Three years ago, sisters Rahwa and Asmeret Habte, purchased Hidmo at 20th and Jackson in the CD. According to Hidmo's bartender, Hidmo was then "sort of a Hood bar" and home to some unwelcome behavior in the neighborhood. But since the Habte sisters took over, Hidmo has transformed into an important center of culture and community—not just in the neighborhood, but for all of Seattle.
Today, it's not just a great Eritrean restaurant and great neighborhood bar, it's also a meeting place for community groups like: 206 Zulu, CARA—the Center Against Rape and Abuse; the Hidmo Empowerment Group; a hangout for many of the most important and members of Seattle's hip hop scene; and a stage for music ranging from hip hop to live West African groups.
Hidmo is an example of how restaurants and bars can be a hub for the political and cultural life of a city, a true "third place" that builds community.
Hidmo is located in a plain white building, but on the inside it's friendly and charming, decorated with traditional Eritrean baskets and brightly painted walls—and is a bit run down in just the right places. But it's definitely the people and the music that make Hidmo a dynamic place.
While I was there for a few hours,
I sat next to a now 40-year old former B-boy who was involved in the 1980's Seattle hip hop scene (and now does some limited work with 206 Zulu). Then the DJ for Canary Sing showed up, joined later by Toby Crittendem from the youth and politics organizing group Washington Bus, and then Khalil, one half of the hip hop group Abyssinian Creole sat down. (I've also heard that Stranger writer Charles Mudede shows up regularly to orchestrate talks on Marxist science.) The music coming out of the speakers was a mash up of East African tunes and Seattle hip hop.
The drinks are decent. There are no beers on tap, but every bottle and can of beer at $3 helps make up for that. The bartender turns out to be PubliCola music writer Jonathan Cunningham, who poured good sized shots but served up even better conversation, as a bartender should.
The crowd at Hidmo varies depending on the night. Hidmo has several hip hop nights, about 3-4 nights a month. The last Saturday of every month brings a west African dance music night. But Sundays are the most popular night, with live African music.
You can also pick up albums from some of the best local hip hop groups. On the bar was a rack of CD's for sale from artists like THEE Satisfaction, Yirim Seck, Toni Hill and Canary Sing.
Go to Hidmo for great food, good drinks, and amazing culture. And like every good bar, you'll meet some amazing people.
Hidmo at 20th and S Jackson. Open Tues-Sun. Happy hour 5-7 Tues-Fri.
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