On June 29th, the long awaited South Park Bridge finally opened, spanning the Macklemore-approved Duwamish Waterway and connecting the southern boundary of Georgetown to the rarely explored South Park. This is good for two reasons. One, it eases the commuting woes of a neighborhood which has been forced to tangle with the rabbit-hole of highway detours required to get in and out of South Park, where seemingly every turn forces you to wind up at the dump. And two, because it allows much easier access to some fantastic places to eat.
For those who love Mexican food, strolling down 14th Avenue in South Park (where the bridge connects) is like having the world’s greatest fan of light bulbs walk down the Vegas strip. Take your pick between well-established sit-downs like Muy Macho, Jalisco, and Juan Colorado (of which Muy Macho is my favorite) and taco-truck style places like newly opened Mi Fondita del Itsmo, where a plate of tacos al pastor is perfectly matched with a fresh jamaica (pronounced hah-MY-kah, a hibiscus juice).
But the best Mexican culinary delights are found at Pastaleria y Panaderia La Ideal, just a few blocks south, on 14th Avenue. Fresh baked goods pour out of ovens all day. My bread, bolilos I would later use to make tortas, bought at 7pm was almost too hot to hold. For a sweet treat, grab a concha “shell”, a house specialty that tastes like a Hawaiian sweet roll with a subtle sugar topping. It’s so soft you’ll wonder if you’ve even bit into it. Added bonus, nearly nothing here costs over a dollar. I paid for most things with pocket change like it was 1953 and I was at a soda fountain with all my keen pals.
But South Park isn’t just burritos and hot sauce. Well-established neighborhood favorite, Napoli Pizzeria has been owned and operated by the same family, at the same location since 1981. I was delighted to find that was also the last year they considered the décor. Paper plates, pitchers of beer, metal chairs and fluorescent lit laminate tables. Memories of nearly every childhood soccer pizza party came flooding back as I stepped in and looked up at the quintessential plastic menu board, spelling out the simple offerings with tiny black letters. Here you’ll find all the classics: hoagies, spaghetti, cannelloni, and pizza. Don’t expect gluten-free crust or mint leaves as topping options either, only the classics: extra cheese, anchovies, Canadian bacon to name a few.
In the parking lot adjacent Napoli is one of South Park’s newest additions, Via Vadi Caffe. The de-facto neighborhood coffee shop serves exactly what you’d expect (lattes, espressos, and fresh baked pastries) but better than you expected.
Finally, we come to the real reason I love South Park: Loretta’s Northwesterner. I happened upon Loretta’s by chance, on one of my monthly attempts to find the SODO transfer station, and was convinced I had stumbled across the city’s greatest, oldest, most unknown bar. Finding out that it was both newish and fairly well-known only dampened my excitement marginally. What used to be a pub called Kelly’s, Loretta’s was bought and updated by the owner of 9lb Hammer in Georgetown, but you’d be hard pressed to figure out it hadn’t been Loretta’s for decades. Dim lighting, stiff drinks, tavern steaks and burgers on the menu, Mariners on the TV, this is the sort of place you come every day after welding skyscrapers together or driving tugboats up mountains. But the best part is the newest addition and most recognizable difference between the old Kelly’s and the new Loretta’s. A back patio bar, eclectically decorated, whose centerpiece is an old Airstream trailer. If tucking into a ribeye washed down with a tall glass of whiskey in the back of an Airstream trailer is the sort of experience Seattle bars are headed toward, I think we’re all going to be ok.
For now, South Park is a slice of nostalgia with a bit of flair here and there. If you’re willing to head to Georgetown, take the extra five minutes to jump over the new bridge and see what it’s like before someone takes notice and starts dumping development through their new artery.