Saturday, April 11, 2015

Exploring Seattle Neighborhoods: It's Going in Greenwood

Beyond the downtown core, residents know that Seattle is truly a city of distinct and thriving neighborhoods.  Our outlying neighborhoods are where more Seattleites live and play.

While some neighborhoods are on the tourist radar now, like Fremont (the Troll!), farther north in quirky Greenwood a new energy and revitalized business and arts scene is growing somewhat under the radar.

Nearby Ballard is close to becoming overbuilt with new condos and is now a  major destination, but farther north Greenwood (about 8 miles north of downtown Seattle) still retains an unpretentious Seattle neighborhood feel. 

So far the area is still mostly low-rise, older buildings, although some in-filling with larger new complexes is beginning and more are inevitable.  But I think these older neighborhoods dominated by small, primarily independent businesses have more unique character. (We'll gloss over the Fred Meyer complex eyesore on 85th.)

I've lived just beyond the western edge of Greenwood for over 15 years and  seen the area slowly evolve and change. Six years ago an arsonist torched several buildings with businesses, but the community rallied to support the damaged business owners. Today with Seattle overall booming, Greenwood is on the upswing too.
[In March 2016, a year after I wrote this post, a gas line explosion ripped through the heart of Greenwood, taking out several businesses. However, the business district is still thriving, albeit without some of the businesses described here.]

Greenwood Avenue, which runs through the heart of the district, is the former route of the Interurban electric railway that ran between Seattle and Everett in the early twentieth century, hence the older buildings and businesses lining Greenwood Ave.

Land of a Thousand Beers
On the far western edge of Greenwood at 8th Ave NW and NW 85th, Chuck's Hop Shop is the hottest draw around.  Formerly a nondescript convenience store on a busy corner, today Chuck's is the de facto neighborhood gathering spot/watering hole/foodie destination.  

Chuck's Hop Shop

A rotating variety of food trucks park at Chuck's every evening and during the weekend days. In the back is the adult pub, and in the front kids can buy fresh-scooped ice cream cones and a multitude of Pez dispensers. It's such an eclectic and successful concept that Chuck recently opened a new location in the Central District.

A Slice of Tibet
Wander east on 85th toward Greenwood Avenue (passing the Northwest Kush Collective, the local pot dispensary) and take a two-block detour south to the Sakya Monastery of Tibetan Buddhism. Outside this colorful, bright yellow building sits a large white stupa (or chorten) surrounded by prayer wheels. A sign invites passersby to walk clockwise around and spin the prayer wheels, which according to Tibetan tradition releases 32,000 prayers for peace. I often stop by on my bicycle and give them a whirl.

Sakya Monastery
Eat, Shop, Arts
Just west of the major intersection of 85th and Greenwood Ave, is the beloved Taproot Theater, which sits across the street from equally beloved Gordito's Mexican restaurant. Taproot suffered severe smoke damage in one of the arson fires, but is all fixed up with a new cafe next door, the Stage Door Cafe.

Between a multitude of little shops and cafes, there are so many fascinating and surprising treasures along Greenwood Ave.  Here are a few of my favorites:

Coyle's Bakeshop
Recently opened Coyle's Bakeshop, a couple blocks south of 85th, hardly needs an introduction; within a few weeks of opening it's already a north Seattle culinary destination. While the French-style pastries are excellent, I think their scones with homemade jam are truly a standout.

Across the street, The Yard Cafe serves up excellent bar food with a Mexican emphasis (I recommend the pork chile verde tacos) and Northwest craft beer and spirits. Last summer this was my go-to destination to watch the World Cup games.

The Yard Cafe's yard

Immediately north of The Yard is another of my favorite hangouts, Chocolati Cafe. This local chain features their exquisite handmade chocolates, but I like the cozy ambiance for sipping good teas while visiting with friends or working on my laptop.

Chocolati Greenwood
On the blocks just north and south of 85th are a trove of spots.  From Insurrection Apparel and Boots, which sells gorgeous leather cowboy boots (in Seattle?! Still closed as of late May 2016 due to the explosion.) and motorcycle jackets, to Pema Kharpo Tibetan Treasures, several small shops are diverse and one-of-a-kind.

Insurrection Apparel

These aren't chi-chi, high-end shops that are starting to predominate down in Ballard and Fremont. Rather, I think these are hidden gems catering to everyone interested in niche items.

For entertainment besides Taproot, Couth Buzzard Books sells new and used books and has live music, poetry, and readings almost every day. I love their motto, "Serving up community, one a time."  To me that's the spirit of Greenwood.

Couth Buzzard
 At the north end of the business district, Naked City Brewery Taphouse, Greenwood's self-proclaimed town hall, "strives to carry on the rich tradition of the American public house" by fostering community with regular events like film screenings and discussions on relevant city topics.

Of course I can't write about the vibrant arts scene in Greenwood without mentioning Greenwood Space Travel and Supply, a former Dave Eggers venture that served as a nonprofit "writing and communications center for the young people of Earth."  Late 2014 it became independent and renamed itself The Greater Seattle Bureau of Fearless Ideas (BFI), with a focus on motivating youth to share their stories. [As of late May 2016, this is still closed due to the March explosion.]

Really there are a dozen more places I could mention, but then who wants to read a long blog post when you could be out exploring for yourself?

If you haven't explored Greenwood, I suggest planning a few hours to wander the area, poke in all the shops and eateries, and then settle somewhere like Gainsbourg Lounge for happy hour or the Green Bean Coffeehouse for a cuppa and enjoy the community. 

Happy trails and thanks for visiting Pacific Northwest Seasons!

When You Go
Greenwood can be accessed from the north and south via the King County Metro Transit Route 5. Route 48 travels east-west through Greenwood along NW 85th.


JoJo said...

Traffic and lack of parking kept me far away from exploring Seattle. I do regret that. Esp. not being able to find Kerry Park thanks to no signs and tons of road construction detours.

Anonymous said...

STOP IT, really Jill, you know better. Soon we will be just like Ballard, kind of like Fremont. Phinney/Greenwood is a wonderful place. We still have a good mix of businesses and we are working hard to avoid becoming condo city. A house in my neighborhood sold in one week for 1.2 million. Where do we go next.

jill said...

I know, this is a bit ironic in light of my last post. It's the cheerleader in me that wants to make everyone happy. All the recent increase in growth is depressing me but Greenwood hopefully will stay first and foremost a Seattleites place.

Sistah Anne said...

Cowboy boots! Just thinking of them make me salivate. Now tell me that nearby there is a place with fringed suede jackets and I'll be right over. Sounds like a fun place to explore.

Ashley said...

Greenwood is great! Naked City is my favorite in the summer when they have the outdoor area open. And I haven't been to the Yard yet, but I heard it's a good one.