Ride the Rails & Support Columbia City

One of the best things about Sound Transit’s Link light rail system, for us at least, is how it has facilitated exploration of the neighborhoods on Seattle’s southside that we probably would not otherwise venture to. Take, for example, last Saturday…

Columbia City is one of those Seattle neighborhoods best explored on foot. After decades of decline it is now experiencing rapid urban renewal due in part to its light rail station.  A quick trip on ST Express to downtown Seattle’s Chinatown Station, where we transfer to Link, is all it takes to get there. We step off the train in Columbia City less than 45 minutes after leaving Bellevue Transit Center, even less if we drive to the Park & Ride. There is no traffic congestion to deal with, no hassles finding and paying for parking, etc. A perfect Fueled by Beer destination :).

Among the many attractions in Columbia City’s Historic Landmark District is an independent neighborhood cinema that screens first-run movies in a former Masonic Temple. The building dates from 1921 and we had been wanting to check it out for some time. Last weekend proved to be the perfect opportunity when we learned the Columbia City Cinema had extended its run of The King’s Speech following its triumph at the Oscars.

So going to this old moviehouse was our primary reason for crossing the lake but it was by no means our only reason; we also had to eat after all. Columbia City has been described as one of the most diverse places in America. No ethnic group constitutes more than 30% of its population and as many as 60 different languages are said to be spoken. One thing is certain: all this diversity means the neighborhood restaurants offer an eclectic array of food choices.

On this occasion we decided to try Ethiopian food at Columbia City’s Tagla Cafe, ranked by Yelpers among the best in Seattle. Our only previous experiences of African food were the couple times we ate at Boma in the Animal Kingdom Lodge at Disney World. While Boma’s food provides a reasonably good introduction, the slick sanitized Disney environment is not exactly an ethnic dining experience.

Tagla Cafe provides exactly the right experience – it’s a hole in the wall place where pretty decor is not high on their priority list – it’s all about the food. Located in a modest storefront sandwiched between a piercing shop and a tattoo parlor (not a bad thing ;)), once inside you can be forgiven for thinking you have been transported down some back alley in Addis Ababa – wonderful.

P030511004So we were particularly intrigued by the idea of eating at Tagla Cafe where the traditional Ethiopian Injera, which serves as plate, food and eating utensil, is the foundation of every dish. We ordered both the meat and vegetarian combos accompanied by Bedele and Mete Ethiopian beers to wash it all down. The photo shows the meat combo left and veggie combo right.

Got to say it – if you haven’t eaten Ethiopian food yet, or drank any Ethiopian beer, you have to give them a try. The food is very flavorful, some of it pretty spicy, some of it not, and the beer beats Bud/Miller/Coors any day. A meal at Tagla Cafe makes for a truly unique experience – one to be recommended. The food is incredibly filling too – we ended up taking half of it home – and wow, does it nuke up well the next day – trust me – it does!

The only downside to all this – and this is our problem, not the restaurant’s – was that we couldn’t persuade the daughter to eat anything at Tagla Cafe – she sat and watched us as we gorged. But no matter: we were, after all, in Columbia City, which as I said before has loads of different restaurants.

After Tagla Cafe we walked to Tutta Bella, where daughter satisfied her hunger with Neapolitan style pizza. Spouse and I were able to partake of the Amber Ale specially brewed for Tutta Bella by Big Al Brewing.

So that was that – a great day out in Columbia City. We walked back to the light rail station around 9:30 and were home in less than an hour.

By the way, I wore my pedometer and was surprised to register 6,064 steps for a distance of 2.87 miles. That was just walking from the light rail station to the Cinema, on to Tagla Cafe, back to Tutta Bella, and finally back to the light rail station. It all adds up.

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