As American as apple martinis, these four hot new areas —in Seattle, New Orleans, Minneapolis, and Philadelphia—are the toast of the nation

Catherine Ledner


By Kimberly Brown Seely

Long an industrial-strength zone of low-slung warehouses, truck yards, and miles of chain-link fence, SoDo (which stands for South of Downtown or South of the Dome, depending on who's talking) stretches down from Seattle's Safeco Field and shining new Seahawks stadium through a blue-collar neighborhood. Urban adventurers will find a surprising amount going on here. Mixed in among the old-school manufacturers are artists living and working in converted warehouses, entrepreneurs turning century-old wood-frame buildings into funky retail space, and, in the blocks around the stadiums, an increasing number of businesses chasing the fringe of cool. A half-dozen coffee headquarters are clustered here, including, of course, Starbucks (its landmark coffee sign still toppled from last year's quake). John Sage, a retired Microsoft executive and founder of Pura Vida Coffee, likes SoDo for its cheap space, but also for its gritty edge. "We share our building with a marine-repair shop," he says. "What makes this neighborhood so cool is the pipe fitters with blowtorches versus the coffee roasters obsessed with aesthetics."

Start your day here by checking out the quirky home, garden, and salvage shops south of Safeco, and then grab lunch at a barbecue dive or a retro diner. Walk past the SoDo Urban Art Corridor (on Fifth Avenue South), where 54 murals painted by local artists and at-risk kids loom along the back walls of SoDo warehouses, and finish at Filson for rough-and-ready clothes that are perfect for this part of town.

Pecos Pit BBque 2260 First Ave. S.; 206/623-0629; lunch for two $11. SoDo denizens line up for barbecue and beans at this street-front stand, then sit down to eat at picnic tables along First Avenue—seemingly oblivious to trucks rattling by. A classic.
Lemieux's Restaurant & Lounge 97 S. Lander St.; 206/624-9851; lunch for two $20. A SoDo institution dating back to the 1920's, Lemieux's is a dimly lit coffee shop where Starbucks execs and construction workers go for such old-Seattle staples as navy bean soup, French dips, fish-and-chips, and drip coffee served in thick brown mugs.
Alki Bakery 5700 First Ave. S.; 206/762-5700; lunch for two $20. The lunch spot of choice for neighborhood artists, in an airy storefront that looks out on the smokestacks.
Pyramid Brewery & Alehouse 1201 First Ave. S.; 206/682-3377; dinner for two $40. A cavernous copper tank—filled brewery, where baseball fans gather for a full lineup of Pyramid ales and lagers on tap before and after Mariners games at Safeco Field across the street. Handcrafted beer is the main draw, but you can also order up decent burgers, slabs of baby backs, and pizza.
Mac's Smokehouse 1760 First Ave. S.; 206/628-0880; lunch for two $20. Actually located in the back half of Donna's Diner, past the jukebox, Mac's is the barbecue joint to choose on a gray day when you're craving a pork sandwich and a side of red beans and rice. Black-and-white photos of old Seattle line the aquamarine walls.
Saigon Bistro 507 S. Weller St.; 206/621-2085; lunch for two $11. Technically within the International District, but so close to SoDo you'd be crazy not to drop in. Saigon Bistro is part of the new Uwajimaya Village complex, the largest Asian grocery and gift store in the Northwest. (The Village's founder, Fujimatsu Moriguchi, began by selling fish cakes from the back of his truck in 1928.) Young Seattleites come here to munch Saigon-style sandwiches (grilled tofu, beef, chicken, or pork on French bread with lettuce, carrots, white radish, jalapeños, and cilantro—for just $2) and slurp bowls of piping hot pho.
Honey Moon Tea Co. 600 Fifth Ave. S.; 206/382-0888; ice cream for two $5. Tucked into the Uwajimaya Village courtyard, the sleek Taiwanese tea stand serves an exotic selection of drinks and ice creams in flavors like Mexican chocolate and coconut with jackfruit.

Herban Patio 3200 First Ave. S.; 206/749-5112. Customers ask about the faux finish on the timbers of this former 1895 machine shop, but the look isn't faux—it's the real thing, just aged 100 years. Mellow jazz wafts through a barnlike space filled with a wonderful mix of outdoor furniture, housewares, and curiosities such as twig serving trays, child-sized hickory rockers, Chinese birdcages, and bamboo tricycles (from the Philippines).
Herban Pottery 3220 First Ave. S.; 206/621-8601. Next door to Herban Patio, in a restored foundry overflowing with pots from more than 40 countries—handpicked Tuscan terra-cotta ware, huge Michoacán containers, glazed ceramics from Vietnam and Malaysia. There's also a terrific collection of plant stands, along with decorative objects such as dried pomegranates and woven-grass balls.
Squeaky Hinge 3230 First Ave. S.; 206/381-8480. Among the antiques here, you'll find vintage light fixtures, stereo cabinets, and 1950's scooters—plus primo coffee at the espresso bar.
Esquin Wine Merchant 2700 Fourth Ave. S.; 206/682-7374. The city's wine cognoscenti stock (and store) their cellars here. Seattle's oldest retail wine merchant, Esquin is a great place to peruse an extensive range of vintages before ordering cases to be shipped home.
Mariners Team Store 1250 First Ave. S.; 206/346-4287. The place to snag Ichiro-wear. You can choose from Ichiro (the Mariners' star player) T-shirts, caps, trading pins, coffee mugs, and bobble-head dolls—and memorabilia for the other players, of course, as well as Mariners jackets, jerseys, and caps. Tours of Safeco Field depart from here during baseball season.
Filson Flagship 1555 Fourth Ave. S.; 206/622-3147. Forget Gore-Tex and nylon when you visit the lodgelike flagship store and factory headquarters of this 103-year-old rugged-outdoorwear manufacturer. Filson's original catalogue "for explorers, campers, prospectors" is displayed under the moose head beside the mammoth stone fireplace. The company's totally cool, no-frills functional garments (so-far-out-they're-in Mackinaw wool jackets, cotton "tin-cloth" coats) are ideal for today's manly men exposed to the elements—and for guys who just want to look like them.
Uwajimaya Village 600 Fifth Ave. S.; 206/624-6248. Worth a trip not only for great deals on Japanese, Chinese, and Indonesian items for the home, but for the artfully arranged piles of vegetables so exotic they appear to have been grown on another planet.

Western Neon Gallery 2700 First Ave. S.; 206/682-7738. An industrial neon workshop and gallery aglow with tubes of color and light. Owner Jay Blazek grew up in a family of neon artisans; his SoDo gallery designs custom pieces, restores landmark Seattle signs, and shows and sells work by local artists.
Art Wolfe Photography Gallery 1944 First Ave. S.; 206/332-0993. Nature photographer Art Wolfe's tasteful gallery, lined with vivid wilderness prints, couldn't stand in starker contrast to the rest of SoDo. Wolfe's small signed pieces start at $120; large, framed works are also available, along with Wolfe's coffee-table books and calendars.

New Orleans

By Malia Boyd

Just downriver from the overexposed and over-the-top French Quarter, the Faubourg Marigny is its low-profile, edgier cousin. It was named for former resident Bernard de Marigny, and perhaps that set the tone: a dissolute playboy, he inherited $7 million from his father in the early 1800's and lost nearly all of it playing craps. His obituary remembered him as "the last of the Creole aristocracy, one who knows how to dispose of a great fortune with contemptuous indifference."

A decline in the 1950's left the Faubourg (a French term for "neighborhood") and its glorious Victorians and Creole cottages orphaned, until a few brave souls started to reclaim the area in the seventies. "When I bought my house," says Marigny pioneer Gary de Leaumont, "my parents told me, 'If you're moving there, we're buying you a gun!' " But lately, the Marigny has cleaned up its act. Frenchmen Street led the charge, with new restaurants, bars, and live music clubs crowding its formerly seedy sidewalks. An evening out involves a natural progression: Start with cocktails, move on to a multi-course meal, finish by shaking it all night to some fabulous band. So beware—a visit to the Marigny usually results in a dawn-lit crawl home. And that's fine, since the one pursuit that comes up short is shopping—perhaps everyone's too busy sleeping it off to open boutiques.

Belle Forché 1407 Decatur St.; 504/940-0722; dinner for two $80. Behind this Creole beauty are Robert De Niro, jewelry designer David Yurman, and Le Cirque alum Matthew Yohalem, whose artistic creations (eggplant, crabmeat, and hot-pepper gumbo with coconut and coriander) are consumed by a flashy crowd.
Marisol 437 Esplanade Ave.; 504/943-1912; dinner for two $65. Peter Vazquez cooks up eclectic food worthy of his equally varied clientele: blue-haired ladies whose only kicks are culinary ones, out-of-towners who lucked into a hot tip. If the weather's nice, beg for a courtyard table.
Old Dog New Trick Café 517 Frenchmen St.; 504/943-6368; lunch for two $30. Vegetarian meals are hard to find in a town so enamored of sausage and seafood. Old Dog is a safe haven for herbivores who want more than a plate of steamed or sautéed vegetables.
Praline Connection 542 Frenchmen St.; 504/943-3934; dinner for two $50. Rib-ticklin' fried chicken and greens make Praline a soul-food favorite.
La Spiga Bakery 2440 Chartres St.; 504/949-2253; lunch for two $16. Grab one of La Spiga's fancy sandwiches for a picnic in the Marigny's beguiling Washington Park.
Café Negril 606 Frenchmen St.; 504/944-4744; dinner for two $40. Get your hand around a Red Stripe and feast on Jamaican jerk fish in this brightly painted, but dimly lit, newcomer.
Marigny of New Orleans Brasserie 640 Frenchmen St.; 504/945-4491; dinner for two $60. Café Marigny 1913 Royal St.; 504/945-4472; breakfast for two $16. Sister Creoles around the corner from each other. The café proffers a boisterous breakfast and lunch, while the brasserie "kicks it up a notch" (as someone else would say) at dinner.
Feelings Café 2600 Chartres St.; 504/945-2222; dinner for two $75. Set in a centuries-old plantation, Feelings rates high for romance. But like most things in the Marigny, it has the requisite splash of camp: a rollicking piano bar on Fridays and Saturdays.
La Peniche Restaurant 1940 Dauphine St.; 504/943-1460; dinner for two $30. The late-night "snackerie" of choice for revelers, not really for the quality of the food, but because . . . well, where else might you get oyster po'boys at four in the morning?

Checkpoint Charlie 501 Esplanade Ave.; 504/949-7012. This Marigny chameleon hosts different bands (punk, jazz, country) every night. Lots of hometown acts get their start here.
Café Brasil 2100 Chartres St.; 504/949-0851. The bands that perform here—often Latin on on weekends—attract such a throng that the party inevitably ends up spilling out onto the street.
Snug Harbor Jazz Bistro 626 Frenchmen St.; 504/949-0696. This is where you go to hear the best live, straight-ahead jazz in the city (and fill up on massive burgers and loaded baked potatoes). Ellis Marsalis, patriarch of the famed family of trumpeters, often performs here.
dba 618 Frenchmen St.; 504/942-3731. Jaded neighbors call it a yuppie bar, but the clientele—dreadlocked, tattooed, and pierced—and the sparse industrial interiors look a little rough around the edges for such a label.
Spotted Cat 623 Frenchmen St.; 504/943-3887. Not as sleek as its feline name would suggest, this new cat on the block features jazzy and acoustic fare that the mellow set finds appealing.

Claiborne Mansion 2111 Dauphine St.; 504/949-7327; doubles from $125. The princess of the Marigny sits serenely on Washington Park, attracting the rich and famous with its smart décor and secluded, oak-shaded pool.
Parkview Marigny B&B 726 Frenchmen St.; 877/645-8617 or 504/945-7875; doubles from $110. Its perfect red door opens onto a sitting room with criminally high ceilings (14 feet). The six rooms are decorated with a mix of grandma's antiques, Audubon print reproductions, and photos of old New Orleans.
B&W Courtyards Bed & Breakfast 2425 Chartres St.; 800/585-5731 or 504/945-9418; doubles from $140. Rob Boyd and Kevin Wu have gone hog-wild with their outwardly unassuming compound: chartreuse and purple walls, Ecuadorean religious icons, nine burbling fountains, and faux leopard rugs. And they have personalities to match.
La Maison Marigny 1421 Bourbon St.; 800/570-2014 or 504/948-3638; doubles from $129. One of the owners is a former concierge, and it shows in all the extras—from fresh baked goods in the morning to trip-planning assistance.


By Mary Biersdorfer

Uptown or downtown?For years, Minneapolis hipsters have debated which neighborhood is more happening. But in Northeast, an up-and-coming district just across the Mississippi River, this debate is so 20th-century. Northeast has carved out a fresh identity whose unselfconscious brand of cool—that's attitude, not temperature—is evident in the international mix of people and shops. You could call it the United Nations of neighborhoods. "Even in homogeneous Minnesota, we'll hear five languages a day," says Sean McLaughlin, the shopkeeper of Baltic Imports. (To fit right in, just exercise your best Midwestern twang: "nord-east.")

Despite the influx of galleries, cafés, and stores (plus a new luxury development where riverside condos run to $1.5 million), the neighborhood has stayed low-key. "It still feels like a small town," says Shannon Brady, an illustrator who recently moved to the hood. "Only you won't get run over by SUV's." And while boutiques have replaced hardware stores, antiques shop owner Dora Harris points out that some institutions remain: "On every block, there's a church—and a bar right next door."

Modern Café 337 13th Ave. N.E.; 612/378-9882; lunch for two $25. A retro space with a sense of humor (the menu orders you to "turn off your cell phone and eat!"). What's on the menu?Comfort food with a twist: dressed-up grilled cheese sandwiches (Gouda, sautéed tomatoes, and onions on sourdough), walleye pot stickers in lemongrass broth. Struggling artists flock here on Tuesdays, when bottles of wine are half price.
Kramarczuk Sausage Co. 215 E. Hennepin Ave.; 612/379-3018; lunch for two $18. This local landmark may look like a high school cafeteria, but its well-fed fans come for goulash, sausage sandwiches, and meatballs—not the interior design. Been hunting and bagged a buck?The deli will turn your just-caught venison into wieners or smoky links.Gardens of Salonica 19 Fifth St. N.E.; 612/378-0611; dinner for two $25. Moussaka, tzatziki, skordalia, gyros—all here in an airy, minimalist setting.
Chiapas Restaurant 2416 Central Ave. N.E.; 612/ 789-2971; dinner for two $30. Plastic tablecloths and loopy, colorful decorations set the scene for Mexican and Ecuadorean specialties such as sopa de mariscos, a south-of-the-border bouillabaisse, and tacos de nopales, filled with marinated cactus salad.

Boom! 401 E. Hennepin Ave.; 612/378-3188. World travelers, urban cocktailers, gay men, even Bea Arthur are all devotees of Boom!, a mod club housed in a 19th-century tin-ceilinged building. The most popular drink is the Jenna Tonic, named in honor of the president's hard-partying daughter. "Valid ID required," says managing partner Daniel Duty.
Starlite Lounge at Bobino 212 E. Hennepin Ave.; 612/623-3301. If Judy Jetson fancied a cocktail, she'd be unable to resist this space-age speakeasy. Stop in for the "twinkle hour" (read: happy hour) and order the Bitch Flowers (vodka, Chambord, and lime), named for a drag queen who's a regular. But good luck getting a seat: only 40 people at a time can squeeze into the tiny lounge.
Nye's Polonaise Room 112 E. Hennepin Ave.; 612/379-2021. The young (and not-so-young) float between the garish piano lounge and the local-rocker stage, where the atmosphere is divey in the best sense of the word. Quaff your Zywiec, a Polish beer, when the "world's most dangerous polka band" plays, Thursdays through Saturdays.
Erté 1304 University Ave. N.E.; 612/623-4211. This new wine bar is set in a former dance studio (thus the mirrored wall), but considering the beautiful crowd, there is surprisingly little posing. Savor your vino—about 50 wines are served by the glass—at the steel-and-marble bar, designed by Minneapolis artist Juris Plesums.


City Salvage 505 First Ave. N.E.; 612/627-9107. John Eckley loves a demolition site. He canvasses the country, rescuing magnificent pieces like a nine-foot-high stained-glass panel from an 1880's San Francisco mansion—yours for a cool $16,000. Eckley's warehouse-like store stockpiles American antiques from the 1880's to 1960's.
Baltic Imports 207 E. Hennepin Ave.; 612/331-3296. Sean and Ingrida McLaughlin (he's a lifelong Minnesotan; she's from Latvia) stock Eastern European folk art. A jewelry designer on the side, Sean is like an ambassador of amber, showing off his knowledge and enthusiasm for the fossilized gem.
Madame Dora's 339 13th Ave. N.E.; 612/362-0844. Can't live without a seventies doughnut-shaped phone?Come here for vintage everything—handbags, wrapping paper, funky furniture, pulp fiction.
Seven Bridges World Market 400 First Ave. N.E.; 612/331-2861. Sign up for classes (many are free) in yoga, African Jembe drumming, belly dancing, or henna tattooing, or scope out the well-edited mix of artisanal products from as far away as Bali and Syria. Seven Bridges also carries a line of Minnesota-made soaps, with fragrances like frankincense and myrrh.
Bollywood Imports 1839 Central Ave. N.E.; 612/789-1247. Pick up the latest videos from India's thriving film world or CD's of Punjabi pop songs.

Flatland Gallery 208 E. Hennepin Ave.; 612/378-3890. Owned by city TV news anchor Robyne Robinson, Flatland promotes emerging Minnesota artists. Robinson moved to Northeast because it's still affordable; also affordable is the art, mostly priced under $1,000.


By Meg Cohen Ragas

For many years, Philadelphia residents wouldn't set foot in Old City: these cobblestoned streets were known as Helltown. But the 1996 opening of the Continental, Stephen Starr's retro-chic martini bar, paved the way for the recent influx of restaurants, clubs, and shops, transforming the dilapidated commercial zone into Philly's style center. These days, if you visit on a warm evening, you just might think you're in New York's SoHo—that is, SoHo before the artists moved out and the chain stores moved in. Scenesters wearing the latest from Gucci hop between galleries and Mid-Century Modern furniture stores, while fashionable couples lounge at outdoor tables along Market Street. The vibe was not so different in the 1700's. "It was a hip neighborhood, full of coffee shops and bookstores; Ben Franklin's original print shop was at the corner of Second and Market," says gallery owner Larry Becker. "It's interesting to think that the same things are going on now."

Tangerine 232 Market St.; 215/627-5116; dinner for two $90. A dark, sexy hideaway that's as popular for its Mediterranean-, Moroccan-, and French-inspired cuisine as it is for its design (the main room has an entire wall of votive candles). Dishes are served family style, but you may have a hard time sharing the salmon ceviche with avocado mousse.
Novelty 15 S. Third St.; 215/627-7885; dinner for two $55. The former General Novelty Toy Store's vintage interior has been enhanced with an acid-washed steel wall and a brushed-zinc bar (three people deep during happy hour). The "world menu" contains such novelties as Peking duck à l'orange.
Petit 4 Pastry Studio 160 N. Third St.; 215/627-8440. Sit at one of this bakery's mismatched vintage dinette sets and succumb to Petit 4's signature cake—hazelnut and almond flourless torte layered with raspberries and chocolate buttercream.
Kisso Sushi Bar 205 N. Fourth St.; 215/922-1770; dinner for two $60. The jewel-box-of-a-sushi-joint wins praise for its fresh and innovative rolls that look like edible art. Don't forget to pack the Sapporo—Kisso is BYO.
Buddakan 325 Chestnut St.; 215/574-9440; dinner for two $75. A 50-foot gold Buddha presides over the sleek dining room of this wildly popular Pan-Asian, which serves such dishes as the Angry Lobster IV— a three-pounder, its meat wok-seared in coconut curry sauce and artistically served in the shell.
Chlöe 232 Arch St.; 215/629-2337; dinner for two $65. At their intimate neighborhood spot, husband-and-wife chef team Dan Grimes and Mary Ann Ferrie dazzle with Moroccan spiced lamb skewers and pan-seared sushi-grade tuna served with a ginger-banana broth. The ricotta and mascarpone cheesecake is perfection on a plate.

The Continental 134 Market St.; 215/923-6069. This stainless-steel diner attracts a loyal—and stylish—following. Slide into one of the authentic vinyl-upholstered booths for a martini, or grab one of the olive-shaped barstools—that is, if you can fight your way through the crowd.
Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar 10 S. Second St.; 215/627-0666; dinner for two $70. The rum bar—with more than 60 varieties—is the top draw at this Cuban spot, though the "cha cha cha" platter (guava-glazed ribs, oxtail croquettes, and plantain shrimp) rates a close second. On warm nights the French doors are flung open, giving the place a striking resemblance to a 1940's Havana street scene.

Usona 223 Market St.; 215/351-9160. Named for the architectural term Usonian—coined by Frank Lloyd Wright to denote a way of life in which luxury, good taste, style, and sensibility are available to the masses—Usona is inspired by 1930's Paris. Co-owner Kevin Burns promotes dark woods and neutral shades of fabric, and encourages customers to buy by the piece, not the set.
ME & Blue 311 Market St.; 215/629-2347. It's worth climbing the steep 22 steps up to M. E. Ster's loftlike boutique, where she peddles clothing and accessories by young West Coast designers, including Syrup, Serfontaine, Dress, and Joe's Jeans. Many lines are exclusive to the store: Harveys shoulder bags, woven from seat belts; Lotus Creations wrap skirts, made from vintage Indian saris. Everything's displayed showroom-style, laid out on benches salvaged from an old sewing factory or hanging from suspended industrial racks.
Kellijane 10 N. Third St.; 215/627-1219. Kelly Monk and Jane Green comb Europe in search of luxuries for the bed and bath—Italian lamb's-wool blankets, super-soft German towels.
Foster's Urban Homeware 124 N. Third St.; 267/671-0588. An accessories haven for the modern home decorator, Foster's Urban Homeware offers a confident mix of chunky dinnerware, cocktail accoutrements, and retro juice glasses.
Flotsam + Jetsam 149 N. Third St.; 215/351-9914. The first thing you notice is the mesmerizing, swirl-patterned floor. But you'll be equally captivated by the stock of home furnishings—much of it from local craftsmen such as Biello & Muller, who fashion one-of-a-kind chandeliers in their studio right across the street.

Minima 118 N. Third St.; 215/922-2002. The roster at this all-white furniture gallery reads like a who's who of mid-20th-century design: Cappellini, Frighetto, Vitra, Knoll, Minotti, Kartell, Desalto. Owners (and stepsisters) Eugenie Perret and Juliette Brody have made it their mission to educate Philadelphians on the virtues of Modernism.
Gallery Joe 302 Arch St.; 215/592-7752. Set in a former Quaker bookstore, Becky and Gil Kerlin's drawing and sculpture gallery has two exhibition spaces: a large front room and a tiny vault, where smaller shows are displayed. The Kerlins present a dozen shows a year, exhibiting the cutting-edge work of both local and national artists.
Larry Becker Contemporary Art 43 N. Second St.; 215/925-5389. This was one of the first galleries to open in the neighborhood. Becker and his wife, Heidi Nivling, sell paintings and drawings that border on hard-core minimalism and attract collectors who adhere to the less-is-more rule.

East End Salon 219 Arch St.; 215/592-6486. Three historic houses (one rumored to have been Betsy Ross's residence) were joined to create this charming salon. There's a nod to the past—original oak floors, brick walls—but what would Betsy think of the seaweed facial?

By Kimberly SeelyMalia BoydMary Biersdorfer and Meg Cohen Ragas