One Foot in Front of the Other

Like an overstuffed bagel sandwich, this walking route fell apart a bit at the end.

As you might have heard, Seattle’s bagel scene is on the rise. Arguably, the epicenter of this bagel-ssance is Capitol Hill, where standbys like Eltana and Westman’s have been joined in recent years by the likes of Rubinstein Bagels and, more recently, popular former pop-up Loxsmith.

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Using seven bagel spots as waypoints, I drew a vaguely bagel-shaped loop around Capitol Hill. All was hunky-dory until I got to Loxsmith on Thanksgiving weekend and found myself among the last customers at the bakery’s Cap Hill digs. (Per Loxsmith’s Instagram, the location inside Nacho Borracho is closed “until relocation complete tbd.”)

So that’s a bummer. Still, you can sample a half-dozen tasty bagels while enjoying this fall walk around Capitol Hill, which showcases both the buzzing side of the neighborhood and its quieter, tree-lined streets and parks. Wear good shoes and bring a bagel bag!

(To be clear: I am not a bagel critic and this is not a bagel ranking. Walk, eat, be merry!)

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Capitol Hill Bagel Loop

Round-trip distance: 4.6 miles

This walk starts in the center — the bagel hole, if you will — at Rubinstein Bagels on 15th Avenue East.

On a clear, cool afternoon, I grabbed a hot coffee and a bagel sampler from Rubinstein (bacon, egg and cheese on everything; salted rosemary with cream cheese), enjoyed a few delicious bites, tossed my leftovers in a brown Safeway bag and got stepping.

Head west on East Harrison Street, toward Broadway, the skyscrapers and the Space Needle, all of which will come into view within a couple of rise-and-fall blocks. The relative quiet is disrupted by passing buses and cars as you walk downhill toward Broadway. Two blocks south on Broadway is Nacho Borracho, no more than 10 minutes from Rubinstein — so maybe it’s for the better that folks can’t hit Loxsmith right now (though their everything bagel with cream cheese, my go-to, was splendid).

Since Loxsmith’s bagels are off the table, stick to the east side of the street as you cross East John. Pop into Cal Anderson Park off East Denny; you’ll pass tall, vibrant placards with messages like “Silence = Death” and “Dream Big End AIDS” — pieces from the AIDS Memorial Pathway — as you walk up the hill toward the reflecting pool and reservoir. It’s a nice place to enjoy a quiet snack before continuing on this bagel trek.

Turning eastward (left) before the sports fields, take East Olive Street out of the park. There’s a protected walkway across 12th Avenue, or you can opt for the stoplight at East Pine Street, but you’ll need to cross the street — Eltana, with its smaller, honey-tinged bagels, is just across Pine.

At Eltana, where I got a salted bagel with cream cheese, I chatted with the lone front-of-house employee about the sunny afternoon, which he said he still got to enjoy through the store’s floor-to-ceiling windows. I toasted his bagel-half-buttered attitude and went on my way.

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Being a shameless tagline/pun type of guy — I may or may not have written my middle school’s slogan — I had coined this stretch of the walk in my head as The Bagel-muda Triangle well before I had the full route. Eltana is the west base of the triangle, Westman’s on East Madison Street the east, and Dingfelder’s Delicatessen on Pine the tip.

There’s a parklet you’ll pass on Madison headed to Westman’s that’s perfect for taste-testing Eltana’s Montreal-influenced bagel and Westman’s New Yorker. Both were warm, tasty, crispy-outside-softer-inside slices of fall perfection. Either would pair well with love, coffee and a backyard full of orange-leaved trees. You will receive no criticism from me!

Dingfelder’s rounds out the more hectic section of Capitol Hill; I got an everything bagel with lox schmear and backtracked to Madison headed toward 19th Avenue East. (A note: Dingfelder’s gets their bagels from Blazing Bagels.)

Walking north on 19th seems a world away from Broadway. Cobblestone streets run uphill to the left; Miller Park comes up quickly on your right. I love this part of Capitol Hill — I guess it’s technically Stevens — because, after my first days at The Seattle Times two years ago, I would wander up Denny from South Lake Union and explore the neighborhood while waiting for my ride back to Renton, where I stayed while apartment-hunting.

By the time you indulge a daydream, you’ll have arrived at Macrina Bakery on East Aloha Street, across the street from St. Joseph. I enjoyed my toasted sesame bagel outside under the watchful eye of Jesus’ dad while seated a table away from two St. Joe’s students in hunter-green sweatshirts and plaid jumpers. I know they were St. Joe’s students because, evidently, Catholic school uniforms have not changed at all in the last 20-plus years.

You might choose to stay a bit longer at Macrina, where it’s warm inside, an oasis after nibbling on five bagels. (By then, my Safeway bag was half-full with unfinished circles.) Of course, you could leave half of this route for later, but if you carry on, you’re in for a treat.

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All the way up 19th is East Galer Street and the winding entrance to Interlaken Park. Start up the day’s final uphill stretch to our last-but-not-least destination: hot newcomer Volunteer Park Cafe & Pantry, which has impressed J. Kenji López-Alt with its not-quite-bagel sandwiches. (Note: They’re closed Mondays and Tuesdays.) Yes, it’s technically a poppy seed roll. But it’s delicious, and this is a walking story, so we’re rolling with it.

(If you haven’t picked it up yet, pun obviously intended.)

Head uphill from the cafe toward its namesake park to enjoy the day’s final ba…ked, circular breakfast treat. I’m partial to the reservoir, where I once saw a bald eagle unsuccessfully pursue lesser birds for the better part of an hour — a time-honored Cap Hill pastime, I like to think.

Our map exits the park on East Prospect Street and returns to Broadway before backtracking to Rubinstein Bagels along East Harrison Street. But if you leave the park and just want to head home, bagel bag in hand, nobody will blame you.

As with any good bagel, you can always come back later for the last bite.