Best Neighborhood Makeover


The last time GEORGETOWN had a pulse was during the winter of 2001, and the palpitations were mostly confined to a now-defunct coffee shop/tavern/rock club and a pizza place that was big enough to park a plane in. That particular winter was especially dark and depressing, but come the weekend, you knew you’d be headed for Airport Way, where there was almost always a great show at either Stella Pizza or Industrial Coffee. The excellent slices at Stella soaked up the beer, and even though you knew there was a sort of “scene” developing, there were none of the ugly trappings of one. None. The absence of pretension was breathtaking. But then Industrial Coffee stopped having shows, and then Stella did, and eventually we all went back to Belltown.

After a while, it seemed like it had all been a dream. Sure, after we had gone, there were still well-mannered Harley riders eating heartily at Stella, there were still paint-splattered artists posting empty loft space notices on Industrial’s bulletin board, and you could always spot an honest-to-God airplane mechanic if you hung around long enough, but those things were there before the rock shows, so it followed that they’d be there afterward. Even as Georgetown was being hailed as the new Ballard, it got to where the old Ballard seemed downright thrilling in comparison. Yet the neighborhood continued to grow. All-City Coffee opened up as a real coffee shop—the kind without rock shows but with perfectly executed lattes and well-hung art—and the female-owned Two Tarts Bakery debuted in December of 2002. While their tuna niçoise sandwich rules and the desserts are absolutely divine, the bakery itself was never really meant to be much of a hot spot. There just wasn’t anything pulling you down to Georgetown on a Friday night—until All About the Music opened and began hosting jazz shows, and the owners of 9-Pound Hammer bought up every ounce of antique kitsch on the South End and opened one of the coolest-looking bars in town.

You couldn’t quite call this a comeback, since the scene was always a little too underground and humble to begin with, but things were happening again, and it felt good. This year, with the addition of the superb, mostly sandwich shop Smarty Pants and Georgetown Records, specializing in used vinyl, the neighborhood feels more vital than ever. Creatively employing the open, airy brick-walled spaces left behind by industry and manufacturing, and augmenting them with local art and 20th-century detritus, Georgetown’s merchants consistently fashion warm, imaginative interiors: places you want to visit and never want to leave. Just walking through the streets you witness post-squat, industrial bohemian chic. Georgetown, better than ever, continues to be pretension-free, and at the heart of it all, still, is pizza.

Despite the fact that Stella Pizza was bullied into changing its name to Stellar Pizza, pies like the Corson Classic—with sliced Yukon potatoes, Gorgonzola cheese, and sweet white onions—are as delicious as ever. Salads and pastas are done wonderfully—not white-tablecloth wonderful, but wonderful just the same—and the service is amazingly attentive, efficient, and real. Actually, I’m almost afraid that in writing this, I’m doing all of you a disservice; Stellar is wildly popular with folks from the South End and is packed almost every night of the week. Good thing, then, that Georgetown will soon see the return of an old, old standby: Jules Maes. The former dive bar/diner is being resurrected by the owner of our city’s most gloriously lowbrow hangout, and I have a feeling that rock fans, alcoholics, and pork chop lovers from the past 50 years will be thrilled by its return.