Jill Wenger's Seattle

Aaron Leitz Photography

The sartorial tastemaker and mind behind fashion and design gem Totokaelo tells us how to best experience this stunner of an American city.

When Jill Wenger founded her boutique Totokaelo in 2003, she helped put Seattle on the map as a destination for smart, unpretentious fashion. The shop is a cabinet of sartorial wonders, stocking cool-kid favorites like Vetements, Comme des Garcons, Dries Van Noten, and, now, Totokaelo's own line of clothing, as well as ceramics, lighting, rugs, furniture, and objets d'art, out of an airy, well-lit space in Capitol Hill (1523 Tenth Ave.; totokaelo.com). Though Wenger currently lives in New York, where she recently opened a new Totokaelo outpost, her Pacific Northwest home of nearly 15 years is still near and dear to her. Here, she shares her picks for what to do to in the coffee-loving city with the same sharp eye she uses to curate her stores.

What neighborhood do you live in and how long have you lived there? Capitol Hill. Have lived here since 2006.

Where do you put up friends visiting town? Palladian (2000 Second Ave.; 206-448-1111; palladianhotel.com).

Where is the best place to find your hometown’s signature dish? Cafe Victrola—coffee and a scone (multiple locations; victrolacoffee.com).

What is your favorite restaurant to take visitors? Spinasse (1531 14th Ave.; 206-251-7673; spinasse.com).

Where can you find the best cocktails? Beer list? Wine list? Best wine list is Harvest Vine (2701 E. Madison St.; 206-320-9771; harvestvine.com). For cocktails—everything Renee Erickson does is wonderful (3506 Stone Way N.; 206-632-9425; thewhalewins.com).

Where would you choose to splurge on a night out? Via Tribunali. The Salumi Calzone is the best pizza-ish thing I’ve ever tried (multiple locations; viatribunali.com).

What is your go-to after-hours bar? Rock Box karaoke—bring it on. Disclaimer—my 'after hours’ is post 10pm (1603 Nagle Pl.; 206-302-7625; rockboxseattle.com).

What’s the best way to spend a Saturday afternoon in town? A late brunch at Oddfellows (1525 Tenth Ave.; 206-325-0807; oddfellowscafe.com), then cruise over to Totokaelo to try on new Comme des Garcons arrivals, then head to Elliott Bay Books and in search of undiscovered Interior Design hardbacks.  Grab a coffee at Little Oddfellows inside EBB if you didn’t get enough at brunch! (1521 Tenth Ave.; 206-624-6600; elliottbaybook.com)

What is your Sunday morning routine in your neighborhood? I grab coffee and a Mighty-Oh glazed chocolate cake donut and walk around the neighborhood listening to a book on tape (1400 12th Ave.; 206-547-0335; mightyo.com). I’ll cruise Volunteer Park and sometimes wander into the Arboretum (1400 E. Galer St.; 206-684-4075; volunteerparkconservatory.org).

Where is the best brunch? Toss up—St. Clouds (1131 34th Ave.; 206-726-1522; stclouds.com) or Hi-Spot Cafe (1410 34th Ave.; 206-325-7905; hispotcafe.com) in Madrona. They're only 50 yards apart. Check the wait time and daily specials at both before choosing!

Where do you go for the perfect cup of coffee? Elm Street (240 Second Ave. S #103; 206-445-7808; elmcoffeeroasters.com).

What’s your favorite path or trail to follow on a walk? Inn at Langley (400 First St.; 360-221-3033; innatlangley.com). If I have two days off in a row I’m generally here walking through town, down the beach, or along the road in the country.

What are your favorite offbeat cultural attractions? The Tacoma Art Museum (1701 Pacific Ave., Tacoma; 253-272-4258; tacomaartmuseum.org).

What’s your favorite shop or boutique? Totokaelo. I’m completely biased. I also love Kobo (604 S. Jackson St.; 206-381-3000; koboseattle.com), Pacific Galleries (241 S. Lander St.; 206-292-3999; pacgal.com), The Palm Room (5336 Ballard Ave.; 206-782-7256; palmroom.com).

What’s the ultimate souvenir from your town—something you can only get there? Coffee?  A photo in front of the Public Market sign or Spaceneedle? Spend time thinking, walking, writing and dining. Seattle is great for experience, fresh air and quality of life. Not so much souvenir-ing. 

What’s the best-kept local secret? Volunteer Park Cafe (1501 17th Ave. E; 206-328-3155; alwaysfreshgoodness.com).

Photos: Palladian; Suzi Pratt / Spinasse; Victrola Roastery and Café