Rainier Avenue South runs through the heart of the Valley. Headed south from Dearborn Street the Valley really begins after crossing beneath I-90 with a series of stalwart businesses with a lot of years behind them: Oh Boy! Oberto Factory Outlet, 1715 Rainier Ave. S., Stewart Lumber, 1761 Rainier Ave. S., Borracchini’s Bakery, 2307 Rainier Ave. S. and Mutual Fish, 2335 Rainier Ave. S., all destinations from outside the neighborhood.
After Lowe’s, 2700 Rainier Ave. S., the chain stores and ethnic eateries and used tire places take over. The Silver Fork restaurant, 3800 Rainier Ave. S. on the left, is a Valley gathering spot admired for its hospitality, classic diner breakfasts and its grits.
Columbia City (borders: South Alaska St. on the north, 35th Ave. S. on the west, 42nd Ave. S. on the east, South Dawson Street on the South) runs several business blocks. It has a used bookstore, art gallery, bakery, a Carnegie library and a wide array of restaurants and shops. Tutta Bella and La Medusa are classic neighborhood restaurants, but there are many worthies here.
Rainier Beach lies a few minutes father south with its new Safeway center, views of the water and a number of noteworthy restaurants, including Café Vignole, 9252 57th Ave. S. and Mayas Restaurant, 9447 Rainier Ave. S.
Doubling back along Martin Luther King Jr. Way headed north the East African and Asian influences add an international flavor, as does Viet-Wah Superfoods, 6040 Martin Luther King Jr. Way.
Beacon Hill’s commercial district, clustered on its northwest brow, has a number of ethnic eateries and is anchored by the Red Apple. The foods sold within testify to the Hill’s diversity, which includes a significant Hispanic population. McPherson’s Fruit and Produce, 4500 15th Ave. S., is one of the Hill’s delights.
Georgetown, along Airport Way South between South Lucile and South Bailey streets, features businesses like Helmut Head (a hair salon), Two Tartes Bakery, Calamity Jane’s, Stellar Pizza & Ale and Smarty Pants, a popular spot with outdoor seating in fair weather.
The “hip” part of Georgetown is concentrated in these few blocks, which includes Georgetown Records, Fanta Graphics, Via Tribunali Pizza and All City Coffee. It’s all very understated and intriguing.
Maruta Shoten, 1024 S. Bailey St., is a small scale, lower priced Uwajimaya.
South Michigan Street is busy, crossed by Fourth Avenue South etc., and it may seem a traffic-clogged wasteland, but there are some excellent restaurants tucked away on the side streets, one of which is Kauai Family Restaurant 6324 Sixth Ave. S., a gathering spot for locals who hail from the islands.