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Originally published December 3, 2009 at 12:06 AM | Page modified December 3, 2009 at 8:03 AM

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12th Avenue is hot strip for foodies and martial arts

Tan Vinh riffs on Capitol Hill's 12th Avenue block of restaurants, shops and more.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Capitol Hill's 12th Avenue has become the new hot spot for the foodie crowd.

And no, it has nothing to do with celebrities Mario Batali and Anthony Bourdain, who dined at Café Presse this summer along this strip. The duo may have created a lot of buzz, but local chefs and bartenders frequented Café Presse — usually after the lunch crowd rush — and Stumptown Coffee long before those New Yorkers dropped in.

The strip has gotten a lot of attention because several restaurants have opened in the past two years. Here we take a look at 12th Avenue between East Pike Street and East Union Street.

Tan Vinh: 206-515-5656 or

See map with corresponding numbers at right.

1. Plum Bistro, 1429 12th Ave. You roll out of bed one morning, open a fancy vegan restaurant and who walks in? Actor Tobey Maguire, who became a regular while shooting the movie "The Details" in Seattle.

2. Izilla Toys, 1429 12th Ave. This being a foodie strip, of course one of its featured toys would be a $130 Gourmet Chef Kitchen toy set. Offers lots of story times and other kids' events in its children's book section.

3. Osteria La Spiga, 1429 12th Ave. Northern Italian-cuisine restaurant and maybe training ground for future Tom Douglases. Chef and co-owner Sabrina Tinsley, a former Iron Chef America contestant, holds kids' cooking classes that often sell out.

4. Retrofit Home, 1419 12th Ave. You could be tipsy and stumble into here and think you're in one of the Fireworks Gallery stores. Same theme: home accessories, key chains, stationery and even the same Uglydolls and gurgling jugs. In other words, a lot of random stuff you don't need, won't use and yet you buy anyway.

5. Seattle Wing Chun, 1205 E. Pike St., Suite BC. The late Bruce Lee practiced the Wing Chun martial art, which explains why you'll see more Wing Chun studios here than in most other states.

6. Barrio, 1420 12th Ave. Features a wide selection of gourmet tacos such as pork shoulder with raisins and almonds. Pretty underappreciated for its tequila bar, which features 60 different tequilas, all half off on Mondays.

7. Tavern Law, 1406 12th Ave. The city's premier speakeasy-style cocktail lounge and worst-kept secret. It's located upstairs through the bank-vault door. Pick up the rotary phone to get buzzed in.

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