relocating to Seattle, eating-wise
I am a NYC expat who has been living in the hinterlands of South Carolina for five years and who is therefore very hungry. I am relocating to Seattle next summer and need to, you know, pick a neighborhood. I have small children who will attend public school, and I will be working near downtown making a comfortable but by no means extravagant or enviable salary. What neighborhood is best, chowhound-wise? I used to be the sort who would change subway lines twice to get to the right Thai restaurant, but that was in my childfree days. Now, I want to be able to walk to the food, because god forbid I cook.
I lived in Seattle for 5 years without a car adjacent to the Greenlake/Ravenna area, right off Roosevelt and 71st. The public transpo in that area was fabulous, because it was in the Northgate-to-UDistrict-to-downtown corridor (I work downtown), and the buses run thru there quite frequently and late into the night. Lots of decent, cheap ethnic food in the UDistrict, of course, not to mention Whole Foods and Trader Joe's on Roosevelt. Good neighborhood restaurants to be found and best of all, totally easy access to downtown, which gives you the ID, the Market, Belltown, and downtown itself. North of the Roosevelt area is Maple Leaf, which I think is a hidden gem, because it's still on that great bus corridor and not yet being condo-ized to death like Green Lake and Ballard. Good for families, and again, totally convenient bus service to downtown and university.
I also recommend the Columbia City area, including the Mt Baker neighborhood that borders on the north.
Bus commute to downtown is fine: we're in Mt Baker, and my wife commutes downtown via bus every day -- 20 day trip.
To the list of restaurants already mentioned, I'd add a few things: Both Ways Cafe (best biscuits in town), Mio Posto (charming neighborhood pizza joint in Mt Baker), Bob's Meats (great butcher in the heart of Columbia City), and Da Pino (artisanal cured meats on Rainier Ave. just north of Columbia City). Also close to PCC organic co-op and the Leschi Market with surprisingly great wine and store-made sausages.
On top of that Columbia City and Mt. Baker are tremendous for outdoor activity with proximity to Lake Washington including Seward Park and the Mt. Baker Rowing and Sailing Center.
I remember fondly the days of walking through NYC for hours. From the East Village to C-Town to SoHo and then up to the Park and back down to the Battery. Eating at wonderful eateries along the way....Then I moved to Seattle and it all ended. I tried to walk Seattle. Oh the views of I-5. The long desolate stretches. The homeless. The disappointment every time I walked into a random eatery promising good food. The food reminded me of NJ.
You see, I was born and raised in The Village. New York was all that I knew. Then suddenly, I found myself moving to Seattle for a job. For the experience. The next three months of trying to find an apartment were pretty terrible. Capitol Hill reminded me of a cheap college town. I looked at an apartment there that had an oven that could not fit a large chicken and only had one burner. The food selections were poor on average.
I passed on Belltown with all it's fancy new construction. New York prices with that cheap new car feel.
Columbia City was where I saw my first black person (like me) in all of Seattle. I felt at home! It was great! I found a great bookstore that was opening a Yoga studio above it. I went to see a movie and I had decent pizza. I then got mugged. It seems that I parked too far from the main road.
Pioneer square was lovely. There were cheap eats and fine dining within walking distance. Reminded me of New York. Well, except that there were a lot more gunshots and homeless. I did find some affordable housing in PS for the first year but moved due to the aforementioned annoyances.
I am now in Ballard. There is great food in the neighborhood and it is only getting better. There is a wonderful farmers market with some of the best cheese in Seattle. It is a kid friendly area and there are good schools nearby. Sure, it takes a mere 30 seconds to walk across but, hey, it's not New York. Nothing is.
Columbia City, all the way. It is still (compared to most neighborhoods) affordable, and it has wonderful food options, many of which are listed by ceester up above. It is also close to downtown and the International District, both of which have fabulous food options.
Another option is Fremont/Ballard. It's where I live, with my moderate salary and my small child and my love of food and we do pretty well over here. It's more difficult to find decently-priced housing (we rent) but it's not impossible. For food we have Paseo, Cafe Besalu, Carmelita, Le Gourmand, cookies from the Greenwood Bakery, PCC's deli, Gordito's, Ray's Boathouse, and the Stumbling Goat Bistro, among others.
Also, a large number of the highly sought after public schools are in the Fremont/Ballard area, which means your chances of getting both kids into a good public school may (arguably) be higher over on this end of town.
I second (or third or fourth) the rec for Capitol Hill. I too am an ex-pat Manhattanite living on a modest income. An apartment dweller all my life, I was able to find housing I could afford and I rarely use my car. In addition to the restaurants listed above on Capitol Hill itself such as Monsoon, Vios, Baguette Box and Lark, there are also Osteria La Spiga, Cafe Stellina, Tango, Crave, Kingfish, Via Tribunali, 1200 Bistro, and lots of low-key neighborhoody spots and great independent coffee shops (plus the original Top Pot doughnuts!). Within reasonable walking distance or a short bus ride are the many very good restaurants in the Madison Valley/Madison Park area (Crush, Harvest Vine, Cafe Flora, Rover's, Voila!, Saint Germain) and Madrona (e.g. Cremant, Coupage). As mentioned, the international district is close by and most parts of downtown are no more than a 30 minute walk.
I have to give a shoutout to my 'hood, Columbia City which will be in the enviable position of having lightrail service to downtown in 2-3 years. While small, its commercial core is very community oriented and kid-friendly without that yuppie feeling that is infiltrating Ballard. Here's an abbreviated list of restaurants/eateries:
Awash - Ethiopian
Pho Hoa - pho, rice bowls, some other stuff
Columbia City Bakery - great breads, some pastries
Wellington - Southern
Roy's BBQ - perhaps my favorite pulled pork sandwich, "Georgia Gold", mostly sandwiches
Jones BBQ - saucier BBQ, ribs
La Medusa - upscale Italian
Pizzuto's - casual "Eye-talian"
Tutta Bella - Neopolitan pizzeria
Geraldine's - upscale diner
Columbia City Alehouse - good pub grub
Lottie Mott's - bar with food, getting better
Solstice - new coffeehouse with yummy baked goods
Banks, bars, one-screen moviehouse, library, great farmers' market from May thru Oct. Did I mention the impending arrival of lightrail?
Capitol Hill is pretty central to all the good eats in town. Not saying they are all here but definitely either a short walk or quick bus ride to many of them. It's also easily accessible to the I-5 or 520 bridge if you want to venture in any direction out of town for other good eating. Also just to set the record straight - Capitol Hill proper boasts one of the "best" public elementary schools in Seattle, Lowell. Here's a school guide in case you want to check out your options around town: http://community.seattletimes.nwsourc... Good luck. I'm a former New Yorker and this is a very friendly and livable city to live in regardless of where you choose to reside. Its definitely spendy though!
P.S. Also forgot to mention Capitol Hill is also a great local if you want to be close to child friendly eating and drinking establishments. Within walking distance you have Vios (greek restaurant), Montlake Ale House, and "My Coffee House" on Madison Ave(flies in H&H bagels from NYC). All 3 have special designated play areas filled with toys for children so the adults can eat and drink in peace. Also not far away in the Madrona area is The Madrona Ale House which also caters to kids. Enjoy!
"by no means extravagant" suggest something other than Capitol Hill to me. Hou$ing is fierce there, parking is non-existant (it will remind you of Manhatten), and schools troublesome. I have found relatively few reliably chowish destinations on the hill, considering its density, though the exceptions are exceptional (Lark, Monsoon, Baguette Box, maybe Coastal Kitchen, a bunch of stuff at Jackson Square, toward the ID.
Property in West Seattle is relatively reasonable, though transporation is an issue and I know nothing of their schools. Wedgwood, Greenwood, Wallingford, and Fremont are all worth a look, as is Ballard and Crown Hill. Of these, Ballard has the up-and-comingest food scene, with Wallingford and Fremont close behind. Google Seattle farmer's markets to see a half-dozen very good ones.
For urban living (no yard, close quarters, etc), check out the Internatinal district.
Good luck out there.
Oh, and if transitional neighborhoods are of interest, check out South Park, Georgetown, Rainier Valley/Central District/Rainier Beach, Northgate. South Lake Union is making a rapid and delberate transition from light-industrial to Mondo-Condo and high-tech office park, and may be a good fit for a New Yorker, especially if/when they put in a streetcar to downtown through very chowi$h Belltown.
I feel compelled to say that if someone wants to be able to walk to good food, as the OP said she wants to do, they aren't going to be happy in Wedgewood, Greenwood, Crown Hill, any of the neighborhoods in that last paragraph, or even Wallingford (a few good places, but not many).
Thank you Christy, you are right. To a Mannhatten sensibility, though, Seattle is likely to be an apallingly un-walkable town, no matter where you go. It's a "get what you pay for" sort of a deal, for sure, and we hope to prepare the explorer for the journey. If you can afford Belltown, that's a winner to some, and Capitol hill is good to others. Good luck out there.
I second the Fremont recommendation. Being a NYC ex-pat, you will be disappointed in the public transit system. It is pretty comprehensive, but being bus-based, just not as reliably efficient as subways. That said, it works, but owning a car is relatively easy in Seattle. Parking, traffic, and all those things are a far cry from NYC.
If you are entirely dependent on walking/public transit, I'd probably recommend Capitol Hill. There's enough good places to eat there, as well as a farmer's market and a couple natural food stores, but you are also either a long walk or fairly quick bus ride from the International District, with all the great Asian food there (and giant Asian grocery Uwajimaya), South Lake Union and the giant new Whole Foods, downtown (great eats at the Pike Place Market) and Belltown (lots of good, generally more upscale places).
I would also classify Fremont and Ballard as good food neighborhoods, and you could make them work without a car, but you wouldn't have as much that you could walk/bus to quickly and easily. If you do have a car either of those neighborhoods are good bases-you'd be able to walk to some good groceries, restaurants and coffeehouses, and not have to drive too far if you wanted more variety.