Cafe Flora

2901 E. Madison St.
Seattle, WA 98112

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As a non-meat-eater for close to 30 years, I have loved dining at Café Flora during my life as a walker, a cane-user, a walker-user, and a wheelchair user.  I have made sure that all our out-of-town guests have sampled the amazing Cheesy Grits that accompany beautiful and delicious breakfast scrambles.  I have introduced lunch buddies


to the addictive Portobello French Dip sandwich and perfectly crisped yam fries.  I have made a full dinner out of Café Flora’s wonderful coconut tofu appetizer, having to fight with daughters and sisters over that last cube of tofu.  I have felt lucky to be able to take my vegan and gluten-free friends to Café Flora for a meal that is creative, satisfying, and anxiety-free.


Not only have I loved the food at Café Flora, but I have loved the space itself.  The garden room is a gorgeous place to dine whether in August with the sweet summer air wafting through the room’s open windows or in November with only the silvery Seattle light shining through.  I have also loved the staff.  They are attentive and interesting.  Such a frequent guest am I that once in a Thai restaurant a Café Flora waitress came up to me and said, “I know you from Café Flora.  Aren’t you the one who leaves the big tips?”

Because I love this place so much, it is very hard for me to give it only three and a half wheels, but in terms of access, there are some problems here.

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Seattle Asian Art Museum

Volunteer Park
1400 East Prospect Street
Seattle, WA 98112

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One lovely but watery Wednesday late in March, we took an Australian visitor to the museum, the wonderful father of our beloved son-in-law, who had put it on his list of places to visit in Seattle. The museum is small, which might be a good thing because almost every piece in it is emotionally moving.  Trust me, even if you grew up whiter than mayonnaise in the heart of the Midwest (as I did), you will feel deeply connected to the monk suddenly surprised by enlightenment.


You will stand in front of the multiply-paneled moon reflecting itself on water and know that you have stood on that spot in your real life, both literally and figuratively.


You will hear the loud yakking music of crows, the background song of so many of our days and early mornings, when you stand in front of the well-known panels of crows, scheduled to be taken down from the permanent exhibit, if what one of the guards told us is true.  If you get there before June 30 and walk through the sweet Hometown Boy exhibit, even though you are whiter than Wonderbread and grew up in the mitten-shaped chamber of the heartland, you will experience Liu Xiaodong’s hometown as your own–the one you remember walking through when you were 10.


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Ray’s Cafe

6049 Seaview Avenue NW
Seattle, WA 98107-2690
Cafe reservations: 206.782.0094

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Ray’s Café is the restaurant that we Seattleites show off to aunts, uncles, sisters, parents, cousins, nieces, nephews, and friends who are visiting from the Midwest, the Southwest, or any other place that is inland or dry.  At Ray’s Cafe we can give our visitors a water view so beautiful it will make them weep and a delicious taste of Pacific NW seafood without breaking the bank.   When my family comes to visit in the summer,  I’ll take them out for a meal on the Cafe’s famous deck and buy them a hat so they can sit there as long as they want staring at the play of light on water.  On a good day,  they’ll be this close to seals, ships heading out to sea from the Ballard Locks, and the majestic Olympics.


If you are an old Seattle friend, I’ll ask you to meet me inside on a late Friday afternoon, so we can celebrate a long week at work with an exquisite drink from the Café’s bar and a smoked salmon skewer or bowl of corn and clam chowder.


If it’s cold and gray out there, if the line between sky and water are blurred, if the mountains are tucked behind charcoal quilts, that’s fine, too.  Inside, the Café is warm, cozy, delicious.  Ray’s Café is a great spot, night or day, January or July, inside or outside, and it is easily accessible to people in wheelchairs.

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Saffron Grill

2132 N. Northgate Way
Seattle, WA 98133

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My nephew, Tristan, was eight years old and visiting from Oregon when he tasted his first mango lassi at Muhammed Bhatti’s first Indian-Middle Eastern fusion restaurant in the University district.  Tristan’s response was to order a second.   Now grown up, well-travelled, and living in Seattle, he still declares that Bhatti’s lassis are the best there are.  And who wouldn’t agree with that?  Usually when the waiter comes over to take our drink orders, everyone at the table foregoes the bourbon to have the lassi.  Sometimes you just have to prioritize.  Other people will say that, yes, the lassis are good, but—really—you need to check out the garlic naan, the butter chicken, the palak massala, the pakoras…the list goes on but always, always the gulab jamun, those heavenly little spheres in that sweetly scented syrup!


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Museum of History and Industry

860 Terry Avenue N
Seattle, WA 98109

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Seattle’s Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) is a tribute to the creative energy and enterprise of the Pacific Northwest.  As are most museums these days, it is also an information-gathering site, inviting viewers to share their thoughts, ideas, and experiences as they move through the space, listening to others who have left their marks on our region.


My favorite spaces in the museum are touch screens where you can animate a person’s image and hear what she has to say about innovation.  Although some of the people on these screens are predictable—well-known regional entrepreneurs and MacArthur Award winners, for example—there are others who are unexpected, such as people talking about the role of creativity in skateboarding, early education, and DNA discoveries.   Museum goers are invited to contribute their own talking screen, as if to say creativity can come from anywhere where knowledge, passion, and vision reside together.

There is much to see at MOHAI about the history of our place, and much to do, too, including lifting the hill off Denny Hill.  A reason to get there before July 6th is so you can see the exhibit entitled Revealing Queer, which tracks growth and change in Puget Sound’s  LGBTQ community between 1969 and 2012, the year when marriage equality came to Washington State.  The exhibit is fascinating but perhaps more interesting and moving are the notes that people visiting the exhibit have posted about their lives today.  I hope the museum has a staff researcher who is doing something with those notes!


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2043 Eastlake Avenue East Seattle, WA 98102

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Multiply-windowed and magically lit, Serafina is a sweet little Italian restaurant with an elegant but not fussy neighborhood feel.  White tablecloths, dark walls, twinkly lights, candles, and delicious food —every meal I’ve had there has been a joyful chorus of flavors, colors, aromas, and great company.  Even a lunch stop at Serafina, sandwiched into a busy workday, feels like a gift you are giving yourself, not because you deserve it but because you need a little time in the lush land of the senses.  In this particular trip to Serafina, I was joined by a delightful young woman who agreed to make the trip in a wheelchair herself in order to better understand the wheeled dining experience.  As usual, the dinner we had was delicious, and the service was attentive, generous, and warm.  (Really—is every server in Seattle wonderful?  I’m starting to think so.)

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Meany Hall for the Performing Arts

4140 George Washington Lane NE
Seattle, WA 98105
(206) 543-4880

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Over the years, I have seen beautiful, hilarious, moving, and thought-provoking performances at Meany Hall’s UW World Dance Series. These performances have opened my understanding of what it means to be a human being moving through time and space.  They also reveal the inspiring range of creative expression that the human mind is capable of producing, and, therefore, even the dances that are bewildering have a way of making me glad to be alive.

In some ways, sitting in my wheelchair and watching these gorgeous performances each year is agonizing, underscoring how unlike those graceful human bodies on stage my own body is.  In other ways, though, taking those performances into my heart and mind extends what I can do and celebrates the movement I share with all humans.  Lucky for me, then, and for other wheelchair travelers, that Meany Hall is completely accessible.


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Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft

15236 Aurora Ave N
Shoreline, WA 98133
206.362.8072 (website for all branches and online shopping)

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My sewing days came to an end in a disastrous eighth grade sewing class.  At the end of that class, I had to throw myself on the mercy of my best friend’s mom., who finished my project the night before it was due.  I never broke the news to Mary Lynne’s mom that she had gotten a C- on that project.  I couldn’t really tell and didn’t want to ask the sewing teacher if Mary Lynne’s mom had gotten such a low grade because I had given her  a botched start to work with or because the  teacher had looked at my completed project and recognized that–given my progress to that date–I surely was not the one who finished it.  I was grateful for that C- and grateful to Mary Lynne’s mom for getting it for me, so being in a fabric store doesn’t fill me  with 14-year-old trauma.
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Party@ Display & Costume

11201 Roosevelt Way NE
Seattle, WA 98125
Date of visit:  February 10, 2014 and many others

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All of us have a place in the city that is more than just a place, a place that may express something important about our deepest selves, a place that can pull us out of the darkest despair and back into the light.  Display & Costume is that place for me.  It was the first place I visited after getting my wheelchair.  Rolling in the doors after almost a year away, I was starving for the sight of fuchsia feather boas, hungry for a glimpse of gold glitter in a dizzying array of glitter-piece sizes, yearning for the 64-crayon box of matching paper plate and napkin colors, desperate to try on mullet wigs in blonde AND brunette, and, of course, needing to pay the appropriate homage to all things tiara.


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5411 Ballard Ave. NW
Date of visit:  February 16, 2014

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Several years ago, when my nephew, a world-traveler, came to Seattle on a work-related visit, he and his colleagues invited us to dinner, asking us to choose the spot.  We wanted the space to be intimate and the food delicious, so we told them we’d meet them at Volterra.  Even with a GPS, it took them awhile to find the place, but once they arrived, we had a great dinner and a fun evening.  My nephew loved it.  He said, “I could have predicted I would like it.  That’s how I always know I’m going to be eating in a good restaurant when I’m traveling:  if it is hard to find and has no parking, it will be a great dinner!”

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Reviewing ADA wheelchair experiences in Seattle