Though it’s been percolating in Paul Allen’s brain for years, the South Lake Union neighborhood finally arrived in 2011. Now a full-fledged hot spot to work (Group Health headquarters, Path, and 12—count ’em, 12!—office buildings occupied by Amazon.com, and they’re still bursting at the seams), live, dine out and play, it’s shiny and new (some say our version of Portland’s Pearl District), yet still so Seattle. Let us tally the ways we’ve been seduced by the slew of SLU enticements.
1. Behold the sleek streetscape.
The streets buffering the Westlake Avenue corridor are tidy, polished and clean—like, Disneyland clean—including the manicured new Lake Union Park lawn (860 Terry Ave. N; 206.684.7254; seattle.gov/parks/parkspaces/lakeunionpark.htm) at the south shore of Lake Union, adjacent to the old armory (which will soon house the relocated Museum of History & Industry). Two other urban miracles have occurred here: There is plenty of easy, free street parking in the evening, and we’ve never been so happy to see our tax dollars at work—people actually ride the SLUT streetcar now!
2. REI isn’t the only place to break a sweat.
Belly up to the barre at the fun new Bar Method (124 Westlake Ave. N; 206.467.5249; seattle-eastside.barmethod.com), where devotees practice a mix of ballet, yoga and Pilates for strength training, or sweat it out at Breathe Hot Yoga (2230 Eighth Ave.; 206.682.2949; breathehotyoga.com). Get a relaxing deep cleanse in a cedar steam cabinet after the Swedana massage at Vida Spa (900 Lenora St., Suite 220; 206.264.8432; vidaspas.com/panpacifichotel.php) in the Pan Pacific complex (for real R&R, just hang out in the lounge cuddled in a robe next to the fire). Snag a $35 day pass to Russian-style spa Banya 5 (217 Ninth Ave. N; 206.262.1234; banya5.com) on the SLU periphery for unlimited use of its four pools and nap room, or book a signature body salt scrub, which is made with local honey and sea salts.
3. It’s a doggy-dog world.
Seattleites walk, bike, eat and work with their furry friends by their side, and there are SLU spots for both species to frolic together. Hop on over to doggie-dedicated bakery Scraps (900 Lenora St., Suite 120; 206.332.9663; scrapsonline.com) and treat your canine companion to a freshly baked biscuit; pop into the new Born to Run (213 Yale Ave. N; borntorun.com) across from REI to grab some new Vibram FiveFingers for your next jog (now you can both run "barefoot"!). If your pooch needs a playdate, drop him off at the Barking Lounge (222 Dexter Ave. N; 206.382.1600; barkinglounge.com), which offers day care, overnight care and grooming for urban pets. (If you suffer from separation anxiety, don’t fret; you can check up on Fido via the webcams.)
4. It’s also a mod, mod world.
Echoing the glitzy sleekness of the neighborhood itself is SLU’s hub of mod and modern home décor, from the original, classic Inform Interiors (2032 Eighth Ave.; 206.622.1608; informseattle.com), with its wide array of funky chairs, stools and metal tables, to the much-anticipated new West Elm (2201 Westlake Ave.; 206.467.5798; westelm.com), which opened across from the Whole Foods complex this fall. Last summer, Ligne Roset (112 Westlake Ave. N; 206.341.9990; ligne-roset-usa.com) moved from Western Avenue into its new Westlake digs, where bright splashes of teal, chartreuse and orange add punch to clean-lined furniture. Next door, kitchens and bathrooms are the center of attention at PedinI’s (114 Westlake Ave. N; 206.767.4625; pediniseattle.com) new showroom, while colorful lighting and rugs prevail throughout Seva Home (900 Lenora St., Suite 116; 206.323.9920; sevahome.com). It’s a love affair with all things wood at longtime SLU resident David Smith and Company (1107 Harrison St.; 206.223.1598; davidsmithco.com). For gifts, quirky finds and even more mod furniture, visit Velocity Art and Design (251 Yale Ave. N; 206.749.9575; velocityartanddesign.com), with its stylish throw pillows, clocks and organic sheets.
5. Watch spectator sports of the urban variety.
Our sports teams may be almost unwatchable, but not to worry, there are plenty of other activities to gawk at here: If your caffeine fix can’t wait, stop by nearby independent coffeehouses Kakao (415 Westlake Ave. N; 206.288.5467; kakaoseattle.com), wheelhouse coffee (2113 Westlake Ave.; 206.467.0160; wheelhousecoffee.com), Uptown Espresso (500 Westlake Ave. N; 206.621.2045; uptownespresso.net), or if you need a serious jolt, stand the line at Vivace (227 Yale Ave. N; 206.388.5164; espressovivace.com) in Alley 24 across from REI. Take a gander at the massive acrylic paintings, bronze and silver sculptures, and clay art by Northwest artists on display at EM Fine Art (410 Dexter Ave. N; 206.963.0046; emfineart.com) which opened last winter. Stop by Buster Simpson’s “Ping Pong Plaza” (Outside of 401 Terry Ave.; bustersimpson.net/pingpongplaza/), just north of Tom Douglas’ Terry Avenue complex (more next page), to watch an epic table tennis battle being waged on the metal-table art installation, which is accessible to the public when nearby workers aren’t having a throwdown during their afternoon coffee break. If you need a higher-octane “sport,” spend an afternoon taking an urban tour on one of Scoot About’s (535 Westlake Ave. N; 206.407.3362; scootabout.biz) rental mopeds or scooters.
6. It’s the new place to eat (and eat, and eat!).
The new destination dining spot for foodies, many of the neighborhood’s stellar eateries seem to specialize in packing on the glorious, comforting carbohydrates: Savvy denizens gobble up fish ’n’ chips at the walk-up window next to Flying Fish’s (300 Westlake Ave. N; 206.728.8595; flyingfishseattle.com) space.
To the north, at the first of Tom Douglas’ two SLU eating clusters (this one located a block off the main drag on Terry Avenue), we refuse to make reservations at 8-month-old trattoria Cuoco (310 Terry Ave. N; 206.971.0710; cuoco-seattle.com), because it would deny us our front-row seat to the pasta-making station in the eatery’s lobby. This spectacle is well worth delaying the meal a few minutes as top chef Stuart Lane and his team roll, toss and fill fresh, delicate plin pasta.
Upstairs in the same building at Brave Horse Tavern (310 Terry Ave. N; 206.971.0717; bravehorsetavern.com), the already legendary, chewy hearth-roasted pretzels arrive at your table piping hot with dipping sauces such as smoked peanut butter with bacon, and sour cream and crispy onion (for extra carb points, slug down a stein of Schooner Exact Brave Horse pale ale; for extra entertainment points, see how many Amazon ID badges you can spy).
Or head to Chris Navarra’s bier mecca Feierabend (422 Yale Ave. N; 206.340.2528; feierabendseattle.com) and glug down a German lager (or five). The weekend brunch wait at the South Lake Union Portage Bay (391 Terry Ave. N; 206.462.6400; portagebaycafe.com) outpost may be epic, but it fades into memory once you finish off your organic apple pancakes with fresh fruit from the toppings bar. Build a burger your way, perhaps starting with a “Dork” burger (duck and pork patty) and adding Satan (read: hot as hell) habañero sauce at Lunchbox Laboratory’s (1253 Thomas St.; 206.621.1090; lunchboxlaboratory.com) new locale near REI, or grab a hefty brat ’n’ bun at The Wurst place (510 Westlake Ave. N; no phone as of press time; thewurstplace.com), which opened late this fall.
Or if you prefer your carbs delivered via crust, head to Tom Douglas’ other SLU campus. The second Serious Pie (401 Westlake Ave. N; 206.436.0050; seriouspiewestlake.com), and the baking outpost for all of Douglas’ eateries, is located on Westlake above Soul Wine (401 Westlake Ave. N; 206.436.2350; soulwineseattle.com)—where Pike and Western Wine Shop owner Michael Teer offers an impressive selection of Italian and Oregon whites alongside Washington faves.
Indulge in the simply astounding biscuits and gravy at Douglas’ Dahlia Workshop (401 Westlake Ave. N; 206.436.0050; dahliaworkshop.com), located in the same building as Serious Pie. A block toward the lake, drink it all down with a sip from hip Re:public’s (429 Westlake Ave. N; 206.467.5300; republicseattle.com) impressive 95-bottle wine list, which (if you have room for more food) pairs nicely with bouchées, such as the lime-cured albacore tuna, and blood orange salad.