The Neighbor Lady
The story of the Central District is happening outside the Neighbor Lady’s front door. Excavators gouge at 23rd Avenue, upgrading the neighborhood’s literal and figurative crossroads, and giant white neon trumpets a marijuana shop around the corner. Next door, what was once Seattle’s first black-owned bank will soon be mixed-use midrise apartments. In another few years this area will be unrecognizable as the city’s historic hub of black culture.
The story of the Central District is happening inside the Neighbor Lady too. The diverse crowd of thirty- and fortysomethings gathered around the three-sided bar all seem to know one another: the white-haired couple, the grad student, the Larry Wilmore look-alike, the bartender who works as a bike messenger by day. The Neighbor Lady’s owners originally envisioned the toile wallpaper and dim amber glow imparting an “urban bordello” vibe. But a neighborhood has a way of making a bar into whatever it needs. Apparently this one needed a place where new neighbors and old ones could establish a rapport over reliable cocktails, basic local beers, and sweet potato fries or shrimp and grits. 2308 E Union St, 206-695-2072
Mardi Gras…the Kentucky Derby…a new episode of Top Chef: Seemingly every night is some sort of party. Even quieter nights celebrate eight years spent knitting together a community where the Central District meets Madison Valley and Capitol Hill. Bottleneck has underrated cocktails if you want them; tallboys of PBR if you don’t. Either way, you can order food from Bottleneck’s new burger sibling, Two Doors Down.
Wonder Coffee and Sports Bar
Tangy injera and spicy stews of lamb or beef or lentils are kind of perfect as bar food, as evidenced by this Ethiopian sports bar that carries on the legacy—or at least the name—of the old Wonder Bread bakery that once stood at 18th and Jackson. Today the maroon-walled space reflects both the neighborhood’s East African community and the universal penchant for watching sports on a massive projection screen ringed with “12” flags. wondersportbar.com
Chuck’s Hop Shop
A magical utopia where dogs, babies, parents, and twentysomethings in crocheted beanies who bicycled over from Capitol Hill co-exist harmoniously around mismatched tables in a former copier repair shop. The source of all this bonhomie: 50 taps of excellent craft beer, plus a vast wall of coolers full of bottles and cans. Much like the original in Greenwood, Chuck’s has been a neighborhood institution from the minute its doors opened in 2014.
Its name sounds like a street drug in an ’80s action flick, the hallucinatory effects of which could produce the building’s trippy mural. Inside Twilight Exit is just as much a riot—take the color scheme of gum stuck under a bar booth and then build around that. There are more surprises too, like the robust food menu (burgers, sandwiches, specials like gumbo and braised beef stroganoff), a pocket of arcade games, and a frat house–worthy back porch that turns the Cherry Street hideaway into a lively summertime spot. 2514 E Cherry St, 206-324-7462