The Central District is a historically Black neighborhood in the heart of Seattle, Washington. Just south of downtown, it is home to a vibrant, diverse, and inclusive community overflowing with rich history and culture, including restaurants, bars, shops, and cultural institutions. In honor of Juneteenth, here are some recommendations for Black-owned restaurants, nightlife, and cultural activities to enjoy in the Central District.
Juneteenth is a federal holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. In 1865, news of the Emancipation Proclamation finally reached Texas (signifying that all Black people were made aware their freedom had been granted)! Juneteenth is a day to celebrate total American freedom and to reflect on the progress since slavery, as well as the work that still needs to be done. It is also a day to learn about Black history and culture. In recent years, many African-Americans celebrate Juneteenth over the 4th of July as a form of protest, solidarity, and Pro-Black unity.
What better place to celebrate the joyous occasion than visiting one of the district’s Central prestigious institutions, such as African American Museum, the Central Saloon, or the Hiawatha Sound Collective?
Where to Eat
Photo Credit: Kat Young Designs, Island Soul Rum Bar & Soul Shack, Jerk Fried Chicken Sandwich
Island Soul Rum Bar & Soul Shack: This Caribbean restaurant serves authentic Jamaican cuisine, including Jerk Fried Chicken, curry goat, and oxtail. You can’t go wrong with flavorful, colorful, and refreshing cocktails, like the Bird of Paradise. They also have a wide selection of Caribbean beers and rums. Feel like heading to Kirkland? Visit their sister restaurant, Arleana’s.
Fat’s Chicken and Waffles: It is widely accepted that the best chicken and waffles are found in Harlem, New York, or the deep south. This popular spot is known for serving up tasty portions to quench the appetites of soul food lovers in Seattle. Along with their signature dish, Fat’s offers a variety of New Orleans-inspired soul food dishes, including mouthwatering Biscuits and Andouille sausage gravy, succulent shrimp and grits, creamy mac and cheese, smokey red beans and rice, and catfish, fried green tomato, or squash sandwiches. Really into eggs? Don’t miss their brunch!
Fat’s Chicken and Waffles, from Instagram
Communion Owned by chef Kristi Brown and her son Damon Bomar, Communion sits in the historic Liberty Bank Building, once the site of the first Black-owned bank in the Pacific Northwest. Communion was named one of the “best new restaurants in the world” by Condé Nast Traveler in 2021 and features a mix of classic American dishes with a global twist, inspired by Brown’s family’s roots in Kansas City and her travels around the world. The restaurant is known for its use of fresh, seasonal ingredients, and the owners commit to social justice. In addition to its world-class food, Communion is one of the most inclusive places to experience Black culture in Seattle. The restaurant hosts different events, including live music, poetry readings, and community workshops. It is a welcoming space for people of all backgrounds to come together and celebrate Black culture.
Jerk Shack: This casual spot specializes in jerk chicken, which is marinated in a blend of spices and then grilled to perfection — and you’ll feel as if you’ve been transported to the islands, if only for a moment in time. They also have other Caribbean staples, like sweet, pan-seared plantains and savory rice and peas. If you’re feeling adventurous, fill up with their sweet potato cornbread, Ginger Yams, the Jerk Mac-N-Cheese, or the crab and shrimp-laden Rasta pasta. The fun does not stop there. The restaurant features island-themed decorations, paintings, and furniture. You’ll also find a wrap-around bar with your favorite rums, vodkas, fruit juices, and other libations.
Photo Credit: Kat Young Designs, Island Soul Rum Bar & Soul Shack. Bird of Paradise cocktail
Nightlife: Where to Dance
The Central District is one of the best areas for nightlife in the city. Black folks from far and wide congregate for the sweet release and exchange of energy one can only experience through music and dancing. Here are a few places to connect with Black culture in Seattle.
Red Lounge: This bar is known for its Afrobeats, Dancehall and Reggae music. With an Afro-Caribbean-inspired menu, generous seating, and a spacious dance floor, you can easily spend an entire night in pure bliss. For those interested in African Diasporic rhythms, Ghanaian-born DJ Nayiram unites people of all backgrounds during the most electric and eclectic Afrobeats parties Seattle has ever seen.
Where to Engage in Cultural Activities
Photo Credit: Budgeron Bach
Originally a non-profit publication founded by Vivian Phillips, ARTE NOIR has grown into a gallery and space dedicated to showcasing and uplifting Black art, artists, and culture. All products and items are created and sold by Black Artists who receive 100% of the proceeds from the sale of their work.
Northwest African American Museum (NAAM): NAAM, is a nonprofit organization that was founded in 1984 by a group of community activists. However, it is not Black-owned or operated. The museum is located in the former Colman School, which was Seattle’s first public school for Black students. The museum’s staff and board of directors are composed of a diverse group of individuals. NAAM is dedicated to preserving and celebrating the history and culture of African Americans in Seattle. They have exhibits featuring legends like Jimi Hendrix, and James Baldwin and different topics, including slavery, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Black Power Movement.
Judkins Park and Playfield: This airy locale holds the prestige of being the oldest and largest park in the Central District. The park has been a gathering place for the Black community for generations and is still a popular spot for community events and gatherings today. You’ll often find youth and older athleisure lovers playing football, running, skating, biking, and skateboarding.
The Central District Forum for Ideas and Art: With the mantra, “Blackness is not a monolith,” the center’s focus is empowering Black artists and building community through art. The community center hosts art shows, concerts, and workshops. Community members also have access to a library and a computer lab to learn more about the Central District and its history and focus on creative endeavors. You can donate to the initiative here.
These are just a few Black-owned restaurants, nightlife, and cultural activities in the Central District. So join the celebrations during Juneteenth (or every day) in this vibrant and historic neighborhood.