In Praise of Greenwood

Rainy Spring in Greenwood
Rainy Spring in Greenwood

Any town of sufficient size has neighborhoods. Heck, even the dinky-ass tourist town I grew up in had them. When people think of Seattle, they think of the Pike Place Market and the Space Needle. When Seattle locals think of the city, they think of it in terms of Cap Hill, Pioneer Square, Fremont, Magnolia.

See, the thing is, no one lives in “Seattle,” in the same way no one really lives in New York. It’s all about the neighborhoods.

I’ve lived in the Seattle area for about 15 years now. Almost half of that has been spent in Greenwood. It’s my neighborhood. It’s my home.

Maybe it’s because it reminds me of where I grew up. Greenwood Ave, running along a N-S axis is a lot like Main Street, in a way. It’s about the same length, really. The Main drag ran from 5th-10th, while to me the Greenwood drag runs from about 84th-87th, with a side-spur of 2 blocks West along 85th, so area is about the same.

But there are significant differences. Gone are all the tourist shops and redundant art galleries. Sure, Greenwood has a few gallery spaces, but only a few, and they’re tucked away, hosting showings, and not selling poster-sized prints to vacationing Texans. Gone are the shops selling t-shirts and shot-glasses and post cards. Instead, we have a couple of antique shops.

With the exception of a movie theater, Greenwood has pretty much everything I want within a 5-10 minute walk from my front door. In fact, I can see my kitchen and living room windows from the table in the coffeeshop where I’m writing this.

Let’s talk coffeeshops. I have two, yes two, less than a block from me. The Monkey Grind is a nice, intimate space with fun art that rotates through every month. The coffee is brilliant, as are the sandwiches. The two young ladies who own and operate it are super nice and are always playing good music when I go in there. I could shuffle in on a Sunday morning to write in my slippers (as I’ve been known to do) if I wanted to. Or I could go to Ampersand, which is just as close. With a big, airy kitchen kind of feel, amazing Hawaiian coffee, and a “pantry” of cool foods (hot sauces, dried fruits, micro-brew beers, chocolates), and delicious fresh-baked goods, it’s absolutely unique. And there is a table big enough to accommodate an entire Saturday morning writing group that might, on occasion, filter in and out over the course of a few hours.

In easy walking distance, I have great shopping options: a big grocery store, a huge newly revamped Fred Meyer department store, a great game store, a little Mexican grocery to pick up ingredients that Safeway doesn’t have (or overcharges for) , a shipping place, my local comic shop, two antique shops, and a couple of little art galleries.

And then there’s dining options. Within five blocks of me, I have: a brilliant Thai place that serves a fiery Phad Kra Pow Jay (my favorite dish), a family-style diner that makes one of my favorite burgers in town (as well amazing corned beef hash), two great gyro places (the famous Mr. Gyros for quick walk-up/take-away, and the sit and enjoy it delight of Hummus Cafe), brilliant sushi right next to my comic shop, the Naked City Brewery & Taphouse where I might enjoy a game of Monopoly over beers and amazing food, cocktails and street tacos at The Yard, or family-style Mexican food at Gordito’s with burritos the size of a swaddled newborn, the inspired and classy Gainsbourgh when I want a Death in the Afternoon and nibbles, or the raucous Angry Beaver hockey bar for when I want to read my comics on a Saturday afternoon with curried chicken skewers, fries, and a beer.


Throw in a few more coffee houses (one of which is also a gourmet chocolate shop), and a total dive Chinese restaurant bar which is also the best karaoke bar north of Downtown (and my second home), and you have one HELL of a great neighborhood. Heck. We even have banks, barber shops, and a pot dispensary or two if that’s your thing.

People sometimes ask why I don’t bother having a car.

I used to. But I got rid of it around the time I moved to Greenwood. Honestly, with this much great stuff in walking distance, located at the nexus of the 5 bus to Downtown, and the 48 bus to the University District and Cap Hill, why do I need one?

Who needs to drive anywhere? I’m already home.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go get another cup of coffee and finish out this story. I have a busy day planned in the neighborhood.

Ed. It has been mentioned by a friend and neighbor that I would be remiss if I did not mention the lovely bookstores either in or easy walking distance from the core neighborhood. We also have a handful of tattoo parlors, sports bars and a huge car show every summer. A little something for everyone.

4 thoughts on “In Praise of Greenwood

  1. As a newbie to Seattle (currently living in Greenlake), I’ve just discovered the Greenwood area (particularly The Monkey Grind), and color me intrigued! How’s the cost of living compared to other areas of Seattle? I might be in the market for a change come September….

  2. Your insight into neighborhoods within cities being defining to individual experience is spot on. In my own experience, I find that the neighborhood in the vicinity of a major university to be the one I find most comfortable and familiar in any city in which I have lived. As you also noted, there are far greater similarities in kindred neighborhoods between cities than in differences between cities. If I should ever find myself in a position to have to leave Seattle, I am sure that it will be a big city with a world-class university that tops my list.

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