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Moving to Seattle from Cambridge, MA...where should I live?

I'll be moving to Seattle for a year, maybe two, and I will be working at the Hutch. I was joking with a friend about moving to the center of mass of Eater's "where to eat now" map, adjusting for the coffee and drinking maps, but now I'm thinking seriously that I SHOULD be prioritizing the food options when I choose a neighborhood. So, I'm turning to the experts.

Is there a nice neighborhood, preferably directly bus-able to the Hutch, that has very good coffeeshops (I realize those are mostly everywhere, but still, I want to be sure), cheap but quality grocery stores, and that is conveniently located to a good amount of chowhound adored restaurants, the kind that I'd want to go to often, with good beer for after work? I get the feeling that Capitol Hill may be sort of what I want, but perhaps I could do better with everyday food like groceries (as well as housing) being cheaper.

I'm in my mid-twenties, just finished grad school, not single but will be living alone and don't know many people there, and want to make the most of my fairly limited time in Seattle (before I probably move back to Portland...sorry...I want to love both places!).

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  1. Eastlake up the street from The Hutch has a few great restaurants and some great patios for Seattle Summer Sunset dinings. Eastlake has Voxx which serves Oregon's Stumptown Coffee

    Eastlake also has some stellar options for eating like Little Water Cantina, Ravish, Blind Pig Bistro, Serafina, and Hiroshi's and Sushi Kappo Tamura.

    Cap Hill is another bet and will be more livelier with more bars, coffee shops, and restaurants in walking distance. I'm sure you can find an apt available near Melrose Market.

    2 Replies
    1. re: shaolinLFE

      +1 on all shaolin said, but would also suggest looking on Queen Ann Hill, a quick 10 minutes from SLU neighborhood - where Hutch is - and a bit removed from the increasing density of that area - a little more laid back. As close to Downtown as SLU, but closer to Belltown, and just - well different. So Eastlake, Capitol Hill (which is actually several neighborhoods; Broadway, Pike/pine, 15th Ave area, N capitol hill, and more), actually moving to SLU, which is a neighborhood to live in, but looks more like to work in so far (very NEW), and Queen Ann, which consists of Upper and Lower QA). I bet that is alot to chew on right there!

      1. re: gingershelley

        I live in upper QA and don't find it chowworthy, but it's conveniently located to plenty that is. I'd say Capitol Hill. You aren't going to find cheap groceries anywhere in Seattle ... that I'm aware of. SLU is a good idea too. You could walk to work.

    2. The Cascade / South Lake Union neighborhood is on fire, the fruit of long intention, and has it all.
      Urban transit of the first order brings you all of it.

        1. I'd do Capitol Hill. It has the best concentration of food and coffee. It's a great 'hood for people in their 20s (and other ages, but it seems like a law in Seattle that we all live on CH in our 20s. Then we want to buy and have to move off the Hill). Plus it would be easy to get to the Hutch.

          Nothing against Eastlake but is there even a grocery store there? South Lake Union is another possiblity, and you could walk to work, but I think Whole Foods might be your only grocery option, and I bet that isn't as cheap as you want. SLU is also kind of a funny place--it's a very new "neighborhood"--lots of new condos is what was a light industrial area. And for all the new people that live there and the new restaurants and bars, it can feel really dead at night. It's not lively like CH at all.

          I would agree with Ballard but I think you're looking at a bus transfer to get you to work--I don't think there's a direct. Ballard is hard w/o a car IMO--it's geographically a big neighborhood.

          1. Don't base your living decisions in a city like Seattle based on foodie fads. If you want fairly direct bus routes to Hutch, start with that, and then investigate the character and prices of Seattle's distinctive neighborhoods to discover the "vibe" you love. Once you pick your nest, you'll enjoy going to other neighborhoods for food expeditions.

            Capitol Hill seems to me like a best bet, based on the criteria you've set forth, and also your age and circumstances. There are regular grocery stores and a wide range of rental pricing, as well as the vibrant nightlife and restaurant scene along Broadway. But there are lots of other possibilities along or near express bus lines, in the north end, and elsewhere.

            Come to Seattle and look around on your own before forming too much of a geographical game plan, some neighborhood will feel "just right" if you explore. When I first planted my flag here, over 30 years ago, it was in a one bedroom apartment on Phinney Ridge, right across from the zoo. Fond memories remain of those days.....

            1. Thanks, everyone, all this has been very helpful. I do take gizmo's words to heart, in that I do put priority in commute and assume that Seattle's good public transport will take me fairly easily to most great places. I mostly was hoping the discussion would give me a better feel for what each neighborhood is like, and so far it has! I was wondering about SLU, Eastlake, and Queen Anne, but couldn't get a good read on their "vibes" based on what I'd found on the internet so far. I did have dreams of living in Ballard based on what I saw and liked from a visit a few years ago, but it does seem a bit inconvenient without a car. I'll keep all your advice in mind when looking for an apartment. It's great hearing opinions from people who know the city well!

              12 Replies
              1. re: minnier731

                I think you need to visit to get a sense of the vibes. Keep in mind that any centrally located neighborhood will be 10 or at most 15 minutes from any good restaurant in the city (except perhaps at rush hour). CH, QA, Eastlake, SLU, Fremont ... live any of those places and even if the food down the block isn't amazing, you're not far from food that is.

                1. re: minnier731

                  As a longtime Capitol Hill resident, I definitely agree with all who have suggested the Hill. It's for the most part worth the rent premium due to all the great things to eat and drink and do that are right there at your feet. I really like the variety of restaurants and bars available on the Hill.

                  Also, Fred Hutch is just a quick walk or bike from Capitol Hill, so you don't even necessarily need to deal with Metro. The route is a little steep but it's fantastic exercise to burn off any indulgences!

                  Edited to add, I lived in Ballard for about a year and a half without a car and found it dreadfully inconvenient after living on the Hill, but it's an easy bike commute to SLU if you are so inclined.

                  1. re: antennastoheaven

                    I'd live within walking distance of a Whole Foods, or Pike Market (but I like to cook and shop)
                    I know that people love to hate WF but there are good values there if you look. Same advice for Metropolitan Market. Trader Joes? Not impressed.
                    Ballard and West Seattle, too far, Queen Ann, inconvenient, Capitol Hill, too noisy, SLU or Downtown hi rise would be a good choice especially if you are close to Pike Market and want the urban vibe. You won't find Portland here and I don't know if that's good or bad.
                    Final thought - if you like the Asian mix of cultures then find a place on the light rail in South Seattle. Easy commute and it can seem like being in a foreign land in your hometown. Viet Namese coffee!

                    1. re: JayDK

                      We live on Capitol Hill and love its walkability and easy access to a good variety of bars & restaurants. But the Hill is NOT cheap (neither in terms of groceries, restaurants or rent). Still, if you can afford it it's worth it. Lots of other neighborhoods are easily walkable/bus-able from here and that counts for a LOT for us.

                      If you DO decide on the Hill, also keep in mind that it's not all the same. The west side (Broadway, etc.) and Pike/Pine areas have a lot more stuff going on...but it also means chances are good there'll be loud drunks outside your window at 2am. If you don't mind that (or are yourself a loud drunk!), the bustling part of the Hill is for you! We are old and quieter so we prefer the east side of the Hill; further north is quieter too. But both are a longer commute to SLU, downtown, etc.

                      Whatever the case, there's lots of good food to be had here on the Hill and all over Seattle. Good luck!

                      1. re: Bax

                        Lived in Cambridge from 95 to 99, Cap Hill and Greenwood in Seattle from 03 to 08. Back in Cambridge again. Do you have a Boston or Cambridge hood you would like to recreate? Cap Hill is young, loud, gay and fun. Not best analogy, but a gay, hip Allston without the fratty part. Ballard is great, more like Union or Davis (best case comparison), Fremont is like Northampton/Amherst, hippies turned yuppies who still have an arty side. Lots of other neighborhoods, all with distinct flavors. Baseline food will be better in Seattle..i.e. markets, neighborhood pubs, most ethnic foods (not Indian however), and coffee shops that make this new Voltage, Dwelltime, RJ Gourmet, Simons trend here seem small time.

                        1. re: coolaugustmoon

                          P.S. Almost any neighborhood you choose will be cheap compared to Cambridge. Also, the transit is good compared to non major east coast metro. It is not on par with Boston (unless 5 years is enough to redo whole system)

                          1. re: coolaugustmoon

                            I would just caution again that one really needs to actually experience Seattle's neighborhoods to catch the distinctive "vibe." I get the idea of how Fremont might be compared with Amherst (etc.) demographically, but still they are very different places to reside. There are things about the architecture, the light, the lay of the land, and the general attitude (among so much more) that determine which neighborhood will feel most appealing.

                            Also, I guess this is little help to minnier731 (given the time of year), but I have found that often people have the most long term success doing their home hunting in really bad weather. If a domicile and the surrounding environs feel "homey" in a steady drizzle, you've found the right place to live in Seattle, and it will only feel better in warm and dry weather.

                            1. re: Gizmo56

                              Yes, I agree with your caveats. The vibes are hard to define, and I am not totally happy with the descriptions I gave. However I got a "running out of time" vibe from the op and having been in the same exact (Cambridge to Seattle) situation before I felt it was a good starting point. Another thing that is hard to explain about Seattle is how self contained the different hoods are. Queen Anne is due to geography, but all the other hoods can feel like that as well. In Cambridge, we have Central, Harvard Sq etc... but they transition well with sub neighborhoods in between. Going from Fremont to Ballard or Cap Hill to East Lake I remember retail and residences kind of drying up (Its been a few years so this may have changed).

                          2. re: Bax

                            I live on N. Cap Hill, about a 10 min walk from the Hutch. Love the neighborhood. I'm a few blocks from a grocery store, tons of restaurants (and a 10 min walk from some great ones), Summit Pub and Sun Liquor across the street, walking distance to the pike/pine bar scene, farmer's market and I live a few blocks off broadway so there is rarely any nighttime noise. Its also generally very easy to get to other neighborhoods by walking/transit (except for Ballard/Fremont). Yes, rent is expensive, but groceries are pretty much the same as the rest of Seattle (especially if you hit up Trader Joes once a week). Another option is the adjacent Central District, which is close enough to Cap. Hill to offer most of the advantages but with cheaper rents. Anyway, most of my friends who have moved away from the neighborhood wish they were back here.

                            1. re: sirsnacksalot

                              Ah, yes, this is all good to hear. I was considering the edges of Capitol Hill (N/E) as well, since I did get the feeling it would be quieter, and google maps seems to think that from N Cap Hill there is some overpass I can use to cross the 5 to get over to the Hutch. Glad to hear that it actually is a short walk from there, though I get the idea that if I wanted to take the bus to work on extra gloomy days that it would be a little bit of a hassle. Maybe once I leave crazy angry driver Boston I'll get over my fear of biking in a city and just do that instead.

                              Ha, coolaugustmoon, thanks for speaking my language! I've lived in Central Square my entire 5 years in Boston, and I suppose I'd like to recreate something like that mainly because it is so convenient to everywhere, and in the middle of many great food places. I do tire of the angry screaming crazy people everywhere, but those sorts of issues are outweighed by all the other good things. That's funny, I was imagining Ballard as sort of a Jamaica Plain, but Somerville makes sense too. I've always thought of moving out to those places but never mustered up the energy to leave central because, well, the convenience. I'm used to shopping at Whole Foods since it's a short walk for me now, and the produce is generally better than most options except for my CSA, so I'll survive having to continue to go to fancy markets. I think overall I just need to stop thinking of Seattle as sooo much cheaper than Boston, just a small amount cheaper, but that's okay. I believe that the baseline will be better, too.

                              I'm visiting next week to scope out locations and apartments; very happy to have a game plan with all this info!

                              1. re: minnier731

                                JP does make sense in a distance from downtown way. JP has an up and coming food scene yes, but Ballard has more stuff. All of the neighborhoods will offer you better produce than anything in Boston. Their are some mediocre grocers (QFC, safeway and the like), but the good markets are light years better than Whole Foods. If you remember when Central Sq was a bit dicey at night you will understand the Broadway part of Cap Hill. The formaggio part of Cambridge is what the top of the hill is like (not a whole lot there, but high end)

                                p.s again- I know rents have gone up in Seattle. However, the low end base 1bdrm in Cambridge is $1500, 1700+ for 2 etc... You can still get a place for $1200 a month in Seattle, less if you leave core. Plus the housing stock is newer and more likely to have dishwasher, washer/dryer etc... Seattle folk can kick and scream about how expensive it is, but Boston area rivals NYC and San Fran with Cambridge being on the high end.

                          3. re: JayDK

                            I know some people who like to shop regularly at Pike Place Market, but I could not stand to do so. It's incredibly congested with tourists, particularly in the summer but even in the winter. I go only when it's unavoidable.

                      2. I was in a similar situation to you last month (just finished grad school, moved here alone, late 20's) and I settled in the north end of Belltown. I like that its central to pretty much everything, but is still quiet at night. There is easy metro access, but honestly I just end up walking a lot.

                        I would have preferred Ballard, but sadly I work in Bellevue and the commute just seems like too much of a hassle.

                        1. Funny how nobody's mention the Eastside.

                          To move to Seattle it's imperative you come for a short visit just to see where you feel comfortable.
                          Every neighborhood has its own distinctive image/environment/story/history.
                          Capitol Hill is a lovely place to live and it's also got its different neighborhoods....some nicer than others for a single woman who's never lived there before.
                          Do your homework.

                          8 Replies
                          1. re: latindancer

                            Sounds like she is doing her homework.

                            1. re: latindancer

                              I assume that a person who has already visited the area, and who says that they plan to live in SEATTLE, wanting fairly direct public transportation link to the Hutch, is not someone interested in living on the other side of Lake Washington.

                              And it seems to me that any young person would be much happier inside the city limits, with easy access to the city's many cultural attractions, restaurants, bars, and clubs, rather than living a bride toll (and major bridge construction project) away from Seattle's many charms.

                              I think the original poster is doing the needed homework quite well.

                              1. re: Gizmo56

                                'And it seems to me that any young person would be much happier inside the city limits..."

                                Not every young person...just ask those who made their first millions with Microsoft in their twenties and commuted back and forth across the bridge easily.
                                Born and raised in Seattle, thanks....and I know the city inside and out. I know many a 'young person' who'd have rather lived on the Eastside and commuted to Hutch.
                                I highly doubt things have changed much.

                                1. re: latindancer

                                  Things have changed. Reverse white flight.

                                  1. re: latindancer

                                    If the young people you know who "made their millions" working in Redmond chose to live in Seattle, I think that fact simply supports my contention.

                                    I have two nephews working at Microsoft, both choose to live in Seattle. I have two sons, one at the UW and one a recent graduate, neither can imagine living anywhere but Seattle. When dinosaurs roamed the earth and I was just out of school, wild horses could not have kept me out of the city. I even made a daily commute from Phinney Ridge to Tacoma for two years, rather than leave the city for a more convenient suburb.

                                    I'll take your word for it that you know young people who would love to spend working hours in the city only to maintain their home life in Bellevue, Kirkland or Redmond. And more power to them. I haven't met any. After kids and mortgages, we ended up outside the city limits, but if I was young and childless again, I can't imagine any reason why I would not want to be back in the thick of things in a vibrant Seattle neighborhood.

                                    Just my two cents. minnier731 seems to be doing the research and thinking it through quite well, at least in my estimation.

                                    1. re: Gizmo56

                                      Well....I suppose there was some reason for the long, detailed description of the lineage you've supplied but nevertheless...

                                      I'm speaking of the first large group of millionaires who helped build Microsoft....many, many years ago. If I implied they lived in Seattle, I apologize. They didn't. They lived on the Eastside and commuted to restaurants and businesses in Belltown that were specifically opened for the sole purpose of supplying the demand of these young, successful pioneers.
                                      These people are now adults and would never think of living anywhere in the city of Seattle.
                                      However, it is very entertaining to know there is still this odd, crazy judgement, by many who live in the broader Seattle area, of those who choose to live on the Eastside....it seems to be timeless and very interesting.
                                      Two bridges that separate the two but lightyears apart.

                                      1. re: latindancer

                                        "They lived on the Eastside and commuted to restaurants and businesses in Belltown that were specifically opened for the sole purpose of supplying the demand of these young, successful pioneers."

                                        Really? Odd that such restaurants were not built in Redmond to "supply the demand" for this handful of millionaires in the glory days of MS-DOS.

                                        I lived in Seattle during that era and remember a general national awakening among "yuppies" and others for fine dining. People crowding our restaurants then were lawyers, financial industry people, etc., and yes some tech people too. But there was also a surge in interest in dining by young urban folk with middle class occupations.

                                        "However, it is very entertaining to know there is still this odd, crazy judgement, by many who live in the broader Seattle area, of those who choose to live on the Eastside....it seems to be timeless and very interesting."

                                        Yes, there is a timeless difference between Seattle and Bellevue/Kirkland/Redmond/Issaquah, etc. They are different places with different pros and cons. We know that the original poster is a Chowhound who has been here and was charmed by Ballard but is thinking that a closer neighborhood makes likely more sense.

                                        It is not "crazy" to think that most young people are attracted to the lifestyle of living in a vibrant city. Nor is it crazy to think the original poster wants to be in the city, near the workplace, and where the action is for a walkable neighborhood with good grocery stores and a nice variety of above average restaurants. I just don't know where you meet those parameters on the east side of the lake, but if you do, by all means give the OP more info. I think the OP is on the right track, and this is the end of my contribution to this thread.

                                        Good luck with your rental hunt and your move, minnier731, and with your time at Hutch, which does such important work. Please stay active on the Seattle board.

                                        1. re: Gizmo56

                                          +1
                                          Given the criteria the OP laid out (latindancer, did you actually read their post?), suggesting the Eastside would have made no sense.

                              2. Thanks everyone for all your discussions...very enlightening. I did in fact find a place in cap hill, on the west side which makes my commute easy. I actually found two I was torn between, one near group health on 17th, and one near the 5/olive. I ended up with the latter because the application went through before the other one did, though I think I liked the cozy feel of 15th and the cute neighborhood around there best. The olive/broadway part definitely feels busier and louder and more in the thick of things. If I get tired of all that I may move in a year, who knows. I do think the eastside would be too far for me, since I really despise driving and do want to be able to experience the city without commuting too much at night by myself to the other side of the lake. I will definitely explore that area once I move, though. I'm reaching the tail end of my twenties, becoming more of a settled homebody by the minute, and suspect this is the last time I'll tolerate such "vibrancy" in my neighborhood. It will probably do me some good! I will definitely be reading this board frequently now, thanks!

                                8 Replies
                                1. re: minnier731

                                  Welcome and good luck with your work at Hutch!

                                  1. re: minnier731

                                    Good luck, don't listen to all these Eastsiders, Capitol Hill is the best neighborhood in the city!

                                    1. re: pusherman

                                      Capitol Hill used to be 'the best' until it was gentrified.

                                      1. re: latindancer

                                        How did the hipster burn his mouth?

                                        He drank coffee before it was cool.

                                        Capitol hill is still cool. All the better restaurants relocated there from Belltown.

                                        1. re: jlbwendt

                                          How many hipsters does it take to change a light bulb?

                                          Um, it's a really obscure number. You wouldn't have heard of it.

                                        2. re: latindancer

                                          latindancer,

                                          Details?

                                          I would be love to hear your stories of great Capitol Hill spots pre "gentrification." I can't remember any. I do remember a lot of really lousy places in the 80's and early 90's.

                                          Please tell us in detail about how CH was "the best" in bygone times...somehow I missed that completely, despite living here for decades and having friends living on Capitol Hill since the 70's.

                                          1. re: Gizmo56

                                            Gizmo56: Not all the trolls stay in Fremont...

                                    2. Keep us up to date on the chowishness of Cap Hill from the point of view of a new transplant. Also, enjoy the produce shopping...the Magazine st whole foods is going to look like a 7-11

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: coolaugustmoon

                                        Ha, I look forward to that! Thanks, and will do!