If Capitol Hill is an episode of Planet Earth, where every moment is packed with exhilarating (and oddly suspenseful) action, the Central District is like your filmmaker friend’s wildlife documentary that’s mostly just videos of his puppy. David Attenborough might not be narrating the scene on Cherry Street, but there’s still plenty going on in this neighborhood directly north of I-90. And much of it is way more exciting than long shots of Muffin barking at birds. Use our guide to find the best restaurants and bars around the area.
The beef cheek noodles and Moscow mules at Reckless Noodle House make the choice between eating in Capitol Hill and the Central District easy. The heat is balanced, the beef is addictive, and you may be tempted to come back tomorrow and eat it all over again. Also, the walls here are covered in murals, fish jaws, and coffee sacks, so the whole space feels like a refurbished pirate ship.
If you walked into Wood Shop, polished off an order of jalapeño mac and cheese balls, and walked out, it would be a wholesome night in our book. But you should extend your stay for the smoked ribs, kale caesar, and pulled pork, too. This is one of our favorite places to hang out in the CD, and you should make it “your place” immediately - especially because they have live music and lawn games on summer Fridays.
Ba Bar is a Greatest Hit because they have excellent Vietnamese food in a dark space that’s always a party waiting to happen. We’d be happy with just a pile of the caramel fish sauce wings, but we suggest the noodle soups and pastries, too.
Having date night at L’Oursin is like slipping on a pair of sepia-lensed sunglasses. Everything from the walls and chairs to the basket of citrus at the bar is a different shade of gold. Aside from the Wes Anderson color palette, there’s also excellent French food here, which you can enjoy with a glass of natural wine (they specialize in it). Take your time reading the creative descriptions on the cocktail menu and order some semi-frozen chocolate mousse.
Jucivana is a little juice shack on the side of the road that’s appropriately the color of a carrot. The smoothies here are delicious, substantial, and most of them are under $6. If pastries and espresso are more your style, you can get those here, too. Just think of this as an on-the-go breakfast stop if you’re trying to eat healthier, but prefer kale when it’s blended with bananas and peanut butter.
At first glance, Street Treats looks like an ice cream shop that doesn’t exactly belong in Seattle. There’s no line snaking out the door and the flavors don’t contain foraged plants. It is, however, a bare-bones space that sells some very good handheld frozen things and classic scoop flavors made from scratch. You should get the chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich.
Apparently, former NBA star Nate Robinson owns a fried chicken restaurant, and while the whole basketball theme could have been taken way too far, it stops at a couple of jerseys and a basketball hoop hanging on a wall, which feels just right. The wings here are actually hit or miss, so you’ll want to stick with the tenders either dipped in maple aioli or sandwiched between two Belgian waffles.
If you find convenience stores enjoyable, consider Chuck’s Hop Shop the Disneyland of bodegas. It’s like your friend’s makeshift garage hangout that also has a lot of gummy candies and chips available for sale. Choose a beer on-tap or grab a six-pack from the back refrigerator case, and then drink until you’re in the mood to grab a meal from whatever food truck is parked out front.
Ezell’s doesn’t drizzle their fried chicken with artisanal wildflower honey harvested by yogis, nor do they use cave-aged gruyere in their mac and cheese. But we don’t need anything fancy when we can have delicious spicy drumsticks and thighs with mashed potatoes, gravy, and those soft rolls that could be used as pillows at night. Even though Ezell’s is a Seattle chain, the Central District spot is their original location, so it kinda feels like you’re reliving a sacred piece of fried chicken history.
Standard is an excellent spot to get some friends together for beers, especially if it’s nice out and you can find a spot on the patio. Everything they brew is great, from IPAs to fruitier things. If you’re hungry, they also have a nice lineup of hot and cold sandwiches.
If you’re having a dumpster fire of a day, we recommend Fat’s. And even if you’re not, let’s pretend that you’re really torn up about your Roomba accidentally hurling itself down your stairs. Hennessy-infused butter is one of the better waffle toppings we’ve heard of, and Fat’s is where to find it. Both the butter and a stack of waffles taste really good with the herby fried chicken here, but make sure you order at least one thing with andouille gravy.
While even a half-rack of pork ribs (granted, delicious pork ribs) gives us sticker shock here (it’s $22), Central Smoke is ideal for when you want good BBQ and don’t really care how much money you’re spending. Though it’s not exactly what comes to mind when you think of BBQ, we’re big fans of the smoked rockfish-stuffed pepper, too. Chase it all with a bourbon cocktail.
Mr. Saigon is the place you should be grabbing banh mis in this part of town - and make sure to wash them down with a big Vietnamese iced coffee. The low-key cafe space works well when you need to get some work done and want to do it in the presence of fresh baguettes and vinyl records.
Central is one of the more inexpensive spots in Seattle to get a New York-style slice, some caesar salad, and a glass of wine in one sitting. You can get all three of these things for under $15 during Happy Hour - which is a way better way to spend that kind of cash than on popsicles for your dog or one hour of plane wifi.
“Not all heroes wear capes” does not refer to the barista that knows your coffee order. It refers to the green sauce at San Fernando Roasted Chicken. The Peruvian chicken here is good, but throw the sauce into the mix and this chicken might as well have stepped into a phone booth and shape-shifted into a super-power vigilante. We like the classic plates that come with fries and salad, but the sleeper hit here is the arroz con pollo, which you should top with lots of the green sauce.