As a center of Seattle nightlife and activity, Capitol Hill is full of new restaurants and bars. The results of our recent survey, though, show that tried-and-true standbys are some of our readers' favorite spots in the neighborhood. Below, you'll find a list of these—the restaurants, bars, shops, and other places that got the most votes in our survey. Want to participate in the next one? Tell us about your favorite places in the University District!
Special thanks to our partners on this survey, SIFF Cinema Egyptian! One lucky survey participant has won a pair of tickets to the SIFF DocFest (Sept 30–Oct 7) which will mark the movie theater's grand reopening.
FAVORITE BAKERY / COFFEE SHOP
More about it: Espresso Vivace and its founder, David Schomer, changed the way Americans drink espresso. Schomer opened Vivace in 1988 and then published a coffee manifesto in 1995, Espresso Coffee: Professional Techniques, that introduced the world to a range of coffee styles and skills, including the practice of latte art. Have you seen baristas putting flowery swirls and heart shapes into your latte? Schomer is the reason this practice has become standard for baristas across the country. His book has been translated into four languages and is now in its fourth printing. And the espresso at Vivace is as good as ever. LESTER BLACK
FAVORITE LUNCH SPOT
More about it: Back in 2014, when the offices for our sister site The Stranger were still on Capitol Hill, staffer Bethany Jean Clement wrote, "Dan Savage eats the soups from Capitol Hill’s Pettirosso twice a week or more: 'Amazing,' he says. Kelly O’s Pettirosso favorites are the vegan mac ('Awesome!') and the sparkling wine cocktails. Anna Minard loves Pettirosso’s breakfasts. Emily Nokes also favors the vegan mac, and the entire dessert case, and going for a drink on weekend nights because 'the tube-top/fedora count is relatively low.' Everybody at The Stranger hearts Pettirosso, and you will too." We agree.
FAVORITE DINNER SPOT
More about it: Fancier, higher-concept Italian restaurants come and go in Seattle; old-school Machiavelli, open since 1988, is a reliable friend. The lasagna is the kind of thing you think about suddenly for no apparent reason—then you must have it that night. People bring their parents or their 10 closest friends or someone they really like for a first (or second, or billionth) date. The tiny bar is especially satisfying in the winter, when passersby look cold and miserable, while inside everyone is insulated with good company, beverages, and anticipation. Machiavelli isn’t fancy, it’s just always good.
FAVORITE MUSIC VENUE
More about it: One of the most respected and reliable venues in the city as far as booking talent goes, Neumos is the hub around which Capitol Hill rotates. Its relatively small room is invariably packed to capacity as people dance or sway to the latest mega-hyped act to roll through town.
More about it: Amid dark wood and scarlet curtains, bartenders at Corvus & Co. mix cocktails with names like “blackbird,” “last rites,” and “basilisk.” (Corvus is the genus of birds that includes crows and ravens.) The food menu, filled with flavors from the Levant, includes small plates and entrees such as artichoke fritters with tahini aioli, falafel bowls, and, for brunch, lamb benedict.
FAVORITE RETAIL STORE
More about it: This is a place to browse big titles and local zines, research, hang out, curl up in a corner, meet up with friends, buy gifts, and marvel at the architecture. Whether you’re looking for a perspective-altering reading or just a brief respite from Capitol Hill hubbub, Elliott Bay is your spot.
FAVORITE ARTS SPACE
More about it: The Seattle Asian Art Museum, in a gem of an Art Deco building that was erected in 1933 in bucolic Volunteer Park, reopened in May 2021 after a $49 million renovation project. Its collections of Asian art have been the single greatest draw for scholars and admirers of art to Seattle, with works spanning centuries and mediums and originating in China, Japan, India, Korea, Southeast Asia, the Himalayas, the Philippines, and Vietnam.
FAVORITE OUTDOOR SPOT
More about it: The previously mentioned Olmsted brothers did right by Capitol Hill with this sprawling north-end gem. In addition to the conservatory and the Asian Art Museum, there are plenty of other beautiful things to look at (duck ponds, rhododendron bushes, an arctic-looking reservoir) while you amble along its intersecting paths or picnic on one of its spacious lawns. On your way out, head up 15th Avenue until you reach the lookout at Boren Park, then head back in the direction you came in or keep going north for an Eastlake adventure via outdoor stairways. We also recommend stopping by the newly reopened Volunteer Park Cafe for a pastry.
FAVORITE LANDMARK OR ATTRACTION
More about it: In the summer of 2020, in the early days of the Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP), the VividMatterCollective artist collective created a Black Lives Matter street mural in front of Cal Anderson Park. As Jasmyne Keimig wrote at the time, "It's an extremely welcome and colorful addition to the new neighborhood that was, until earlier this week, mired in tear gas canisters, riot shields, smoke from flash-bangs, and a militarized police presence that added a tangible cloud of anxiety to the neighborhood. The mural reminds every person that passes of the fundamental root of the autonomous zone: Black Lives Matter." It has since been preserved for posterity.
FAVORITE PLACE WE DIDN'T ASK ABOUT
The Cuff (Favorite gay bar for dancing)
More about it: The Cuff is known for leather, but the dance floor brings in a decidedly less leathery crowd. The Cuff is ginormous: a twilight world with four bars, a few secret nooks and crannies, and a huge deck outside.