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Originally published Thursday, May 28, 2009 at 12:00 AM

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U District's "Ave" has become bubble-tea central

What's new on Seattle's University Way.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Numbers correspond to numbers on map.

1. Shinka Tea, 4727 University Way N.E.: Don't let the smaller tapioca pearls fool you, Shinka Tea makes the best bubble tea (also called boba) on The Ave. Drinks made from premium loose tea leaves, mostly oolong tea.

2. Turquoise Boutique, 4730 University Way N.E., Suite 101: Like Forever 21. Only more expensive.

3. Citra, 4730 University Way N.E., Suite 105: One of the newest frozen yogurt stops on The Ave, with a second branch coming in Queen Anne soon. This city's version of the popular Pinkberry and Red Mango chains.

4. Upper Playground, 4730 University Way N.E.: One of the city's best hip-hop stores, with T-shirts designed by graffiti- and urban artists. This San Francisco-based chain also features an art gallery in the back.

5. Lucky, 4742 University Way N.E.: One of many vintage stores on The Ave. This store focuses mostly on clothes from the 1930s to the 1980s.

6. Valley of Roses Boutique, 4748A University Way N.E.: Was supposedly once Bruce Lee's martial arts studio, hence the collection and books about Lee, in between military uniforms and moon boots.

7. Grand Illusion Cinema, 1403 N.E. 50th St.: One of the city's oldest movie theaters, featuring lost classics and independent films.

8. Star Life on the Oasis Café, 1405 N.E. 50th St.: Still one of the Ave's best kept secrets. A great place to just bring your laptop, order a cup of joe and just hang out.

You know how, in some neighborhoods, you see a latte stand or three on every block? Well, here on The Ave, it's bubble-tea houses, sandwiched between vintage shops, boutiques and ethnic restaurants along this drag off the University of Washington campus.

Folks, you can't find this many Asian bubble-tea houses in most Chinatowns in America.

The Ave, as this strip of University Way Northeast is nicknamed, also hosts dozens of cheap ethnic restaurants: Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, Mexican, Korean, Indian, Greek, Trinidadian, even Brazilian food. And now a flood of frozen yogurt shops dots the street.

This week, we peek at The Ave between 47th and 50th streets.

Tan Vinh: 206-515-5656 or

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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