In Seattle Magazine’s ongoing Many Faces of Seattle Neighborhoods, today we draw our attention to the zip code 98118. It’s a zip that encompasses the Rainier Valley, Seward Park and Columbia City. Periodically, I’ll be plucking a zip code and highlighting the best restaurants in the area — or at least ones that are deserving of your attention for whatever reason.
Let’s start with pizza. I adore Flying Squirrel for its old school approach to a neighborhood pizzeria. There’s not a lot of flash to this place, but the pizza is top notch, there’s some good salads, the music is usually kickin’ (they play mix tapes from their employees and customers!) and the staff is super friendly. It's just a really fun place to be. The original Tutta Bella, opened in 2004, has a home in Columbia City. Even if it’s not the best pizza you’ve ever had, it’s totally charming. My fondest memory of this place is being poured a glass of wine while waiting in a long line to get a table. Years ago, that was the best thing that had ever happened to me while I waited for food, and probably still is. Wish more places did this. Today, there’s a bar area that doubles as a coffee shop in the morning (and the coffee is legit).
Other solid coffee options include Empire Espresso, which doubles as a great waffle destination, and Tin Umbrella Coffee, a specialty roaster in Hillman City. Any coffee shop that opens an hour early to get you through Daylight Saving is a keeper.
Columbia City Bakery dishes out some of the best pastries and bread in the city. Ask any restaurant what bread they prefer to use, and the majority will likely tell you Columbia City. The place is so popular, they’ve put a cap on the number of restaurants they service.
La Medusa is a pillar of Columbia City, perhaps the neighborhood’s most braggable restaurant. The ever-changing, market-driven Sicilian menu makes this place a gem, as does the general loveliness of the space. There’s also Geraldine’s Counter, which is nearly impossible to get into for weekend brunch (and they serve breakfast all day. Heaven.). Down the block is The Royal Room, which I have a soft spot for — not because of the food, which is fine, but for the bands that play there. It’s got a great vibe to it. I highly recommend taking in a show (many have no cover charge), while downing some pints of beer and chatting up the other concert-goers.
Also notable: Lottie's Lounge (great neighborhood bar), Tammy’s Deli (the best banh mi), Mawadda Café (for Mediterranean food), Kezira (for killer Ethiopian dishes), Tacos el Asadero (the taco truck to beat all taco trucks), Rookies (a cool little sports bar), Rainier BBQ (Anthony Bourdain calls it a "shrine of Vietnamese cooking." Get the fried chicken.) and King Donut (a teriyaki/doughnut shop that’s also a laundromat).
Did I leave off your favorite spot? Shout it in the comments.