Features & Images » Travel


Yet another once-dowdy Seattle suburb is coming into its own



The City of Bothell, northeast of Seattle and directly north of Kirkland and Bellevue, is re-emerging as a high-tech employment base with an updated if still historic downtown, appealing culinary culture, and commendable environmental ethic.

After more than a century as a logging hub and then bedroom community, Bothell, with a population of 33,000, is now staking its claim as a well-rounded tourist destination, located just off the Interstate I-5 and 405 highways, about 200 kilometres south of Vancouver.

Despite a fusty name that recalls the settler who acquired 80 acres of mostly forest in 1888 (from a Canadian), Bothell now emits a nice combination of relaxed ordinariness and progressive ideals.

And importantly, the incorporated city is strategically linked to the City of Woodinville — a kind of Western Washington wine paradise — directly east, and to central Seattle, via a series of cycling and walking trails along the pastoral Sammamish River and Lake Washington.

Downtown Bothell — in the throes of a half-billion dollar redevelopment — revolves around Main Street, a narrow and leafy thoroughfare that wends its way downward. Modest art galleries and clothing shops jostle with crowded eateries like the Main Street Ale House (15 craft beers on tap) and Hillcrest Bakery, a much-loved Dutch-inspired establishment.

In early June, I joined the annual downtown wine walk. Bothell now hosts a number of smallish wineries, adding to the more than 100 in neighbouring Woodinville, some very large. In storefronts along its Main Street — from Alexa's Café to a palates studio — local vintners poured their wines, making for a fun and funky event.

A 10-minute-walk from downtown, where the modern University of Washington at Bothell (3,300 students) is deftly built into a forested hillside, campus tour guide Conor McEnulty walked our group down into the natural wetlands that the campus is restoring.

Originally logged, and then used for grazing, the 58 acres that front along North Creek (restored to its original bed), is returning to its natural habitat. Immature Western Red Cedar, Black Cottonwood and Big-leaf Maple are among the native species in a lush riverine culture complete with swamps and ponds, indigenous plants and wildlife.

What will soon be a self-sustaining ecosystem has been named one of the best urban restored wetlands in the U.S. by the Department of Ecology and Army Corp of Engineers.

Interestingly, this eco-minded campus boasts a long list of sustainability practices, including a worm program that sees thousands of the plump red wigglers work their way through the campus compost. Further, the campus happily celebrates the roughly 10,000 crows that swoop, perch, caw and roost (September through April) in the vicinity. We're told they enjoy the campus brewed coffee, and a little beer, now and then.

The lovely riverine habit extends down to the town's Bothell Landing, where a large park and paths extend along the slow-moving Sammamish. On the rainy day I visited, a few hardy types were "stand-up paddle surfing" in what was a still and pristine water setting.

Outdoor markets, like the longtime Yakima Fruit Market and Nursery, and the Friday public market at Bothell's Country Village, sell a cornucopia of fresh farm produce. I stocked up on asparagus, Walla Walla onions, and a white (and delicious) sweet radish I'd never seen before. Also available were huge bouquets of gorgeous country flowers at $10 and less.

As in B.C., this area is enjoying something of a return-to-the-earth movement, and the non-profit Skagitonians to Preserve Farmland remains an important backer. Western Washington also supports immigrant farmers from countries as diverse as Laos, Vietnam, Mexico and the former Soviet Union.

While Bothell has lots of mid-range eateries serving reliable fare — such as Pasion Tequila for Mexican, and Grazie Restaurant for Italian — it also boasts a few gems. Among them is the Preservation Kitchen, where my friends and I sat down to a repast that included a duck pate, arugula salad (with smoked Duchilly hazelnuts and Oregonzola), and a wild boar ragu, followed by a dark chocolate torte.

The dishes were paired with wines that included a Sauvignon Blanc from Guardian Cellars, and a Sangiovese from the De Voigne Cellars, both in the neighbouring Woodinville Warehouse District. While this district, a few minutes from Bothell, includes only a third of Woodinville's wineries, craft breweries, meaderies and distilleries (think absinthe and grappa), it's a manageable place to start.

Our morning visit included Efeste, a trendy warehouse space where co-owner Daniel Ferrelli poured a stunning 2011 Riesling, and the more sophisticated-seeming Obelisco Estate, where principal Doug Long introduced us to a series of reds, including a 2012 merlot that won "best of show" at a recent international wine event in LA.

Almost all the grapes used in the Woodinville and Bothell wines come from the hot, dry slopes of southeastern Washington.

Despite this heady wine scene, both Woodinville and Bothell remain laid back. And Bothell, at least, vows to keep it that way. In creating a new city centre over the next five years, its goal, it says, is to combine "big city demographics" with "a small-town feel."

Add a comment