SHE STARTS OFF with the most important foodstuff on the planet: the cheeseburger. "That's an easy one," she says, "Dick's." Seattle-bred rapper Sir Mix-a-Lot's "Posse on Broadway" praises Dick's Drive-In, whose burgers are often downed with a liberal heaping of tartar sauce. "They may not be the biggest burgers or the healthiest, but they're so, so good. I kind of want one of them right now," Bird says.
For those in the mood for Italian, Bird touts Capitol Hill's Ristorante Machiavelli and its combination of café ambience and authentic cuisine. While she goes out of her way to stress that she isn't a chain-restaurant type of gal, she does extend props to Seattle's Il Fornaio outpost, which is especially good for larger groups. Those who want a bit more intimacy should try Ristorante Pellini, located high in the Renaissance Seattle Hotel.
Ambience, in fact, informs most of Bird's restaurant picks. She digs Wasabi Bistro as much for its waiters ("seriously - they're a lot of fun") and occasional live music as for its sushi. She mentions the Paragon Restaurant & Bar's salads and salmon only in passing, focusing instead on its music; it was one of the venues where singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile first attracted notice. While Bird cops to missing New York's hole-in-the-wall Chinese and Mexican joints, she points to Peso's Kitchen & Lounge and Mama's Mexican Kitchen in Belltown as destinations that transcend what's on their menus.
"At Mama's Kitchen, you don't feel like you're in Seattle anymore," Bird says. "Peso's is loud, but in a good way, especially during the happy hour late at night." She recommends Peso's breakfasts as well.
When asked about the premier venues for pre- and post-dinner drinks, Bird attempts to run out the clock, so to speak: "My impulse is to say that there are more lounge-y places here than in a lot of other cities, but I'm not the person to ask." At the same time, she rattles off a few quick names, including Viceroy ("dark, great DJ, nice outdoor area") and Sport Restaurant & Bar ("a million TVs, great for things like the NCAA tournament").
She credits Australian-born teammate and reigning WNBA MVP Lauren Jackson with turning her on to Kangaroo & Kiwi Pub and its Aussie snacks, darts, and beer-pong tournaments. "That makes it sound like my social life is based around drinking, which it's not," she says with a nervous laugh. "How about this: The owner is a great guy, and it's not that crowded, and they've got a great jukebox."
If Bird has a regret, it's that her busy schedule allows her to take only so much advantage of what the city has to offer. She speaks warmly of the days when she's able to take her lunch to Kerry Park and enjoy one of the city's most panoramic views. And though she claims that Amazon is more her speed, Bird is awed by the Seattle Public Library. "In terms of architecture, it's just ridiculous. It does not look like a library. It looks like something out of Total Recall," she enthuses.
Like many other Seattle denizens, she enjoys spending an afternoon down at the Pike Place Market and would be there more often if she could. Fresh fruit, pastries, fish being flung to and fro by able-armed fishmongers at the Pike Place Fish Market - even longtime area residents haven't hardened to these charms. While Bird is partial to the Three Girls Bakery and, in particular, to its chocolate cookies, she notes that pop-culture enthusiasts will get a kick out of visiting the first Starbucks, which opened its doors in 1971. "To me, a Starbucks is a Starbucks. But some people think that's cool," she says with a shrug. Along those same lines, she thinks people may enjoy seeing 107.7 the End, the radio station where the cast of MTV's Real World "worked" during the show's Seattle season. As for shopping, Bird says that "everything you could possibly want is downtown - Pike and Pine, between Seventh and Fifth. There's Niketown, Tiffany, Cartier, Gucci, and a bunch more." She prefers smaller boutiques, however, including one owned by Seattle Storm practice-player Mark Shin. Capitol 1524, née the Seattle Retro Shoe Store, sells what Bird calls "crazy, crazy stuff - sneakers you have never seen before and won't find anywhere else." Other favorites are Champion Party Supply, for costumes and Ed Hardy gear, and Easy Street Records, for music and DVDs.