Seattle is very neighborhood-centric. I often think that Seattle is one of the few cities that could pull off a North American version of Siena's Palio. And our hoods are spread out, with distinct geographical boundaries: Green Lake, Capitol Hill, Queen Anne Hill, The University District, Ballard, West Seattle, Magnolia, First Hill, SoDo, Mercer Island, Fremont, etc etc. All very identifiable without street signs or electric billboards, unlike Portland, which is probably too granular for it's own good.
But as far as a "foodie epicenter," no neighborhood really has staked the claim as "ruler." And I'm sure many in the restaurant biz could give two shits about being in the "epicenter" but it's always interesting to see why some neighborhoods draw those looking to start the newest food mecca in Seattle.
You could make a strong case for certain stretches like Madison Ave (Crush, Luc, Rover's, Harvest Vine, Cafe Flora) or Ballard Ave (La Carta de Oaxaca, The Walrus & The Carpenter, Bastile, Staple & Fancy). But the span of 12th Ave from Jefferson Ave and the south end of Seattle U, to Pine St. has quickly become the best stretch of bars and restaurants Seattle has seen in some time.
In little over three years, 12th Ave has become home to the following:
- Ba Bar - Buzz-worthy Vietnamese street food with a well stocked bar, a serviceable pho, and some nice pastries.
- Canon - Cramped for a reason, this cocktail closet features awesome concoctions and is always crowded. Worth the wait, but go early to snag a table.
- Cafe Presse - French bistro that's an elder statesman on the block. Good drink menu and atmosphere. Even the service seems French (aloof and uninterested).
- Manhattan Drugs - Newest to the block, Manhattan Drugs is what would happen if a Morton's Steakhouse fucked a Portlandia extra. A salvaged confessional, a mounted ram's head with gold M16 horns (photo above) and some serious steaks are the highlights here.
- Momiji - New Japanese spot toward Pike with awesome omakase and a great sake menu. Highly recommended for second dates, if you know what I mean ;)
- Tavern Law - Only a few years old, this speakeasy was one of the first to get the spirits renaissance off the ground in craft beer country. Still the best dirty martini in town.
Add these to an already impressive lineup of mainstays like Barrio, Eltana, Boom Noodle, Lark, La Spiga and Plum Bistro, 12th Ave has definitely snatched the throne. But if you think I'm incorrect, make the case in the comments section...would love to hear your opinion!