Some kind of protection spell has seemingly been cast over Lake City, which has dodged the nefarious gentrification wave that’s hit many other North Seattle neighborhoods. Originally the Red Brick Road between Seattle and Bothell and now the southern terminus of Washington State Route 522, Lake City Way is your typical highway mix of tire stores, strip clubs, nail salons, 1940s-era roadhouses, and cannabis shops. In recent years, however, this mix has become interspersed with mom-and-pop shops serving cuisine from around the world. In this love letter to Lake City, we’re focusing on the crux of LCW and 125th, although we encourage more exploration north or south if you’re a walker. Here’s how to stuff yourself on foot in this down-to-earth historic Seattle neighborhood, no matter what time of day.
9 a.m.: Breakfast
There’s a few places to get a regular cup of joe in Lake City, but the coffee princesses among us will want to start at Kaffeeklatsch, at 12513 Lake City Way. Brewing beans from local roastery Seattle Coffee Works, this cute coffeeshop/bakery is generating some of the best smells in the neighborhood, between the coffee and their selection of German pastries. Alongside your cappuccino, grab a slice of blechkuchen (a fruit-studded sheet cake with a madeleine-like texture) or maybe zitronenmohnkuchen (a glazed lemon–poppyseed coffee cake), or perhaps even a käselaugenstange (an extremely correct German pretzel roll with Gruyere baked on top) to go. Don’t forget to browse the shelves, where you can pick up some duck eggs, local honey, bespoke kombucha, and other goods from local producers.
Hopefully you brought a tote to haul it all across the road to…
You might surprise the server when you sidestep the Door Dashers and ask for a table atChinese dumpling-and-noodle house Mount&Bao (12534 Lake City Way), since the dine-in scene doesn’t heat up until evening. You might even have the place to yourself, which is good because you don’t need distractions when there’s important work to do. Pan-fried pork xiao long bao, united by their starchy fried-out communal skirt, are required eating here — plus they come in the giant two-foot-tall multi-level bamboo steamer, very grand to behold. The hand-pulled beef noodles are a whole spectacle too, speaking of beholding things: a huge Gordian knot of fat, chewy noodles coated in chili oil, dotted with bits of minced beef, and stacked with cucumber matchsticks.
We’d tell you to get the dry-fried garlic green beans as well, but you need to budget your stomach real estate for your…
3 p.m.: Afternoon snack
You’ve had empanadas, but have you had Argentine ones from Seatango (12728 Lake City Way)? There are a few diffs between these and other regional Latin American ones: The pastry is a little thinner, the beef empanada has green olives inside, they come in cool flavors like spicy tuna or corn and cheese, and they’re all served with green, garlicky chimichurri sauce for drizzling. Make sure to chat with lovely Monica Di Bartolomeo, who owns the bakery with her husband, Ariel Firpo, about which cookie you’re going to pocket on your way out. We recommend the dulce de leche-filled alfajores and the quince pastafrolas.
Oh, you’re full? Take a lap through the Grocery Outlet across the street, because you’re gonna need to limber up for….
6 p.m.: Dinner
The nice thing about eating sushi in Seattle is the variety. If you don’t have $400 to drop on Sushi Kashiba and if setting an alarm for midnight to try to snag a res at Taneda isn’t for you, there are cheaper, almost-comparable sushi options available. Toyoda Sushi (12543 Lake City Way) is every bit as exquisite as the more celebrated sushi-yas, but with the look and feel of a family-owned neighborhood joint. If you’re able to, snag a seat at the bar so you can watch the sushi itamae working — the fish here is so heartbreakingly fresh that you can see it with your eyeballs. Keep it casual with specialty rolls and sashimi, or go all out with the buttery, savory seared hamachi and/or the melt-in-your-mouth black cod. Even the teriyaki is spectacular. Add to this a homey Japanese tavern vibe, chatty service, and the fact that you can wear your walking shoes — Toyoda is a total treasure.
Speaking of walking, time to walk directly next door…
8 p.m.: Cocktails
Perhaps you’re too stuffed by this point for a heavy beer, but how about a nice cocktail? Or both? Well, Brother Barrel (12535 Lake City Way) has both angles covered with their assortment of beer cocktails. Lake City’s go-to-cocktail lounge is also a brewery — or is it the other way around? — and their fascinating cocktail list includes things like the Drunken Monk, with whiskey, orange Curacao, ginger syrup, mint, and Berliner Weisse, and the Brother’s Old Fashioned, blending Trail’s End bourbon with B-Town Brown ale syrup. For those who are skewing non-alc, you can swap in ginger beer for beer-beer, or have the bartender create something for you to spec. And of course, if you’d rather have a pint, BB’s beer collection is massive.
You might want to chug an Underberg real quick, to make room for…
9 p.m.: Dessert
Despite what most New Yorkers say, you CAN get legit Sicilian-style cannoli in Seattle. But unless you want your cannolis before 6 p.m. —hey, some do! — Kelly Cannoli will be closed when mainstream dessert time rolls around. Cool hack, though: Just stay where you are, because Brother Barrel has the late-night cannoli hookup! The brewery carries Kelly’s chocolate chip cannolis, dusted with powdered sugar and more mini-chips, along with Kaffeeklatch’s schokogugelhopf (chocolate Bundt cake), served à la mode. The next day, when you’re craving more cannoli, head south about 10 blocks, where New Jersey transplant Kelly McGinty-Wilson is serving about a dozen styles, like lemon zest, pistachio, and a classic white with maraschino cherry, out of her little pink hut.