Explore The South Lake Union Neighborhood Like a Diva
South Lake Union today has seen major development in the last few years along its main avenue, Westlake Avenue, stretching between Denny Way and Mercer Street. Large new residential and commercial towers are now being built on the parallel Dexter and Fairview Avenues, providing housing options for thousands of Amazon employees and bio-tech workers who work in the neighborhood. That density has yet to bring a more vibrant, “main street” vibe. It will take more long-time residents and businesses to achieve that. South lake Union’s appeal is less driven by activities, arts or culture than by efficiency. It is not a destination, but it conveniently connects to the rest of the city while providing the essentials for the thousands who live and work in the area.
South lake Union’s densely corporate population has a “work hard, play hard” attitude, and there are a lot of options for the fitness-conscious populace: spin, barre, yoga, crossfit, full fitness centers. Outdoorsy types will appreciate the nearby REI flagship store (which famously has its own large indoor rock-climbing wall). But the path around the lake itself is the real advantage for outdoor fitness enthusiasts. Joggers and cyclists enjoy scenic paths on the west shore, leading to Fremont, along the ship canal on the north edge of Queen Anne, connecting even with Magnolia and Ballard. The east side of Lake Union doesn’t have a trail, but connects with the Burke-Gilman Trail just across the University Bridge, leading to Fremont to the west. It’s a six-mile loop going around these east, north and west shores, with plenty of scenic detours along the way, including the mountain bike trails in Colonnade Park and the sweeping lake views of Gasworks Park on the north end.
In some ways, South lake Union’s is second only to Downtown in transit options. It doesn’t have a single corridor or the tunnel, but a network of criss-crossing lines that get you to Fremont (26, 28, 40), Wallingford (26), Ballard’s main street (40), North Ballard and Greenlake (28), Northgate (16) Eastlake and the University District (66 and 70), and of course the trolley (fondly referred to as the SLUT) which like all the aforementioned lines connects to downtown. Some buses continue on as other routes heading south, passing through Pioneer Square and the Central District. On Denny (the southern border of South lake Union), the 8 running west takes you up the steep slope of Capitol Hill, on to the Central District and further south, while running east the 8 bus ends in Lower Queen Anne by Seattle Center. There is not much parking to be had around these new developments, so transit and ride-sharing are fairly key for those who want to get around town.
Mercer cuts through its northern edge and Denny Way bounds it on the south, meaning that two major roads connecting to I-5 bring lots of traffic running east and west. Rush hour is a standstill, and this will only get worse in years to come as more developments are built and Expedia makes its headquarters in Interbay, on the other side of Queen Anne Hill to the west. It really is a good place to be a cyclist or pedestrian…or to wait out the traffic at a bar.
Food and Drink
On Westlake and Terry Avenues, there are quite a few food options, including a two-story complex of Tom Douglas’ restaurants, Cuoco and Brave Horse Tavern. Cuoco serves handmade pasta in a rustic, chic setting. Italian-food lovers should also enjoy La Toscanella Paninoteca (by chef Enrico Ambrosetti), a bright, airy bistro and bakery on the south end of Westlake, and Caffe Torino on the east end near I-5. Tom Douglass’ pizza chain, Serious Pie, also has a location on Westlake. One can find craft cocktails and seasonal food at re:public on Westlake and Ten on 9th on…9th Avenue. (The “10” in its name comes from its three rotating lists of ten vintage cocktails, ten seasonal cocktails and ten house-infused liquors.) Shilla on Denny (just across from Denny Park) is a Seattle mainstay for Korean and Japanese fare. Flying Fish established itself as destination seafood dining in Belltown before moving to South lake Union in 2010, where it continues to draw crowds. Then there is Chandler’s Cove, a waterfront complex of marina’s and restaurants, including Chandler’s Crabhouse. In short, South Lake Union may not have the density of other neighborhoods, but it is not short on options for hospitality.
cafe commotion at kakao. come join the fun! #kakaoseattle A photo posted by kakao chocolate + coffee (@kakaoseattle) on
South lake Union’s Uptown Espresso is one of the last establishments remaining from before the development boom in the late 2000s. It has a worn-in, old-school energy that is rare in the area. If you want something more polished, there is Kakao a few blocks away, and of course a Starbucks, which adjoins a large outdoor seating area on Terry. However, our favorite SLU cafe on a clear day is Compass Cafe, attached to the Museum of History and Industry. The bright clear space has lots of patio seating that looks out onto the lake, where seaplanes and old, wooden boats come and go. Need a spa day? Banya 5 on 9th offers scrubs, wraps, massages and has clean, contemporary facilities (saunas, cold pools, etc). Wednesdays and Thursdays they offer early bird specials for those who enter before 2 PM, so even if you are in the neighborhood and want to take a long lunch to sweat out the stress, it’s just minutes away.
Culture and Nightlife
Seattle Center and Lower Queen Anne are a stone’s throw away, so attending the opera and ballet (at McCaw Hall) or theatre and dance (at Cornish Playhouse or On the Boards) is easy as can be. One of Seattle’s finest galleries, Winston Wachter is located near Denny Park on Dexter, for fans of contemporary visual art. Cornish College of the Arts is just across Denny and offers frequent performances and lectures at its facilities
A photo posted by @deedle.juice on
If live music and dancing are a draw, El Corazon and The Funhouse facing I-5 offer live music most every night, especially hard-rock and folk. One of Seattle’s coolest clubs, Kremwerk (hint do you see resident Diva DJ Tony Burns in the photo above), has nightly programming—everything from European electronica and metal/industrial to house and underwear parties—and a great patio space. Around the corner, one of Seattle’s last great dive bars Re-Bar has a quirky lineup of dance and performance. Last but not least, Lo-Fi on Eastlake Ave hosts rock, hip-hop and most notably its extremely lively and popular Emerald City Soul Club nights.
A photo posted by Matthew Eizenga (@thesupere) on