Columbia City Lifestyle

(updated June 2012 - scroll down to learn about exciting new shops, see text in RED!)

You will simply not believe how much fun, food, art, music and more is packed into Columbia City, a hip neighborhood within the most diverse zip code in the nation.  Between its vibrant commercial district, with great food, shopping and nightlife and close proximity to the 300 acre Seward Park, Lake Washington and Genesse Park, you can indulge in all of life’s pleasures.  And while you’ll find it hard to leave, when you have to, Columbia City is one of the easiest locations to connect to I5 and I90 (both within 3miles) or leave the car behind and hop on Light Rail north to stadiums, the ID, downtown, or south to Sea Tac Airport!

Like Paris?

Likened to a typical Parisian arrondissement, you’ll find your butcher, boulangerie, café, coiffer, bibliotech, librarie, and bar aux vin, resto, all within a few short blocks.  In fact, calls Columbia City a “Walkers Paradise” giving it a walkability rating of 100, out of 100!




Honestly the abundance and variety of restaurants are astounding, I do hope you like to eat.  And especially if you like all types of cuisine, you…are…in…luck!  Pho, Ethopian, Sicilian, BBQ, Pizza (the best indy pizza in the country), classic American breakfasts, east coast deli, island soul food, french, vegetarian, filipino, puerto Rican, thai, sushi, mexican.  And that’s all within a few blocks.  There are so many great eating establishments in the neighborhood, among the latest is Rookies Sports Bar & Grill, a Senagalese restaurant  and the most recent foodie addition, April 2012: the Jus Bar offering organic juice and smoothies!  Read Hanna Raskin’s review of Rookies here and more about the Jus Bar here.


Among the food venues in Columbia City, you’ll find La Medusa - one of the original restaurants in Columbia City, featuring “Sicilian Soul Food” and a Wednesday Farmers Market Menu, Tutta Bella authentic Neopolitan Pizzeria - the other CC original and named America’s Best Indie Pizza 2010 by Pizza Today.  Geraldines Counter is often referred to as an upscale diner and  hands-down one of the best breakfast to be found in Seattle.  There’s Empire Espresso with heavenly coffee, paninis and waffles plus free wireless that draws in professionals, writers and locals with laptops in tow-you could almost consider this the co-working space of the neighborhood.  Columbia City Ale House offers over a dozen beers on tap and mouthwatering pub grub and Lottie’s Lounge features a Monday Morning Hangover Brunch with local music, and Shane, formerly of the now closed Roy’s BBQ is in the kitchen cooking up his famous Georgia Gold listed as among best BBQ on the west coast in Sunset Magazine.

Let’s round things up with mention of The Spice Room (Thai), WabiSabi (sushi), El Sombrero (Mexican), Awash (Ethiopian), The Bourban (New Orleans-influence), Full Tilt (ice cream), Jones Barbeque (Oprah is a fan!), Kawalli Grill (Filipino), El Pilon (Puerto Rican), Island Soul (Caribbean and Soul Food).  There is even an eatery tied to the laundry mat, as the Time Warp Cafe offers a wide variety of specialty hot dogs, sammies, smoothies and breakfast wraps.  Reviews on UrbanSpoon here.

Stash Quilt Shop



…Arts, Music and more

The art & literary scene is strong with an Art Walk every third Thursday, the Columbia City Gallery (pictured above bottom row far left - art featured by Joan Robbins), poetry readings at the local Starbucks and SPLAB, a center for poetry, theater, local journalism and other word arts.  As of April 2012, Columbia City saw the opening of Stash Quilt Shop, where you can buy incredible fabrics, and other craft sewing and knitting items.   You’ll find owner Stephanie Snider often there with her darling son Jackson (pictured at the top of the pyramid, above) who can guide you in projects, pattern selection and who will be offering classes soon!  Check out their Facebook page here.  In artistic celebration of the diverse community, SPLAB is supported Represent 98118, where residents were asked to participate in a one-day project, on October 5, 2011, where they shared their experiences - using film, photography, poetry and other manners of creative expression - working, living, playing, studying and worshiping (and eating - yep, that’s me) in the 98118 zip code.  Rainer Valley Cultural Center is the community’s multicultural performing arts center and is home to SEEDArt’s Art’s Gumbo and Valley Vibes Jazz program.  A Carnegie Library sits adjacent to the center and while the Columbia City Cinema is currently “dark”, rumour has it that the building owner is actively looking for a renter who will maintain the space as a cinema.



The music scene of Columbia City is thriving, and with music events like Valley Vibes Jazz as described above, and the Beat Walk which features music at many of the shops and restaurants in the neighborhood, 1st Fridays from May through September.  The bottom row of photos above show just a few of the acts who played most recently.  Free music is often a staple at Lotties Lounge, Tutta Bella and Island Soul.  But the neighborhood music scene can not be discussed without a major shout out to Columbia City Theater - recently named Seattle’s “finest sounding room” by SPIN magazine!  Having the distinction of being the oldest vaudeville theater in the state of Washington, the Columbia City Theater was home to jazz in the 40′s, punk rock in the 80′s, and somewhere in between was one of the 1st stages graced by Jimi Hendrix.   The Theater most recently re-opened under new ownership in May of 2010 and has since seen the likes of musical talent including the Fleet Foxes, The Maldives, Too Beautiful to Live and many more.  Shows are generally Thursday through Sunday with genres ranging from indy to hip hop, to country and jazz, and that great sound is attributed to the talents of former Crocodile soundman Jim Anderson, who did the sound design for the venue.  The Theater also features the Bani-Love recording studio, with legendary Gary Mula at the helm.  Gary once ran the rehearsal studio for Nirvana, Mudhoney, The Screaming Trees and other well known Seattle musicians, before it tragically burned to the ground in January of 2009.  We are so fortunate he has made his new home here with us.    As of December 2011,  we were thrilled about the news of the opening of The Royal Room, a restaurant, bar and music venue featuring jazz, classical, local songwriters, country, blues and roots, groove, funk, soul and alternative rock.  Behind the project are Tia Matthies and Steve Freeborn (OK Hotel, Lottie’s Lounge and Rendezvous) along with local musician and composer Wayne Horovitz.  The Royal Room will feature national acts mid-week and offer a unique opportunity for local musicians to establish residencies and create projects special to the venue, and will provide a concert grand piano and Hammond B3 organ, drums, guitar amps and other instruments.   In addition to being a rehearsal space and recording studio, their mission also includes supporting education and youth outreach activities, and the restaurant will feature comfort food with a touch of Cajun, with Pauline Wickey formerly of LC’s Kitchen on Lake City Way.  Check back for news about other venues soon to open!



       …Butcher, Baker…

No village would be complete with out their butcher and baker.  Bob’s Quality Meats has been an anchor in the neighborhood for four generations, and like many of the Columbia City residents and business owners with whom I spoke with say, owner James Ackley notes one of the best things about being in the neighborhood is the diversity.  “And, for me its also a great market!  I get the Muslim holidays, the Christian and the Jewish holidays too!”  You’ll find organic grass fed meats, homemade snappy links and sausages, porter house and melt away tri-tip, oxtail, rabbit, duck and yes…turducken!  The Columbia City Bakery will put you back on the streets of Paris with their baguettes, ficelle’s croissants and pain au chocolat, and you know you haven’t strayed far from home with American classics like fresh cookies, cakes, cupcakes and blondies!  Find local cheeses, freshly made sammies and other delicacies in their cold case.




And then there is the Farmers Market which is open May - October every Wednesday, from 3pm to 7pm.  That’s Cle of HalfPint homemade icecream at the top of the blog post, and the pictures just above should speak for themselves.




     …and Candlestick Maker! (Shopping in Columbia City)

From the eclectic home decor, gifts, jewelry and women’s apparel of Andaluz, to African masks, fabrics and more at Baol, you can find a rich assortment of treasures in just a few short blocks.  Grab a great book at Bookworm Exchange, the perfect shower gift at KC Flowers, or revel in retro heaven with clothes, hats, shoes and housewares at Gather Consignment.  And kids of all ages delight in RetroActive Kids incredible selection of toys, crafts and books.  Did you know your charming offspring can even get their hair cut while you browse, as Columbia City Cuts kids’ salon resides at the back of the store.  Or perhaps it’s you wh are in need of a trim…

There are two nail salons, and numerous hair stylists also within these few blocks.  Reign has 3 stylists and celebrates one year this August with the addition of an aesthetician.  Owner Taco Yarborough loves the neighborhood because of its diversity, quaintness and family friendly feel.  Pure Alchemy offers earth friendly color treatments, avoiding the “dirty dozen” chemicals often found in cosmetics.   Get your outer self looking sharp with a fluff and fold or dry cleaning at Columbia City Suds, and tap into your inner beauty at Kadampi Meditation.  Bodywraps, scrubs and aroma therapy await at Massage For Seattle.



     …Fitness and Health

Staying slim in the face of all the great food in Columbia City is not difficult - with Bull Stewart and his inspiring wife Flo at Columbia City Fitness, or tone and de-stress at Lotus Yoga. There are several massage salons to ease your tired muscles after that long work out, and two businesses which offer acupuncture and herbal treatments.  Within walking distance you’ll find tennis and Genesse Park, where you can also keep Fido in shape, at the double-gated 2 and 1/2 acre off-leash doggie park!  Tune up your bike at BikeWorks, because close by is also Seward Park with its 2.4 mile bike and jogging loop and serene old growth forest on the Bailey Peninsula at Lake Washington.  Not up for a bike ride or a jog?  Take in the breathtaking beauty of Mt. Rainier, ducks on the lake and bald eagle’s overhead during a relaxing stroll.

I’ll be sure to update this post as new establishments open, and other great features about the neighborhood arise.  By the way, I personally live in the neighborhood and consider myself lucky to be here.  We have several projects in the works in Columbia City, so if you are interested in owning a Dwell Development home and want to consider yourself one of the lucky ones, please get in touch (Enable Javascript to see the email address).  Learn more about living in Columbia City here.

(all images copyright Dwell Development 2011)

3 comments on this post.
  1. Columbia Station (Phase Two):

    [...] click to learn more about living in Columbia City [...]

  2. Columbia Station (Phase One):

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  3. Spencer Noland:

    Columbia City has a healthy balance attracting people all hours of the day. Great for breakfast, lunch time locations and great shopping along with bars and a variety of dinner fare and shopping (all you have noted) to attract people all hours of the day. My wife and I can find all our Christmas shopping along these four blocks and have had great outings with our neighbors and friends at the bars and restaurants.

    The presence of a used bookstore in a neighborhood is also solid evidence of a successful neighborhood. Don’t forget the branch Library and Rainier Valley Cultural Center only two blocks away. While along the periphery we have a great coffee shop, a Vietnamese and Ethiopian food, a very creative t-shirt shop and so much more within walking distance beyond that. There’s also a neighborhood historic center and nearby arts organizations to help promote the long traditions and culture of the neighborhood

    Thanks for the great nod Dwell.

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