Horse Tavern in South Lake Union at least twice. Once, for an office kickball team pre-game drink a few months ago, and once just the other day to catch up with a friend who lives in the area. I like this bar because it feels adult and upscale without being too pricey. It is located up some stairs from the street, on top of another bar that looks out onto a wide staircase and courtyard for an office park. As you’d expect, this location makes them very busy all the time, so if you have a group of more than five, I would call ahead. With the exception of a few tall tables at the far end of the bar, most of the seating consists of long benches and tables, so you could make friends with strangers, though climbing out from between your neighbors can be tricky if there’s a lot of you. Two of the walls are filled with windows, letting in the sun, though if it’s cloudy, there is still ample lighting. I love me a well-lit watering hole. The decor and architecture is slightly old west, but with clean lines and clean glasses.

The servers are quick to help you decide what to order, showing an impressive knowledge of the menu, and they are so friendly and welcoming, I always feel like coming back. I know working at a restaurant isn’t the most fun job in the world (with exceptions, I’m sure) but showing an enthusiasm for the items you’ve tried gets me excited about trying new things too.

One thing I do wish were different is the food options. They like to take typical bar appetizers and make them complicated, which always makes it hard for me to decide what to order. It can’t just be tomato mozzarella toast. It has to be tomato toast with mozzarella, red and yellow bell peppers, and a mix of jalapenos and baby green bell peppers, all of this swimming in a light pesto sauce. Drinks are easier because everything is so fun and tasty that I can just eeny-meeny-miney-moe it. The cocktails can be pretty creative, with interesting names, but they are still good. I haven’t had a drink here that I didn’t love.

So whether you are having a team happy hour or just catching up with a friend, go check out Brave Horse Tavern and try something delicious with some weird ingredient. Surprise yourself!

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In my kickball jersey, enjoying a slushie Moscow Mule 
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Tomato toast with mozzarella, red and yellow bell peppers, and a mix of jalapenos and baby green bell peppers. Cava brut and cava rose wine. Wasabi deviled eggs. 

A little blue in the sky

Last year, I decided to go to a therapist to talk about why I have such a hard time controlling my emotions. My avoidance of this problem has resulted in arguments that go on too long, lying on the couch in a state of depression most times that I’m alone longer than a few hours, and heightened anxiety turning into paranoia about my relationships. I saw one therapist for five months before she moved her office to Bellevue, and I, without my own car, considered that too far to take the bus, especially in rush hour, so I decided not to see her anymore. If I’m going to bus to the east side, it will be to see a friend and it will be on the weekend so I have lots of time.

Talking to a professional really helped. I put it off for way too long. She taught me to practice mindfulness and take a step back from my own conflicts and look at them objectively, pinpointing why something made me feel a certain way and what I could have done to de-escalate instead of escalating further. Everyone around me noticed it helping. When she moved, I told myself I would find a new therapist soon. I didn’t. It showed. Was it laziness? Depression? Self-doubt? Fear that I wouldn’t be able to find another person who listened as well as she did or validated my feelings as well? Regardless, my lack of a healthy outlet quickly became a detriment to my emotional well-being. It was almost seven months later that I finally began my search for a new therapist. It was almost too late for at least one of my friendships. Almost.

I’ve now been seeing someone for about a month or two. I only see him every other Thursday because of cost, even though he is charging me well-below his asking rate since it’s all I can afford. Meeting every other week certainly makes it hard to remember what happened since we last spoke, but most times, I will just pick some argument or tense moment that happened recently as a result of someone’s (usually my) insensitivity or insecurity and we’ll focus on that and talk about what I learned from that. We dig deep. I am learning where my emotions come from again, and though I’m not perfect, I think I am doing better at handling them. I think I am getting better at expressing my needs while recognizing others’ and knowing that what I want isn’t always what someone else can give. It is certainly difficult, but it is so rewarding to talk to someone whose whole passion in life is listening to others’ problems and helping them understand why they feel that way and figuring out what they can do about it. I hope that one day, I will have a firm enough grasp on my emotions that I won’t need a professional, but I am still learning. I have a long way to go, but it is helping. I am doing my best.

For the last few weeks, Seattle has been covered in a frosted glass snowglobe of smoke and ash. There has literally been ash falling from the sky, coating cars, floating in and landing on tables in pubs, trapping in the summer heat, forcing asthmatics to stay indoors… Walking through the city, with our new white skies and orange sun, feels like walking through an apocalyptic wasteland. It had already started to feel like the new normal until today. Today, the smoke has started clearing (for now), and a little bit of blue is peeking in. That’s what being in therapy feels like for me. Not addressing my issues and letting them eat me up and ruin my life feels like the end. It feels like dying. Being in therapy feels like blue skies peeking in.

Happy Hour Monday: Six Arms

Six Arms is a Capitol Hill branch of McMenamins, a chain of 65 pubs, music venues, and hotels that started in Portland, OR. I came here with a guy I hung out with once. We met online because that’s how I make new friends. We’d been bar hopping and this was the second bar we ended up. I love all the chandeliers and random art on the walls. Best happy hour prices I’ve ever seen! I was absolutely shocked to stumble in at 10 pm and find the prices so low.

Location: Pike St and Bellevue Ave

Happy Hours: Daily 3pm-6pm & 10 pm-midnight

$2.65-4.25 beers

$6.5 wine

$2.5-4.5 food

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Hour Monday: Benihana

I used to come here with a girl I hung out with for a while. We’d go to musicals at the 5th Avenue Theatre, which was just across the street, after happy hour here. Sushi, pot-stickers, dumplings, edamame, and Shirley Temples. She didn’t drink, so I didn’t either. But I imagine the drinks they do have are great! I’m not a huge fan of sake, but I’m sure it’s different everywhere, so might as well try it sometime! Check out those food prices! If you can get here before 6, might as well have enough to make it your dinner and save some money. I’m not the most well-versed person in the world of quality sushi, but I always enjoy what I have here, so it can’t be that. They say you get what you pay for, but this stuff is really good despite the price. Check it out!

Location: 5th Ave and Union St

Happy Hours: Mon-Thurs 3pm-6pm

$5 sake

$5-7 beer

$5.5 well drinks

$7.75 wines

$7.75 cocktails

$3.25-2.5 appetizers

$4.25-7.5 sushi

 

 

Happy Hour Monday: Easy Joe’s

First time I came here, the main bartender made fun of me for not knowing how to order a drink. But my company comes here for  CEO-funded happy hours, so I don’t mind too much. We’ve come here several times, actually. And I’ve come here with the coworkers I’m closest too, just by ourselves. It’s a nice relaxed place, a little small, the kind of place that has its regulars without being too hole in the wall. Their pork tacos are to die for. One of the other bartenders was happy to tell me all about where she got her lipstick and what products are similar for a better price after I complimented the color. I like that in a bartender. Please don’t me seriously. I like this place for the food (they also have great nachos), but they also have a great selection of beers, if you like beer.

Location: 1st Ave and Cherry St

Happy Hours: Daily 4pm-7pm

$5 drinks

$5 food

 

 

 

 

Happy Hour Monday: Contour

Seattle is a place where everyone is busy, doing all kinds of different jobs with all kinds of different schedules. Social time is hard because people are hard to get a hold of. And no, I don’t believe in the “Seattle freeze” because I don’t believe that it’s limited to Seattle or that it’s something that just happens to people. I think it’s a “young person figuring out who they are and what they want to do with their life and trying to pay the bills” thing. Some people make a conscious effort to hang out with their friends and some people focus on work and relaxation time instead, but regardless of why your social life is failing, it is, so where you do find human interaction?

I find it at work. Most everyone at my job is around my age, and the company is really good at hiring people with great attitudes, so there isn’t anyone I dislike. I can get along with anyone there. And when you need social time outside of work, you ask your coworkers to join you for happy hour. In one of the three bars on the ground floor of the building. Because it’s right there and you get off work when the prices are best! Contour is one of these places. This doesn’t mean I go there a lot. I’ve been there maybe three times since September. But I like it. It’s actually where I first met the girl who recommended me for my job at Clarity (now SCI Solutions. There was a merger; Google it).

Contour has classic and modern décor and looks very Seattle, without trying too hard. Casually Seattle. Nice big booths. Great place to meet up with a friend and talk. Apparently it’s a pretty hopping night club when night time rolls around, but I am all snuggled up in bed by then, so I’ve never experienced it.

1st Ave and Columbia St in the Colman Building

3pm-7pm

$4.50 well drinks/$8 doubles

$3-6 beer

$5 wine

$4.95 food

 Oo, also, they have outdoor seating, so if the weather is nice and you want to sip a drink while enjoying the sunshine, you can do that here!

Wonderful Wednesday: New Job

The last time I mentioned my job, I described it incorrectly. That was what I thought I’d be doing. I’m not disappointed in what I’m actually doing, don’t get me wrong. I’m quite indifferent. I love what I do. Originally, I had said that I would be helping people sign up for the best health insurance for them based on their lifestyle and their financial situation, but that was wrong. I’m not sure where I even got that. Here’s what I really do:

You know when you go to your family doctor and the person at the front desk scans your insurance ID card, you see your doctor, and the doctor refers you to a specialist? Maybe you need an MRI or a CAT scan, or you just need to see a dermatologist about a mole. When you go to the specialist, your appointment sometimes needs to be authorized by your insurance. If it isn’t, sometimes the appointment can’t even be scheduled. And when you get to the specialist, their office needs to know how much to charge you based on what your insurance covers. But if your primary care doctor’s office doesn’t have the most current information, things can get messy.

Here is where we come in. We are referral authorization and insurance eligibility verification service. Hospitals and practices hire us to basically “catch” referrals before they get to the specialist and check that all the information is correct. Much of the process is automated, but what doesn’t get caught by the computer programs (trying hard not to use terms that people who don’t do this wouldn’t understand) that automate the process, I catch and fix, then send to the specialist. Sometimes, like with the main hospital that I work, we receive referrals from the specialist, because they are the ones who hired us. If the information is incorrect, sometimes we have to send the referral back to obtain more information, but sometimes, through some sleuthing, we can figure out what’s wrong ourselves, update it, and send it on its merry way.

The goal that we are working toward is making the healthcare process easier for everyone: family care doctors, patients, specialists, insurance companies; everyone. The quicker that a patient’s appointment and procedure is authorized and their insurance information is verified, the quicker their appointment can be scheduled. The quicker their appointment is scheduled, the more likely they are to even go. 

So. I love my job. We are doing a great thing, and I am surrounded by tons of people who also love their jobs. It’s full of positivity. Plus, there’s free snacks.