Culinary Tour Through Seattle's Capitol Hill
Directly east of downtown Seattle, joined together by bridges over the interstate which slices through the middle of the city, lies the Capitol Hill district. ‘The Hill’, as residents call it, contains a vast array of culinary delights.
To describe the food would first require me to describe the neighborhood. Capitol Hill is a progressive district where “anything goes” is a silent but active mantra. It is home to artists, students, punk rockers and wealthy business owners. It’s a cohesive neighborhood where cultures do not often clash, but are represented and heralded.
The food available on the Hill is as diverse as its residents. You can find items ranging from gourmet soul food to vegan pastries.
Let’s start our culinary tour at Cafe Septième. This pan-European art-lover’s hangout has affordable dinners, a fabulous hors d’oevre plate, and a delicious Caesar salad. Desserts in the case are gorgeous and make it difficult to decide which one to splurge on. Possibly the best time to dine there is during Sunday brunch; it is always packed, as it offers great breakfasts and good deals. Lattes are served, French-style, in a big bowl.
Up the street from there is Julia’s on Broadway. This is a fabulous old-world style restaurant with exposed brick, high ceilings, an elegant bar, and all around old-world glam. They have an enormous menu with offerings for any taste or dietary consideration. On Saturday nights, they are home to the local “Le Faux” show, which some local critics have heralded as the best cabaret in the city. It is always packed, replete with female impersonators, lavish costumes, and music you’ll want to dance to.
If you like authentic Mexican food, Gallerias has an extensive traditional gourmet menu. The Tortilla Soup is outstanding and comes highly recommended. High ceilings with fancy-yet-comfortable décor makes for a wonderful place to take a date or a client. Watch out, though. The margaritas are enormous! (But the prices are not.)
On the other side of the Hill, where Capitol Hill meets the Central District, you will find the award-winning Kingfish Café. This intimate diner is owned by three sisters with Southern roots, which is displayed by the family photos lining the walls of the dining room. They serve up gourmet Southern comfort food in a no-flare style. Traditional staples such as succotash, grits, collard greens, and catfish are all served up fresh and simple. It is important to note that you must save room for dessert; their sweets are not to be missed! Desserts such as red velvet cake, key lime pie, and bread pudding are large enough to split with someone. If their strawberry shortcake is in season, you’re in luck!
Than Brothers is the place to get Vietnamese Pho on the Hill. While there are plenty of Pho places around town, this one is outstanding, as one can tell from the packed dining room. You can get an enormous bowl for under $5 here. If you haven’t tried it, Pho is a delicious broth-based soup, filled to the brim with vegetables, noodles, and either soy or meat, with some fresh condiments on the side for you to garnish yourself. At Than Brothers, you also receive complimentary crème puffs after your dinner, just the right amount of sweet after the hearty-but-healthy soup.
While not a restaurant per se, the Rainbow Grocery on 15th has the best juice bar in town, serving all kinds of tasty liquid concoctions. Try the Rainbow Cocktail, a real healthy treat and a boost of energy. Rainbow Grocery also has delicious fresh soup and a wide array of natural gourmet foods, which would be great to pick up on the way to a picnic at the nearby historical Volunteer Park.
The Healthy Hedon is a truly unique place in the heart of the Broadway District. Here you will find decadent vegetarian and vegan food with a Jamaican flare. Who knew that vegan food could be so scrumptious? The Chocolate Soup seems to be the top item on the menu. They also have a great Sunday brunch.
Mamounia, just a short walk from downtown, is a fabulous treat. Upon arrival, you are whisked into an intimate setting of exotic tapestries and given a comfortable seat on one of the decorative pillows or ottomans. Before your meal, you are given a private hand-washing, as all of the food here is eaten as it is in Morocco—with the hands. If you time it right, as you eat and drink in exotic decadence, you can watch a delightful bellydance show from one of the top dancers in the Seattle bellydance scene.
Bleu Bistro appears at first to be mainly a bar, but their food is delicious. They have renowned grilled cheese sandwiches which are, indeed, quite a treat. Their appetizer plates are huge and contain copious amounts of satisfying and healthy noshes. While a bit on the expensive side, they serve deliciously imaginative cocktails, and have a bar menu that must be over 20 pages long. The waitstaff is friendly and helpful, and with the European atmosphere inside coupled with the bustle of Broadway outside makes for a truly unique place to spend an evening with friends. The aisles and private booths are tiny and narrow and, unless you are claustrophobic, the whole experience is delightfully quaint.
Wherever you are on Capitol Hill, you will find a wide array of interesting coffee shops, cafes, and specialty restaurants or shops. An enormous selection of world cuisines are represented on the Hill, as well as food for every dietary (and budgetary) consideration.
by Jackie Donnelly, local Seattle photographer and writer.
Articles on Food Seattle: