Seattle Culture

Rat City: Not What You Think

White Center's nickname doesn't refer to a rodent

By Rob Smith April 8, 2024


This article originally appeared in the March/April 2024 issue of Seattle magazine.

White Center is having a moment. An unincorporated community nestled between West Seattle and Burien, the area boasts the most diverse list of restaurants in the region, an incredible arts and music scene, and a short commute to both downtown Seattle and Sea-Tac International Airport.

While this neighborhood may have flown under the radar for a while, its desirability is on the rise as home prices remain relatively modest compared to other areas. For the work from home crowd, White Center has an incredible collection of coffee shops where you’ll see plenty of laptop commuters bellying up to the bar to sip, snack, and send emails.

Check out Moonshot Coffee, an all-day café in the heart of White Center with a welcoming atmosphere and an eclectic menu that will surprise and delight even the biggest coffee snob. Don’t leave without trying the Medici — which is espresso extracted over orange zest and combined with Theo dark chocolate sauce and steamed milk.

For some great window seats and a neighborhood feel, pop over to Dubsea Coffee, which serves Counter Culture Coffee and an excellent selection of teas, as well as pastries and snacks from local bakeries.

For a truly sweet treat — and maybe a savory one, too — the Salvadorean Bakery on Southwest Roxbury Street is a popular destination. Do not leave without trying the pupusas, but the menu is packed with flavors familiar and new. And it’s nearly impossible to leave without at least one or two sweets stashed in a to-go bag.

If you haven’t visited the neighborhood exclusively to try Tomo, a Japanese-Venezuelan restaurant from James Beard award winning Chef Brady Williams, it’s a must-visit while you’re there.

A wonderful thing about White Center is the sheer number of hidden gems just waiting to be discovered.

The newly opened Alpine Diner & Bar fits that description. Sister restaurant to the Lost Lake Café, the White Center spot offers breakfast, lunch and dinner in a fun vintage ski lodge atmosphere that has visitors smiling before they even taste the food. Once they do, though, they quickly become regulars.

And then there’s tacos. Taco Time in White Center cannot truly be well spent with-out a trip to a taco truck, stand, restaurant, or bar. The choices are myriad and it’s hard to find a bad one, but don’t miss the Taqueria La Fondita food truck, which has an attached patio. This family-run truck has been serving the area for more than 20 years, thanks to some very loyal fans.

If you want more of a sit-down taco opportunity, pop by El Catrin for great food you can enjoy either indoors or on the outdoor patio.

After your tacos, test your balance at the Southgate Roller rink, where there are plenty of family-friendly and 21-plus options every week, and even live music on Fridays. Then pop by Nepantla Cultural Art Gallery, which self describes as the Latinx/Chicanx arts hub of Seattle. The gallery features a rotating collection of art from communities that have survived colonialism or marginalization, and have sought art as a method of healing.

This is also the neighborhood where the Rat City Rollergirls got its start, But before you go thinking you know why White Center is called Rat City, make note that the nickname is because the Relocation and Training (RAT) Center for the military was based there during World War II. It’s not a nod to any rodents.

A neighborhood in the Seattle area really isn’t complete without some solid breweries. White Center does not disappoint. Check out Future Primitive Brewing — a great spot that doesn’t mince words when it comes to its edgy beverage names.

For a tap and bottle list next to none, stop by Beer Star and sample beers and ciders from the Pacific Northwest. This is a great place to try out a wide array of beverages and styles from breweries you don’t see on many tap lists. This bright, airy location is popular with the happy hour crowd and is dog friendly.

Known for: Outdoor bistros. White Center’s nickname doesn’t refer to a rodent
Best place to escape the work from home blues: Moonshot Coffee
Walkability: 91 (downtown)
Median home price: $648,000
Surprising fact: White Center was named after George White, who won a coin toss

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