Shhhh. Do you hear that?
No, it’s not just the first big autumn rainstorm pounding down on the roof or the crunching of leaves underfoot. If you listen reeeeally carefully, you can hear another distinctly Western Washington noise underneath it all: It’s the Big Dark settling in.
Already the seasonal descent of darkness has got its icy tendrils in my heart. Left to my own devices, I can get a little curmudgeonly during the winter months. The combination of dreary weather, seasonal depression and ever-earlier sunsets leaves me prone to turning down any and all social invitations in favor of curling up at home for a mind-soothing TV marathon under a warm blanket.
Which is great and all, but there’s only so many old episodes of “M*A*S*H” one person can watch before starting to feel like their social life is sorely lacking. And eventually, even the most tried-and-true comfort foods will wear out their welcome, if you let them.
Luckily, there’s no shortage of options around Snohomish County if you’re hoping to kill two birds — self-imposed isolation and the dinner rut — with one stone. Read on for four ideas to drop in the group chat the next time all your friends are bemoaning their boredom, hunger or both.
Stars in the Sky, Edmonds
Call it a holdover from my days living in the middle of nowhere, but I’ve found taking a drive with no destination and lots of oldies cranked up to my car’s maximum volume to be an excellent method for managing boredom and loneliness. Sometimes you just don’t feel like yourself until you’re belting Fleetwood Mac at the top of your lungs while zooming along Highway 9 in the dark, you know?
After all that training on my own time, I can’t think of a better way to break out of a homebody rut than hitting this Korean fried chicken joint, also known as Chicken Prince, for some wings, drinks and karaoke with a few friends. The spot next door to 99 Ranch Market in Edmonds is low-key enough to avoid the pressure that can come with being out in a crowded place after days on end holed up in your cave, but maintains the friendly, homey vibe of a neighborhood pub. It’s open late, untill 1 a.m. on the weekends, so you’ll have plenty of time for your signature performance of “Total Eclipse of the Heart.”
Stars in the Sky is worth a visit in this blustery season just for the sheer comfort of its cheesy, spicy, belly-warming Korean street food alone — the corn cheese ($9.50) and tteokbokki ($16) both pack enough punch in terms of rich, gochujang-infused goodness to snap you out of any self-pity slump — but the real “stars” of the show are the noraebang, Korean-style karaoke booths you can rent out ($25 per hour) for a private concert with a handful of your biggest fans. In between encores, keep your hands busy with a towering pile of the restaurant’s renowned fried chicken (starts at $21 for 10 pieces) doused in your choice of sauces or “naked” wings coated with a flaky breading.
Golden Fleece Billiards, Everett
I am very, very bad at pool (and any activity that requires a lot of hand-eye coordination, frankly), and I hate to lose in front of people. So if I hit Golden Fleece in downtown Everett on a Friday night with some friends, you can find me on the sidelines providing the required moral support with a Blue Moon in hand and a platter of the pool hall’s incredible bar food, inspired by Georgian cuisine (that’s the former Soviet republic, not the Southern state) before me.
If you’re less of a sore loser than I am, there are far worse ways to kill a rainy, chilly evening than gathering around one of Golden Fleece’s 12 pool tables for a couple hours (play is $6 per person per hour) of a friendly shooting match between friends. The bar even hosts pool leagues four nights a week, if you’re looking to commit yourself to leaving the house on a regular basis, and beginners are welcome — they’ll help you improve your shot.
And that’s saying nothing of the excellent finger foods, small plates and full meals Golden Fleece’s kitchen turns out untill 1:30 a.m. every night. The pool hall’s offerings include bar classics like dirty fries ($12.50) and jalapeño poppers ($12) alongside hearty Georgian-style beef stew ($22) or chebureki ($11), deep-fried dumplings stuffed with spiced ground pork and chicken. For my money, it’s some of Everett’s very best late-night bar food, and its stick-to-your-ribs simplicity might be just what you need to help soak up your beer and your seasonal ennui.
Golden Fleece Billiards, 2929 Colby Ave., Everett. Open 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Monday to Saturday, 3 p.m. to 2 a.m. Sundays. Call -425-374-3045 to reserve a pool table.
Regal Cinebarre, Mountlake Terrace
Yes, you can definitely do dinner and a movie at home rather than going through the whole rigamarole of getting ready and driving to the theater. You could maybe even talk your roommate or partner into delivering your meal right to your seat during the feature presentation if you’re lucky. But are they going to go to all the trouble of crafting you a Taylor Swift-themed cocktail to pair with your viewing of “The Eras Tour?”
This 21-and-over multiplex offers a full menu of reasonably priced pub-style grub and drinks, delivered right to your seat during the show. Hit the call button at your seat and a server will come by to take your order, and the check arrives shortly before the end of your movie. For an additional source of entertainment, the menu is littered with filmic puns for you to groan at, like “The Hot Chick” spicy chicken sandwich ($13) and the “Barbeclue” chicken personal pizza ($14.50).
There’s also a wide complement of wine, beer and cocktails to enjoy throughout your movie, including boozy milkshakes and drink specials themed after the latest and greatest release — right now you can sip on “Lavender Craze,” a sparkly purple gin mixer, in T-Swift’s honor. Again, you could try and replicate the experience at home — but do you really feel like scrounging up all the ingredients for that Pinterest cocktail right now?
Regal Cinebarre, 6009 244th St. SW, Mountlake Terrace. Open 365 days a year. Check regmovies.com for showtimes.
White Buffalo Saloon, Everett
Tucked a little ways off the beaten nightlife path on Evergreen Way, White Buffalo describes itself as “one of Everett’s best-kept secrets” with “the best pizza in town.” Its staunchest fans aren’t doing too great a job of keeping that secret, though, because I first got a taste of this neighborhood dive’s incongruously delicious pizza within weeks of moving to town, courtesy of Herald co-workers in the know.
There’s no shortage of fun-filled activities to take part in at White Buffalo, mostly classic bar stuff like pool at one of the four tables, plenty of pull tabs, skee-ball and a rotating cast of pinball options — current stars include machines themed after “The Simpsons,” “Charlie’s Angels” and Metallica.
But the most fun to be had, if you ask me, lies in sampling White Buffalo’s pizza menu. For coming out of a bar’s kitchen, the saloon pizza blows many other local options out of the water with its pillowy, chewy crust, generous layers of melty cheese, and to-the-point list of options such as spicy Hawaiian or white sauce chicken. Each pie (starting at $22 for a 12-inch medium) is handsomely loaded with cheese and toppings, making it a supremely satisfying choice to fill you and a couple friends up for relatively cheap. Then, save your coins for another round.