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Originally published July 20, 2011 at 7:01 PM | Page modified July 23, 2011 at 3:52 PM

First Hill showing signs of awakening

Microhoods: A look at changing neighborhoods, a block at a time

Seattle Times staff reporter

quotes Yoshino Teriyaki on Madison! Spicy chicken - yum! Best ever! Read more
quotes The new Vito's is awesome...good food and good drinks. Read more
quotes No, SeaTimes, no! Remember, this neighborhood was supposed to be our little secret... Read more


You could wake up from a decadelong coma and Madison Street on First Hill would pretty much look the same.

The Polish deli is still here, 28 years and going strong. Sorrento Hotel is a century old. Vito's is back.

While neighborhoods such as Belltown and Capitol Hill seem to have evolved or gentrified, First Hill, for the most part, still looks like, well, First Hill from 50 years ago.

At lunch time, you can find the Pill Hill work force in scrubs, roaming around for a quick bite, but the hood still hasn't shaken its bad rep as a seedy place at night.

There is great history and tradition here — landmarks such as the Stimson-Green Mansion, Dearborn House and St. James Cathedral; cultural offerings such as the Frye Art Museum and Town Hall.

Now, though, two establishments, the Sorrento Hotel and Vito's, have helped generate buzz around Madison Street and First Hill.

A look at Madison Street between Terry Avenue and Ninth Avenue:

1. Sorrento Hotel, 900 Madison St. Two of the more interesting events in the city: "Chamber vs. Chamber," two musical groups, one playing classical chamber music, the other indie rock; and "Silent Reading," where you sit in the hotel's Fireside Room and read, with live background piano music.

2. Quarter Lounge, 909 Madison St. A divey bar, a favorite of many apartment dwellers nearby. I ordered a "Shock Top Beer." Barman said, "Most bars in the city, they will put an orange (slice) on top. But we're not that fancy," and plopped down a pint in front of me.

3. George's Sausage & Delicatessen, 907 Madison St. When this Polish deli opened in 1983, "there was only us and McDonald's," on Madison Street, said Janet Lidzbarski, who owns it with her husband, George. The Pill Hillers grab their sandwiches on the run here. They sell a lot of sausage and smoked pork loins.

4. First Hill Bar & Grill, 901 Madison St. Sort of a Greek restaurant, but looks more like a diner, a favorite of patrons from Quarter Lounge.

5. Vito's, 927 Ninth Ave. Opened in 1953, this historic bar had slowly deteriorated until it was put out of its misery nearly two years ago. Greg Lundgren and Jeff Scott, who owned the artsy cocktail bar The Hideout nearby, reopened Vito's last September, to revive that old Seattle vibe. Has become a favorite place of cocktail geeks who like their drinks strong and bitter. Best-kept secret for cheap date is Tuesday night, when all wine bottles are half off and there is free live jazz and R&B.

Tan Vinh: 206-515-5656 or

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