Text and photos by Virginia Bunker
Food says a lot about a place. And in Columbia City, the fare comes from the heart. From Sicilian soul to classic barbecue, the choices are amazingly diverse, with comfort as a common thread. Is there a secret ingredient in the air? Local resident Miriam Rambo says it’s the “overwhelming sense of community” that makes the place so special. She’s proud of how the neighborhood has blossomed in the last five years, adding vibrant stores, watering holes and restaurants to suit every taste. The local Wednesday farmers’ market is a great place to supply your own favorite recipes.
1. 4860 Rainier Avenue South Bookworm Exchange (206.722.6633) Inspired by a successful book exchange at Orca Elementary, parent Jim Holmes recognized a need and heeded the call. Four years later, hundreds of children’s titles offer young bookworms pounds of pages to feed on.
2. 4863 Rainier Avenue South Gather (206.465.0084) “I’d been talking about opening a gallery for ten years — so I had to do it,” says visionary Jenn Jones. With displays ranging from glass objects to graphic art, this nontraditional exhibit space will spark your imagination.
3. 4865 Rainier Avenue South Columbia City Bakery (206.723.6023) This bustling boulangerie is worth the wait. It offers everything from artisan breads and savories to cinnamon twists and a rotation of Danish pastries topped with fruit from the farmer’s market. I like the coffee, too.
4. 4869 Rainier Avenue South Island Soul (206.329.1202) Owners Theo and Gaelyn Martin offer fresh and flavorful dishes that “make you feel like you’re in Jamaica.” Try Street Side Prawns, Haitian bread pudding and other marvelous Caribbean dishes from chef Bobby Laing.
5. 3820 South Ferdinand Street, Suite 102 Verve Wine Bar & Cellar (206.760.0977) A stylish gem offering globally sourced wine and beer — and a seasonal menu by chef Garrett Michael Brown. Dine in, shop the impressive retail selection and discover new favorites at Tuesday night tastings.
3829 South Edmunds Street Villa Victoria Tantalizing tamales | On Rainier Avenue South: 4816 Columbia City Cinema Charming venue | 4857 La Medusa Seasonal Sicilian | 4861 Bob’s Quality Meats Tender cuts | 4872 Geraldine’s Counter French toast | 4900 Lottie’s Lounge Local favorite | 4903½ Roy’s BBQ Pulled pork | 4918 Tutta Bella Neapolitan pizzeria