aurora.jpg
By Chason Gordon

For fairly obvious reasons (hookers, seedy hotels, hookers in seedy hotels), Aurora is one of the most maligned streets in Seattle. Not

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10 Reasons to Give Aurora Another Chance

aurora.jpg
By Chason Gordon

For fairly obvious reasons (hookers, seedy hotels, hookers in seedy hotels), Aurora is one of the most maligned streets in Seattle. Not a day goes by without some disparaging remark about how rundown it is. Of course, Aurora does have overt nice parts, like Green Lake and Beth's Cafe and Woodland Park, but I don't consider that the real Aurora. The real Aurora doesn't begin until you've passed Butch's Guns.

If you're wondering how the street got this way, consider that it was once the main lucrative highway into Seattle, until Interstate-5 came along and ruined everything. It's just like the plot of the movie Cars.

Aurora is often overlooked because it still functions as a thoroughfare, so drivers rarely take the time to slow down and appreciate what the street has to offer (I'm not a PR agent for Aurora, unless they need one). The following is a list of places that are not simply good for Aurora, but good for Seattle. They're all worth heading to, except during rush hour.

El Camión Taco Truck

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Whenever I need a Stanley 10 inch x 3 7/8 inch hacksaw, and a taco, I head to the El Camión taco truck next to Home Depot. Sometimes I'll come here even if I don't need a hacksaw, which is always. There's no shame in eating a cheap and delicious pollo asado taco while staring at other people shopping. Plates come with big helpings of rice and black beans, and there is plenty of seating and salsas. El Camión has two other locations, but this one is the most out of the way. That's got to be worth something.

The Root Beer Store

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The Root Beer Store is the kind of place you imagine opening when you're an 8-year-old and have no understanding of business. The very idea of a store dedicated to root beer seems ridiculous, but owner Corey Anderson has two of them, one in Redmond and one in Lynnwood. Over 100 brands of root beer from around the country fill the old wooden shelves. I recommend Berghoff, an old fashioned root beer from Chicago, and Brownie Caramel Cream, a Washington production that is as delicious as it sounds. Stock up when you get there, because it's a bit of a drive.

The Aurora fun continues on the following page ...

Green Lake Games

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Like Gamma Ray Games in Capitol Hill, Green Lake Games feels less like a store than a gathering place for gamers. Green Lake carries every type of tabletop game, including Euro, roleplaying, war, family, and, of course, Magic the Gathering and Dungeons & Dragons. There's even a suicide bomber card game, which had the most elaborate warning I've ever seen. An overheard exchange between the staff nicely illustrates Green Lake's casual atmosphere. One employee asked another how she was doing, to which she responded, "I'm doing alright, or to put it in classic Warcraft terms: 'zug zug'."

Grinders Hot Sands

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What's immediately clear about Grinders Hot Sands is that its name is terrible. I've passed this place about a 100 times without realizing it was a restaurant. Just call it Grinders, because no one likes sand in their food, even if it's hot. That aside, this East coast-style sandwich shop serves all sorts of decent sandwiches that you'll need a knife and fork to eat. Highlights include the SauBall, a sausage and meatball parmigiana, and the Ciabatta, which has capicola, genoa, mortadella, caramelized onions and roasted pork loin, among other things. They also offer beer and wine and have live music at night. I'm not exactly sure what Grinders is going for, but it works.

WhirlyBall

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It's hard to describe WhirlyBall. It looks like a three-way combination of bumper cars and lacrosse and basketball, which may conjure up any number of images. Two teams of five bumper cars fill the 4000 sq. foot court. Using scoops, the objective is to pass a whiffle ball and try to shoot it through what appears to be a backboard with a hole cut in it. A commentator who doubles as the ref calls the action from the side. If this weren't so far from Seattle, it would be a great way to finish off your drunken evening. All you have to do is find four friends.

The Aurora fun continues on the following page ...

Aurora Donuts

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These are what donuts were like before people started taking them too seriously. They're not Top Pot or Mighty-O or Frost; they're simple and greasy old fashioned donuts, the kind cops bought in '80s movies. Most of the glazed and jelly donuts are respectable, whereas the maple bar is astonishing. Wonderfully moist, with the right amount of frosting, it's a little shocking how good it is. Aurora Donuts used to be a Dunkin' Donuts, so they could be the exact same donuts, but who knows? I'm not a detective. This a great place to go after you fail your emissions test.

Evergreen Washelli Cemetery

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When someone recommends you visit a cemetery, it's natural to assume they're depressed. But I swear I'm fine; this is just a really nice place. The east side houses a Veteran's Memorial Cemetery that is breathtaking. Rows of white marble headstones rise up the slight hill underneath towering evergreens. Overlooking it all is The Doughboy, a beautiful sculpture of a WWI soldier created by Alonzo Victor Lewis in 1921. It's a little crass to review a cemetery, but that's what just happened.

Another Castle Video Games

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Another Castle immediately distinguishes itself among video game stores by doing something simple but brilliant: it has an arcade. The games are a who's who of classic titles, with X-Men, Terminator 2, Donkey Kong, Galaxian and After Burner among the 30+ machines available. If I had known, I would have made sure there was more than one damn quarter in my pocket. Gamers will also find a great selection of video games and accessories from nearly every platform, along with plenty of nostalgic conversation. It's all the way up in Edmonds, but trust me, you'll stay awhile.

The Aurora fun continues on the following page ...

Euro Deli Lakomka

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There's something refreshing about not being able to understand a single label in a store. That's part of the charm of Lakomka, which features delicacies from Russia, Poland and Ukraine, and seems to be the kind of place where expatriates can find their favorite missed treats. Lakomka has meat and bread and all sorts of sundries, but the jewel of the deli is its selection of candy. An entire row of shelves showcases piles of shiny wrapped chocolates in little baskets. Nothing is in English, so you find yourself relying on the tiny pictures to make your choices. It's very stressful.

Boardroom Cafe

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You don't associate cafes with Aurora, and you're right not to. Nevertheless, located around 84th is Boardroom Cafe, which offers a nice respite from the passing Aurora traffic. Boardroom carries Stumptown coffee and has a good selection of sandwiches, breakfast burritos and smoothies. My last visit was slightly ruined by a job interview at an adjacent table (I don't think he got it), but otherwise Boardroom is pretty relaxing. Next time I intend to ask why the restroom is filled with pictures of unicorns and Justin Bieber.

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