Best Neighborhoods: Rainier Avenue South, Columbia City

From South Edmunds Street to South Dawson Street, a peek at a small town in the Seattle's South End.
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PEOPLE WHO LIVE HERE:
Bike-riding, Berkeley-style globalistas

If Mayberry had an urban soul, it might look like Columbia City. The high charm quotient comes from the old-style street clock and painted benches, plus cute flower shop KC’s Flowers, all-day breakfast hangout Geraldine’s Counter, butcher shop Bob’s Quality Meats, multiple-screen movie house Columbia City Cinema and a rail station a couple of blocks away (albeit tarted up with light-rail technology and two giant public-art magnifying glasses). Its urban edge resides in offerings like the Columbia City Gallery, Columbia City Farmers’ Market (late April to October) and ethnic restaurants, from Island Soul Caribbean Cuisine to the Thai spot Spice Room.

Full Tilt Columbia City Seattle

 

EAT/DRINK: Head to La Medusa, meanwhile, for classic Sicilian specialties (salt cod fritters) and event menus that entice. At Columbia City Ale House, lip-smacking sandwiches—steak, tuna melt, blackened salmon—meet thirst-quenching brews, while Tutta Bella Neapolitan Pizzeria makes thin-crust pies in a family-friendly setting. There’s much to admire at Columbia City Bakery, where bread baker extraordinaire Evan Andres also creates splendid cakes and pastries. (Especially delectable is the nicely chilled Tres Leche coconut pastry). Empire Espresso Bar has good java and Mighty-O Donuts—and $5 waffles on the weekends. Should you feel guilty about indulging at Full Tilt Ice Cream (pictured), cone-based calories can be worked off at one of the 25-cent pinball machines. You know a local watering hole like Lottie’s Lounge has heart when it hosts a Bloody Mary brunch (including a hangover Monday service) with alcohol-absorbing Mexican chilaquiles and Chardonnay eggs Benedict. Heading to Columbia City Theater for some live music? Stop in for creative concoctions and Southern-style food at The Bourbon Bar, its new in-house restaurant/watering hole. From the owner of Queen Anne’s popular Chinoise Cafe comes prettily executed sushi plus Spam-fried rice and complimentary edamame at Wabi-Sabi Sushi Bar & Restaurant.

SHOP: For affordable bikes, repairs ($25 tune-ups) and free fix-it classes for children, pedal over to Bike Works. At Retroactive Kids, youngsters will be absorbed by the classic toys and parents will love the adorable duds. Visit Andaluz for cool clothes, gifts and accessories, including fetching fedoras, locally designed jewelry and Kitten Camaro wallets. Gather Consignment provides a boutique-style setting for contemporary women’s clothing and home décor.

SERVICES: If you’re inclined to stay in Columbia City for a prolonged visit, The Shirley Marvin Hotel can put you up in a vintage, newly refurbished extended-stay suite.  

La Medusa Columbia CityLa Medusa

FIND 'EM
>>Andaluz (4908 Rainier Ave. S; 206.760.1900; andaluzseattle.com)
>> Bike Works (3709 S Ferdinand St.; 206.725.9408; bikeworks.org)
>> Bob’s Quality Meats (4861 Rainier Ave. S; 206.725.1221)
>> The Bourbon Bar (4916 Rainier Ave. S; 206.420.8285; columbiacitytheater.com)
>> Columbia City Ale House (4914 Rainier Ave. S; 206.723.5123; seattlealehouses.com/ColumbiaCity/)
>> Columbia City Bakery (4865 Rainier Ave. S; 206.723.6023; columbiacitybakery.com)
>> Columbia City Cinema (4816 Rainier Ave. S; 206.721.3156; columbiacitycinema.com)
>> Columbia City Gallery (4864 Rainier Ave. S; 206.760.9843; columbiacitygallery.com)
>> Columbia City Theater (4916 Rainier Ave. S; 206.722.3009; columbiacitytheater.com)
>> Empire Espresso Bar (3829 S Edmunds St.; 206.659.0588; empireespressobar.blogspot.com)
>> Full Tilt Ice Cream (5041 Rainier Ave. S; 206.226.2740; fulltilticecream.com)
>> Gather Consignment (4863 Rainier Ave. S; 206.760.0674; gatherconsignment.com)
>> Geraldine’s Counter (4872 Rainier Ave. S; 206.723.2080; geraldinescounter.com)
>> Island Soul Caribbean Cuisine (4869 Rainier Ave. S; 206.329.1202; islandsoulrestaurant.net)
>> KC’s Flowers (4873 Rainier Ave. S; 206.722.2200; kcsflowers.com)
>> La Medusa (4857 Rainier Ave. S; 206.723.2192; lamedusarestaurant.com)
>> Lottie’s Lounge (4900 Rainier Ave. S; 206.725.0519; lottieslounge.com)
>> Retroactive Kids (4859 Rainier Ave. S; 206.932.3154; retroactivekids.com)
>> The Shirley Marvin Hotel (3815 S Edmunds St.; 206.922.3656; shirleymarvin.com)
>> Spice Room (4909 Rainier Ave. S; 206.725.7090; spiceroomseattle.com)
>> Tutta Bella Neapolitan Pizzeria (4918 Rainier Ave. S; 206.721.3501; tuttabella.com)
>> Wabi-Sabi Sushi Bar & Restaurant (4909 Rainier Ave. S; 206.721.0212; wabisabicolumbiacity.com)

2016 Crosscut Courage Award Winners

2016 Crosscut Courage Award Winners

The 2016 Crosscut Courage Award winners don't walk away from difficult conversations and challenges
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Back row: Honorees Richard Romero, Courage in Business, and Stephen Tan and Joey Cohn, Courage in Culture. Front row: Colleen Echohawk, Courage in Public Service, and Martha Choe, The David Brewster Lifetime Achievement Award

A trailblazing public servant who has spent decades in government and philanthropy. A banker who has given immigrants a foot in the door toward citizenship. A nonprofit leader who works to better the lot of Native Americans. And a thousands-strong community group that came together to save a beloved public radio station.

What do they all have in common? When faced with the choice between dialogue and rhetoric, between engagement and flight, they chose to stay and to talk—to struggle through difficult conversations in order to make things better for all. That’s why they’ve been selected as the winners of Crosscut’s 2016 Courage Awards.

Seattle magazine is proud to partner with online news journal Crosscut (crosscut.com) in recognizing these local  leaders whose personal and professional dedication is making our region more vital, equitable and inclusive.

Courage in Culture Honoree
Friends of 88.5 

Last November, Pacific Lutheran University announced it was selling local National Public Radio (NPR) affiliate KPLU-FM to the University of Washington (UW). KPLU’s newsroom would be disbanded and its jazz programming absorbed into KUOW-FM. For the leaders of the 50-year-old KPLU, it would have been easy to just fold up the microphones and send the staff to look for work elsewhere: The $7 million deal was all but done, pending approval by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

But that didn’t happen. Instead, bowing under immense community pressure, the UW granted the station’s members a moonshot chance of matching the university’s offer and buying the station themselves. They had six months to do it.

Working under the banner of Friends of 88.5, a nonprofit created in a matter of weeks out of the vestiges of KPLU’s community advisory board, supporters and station leaders—including Joey Cohn and Stephen Tan—organized rallies across the region, including a KPLU day in Tacoma. They took to the airwaves, conscripting Audie Cornish, Quincy Jones and others to make their pitch. And they organized groups of longtime donors to provide matches of as much as $500,000.

Today, KPLU is KNKX, an independent nonprofit. The station is not totally out of the woods yet: It now needs to rebuild its reserves and find enough money just to operate. But amid a sea of dismal news about the decline of journalism, the Friends of 88.5 are a life raft.

Courage in Public Service Honoree
Colleen Echohawk

Soon after accepting the post of executive director of the Chief Seattle Club two and a half years ago, Colleen Echohawk realized that the organization had to do much more to address the multiple traumas faced by American Indian and Alaska Native people in Seattle. 

These populations suffer from a whole range of ills, from poverty to addiction to homelessness. Last year, 16 native people died while living on the streets or facing housing instability. Echohawk needed resources, but she had no experience with fundraising and found the idea of approaching groups like United Way frightening.

Today, United Way is the club’s biggest funder, and the Chief Seattle Club, a presence in the city since 1970, has become a larger force in promoting public safety and solving the crisis of homelessness. The club has added weekend hours, and the staff has grown from seven to 15, including a case manager to help with housing for the 100 members it sees daily, most of whom experience chronic homelessness. 

“She has got this way of being very positive and constructive,” says Mark Putnam at All Home Seattle, the organization coordinating homeless efforts in King County. He praises Echohawk’s ability to build strong relationships while also pushing issues, including awareness of the extreme racial disparity in homeless rates.

While Echohawk loves the many ways she has seen Seattle respond to her club members’ needs, she thinks it’s particularly hard for them to face isolation and homelessness in a city whose name honors a native leader. “This city,” she says, “is losing out on incredible people.” If Echohawk has her way, that will change.

Courage in Business Honoree
Richard Romero

For many immigrants, the path to U.S. citizenship is a difficult one. To get there, they must wait in a long line in which their nationality can determine their priority. They must learn about our system of government, memorizing more than many natural-born citizens actually know. And at the end of it all, they must hand over a hefty amount of cash.

To go from holding a green card to becoming a naturalized citizen, an individual immigrant must pay a $680 filing fee. For families, the fees can add up to thousands of dollars. That’s a tall order: As many as half of King County’s 100,000 immigrants eligible for citizenship may be impoverished, according to Seattle’s Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs. 

Under the leadership of CEO Richard Romero, the Seattle Metropolitan Credit Union has begun helping with this final hoop via a novel partnership with the City of Seattle that provides loans to immigrants. The city’s main role is to communicate with immigrant populations about the availability of the loans. The credit union takes care of the rest.

While there’s been lots of bluster this year about building walls and turning immigrants away at our borders, Romero’s initiative honors one of our country’s core values and lends a helping hand to those seeking a better life.

Lifetime Achievement Honoree
Martha Choe

If you spotted her on the bus in the morning, with her low-key, unassuming manner and neatly parted hair, you might not guess that Martha Choe is one of the most influential people in Washington’s recent history. But Choe has been a trailblazer for both women and people of color in Washington. 

From her terms on the Seattle City Council and work in state government to her leadership in the banking sector and global influence as the chief administrative officer of the Gates Foundation, Choe has embraced a leadership style that prioritizes compromise and getting things done over popularity and easy point scoring. 

Leadership requires both “vision and reality,” Choe said in a recent talk at the Henry M. Jackson Foundation. “Leadership involves people, not just org charts and boxes. Learn, listen and understand different perspectives.”

Choe used this approach to get Asian at-risk youth off the streets by investing in community centers. She helped revive Seattle’s downtown by reopening Pine Street to cars and bringing more than 1 million square feet of retail space to downtown Seattle between 1996 and 1998. And she spent a decade overseeing the operations of large portions of the Gates Foundation—including human resources and the hiring of staff—building the philanthropic powerhouse into its present form. 

As someone who has dedicated her lifetime to public service and steady leadership, Choe exemplifies what it means to be an involved, courageous citizen of the Pacific Northwest.