Whether you’re spending some time before or after your Alaska cruise in Seattle, or you’re a local looking to discover something new, the Central District should be on your list. Its location east of downtown, south of Capital Hill, and north of Rainier Valley, makes it an easy commute from most areas of the city.
The historically Black neighborhood and business hub offers an eclectic mix of independently- owned cafes, restaurants, and shops, and vibrant cultural events and street art. Neighbors and community members are focused on retaining the Black cultural heritage amidst a changing neighborhood demographic.
Whether you have a few hours or a few days, here are some great stops to immerse yourself in the history, food, culture, and shops in the Central District.
After World War II, Seattle’s growing Black population made the Central District their home because of housing discrimination and restrictive covenants. During the civil rights movement of the 1960s, Seattle’s Central District became a center for marches, riots, and civil disobedience.
In the face of gentrification, the Central District has worked to maintain a foothold on its cultural past as it evolves to build back business and serve the community’s needs. With Black community-led initiatives and investments in housing, business, arts, and culture the district rises within the tenacity by which it was founded. These must-see stops and activities acknowledge the past, illuminate the present, and are a glimpse of collective reimagining for its future.
The People’s Wall — At 173 20th Avenue you’ll find a mural called The People’s Wall that honors fallen comrades of the Black Panthers Party. It was commissioned by the Seattle Chapter Black Panther Party(SCBPP) and completed in 1970 by artist Dion Henderson. The home was the second headquarters of the SCBPP before being razed in 1970. A portion of the original retaining wall remains. The mural was refurbished around 2008 by artist Eddie Ray Walker. Read the full story of this historic mural→
Bus shelter murals — Community partners at the Black Heritage Society of Washington State (BHS), RieImagine Solutions, and Historic Central Area Arts and Cultural District with King County Metro collaborated with a graphic design specialist to create 40 photo murals installed in seven bus shelters in the Central District. Learn about the bus shelters routed in history→
Soul Pole —The iconic pole features a series of figures depicting 400 years of African American history. Geographically, it stands at one of the highest points within the historic corridor to pay tribute to the tenacity of the Central District community. In 2021 the Soul Pole was removed for restoration and successfully reinstalled in 2022 at 23rd Ave and E Yesler Way with funding at the Seattle Public Library to engage art conservators while community advocacy was generated by the Black Heritage Society of Washington State (BHS) and Black-led Converge Media. Read about preservation in progress→
Washington Hall — Located at 153 14th Avenue, this gathering space for the Central District community was built by the Danish Brotherhood in 1908, bringing people together to create, entertain, and celebrate arts and culture. Historically Washington Hall was one of the few venues in town that would rent space to African Americans and became the site of Black civic, social club, and military gatherings through the 1960s and hosted musical legends such as Jimi Hendrix, Duke Ellington, and Billie Holiday. Check their upcoming calendar of events for a variety of arts and culture offerings→
Northwest African American Museum — The Northwest African American Museum, located at 2300 S. Massachusetts Street, highlights the history and culture of African Americans in the Pacific Northwest. It is located within the former Colman School building, which was built in 1909 and claimed for the Black community in 1985 by activists who occupied the building for eight years in the nation’s longest act of civil disobedience. Visit the museum→
Learn more about Black history in Seattle:
Snack and sip
“Seattle Soul” restaurant Communion has brought national acclaim to the Central District, but the must-try food options in the neighborhood don’t end there. Longstanding institutions serve up local favorites alongside the new tastes and flavors from newcomers. And several iconic Black-owned establishments have returned home after being pushed out of the neighborhood by gentrification.
Here are a few spots that are sure to whet your appetite or quench your thirst.
Embark on a mini pub crawl and hit up two Black-owned breweries in the Central District.
23rd Avenue Brewery — 23rd Avenue Brewery is owned by brothers Dave, James, and Matt Dixon, and Mario Savage, who grew up in the neighborhood. Options include Basement Stout, Cuban Link, and Pepper Peach. Connect to community and really good beer→
Métier — Métier, owned by Rodney Hines, currently operates three locations (with its flagship spot in the Central District) and has a mission to “brew damn good beer and build stronger community to inspire dreams for all.” Try the Black Stripe Coconut Porter, Double Hazy IPA, or the Métier Pale Ale. Read about beer built on big dreams→
Jackson’s Catfish Corner — The neighborhood-staple fast-casual favorite triumphantly returned home to the Central District in 2021, seven years after leaving its original location. The menu features the beloved fried catfish, snapper, burgers, and chicken sandwiches. Read about Jackson’s Celebratory return→
Ms. Helen’s Soul Bistro —The comfort soul food favorite is returning to the Central District in Midtown Square this fall, serving up liver and onions, gumbo, catfish, and black-eyed peas. The restaurant stands for good home cooking, community, and a return to the family-owned restaurant’s Central District roots. Read Ms. Helen’s story→
Jerk Shack — Central District native Trey Lamont has opened a second location of his popular Caribbean food restaurant in Midtown Square, serving up its signature jerk-fried chicken, along with seafood, steak, and ribs. Read about the move→
Shikorina Pastries — Shikorina founder Hana Yohannes makes pastries in-house with 100% organic, local, and/or fair trade ingredients. Shikorina offers nut-free, gluten-free, and vegan options. Try the browned butter vanilla cake, a cake jar, or a pop tart. Learn how Shikorina brings people together with delicious pastries→
Central Café and Juice Bar — The eco-conscious café serves up espresso, fresh-pressed juice lattes, smoothies, and teas alongside pastries and deli items in a historic space. Check out Central Café’s menu→
Café Avole — Ethiopian coffee shop and roaster Café Avole has expanded from its location in Brighton to the Liberty Bank Building in the Central District. Back in 2016, co-owner Solomon Dubie used funds from a successful Indiegogo campaign to transform the former Rainier Mini Mart, after years running a small grocery store espresso cart. The menu features a selection of Ethiopian roasts brewed through traditional methods, as well as pastries, ambasha, and ful medames (a fava bean stew). Check out Café Avole’s menu→
Fat’s Chicken and Waffles — Fat’s is a southern-style, New Orleans-influenced restaurant that features authentic and natural ingredients in the heart of the Central District. Help yourself to some fried chicken and waffles, shrimp and grits, fried okra, and red beans and rice. While you’re there, check out the hand-painted mural and handmade furniture made by local artists. Peruse the menu→
With a variety of small businesses offering unique products that give back to their community, you’re sure to leave the Central District with something that will brighten your world.
Here are some of our favorites:
booSH (pronounced “bush”) — The family-run business with deep roots in the Central District, is a tiny but impactful 520-square foot Black-owned plant shop. The shop has a mission to enrich lives through plant gifting and ownership and offers a wide range of rare and exotic plants. Find your next plant→
ARTE NOIR — ARTE NOIR originated as an online publication dedicated to showcasing and uplifting Black art, artists, and culture. Its brick-and-mortar location in Midtown Square offers products made by Black creatives who receive 100% of net proceeds from their items sold in the shop.
The location also includes a fine art gallery that anchors connection to the Black community, creates a permanent home for Black art and artists in Seattle’s Central District, and increases opportunities to work with a broad cross-section of Black artists and curators. Read the stories of Black artists→
QueenCare — Give your skin and your mood a boost with handcrafted skin care products and aromatherapy at QueenCare. Each product is infused with good energy, love, and natural ingredients that will leave your body feeling luxurious! Shop products that Indulge, engage, and uplift→
Loving Room: Diaspora Books + Salon — This Black-owned community reading room offers various genres of literature by Black and African writers for readers of all ages. It’s a space of welcome and connection for Black readers of all ages and a way to reclaim thriving Black cultural space in the historic Central District. Learn how Loving Room creates a welcoming space→
Made Space — Support the work of Black creatives with a stop by Made Space. Made Space Features a retail space stocked with local goods, an art gallery highlighting Black creatives, and a performance studio and event space to host pop-ups and classes. Learn about upcoming events→
Central District arts and cultural events celebrate the contributions of the Black community and cultural connections. Here are a few arts and culture events to keep in mind when you’re in the neighborhood or to add to your calendar over the summer:
Wa Na Wari, located at 911 24th Ave, means “Our Home” in Kalabari and is a community gathering spot that provides space to share local history and feature works by contemporary Black artists. Learn about art on display→
Umoja Fest African Heritage Festival and Parade — Since the 1940s, the Umoja Fest African Heritage Festival and Parade has celebrated the history and cultural contributions of the African American community across the country. The annual festival’s name “Umoja”, means “unity” in Swahili, and is open to all ages and backgrounds. The event, happening August 5 and 6, showcases the diversity of Seattle and brings its communities together. Check festival dates and details→
Summer of Soul Series offers an exciting lineup of events celebrating Seattle’s Black culture, history, and community. The series features a Black Wall Street event, Juneteenth celebration, Soul on the Water at Pier 62, and Reunion on Union. Review the lineup→
Black Arts Legacies — Black Arts Legacies recognizes an intergenerational group of local musicians, dancers, visual artists, poets, performers, curators, and architects, whose creative expressions document the complexity of being a Black artist in Seattle. Learn more about the project and June 15 Crosscut event celebrating the Black arts community→
Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute — Programs and community partnerships offered by the nonprofit arts organization LANGSTON center Black art, artists, and audiences. And honor the ongoing legacy of Seattle’s Black Central Area. Central District Forum for Arts and Ideas, which presents emerging Black arts, artists, and ideas in the Seattle area, is also located in the space. Watch the calendar for upcoming events→
Jackson Street Jazz Walk — The 10th Annual Jackson Street Jazz Walk, September 8-10, celebrates the Central District’s African American music legacy, fosters community gathering and connection, creating performance opportunities for local artists, and financially supports targeted nonprofits through its music, community, and legacy mission. See who’s performing→
Learn more about the Central District:
*Top photo credit: Hilary Northcraft