As a North Seattle kid, visiting Columbia City meant driving south on Rainier and being welcomed to the neighborhood by the pink neon and lush manicured lawn of the Columbia Funeral Home. (I was morbidly obsessed with this building’s vibe and have loved Columbia City ever since.)
Surrounded by quaint residential enclaves, Columbia City is a gem of historic Seattle buildings, family businesses, and unique shopping. The neighborhood has rich nightlife, but my favorite thing to do around here is to take a walk, grab a snack, and do some window shopping. As one of Seattle’s most economically and racially diverse neighborhoods, there’s shopping at all prices, ranging from luxury fashion to socialist books. Not to mention the food—I will lick a plate of coconut cake at Island Soul because it’s that good.
Want a tour of some of my favorite spots? Let’s go, starting with thrifting and ending with a snack.
Pick up high-quality preowned fashion 👕
Eileen Fisher Renew + Gather Consignment
If you’re a thrift-head like me, part of the fun is the search for the score. A consignment store sometimes feels like cheating since the collection is curated. However, Eileen Fisher Renew and Gather Consignment have such quality items that we can look past the principle of the game.
Eileen Fisher Renew is part of the brand’s effort to give their well-crafted clothes a second life. The store carries lightly worn items and returns, so the style of clothes includes older clothing in great condition and barely worn current designs. I often find luxurious linens and cotton pieces great for layering. Items are around 40% off or more, so more expensive than an Eileen Fisher find at Goodwill but likely in better quality.
Or maybe wear a t-shirt from your local movie theater 🎥
The Beacon + Ark Lodge Cinemas
Columbia City is a hot spot for movie theaters!
The Beacon and Ark Lodge Cinemas work in tandem to provide the community with current and classic films. The Beacon runs a curated collection of movies in its single-screen theater with 48 seats. Expect to see arthouse films on its calendar, plus cult classics like The Bride of Chucky. The Beacon prints humorous and somewhat lurid t-shirts and tote bags. The theater also carries a journal of film criticism, Bombast, edited by critic Nick Pinkerton and published by The Beacon in “eye-searing full color!” The second volume of Bombast is available for pre-order now.
Ark Lodge Cinemas runs three screens showing mainly second-run films, which means you can catch Ant-Man and the Wasp for half of what you might pay at a chain theater. Ark Lodge also just has a general chill vibe you don’t get at an AMC or Regal and the bonus of supporting one of the few local theaters we have left. Buy someone you love the gift of an Ark Lodge gift card!
Next: a very tall pour 🍷
For the winos and foodies in the crowd who love a bevvie/snack pairing, hit the new(ish) bottle shop and bar/lounge Persephone. Persephone is a venture by the owners of neighborhood restaurant La Medusa, Persephone’s older and more buttoned-up sibling. Persephone has a bright trendy look dressed up with plants and soft pink walls. Unique aperitifs carry the Persephone drink menu with a wide selection of amaro and bitters. Tuck into some small plates, too: Bites include classic Italian finger food arancino, lovely salty marinated anchovies, and the twee “fried tiny fish.” Persephone boasts a wide selection of wines, including the ever-so-popular natural and orange wines. Grocery items also include snacks, dry ingredients, and sometimes a selection of local produce. Go to Persephone after payday and pick up some decadent Southern Italian gifts.
For the highly caffeinated among us ☕
Olympia Coffee + Empire Roasters and Records
The sun-soaked corner café Olympia Coffee is a spot to grab a fine crafted cup of coffee and restock your dialed-in at-home coffee setup. Olympia Coffee has become an omnipresent roaster in the Northwest, a far cry from humble beginnings in an unmarked warehouse in downtown Olympia. In addition to its beans, Olympia Coffee carries premium brewing equipment for your home. Step up from your Mr. Coffee to a Hario V60 dripper or a Chemex.
or a cozier coffee experience, head a block east off the main drag to Empire Roasters and Records. This four-story haven of music and coffee has a café on the first floor, a record store on the second, and cozy seating on the third floor with roof access. This spot is a tower of treats and music, right for settling in on a rainy day. Have a cayenne mocha to warm up and one of the café’s waffles as a power-up to browse records. Empire’s selection includes new releases and classics.
Pro tip: If you want to branch out of traditional milk substitutes, try Empire’s house-made cashew milk.
Now expand your mind 📚
Looking to expand your shelf toward the left? (The left of the political spectrum?) Clara’s Books is an enclave of radical politics, home to Columbia City’s New Freeway Hall and the Freedom Socialist Party. The hall has served the Columbia City community since 1985, hosting social justice-minded events. And like its parent organization, Clara’s Books is a bastion of mutual aid, holding clothing and food drives. The bookstore carries used and new books and alternative literature like zines and pamphlets. Need a rec? I suggest my most recent read: Assata: An Autobiography, of Assata Shakur.
Lastly, a snack 🥕
Columbia City Farmers Market
The Columbia City Farmers Market is one of my favorites—big selections but not overwhelming. And lots of ready-made treats.
The market is a year-round event, running second Saturdays in the winter months and weekly on Wednesdays in the spring and summer. If you’re on EBT, visit the friendly folks at the info tent to receive tokens that double your money on produce. The market backs onto Columbia Park, a great spot to take stock of your goodies.