Pho in Chinatown. Few Seattle neighborhoods have eats as diverse, authentic or delish.(Photo:Felix Choo/ Alamy Stock Photo)
As far as Seattle neighborhoods go, few are as diverse and intriguing as the Chinatown-International District, the official but rather wonky name for the 23 acres that encompass Chinatown, Japantown and Little Saigon. One of the oldest and most storied of Seattle’s neighborhoods, the CID spans between Fifth Avenue and Interstate 5, easily walkable from Pike Place Market or Pioneer Square and well worth the detour. Pass through the colorful gate at the corner of Fifth Avenue South and South King Street and let each of your senses absorb what makes this Asian cultural melting pot such a cool way to spend the day.
Noshing and Novelties at Uwajimaya Village
Occupying nearly 70,000 square feet of this neighborhood is Uwajimaya Village, a mixed use complex on Weller Street complete with a food court and a bustling Asian market. Wander around the gifts department for novelties like silken house slippers or something from Kinokuniya Bookstore, Japan’s largest bookstore chain. Stock up on exotic treats, like candies wrapped in edible rice paper and slender, chocolate-dipped biscuits. Though parking can be scarce in Chinatown, it’s typically plentiful in Uwajimaya’s validated lot.
Japanese Food, Pho and Dumplings, Oh My!
Time your visit around lunch or dinnertime so you sample the bounty of authentic Asian cuisine in some of the best places to eat in Seattle. Pho fiends should head to Little Saigon, on the eastern edge of the neighborhood, for bowls of the foodie favorite, or to a cluster of Japanese hotspots on the north end. Maneki, operating since 1904, has been crowned one of “America’s Classics” by The James Beard Foundation. Doors away, the unfussy Tsukushinbo serves home-style Japanese specialties like squid-and-liver stew and chirashi heaped with fresh cuts of sea urchin and sea clam.
Can’t settle on a restaurant? Wander around the Uwajimaya food court and let the sights, smells and long lines of the pan-Asian makeup of Chinatown regulars help you decide which fare will tempt your palate. There are stone bowls of Korean bimbimbap, a rice and vegetable dish served with egg and sliced meat. Plates of pad Thai and Vietnamese bánh mì sandwiches are dished steps from where fresh Japanese dumplings, stuffed with cooked octopus and topped with fish flakes, provide the most satisfying of culinary stories.
Park It and Eat
Take advantage of Seattle’s cherished rain-free moments and order your lunch to go. Head to Hing Hay Park, a five-minute walk from Uwajimaya Village and a popular gathering spot where locals come to play chess and practice Tai Chi moves. You’ll know you’ve reached the landmark when you spot the red brick square and Grand Pavilion, a tile-roofed pagoda honoring American WWII veterans of Chinese ancestry. Smaller and more tranquil is International Children’s Park, also five minutes from Uwajimaya. Grab a patch of grass or perch on a decorative rock and dine, watching children from Seattle neighborhoods play together around the bronze dragon in its center.
Where to Stay: