What We're Looking Forward to in Seattle in 2021

Things are looking up already.

Courtesy of Off-Alley
Courtesy of Off-Alley
Courtesy of Off-Alley

If there’s one thing we all had in common last year, it was a collective obsession with food: We found new ways to be creative in the kitchen, ordering takeout became an act of solidarity, and suddenly everyone and their mother was nurturing a sourdough starter. And while it’s yet to be seen whether or not 2021 will be markedly different (I don’t think that starter is going anywhere just yet), there are some new openings-and reopenings-in the restaurant world that are sure to spice things up, both figuratively and literally speaking. Hungry for some new flavors in 2021? Thought so. 

Courtesy of Martino's
Courtesy of Martino’s
Courtesy of Martino’s

The triumphant return of Martino’s to Phinney Ridge

When Martino’s closed its doors, foodies around the world (or at least, around the Emerald City) were crushed. Luckily, the anguish was short-lived; Martino’s is reopening in January just a few blocks south, and promises to serve up all the good stuff we’ve been missing-with an expanded menu, no less. Go for a signature sandwich, and save room for some smoked wings dipped in house-made BBQ sauce. 
Reopens: January

A second location of Spice Waala

Spice Waala serves up what it calls unapologetic Indian street food in Capitol Hill, and after two successful years, the eatery is now expanding across the water in Ballard. Expect more of the same: kathi rolls marinated for 36 hours, then grilled; Calcutta-style eggs; Indian nachos; masala chai (importantly, not the Starbucks kind). 
Opens: January 8

More Irish pop-ups from Mulleady’s Mercantile

While we wait for the return of longstanding locale Mulleady’s Irish Pub, its pandemic iteration, Mulleady’s Mercantile, is going strong. If you missed their last pop-up of 2020-a late December spread of booze and butcher offerings-not to worry; there’ll be plenty more where that came from in the New Year. In the meantime, sign up for their email list via the link above and get reopening news straight to your inbox. 
Reopens: 2021 

The Off Alley pantry pivot we didn’t know we needed 

Off Alley officially shut down its restaurant when Inslee reinstated stricter coronavirus precautions; since then, they’ve been running a pantry and bottle shop operation out of the space in an effort to keep their doors open. The service continues in 2021, though they’re closed through January 19; stop by on the 20th for a fresh supply of Alley staples like house-made butter, pork rillettes, booze, and more. 
Reopens: January 20 

New dining experiences from the always-innovating addo

Addo is no stranger to the pandemic pivot. Back in early 2020, chef Eric Rivera shut down the restaurant and reopened as a pantry service, Puerto Rican-style. It was a hit; now, in 2021, he’s adding even more dining “experiences” to his repertoire-like a Spam Tasting Menu to-go, a three-course interactive cooking class, an Inauguration Day menu, and more. 
Reopens: 2021

A springtime reemergence of the booziest bar in America

We don’t give out this accolade in jest: Canon, the cozy Capitol Hill bar, does actually have 4,000 spirits (and counting), and was said to have the “World’s Best Spirits Collection” back in 2017. Because of aforementioned cozyness, however, there’s hardly enough elbow room to keep folks six feet apart, and they’ve been closed since late November. Once restrictions start lifting, we’ll be eagerly awaiting a reopen; according to founder Jamie Boudreau, this won’t be until late spring at the earliest. 
Reopens: Late spring 

Courtesy of Here Today
Courtesy of Here Today
Courtesy of Here Today

A new (and seemingly massive) waterfront brewpub 

Seattle has no shortage of breweries, and it’s about to add one more to an already impressive list. Here Today, from the folks who brought us Navy Strength and No Anchor Bar, is set to open in June 2021 and house both a brewery and a full kitchen. 
Opens: June 

More smoked fish from Manolin-based pop-up Old Salt

When Manolin closed last fall, we had no idea what was coming next: a smoked fish and bagel extravaganza christened Old Salt. Since December 3, the pop-up has been serving this to-die-for combination, and you can expect more of the same come January 7 when they reopen. Old Salt is open for business Thursday-Sunday, 9 am – 2 pm (or until they sell out); if you’re feeling risk averse, go for the pre-order option instead. 
Reopens: January 7

A post-holiday reboot of Bartholomew Winery

When you’re jonesing for a good glass of wine, sometimes it’s best to go straight to the source. Bartholomew Winery has deftly navigated the pandemic, managing to stay open, and is reopening post-holidays on January 9. Visit the tasting room-housed in the old Rainier Brewery building in SoDo-for a rotating selection of whites, rosés, and reds.
Reopens: January 9

More French and Southern fare courtesy of L’Oursin 

L’Oursin is not your average French restaurant. Dining in? Try L’Oursin Après Ski, their new patio experience for 1 – 2 guests (recommended if you enjoy fondue and vin chaud). Shopping for more? Pick up everything you need at Épicerie L’Oursin, the restaurant’s pantry. Or perhaps you’ve had enough of the French all together. Not to worry-their Southern pop-up, Old Scratch, should do the trick. All that to say: When this operation reopens on January 9, we’ll be first in line. 
Reopens: January 9


Ditch your Phone for ‘Dome Life’ in this Pastoral Paradise Outside Port Macquarie 

A responsible, sustainable travel choice for escaping big city life for a few days.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

The urge to get as far away as possible from the incessant noise and pressures of ‘big city life’ has witnessed increasingly more of us turn to off-grid adventures for our holidays: polled travellers at the start of 2023 and 55% of us wanted to spend our holidays ‘off-grid’.  Achieving total disconnection from the unyielding demands of our digitised lives via some kind of off-grid nature time—soft or adventurous—is positioned not only as a holiday but, indeed, a necessity for our mental health. 

Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, an accommodation collection of geodesic domes dotted across a lush rural property in Greater Port Macquarie (a few hours’ drive from Sydney, NSW), offers a travel experience that is truly ‘off-grid’. In the figurative ‘wellness travel’ sense of the word, and literally, they run on their own independent power supply—bolstered by solar—and rely not on the town grid. 

Ten minutes before you arrive at the gates for a stay at Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, your phone goes into ‘SOS ONLY’. Apple Maps gives up, and you’re pushed out of your comfort zone, driving down unsealed roads in the dark, dodging dozens of dozing cows. Then, you must ditch your car altogether and hoist yourself into an open-air, all-terrain 4WD with gargantuan wheels. It’s great fun being driven through muddy gullies in this buggy; you feel like Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park.  As your buggy pulls in front of your personal Nature Dome, it’s not far off that “Welcome…to Jurassic Park” jaw-dropping moment—your futuristic-looking home is completely engulfed by thriving native bushland; beyond the outdoor campfire lie expansive hills and valleys of green farmland, dotted with sheep and trees. You’re almost waiting to see a roaming brachiosaurus glide past, munching on a towering gum tree…instead, a few inquisitive llamas trot past your Dome to check out their new visitor. 

To fully capture the awe of inhabiting a geodesic dome for a few days, a little history of these futuristic-looking spherical structures helps. Consisting of interlocking triangular skeletal struts supported by (often transparent) light walls, geodesic domes were developed in the 20th century by American engineer and architect R. Buckminster Fuller, and were used for arenas. Smaller incarnations have evolved into a ‘future-proof’ form of modern housing: domes are able to withstand harsh elements due to the stability provided by the durable materials of their construction and their large surface area to volume ratio (which helps minimize wind impact and prevents the structure from collapsing). As housing, they’re also hugely energy efficient – their curved shape helps to conserve heat and reduce energy costs, making them less susceptible to temperature changes outside. The ample light let in by their panels further reduces the need for artificial power. 

Due to their low environmental impact, they’re an ideal sustainable travel choice. Of course, Tom’s Creek Nature Domes’ owner-operators, Cardia and Lee Forsyth, know all this, which is why they have set up their one-of-a-kind Nature Domes experience for the modern traveller. It’s also no surprise to learn that owner Lee is an electrical engineer—experienced in renewable energy—and that he designed the whole set-up. As well as the off-grid power supply, rainwater tanks are used, and the outdoor hot tub is heated by a wood fire—your campfire heats up your tub water via a large metal coil. Like most places in regional Australia, the nights get cold – but rather than blast a heater, the Domes provide you with hot water bottles, warm blankets, lush robes and heavy curtains to ward off the chill.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

You’ll need to be self-sufficient during your stay at the Domes, bringing your own food. Support local businesses and stock up in the town of Wauchope on your drive-in (and grab some pastries and coffee at Baked Culture while you’re at it). There’s a stovetop, fridge (stocked as per a mini bar), BBQs, lanterns and mozzie coils, and you can even order DIY S’More packs for fireside fun. The interiors of the Domes have a cosy, stylish fit-out, with a modern bathroom (and a proper flushing toilet—none of that drop bush toilet stuff). As there’s no mobile reception, pack a good book or make the most of treasures that lie waiting to be discovered at every turn: a bed chest full of board games, a cupboard crammed with retro DVDs, a stargazing telescope (the skies are ablaze come night time). Many of these activities are ideal for couples, but there’s plenty on offer for solo travellers, such as yoga mats, locally-made face masks and bath bombs for hot tub soaks. 

It’s these thoughtful human touches that reinforce the benefit of making a responsible travel choice by booking local and giving your money to a tourism operator in the Greater Port Macquarie Region, such as Tom’s Creek Nature Domes. The owners are still working on the property following the setbacks of COVID-19, and flooding in the region —a new series of Domes designed with families and groups in mind is under construction, along with an open-air, barn-style dining hall and garden stage. Once ready, the venue will be ideal for wedding celebrations, with wedding parties able to book out the property. They’ve already got one couple—who honeymooned at the Domes—ready and waiting. Just need to train up the llamas for ring-bearer duties! 

An abundance of favourite moments come to mind from my two-night stay at Tom’s Creek: sipping champagne and gourmet picnicking at the top of a hill on a giant swing under a tree, with a bird’s eye view of the entire property (the ‘Mountain Top picnic’ is a must-do activity add on during your stay), lying on a deckchair at night wrapped in a blanket gazing up at starry constellations and eating hot melted marshmallows, to revelling in the joys of travellers before me, scrawled on notes in a jar of wishes left by the telescope (you’re encouraged to write your own to add to the jar). But I’ll leave you with a gratitude journal entry I made while staying there. I will preface this by saying that I don’t actually keep a gratitude journal, but Tom’s Creek Nature Domes is just the kind of place that makes you want to start one. And so, waking up on my second morning at Tom’s —lacking any 4G bars to facilitate my bad habit of a morning Instagram scroll—I finally opened up a notebook and made my first journal entry:

‘I am grateful to wake up after a deep sleep and breathe in the biggest breaths of this clean air, purified by nature and scented with eucalyptus and rain. I am grateful for this steaming hot coffee brewed on a fire. I feel accomplished at having made myself. I am grateful for the skittish sheep that made me laugh as I enjoyed a long nature walk at dawn and the animated billy goats and friendly llamas overlooking my shoulder as I write this: agreeable company for any solo traveller. I’m grateful for total peace, absolute stillness.” 

Off-grid holiday status: unlocked.

Where: Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, Port Macquarie, 2001 Toms Creek Rd
Price: $450 per night, book at the Natura Domes website.

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