Feeling a little wanderlust in your veins as the days shorten the light’s lifespan well into fall and winter? Well, you need not go far to see the world when you visit Edmonds, third most populated city in Snohomish County, and about 15 miles north of Seattle.
Washington’s first Certified Creative District of downtown Edmonds — and its neighboring hamlets — sit in the sweet spot of any county, with sweeping views of Puget Sound, the greater Salish Sea beyond, the Olympic Mountains, the Cascade Range, and deep, emerald-green, fairy tale forests, affording priceless access to seasonal, green, farm-/sea-to-table living.
Such a prime location naturally inspires destination-worthy arts and culture, and carefully curated artisan shopping and dining, touching almost every part of the globe.
Spread out like petals of a flower, Edmonds’ star neighborhoods — Downtown/Waterfront, Westgate, Firdale, Five Corners, Perrinville, Uptown/International District — offer something special for everybody, whatever the style, taste, or mood.
It’s easy to travel and get a taste of the world, right here. Set your alarm for early, open your heart, and let’s go exploring! Our one-day, multi-cultural tour starts here:
Fuel up. First things first: coffee, etc. After all, you’re near Seattle — unofficial Java Capital of the World.
Head to Jaiiya Cafe in the Village at Westgate, just a few blocks south of the downtown “Bowl,” for Turkish Eggs (Çılbır), a spicy, savory dish of poached eggs in yogurt, finished with spicy butter, and served with Conor O’Neill’s crispy Cottage toast. Try Jaiiya’s cold-pressed Ube Dalgona with whipped coffee.
With a nod to “The Great British Baking Show” by way of Rachel Khoo’s “Little Paris Kitchen,” Red Twig Cafe and Bakery goes cosmopolitan in the most delightful ways every day from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. (Sundays, 8 a.m.-8 p.m.). Edmonds’ popular cafe bakery sits smack-dab in the middle of all the downtown action, with crowds lining up well before doors open.
You will too, for smoked salmon and asparagus crepes, quiche, pulled pork bao buns, and Berry Chantilly pancakes (weekends). Belly up to the dessert display case for a gluten-free carrot cake scone, orange spice morning bun, Irish soda bread studded with black currants, and a ham and Swiss Danish — washed down with ethically sourced coffee blends from Rwanda, Brazil, Honduras, Columbia, and Ethiopia, roasted in-house.
Additional options: Café Louvre downtown for a ham and cheese croissant with a cappuccino and 85°C Taiwanese Bakery Cafe at the entrance of 99 Ranch Market for taro lavender latte and a sticky, sweet mochi egg tart.
Off you go, then!
Down for some shopping. The shopping in walkable downtown Edmonds is especially out of this world, heavily influenced by fine European boutiques and galleries and Middle Eastern open markets and souks. Park the car, get some fresh air, and take some quality time to really browse to your heart’s content. Make an entire day of it by splitting your shopping into two parts, after breakfast and lunch, with plenty of room to unwind for dinner and drinks afterward. You’ll thank us later.
Substitute-teacher-turned-designer Jennifer Cullin moved her thriving Pike Place Market specialty stationery shop, Paper Feather, up to downtown Edmonds (across from Ombú Salon + Spa on 3rd Ave. N.), this past summer to rave reviews. Halfway between Northwest and London chic, Cullin designs and prints her own greeting cards, stickers, and stationery sets, while showcasing other local, woman-owned makers and their bespoke, vintage, fun, pink-and-lacy-festooned gifts.
While you’re in the area, pick up a cheery bouquet reminiscent of a field of wildflowers in Tuscany at FIELD / Morgan & Moss down a block or so south. Grown in the Northwest and sold out of an historic downtown Edmonds home on 524 Main St., FIELD’s seasonal arrangements, wreaths, floral crates, vintage pottery, market baskets, tartan blankets, and gossamer Tatine Candles will make you swoon.
Pelindaba Lavender, also downtown just off Main on 102½ 5th Ave. N., transports you to the lavender fields of Plateau de Valensole, France. Open since April 2017, the fragrant shop sells products made from organic, home-grown lavender from the San Juan Islands. Go for straight lavender buds in a sachet or ease into the luxury with a lavender milk chocolate bar, lavender gourmet honey, or silky milk bath.
Keep going south and you’ll soon come across one of the last of the remaining independent book sellers, 50-year-old Edmonds Bookshop on 111 5th Ave. S., loaded with hard-cover romance, adventure, and fantasy from all over. Entering its hallowed halls, immersed in storied history, you’d almost swear you’ve stumbled into a Dublin side-street niche. You never know what you’ll walk in on…book signings, author events and discussions, a fun scavenger hunt in progress.
Break for lunch. Famished, right?
Hop in the car and drive 10 minutes northeast to Mel & Mia’s in Perrinville Plaza for British style afternoon high tea (call for reservations), or simply graze on some French-, Italian-, and English-style snacks — pots de la crème, Monte Cristo, cinnamon batonnet, mascarpone crepes, and zeppole.
Head back downtown to the Waterfront and slip into Kahlo’s Cantina for Mexican done a little upscale and contemporary, but still down-home. Sit at the charming bar or near the fireplace, and order up.
The drink and appetizer menu is extensive, inviting relaxation and thoughts of sunbathing on a secluded, crystalline beach in Cancún. How about a cucumber mojito and aguachile? Or maybe dive into the main event with a beef birria or Kahlo’s Torta Ahogada, aka saucy, pulled pork carnitas sandwiched between two chewy, fluffy buns?
In Edmonds’ Uptown, International District just off Hwy. 99, T&T Seafood Restaurant doles out power bites of dim sum in little carts, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. (closed Wed.) — the stuff of dreams, and perfect for those who want a little of this and a little of that. So good that award-winning food writer Nancy Leson goes there, a lot.
Additional options: Noodle Hut (crab fried rice, Pad Woon Sen vegetarian, stir-fried tofu glass noodles), another Leson go-to; Happy Lemon - Mochinut (Korean corn dog, matcha Pocky mochi donut); Dumpling Generation (pork and chive steamed dumplings, spicy cold noodles); Wonton Noodle House (black pepper pan-fried chicken, beef shank noodle soup); and Eat Ono Poke (spicy sambal ahi, garlic furikake salmon).
Shop on! Now that the day’s halfway over and you’re stuffed to the gills, it’s time to do some more serious shopping back in downtown Edmonds. Art galleries, treasures, and wine await.
The next best thing to being there is through visual art, and this artist’s haven boasts its fair share of galleries, even a museum devoted solely to outstanding 19th-20th century NW artists who left an indelible mark.
The signature artist behind Aria Studio Gallery on 535 Main St. is Joan E Archer, who paints the world in watercolors and oils — and teaches others to find their own inner Da Vinci. Her paintings conjure trips to Rome and its cobblestone streets, Madrid and its tango’ed couples, and a Parisian sidewalk café, suitable for sipping a Café Noisette. In business since 2002.
Down the street lies jewelry designer Andrea Savar’s The Curious Nest, featuring bespoke, vintage French treasures sure to delight the antique collector in all of us: souvenir pins from WWI, oil on canvas paintings, bronze trays, hair art, champagne buckets, micromosaics, and more. Precious treasures.
Right next door is the relatively new to Edmonds emporium, Alexander’s Bead Bazaar…family. Co-owners Sam and Debbie, together with daughter Andrea Savar, seek out and find beads and other world treasures from far-off places in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and Europe. Operating for over 30 years, originally in the Roosevelt neighborhood of Seattle, the family business features a stunning collection of gemstones, Thai silver charms, pearls, statuaries, tribal art, ethnographic wearable art, and other one-of-a-kind pieces.
Also situated downtown and fairly new, Bench & Board opened last year to much fanfare, then expanded and moved across the street to 610 Main St., adding a Skylight Gallery to the home goods store. The owners — husband-and-wife team, veteran Shannon Yates and artist Jill Hall — embrace the aspirational good life, with a decidedly French slant. Think Provence farmhouse style soap dishes, perfumed soaps, vintage harvest prints, and linens, as well as must-have items, such as Swedish Dream Sea Salt Soap, kimono gowns and jackets.
No staycation would be complete without a trip to Saetia on 120 5th Ave. S., an independent boutique brimming with smartly-stylish women’s clothing, shoes, jewelry, and gifts. It’s easy to imagine strolls along the Cannes, passing well-dressed, working women in sleek, casual-sporty, rugged-sturdy jackets over tasteful pantsuits, chic sandals, and ankle boots. The boutique carries merchandise from international designers Hagar Alembik-Hazofe and anthropologist Dr. Judy Fadlon — ALEMBIKA — and Ilse Jacobsen.
Additional options: Arista Wine Cellars (Chartogne-Taillet champagne, Schott Zwiesel and Spiegelau decanters and glassware), 99 Ranch Market (Guangxi Luosi rice noodles, Laoganma fried chili oil, I-Mei Art of Bakery cookies, crispy chicken and duck — food court), Boo Han Plaza (red bean bungeo-ppang and gim bap — Koo’s Grill, Oriencha raisin tea, kkakdugi radish kim chee), Gallery North artist co-op, Ombú Salon (Swedish massage, European skin rejuvenation), and Rick Steves Europe, to actually book a trip overseas.
Dinner and... Still raring to go? Edmonds isn’t done with you yet!
Treat yourself to uncommon, unforgettable dining. We suggest several global eateries for your Edmonds travel adventure: Caravan Kebab, Calypso Edmonds, Fire & The Feast, Charcoal, and Bar Dojo.
Caravan Kebab in Firdale Village — down aways from Westgate headed toward the ferries — brings the world to you one lovely bite at a time. Pakistani Chef Shahzad dips into his considerable culinary repertoire from his own travels throughout Europe, Asia, and the Mediterranean to provide his guests the best cuisine with the healthiest, halal ingredients. Moroccan Lamb Tagine, Polish Dumplings, Beef Stroganoff, Shashi Korma…the list goes on.
Calypso Edmonds by the ferry gives you relaxing Caribbean-ocean vibes, lots of sightseeing, and a taste of the islands: fruity cocktails, conch fritters, jerk chicken, peppered beef stew, and curried goat. Cheers to that!
Fire & The Feast’s sumptuous dishes seem to come straight out of a Caravaggio painting. Fire for the wood-fired, hand-tossed, plump, and blistering pizzas, feast for luxurious, devil-may-care, hand-made pastas and braised meats. Kids go for their own bucatini and meatballs, grown-ups thrill to the fancy stuff — Risotto ai Funghi, Braised Heritage Pork Shank, Bourbon Chocolate Budino. A downtown find.
Charcoal opened downtown in the new Graphite Arts building late last fall, featuring modern American steak and seafood with Argentinian style grilling and that mouth-watering chimichurri. Start with the signature Charcoal grilled steak — wagyu top sirloin, New York strip, or ribeye — and finish with a seasonal pick of your favorite sorbetto.
They’re cooking up mind-blowing fusion over at Bar Dojo, a neighborhood hang in Five Corners, a five-minute drive directly east, just out of the suburbs and next to Hwy. 99. If you can’t decide which country to visit, this is the place for you. Order a bunch of small plates, rice bowls, noodle dishes, and entrees, including plant-based dishes, and share, family style.
Highly recommended: The Dojo Board, which has everything, from bulgogi ribs and garlic prawns, to ahi poke tacos and chicken karaage; spicy pork belly ramen; and Korean chicken wings (happy hour). Get the cold soba noodles and spicy pork wontons if you see them on the menu.
Always make room for dessert, because…Canarino Gelato downtown, nothing’s more Italian…Bambū Desserts & Drinks (pandan waffles, Taro Lover Khoai Môn Bánh Lọt), 99 Ranch Market shopping plaza…Milkie Milkie Korean Desserts (black sesame bingsoo — shaved, frozen milk ice, sodduk-sodduk grilled pork sausage and rice cake — Korean street food, injeolmi toast).
Last call. Edmonds is a town of taverns, pubs, and cocktail bars. If you want to keep the party going, go to Daphnes for European vibes, high-end cocktails (Sazerac, Boulveardier) and company, the bartender there’s a beloved institution…ChurchKey Pub for hearty beer and stick-to-your-ribs pub fare (Corned Beef Sliders, Shepherd’s Pie, Bangers and Mash)…Engel’s Pub, one of the oldest around, established way back in 1934, where the music’s always loud and lively and the drinks stiff and generous. We hear it’s haunted, too. Bonus.
There’s more, of course. This is just a sampling, to whet your appetite. So come on over, and explore.
Photos by Matt Hulbert and Sarah Herrin. Thanks to Sarah for extra help with this blog.