Critic's Notebook

This Seattle Neighborhood Is Seeing a Restaurant Explosion

Yeah…and it's not Capitol Hill. Or Ballard.

By Kathryn Robinson December 15, 2016

Fats nrjkr4

The iconic mural has been restored at Fat's.

Image: Facebook

It’s the Central District.

If you’ve spent any time driving around or through the gentrifying neighborhood in recent years, you can’t have missed its explosion in restaurants.

Standard Brewing and the Atlantic on Jackson, to be joined (target: February) by the brick/mortar of the mobile outfit, Wood Shop BBQ. A bunch around Seattle U, from Seven Beef to Lark’s brand new pizza joint, Southpaw, to the relocated Nate’s Wings and Waffles. Not to be confused with Fat’s Chicken and Waffles, which opened in the husk of the late, great Catfish Corner, which got reborn, a few streets over, as Jackson’s Catfish Corner.  

(Which isn’t on Jackson; that’s the owner’s name. It’s on 21st.)

And the list goes on, from family friendly (Feed Co. Burgers, Central District Ice Cream Company) to the high-end (L’Oursin French fare) to the seafood-market-with-poke-counter Seattle Fish Guys—plus the bunch I’ve undoubtedly overlooked.

Not a lot has been written about the Central District’s burgeoning restaurant scene, in part because many Seattleites are so deeply troubled over the gentrification it represents. A tech-borne tide of incoming homeowners leads to rising property values—which leads to new restaurants, more rising property values, and longtime residents pushed out of a neighborhood that for many is deeply connected to their identity.

A few writers around town have thoughtfully suggested that genuine ties to the neighborhood (in this Seattle Times piece on Seattle Fish Guys) or cultural continuity with the neighborhood and former tenant (in this Stranger piece on Fat’s) make some new restaurants easier for a gentrifying neighborhood to embrace than others. When/if longtime Central District icon Ms. Helen’s Soul Food (now a delivery/catering operation) gets reborn as Ms. Helen’s Soul Bistro…the CD will be welcoming back an old friend.

With other places…the issue's just a whole lot more complicated. Earlier this year, a couple of activists posted "Karmic Infraction" signs on new businesses around 23rd and Union. "Violation: Being an Unapologetic Gentrifier," the sign read, in part.



Show Comments