A confession: I used to dislike Lake City.
It wasn’t because of the used car lots, or the grime, or the noise (although all of those things exist there in abundance). No, I hated the area because it, more than any other place in the city, made my lack of navigation skills glaringly apparent. Every time I’d drive to the U District, say, I’d get stuck in a Lake City Way vortex, hopelessly turned around, my anxiety mounting with every unfamiliar landmark.
When I started spending a lot of time in the neighborhood several months ago, all that changed. To my lasting delight, I discovered a world of good things to eat, of richly mingling cultures, of rough, untrammeled city-ness.
“Sweet” tamales (made with masa and fresh corn), homemade saffron ice cream, dill-scented rice studded with fava beans: these are just a few of the novel delicacies I’ve had the fortune to eat in this stunningly diverse neighborhood. There are Vietnamese and Mexican and Thai places (natch), but also Szechuan, Ethiopian, and Persian restaurants. There are Mexican video shops, Filipino and Halal and African/Caribbean grocery stores, hair salons with “welcome” spelled out on their windows in five languages. There is a hookah lounge and a German bakery. There are also the sort of seriously divey dive bars, sketchy tattoo parlors, and bizarre second-hand stores that you won’t find in the “nicer” parts of Seattle. Although it’s not immune to the gentrifying creep of luxury apartments and upscale condos, Lake City is still real, still raw, still gloriously gritty. And I love it for that.