8.4 out of 10

Portage Bay

Ranked 33rd best neighborhood in Seattle
47.6449564163205 -122.320152243631
Great for
  • Safe & Sound
  • Neighborly Spirit
  • Clean & Green
  • Parking
  • Peace & Quiet
Not great for
  • Cost of Living
  • Pest Free
  • Shopping Options
  • Gym & Fitness
  • Nightlife
Who lives here?
  • Professionals
  • Families with kids
  • Singles
  • Retirees
  • Students

Reviews

5/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 5/5
  • Safe & Sound 5/5
  • Clean & Green 5/5
  • Pest Free 3/5
  • Peace & Quiet 5/5
  • Eating Out 5/5
  • Nightlife 1/5
  • Parks & Recreation 5/5
  • Shopping Options 2/5
  • Gym & Fitness 2/5
  • Internet Access 5/5
  • Lack of Traffic 2/5
  • Parking 5/5
  • Cost of Living 1/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 5/5
  • Public Transport 4/5
  • Medical Facilities 4/5
  • Schools 5/5
  • Childcare 5/5
Sep 23, 2017

"Hidden Gem"

This small, tucked away neighborhood at the intersection of 520 and I-5 is truly a hidden gem. I was born and raised in the Seattle area and never considered moving here until looking a little over a year ago. Familiar with Queen Anne, Magnolia, Ballard, Fremont, and Wallingford, taking time to see a place in Portage Bay seemed like a shot in the dark. That being said, I instantly fell in love with this neighborhood.

The freeway access is phenomenal - whether you are heading to Bellevue, Downtown, or out of town. Access to the bus going downtown or to the U-District is a short walk away. If you prefer light rail, you can take the bus to Capitol Hill Station or walk around the bay (20 minute walk max) to the light rail station by Husky Stadium. Speaking of Husky Stadium, living in Portage Bay on game day is a huge advantage. You can walk to the stadium, but do not have the craziness of Montlake even though that neighborhood is a 5 minute walk away.

As for shopping: there is no convenient grocery store, though in a pinch there are options. The Montlake Market is a few minute drive from the neighborhood. You can also go to Little Lago, a great place that serves excellent Italian fare (pizza, pasta, and oven roasted chicken), coffee, beer and wine. It is also open for breakfast, which consists of bagels, other pastries, and even hot food items. This is in the heart of Portage Bay. Little Lago is the smaller sister cafe to the larger Cafe Lago restaurant in Montlake.

Speaking of food, the proximity of Portage Bay to the U-District, Montlake, and Eastlake make it ideal for those wanting to try different eateries. Additionally, Capitol Hill is only a short bus ride away and offers one of the best spots in the city for restaurants. While the convenient access and food options are plenty, so are parks. Whether taking time at the historic Roanoke Park (great for families) or strolling to the Montlake Playfields (which houses the community center, large playground, and turf field), there are plenty of options for those who want to do outdoor activities. If you have a kayak, you can even access the water in several places and paddle over to Lake Union for a view of downtown or out to Lake Washington for the day.

The largest downside to Portage Bay is the lack of grocery stores and shopping. Aside from Little Lago all other options are outside of the neighborhood. Given its size, it would not make sense to have a store in Portage Bay. Those who live here either should think ahead before coming home or plan on going to get groceries at University Village or on Capitol Hill. These are both a short drive away, have parking, and offer a variety of options.
Pros
  • Lots of parks
  • Friendly neighbors
  • Close to major university
  • Close to Seattle Prepartory High School
  • Good Interstate and highway access
  • The best pub ever
  • Waterfront
Cons
  • Limited shopping and other amenities
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Singles
  • Families with kids
4/5
Apr 08, 2016

"The neighborhood with the best pub ever"

So there are tons of sports bars in Seattle, but for some reason I think the Roanoke is the best one. It’s not that there’s anything that special about it, but it just has a good feel to it you know? I think because it reminds me of my Euro-trip, it’s kinda like some of the pubs in the UK—small, comfortable, darkish, people of all ages, sports on the telly. (And they consider political debates sports so if you’re into that too).

Or maybe it’s just because they have the best happy hour EVER. Every weekday has a different special but by far Wednesdays are the best. You can get $1 cans of beer and $1 tacos!! The tacos are greasy as all hell, and the food is slow to come out (they only have 1 person in the kitchen), but who cares when you can spend $8 and be stuffed and buzzed.

Mostly though it’s just because it’s got such a chill atmosphere that you can bring anyone there and they’ll feel comfortable. Oh that and there’s ping pong on the back patio when it’s nice out.

Ok I think you get the point I really like Roanoke Pub.

I don’t really know what else is in the Portage bay neighborhood to be honest. There’s a bay I guess. Oh and I’ve been to the park there at the bottom of the bay, but I’m not sure if that’s still in Portage Bay neighborhood or not. I’ve been there because they have a track. But then I remembered that I hate running on tracks and I never went back.

So basically, instead of running on the track, I ran to the pub. Win win situation.
Pros
  • The best pub ever
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 5/5
  • Clean & Green 4/5
  • Peace & Quiet 4/5
  • Eating Out 2/5
  • Nightlife 1/5
  • Parks & Recreation 3/5
  • Shopping Options 1/5
  • Lack of Traffic 2/5
  • Parking 4/5
  • Public Transport 3/5
Dec 27, 2015

"Full of houses, BIG and small"

Portage Bay is a tiny Seattle neighborhood squeezed on a triangle of land bounded by highways I-5 and 520, and Portage Bay, a small body of water between Lake Union and Lake Washington. The two highways dominate this part of town, with much of the western edge of the neighborhood in the shadow of I-5, which towers overhead.

A mainly residential neighborhood, most streets here are lined with housing. The only place you’ll find restaurants are along Eastlake Avenue, just next to the University Bridge (a draw bridge that can get backed up during the summer as it opens frequently to let yachts and sailboats through). Sebi’s Bistro, in a quaint brick castle building on the corner does delicious polish food, and Le Fournil has gorgeous baked goods that are works of art. It’s not the best spot for working though, since it’s very popular for lunch with lots of people chatting loudly and shuffling in and out of the small café. And that’s pretty much it for restaurants. Counter-intuitively, this is not where any of the four locations of Portage Bay Café, the well-known Seattle brunch destination, are located.

But luckily you’re only a short walk from the U-district, due north, for many more food options, as well as a few in Eastlake if you head west. You’re also only a couple blocks from one of my favorite pubs, Roanoke, which is officially in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. It’s an unpretentious, cozy brick pub often buzzing with conversation and filled with people of all ages and backgrounds. On Wednesdays, they have $1 tacos and cans of beer! It’s a very low-key place to meet with good group of friends who just want to relax and enjoy each other’s company. They also screen most Seahawks games if you’re into that kind of thing.

As for housing, this neighborhood, like most of Seattle, is pretty pricey, and not much becomes available often. Though you'll mostly find single family houses, there are also a few condos and apartments near I-5. Just find out how much light you'll actually get, as some of the apartments are directly under I-5, literally in it's shadow. For college students, even though the location is great being close to the University of Washington, the price will be out of reach for most.

Speaking of students, no doubt one of the reasons this neighborhood is in high demand is the proximity of Seattle Preparatory School, a high-performing Jesuit high school that regularly sends students to Ivy League universities. Though also officially part of Capitol Hill, it’s only a few blocks from Portage Bay. No surprise then, that alongside the small houses in the neighborhood, there are also some very large ones that are owned by some of Seattle’s wealthier residents. If you’re looking to buy, you could easily be spending in the millions.
Pros
  • Close to Seattle Prepartory High School
  • Close to major university
Cons
  • Limited housing
  • Limited shopping and other amenities
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Families with kids
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Peace & Quiet 4/5
  • Eating Out 2/5
  • Nightlife 2/5
  • Parks & Recreation 2/5
  • Shopping Options 1/5
  • Lack of Traffic 3/5
2yrs+

"An Out-Of-The Way Place"

Portarage Bay is a little out of the way even by Seattle terms. Totally out of the way and with not a lot of Seattle-like stuff to do Portarage Bay is a great place to live if you want to have great seaside views and none of the Seattle craziness.

Housing is not cheap in the area but the neighborhoods are nice, well maintained and not quite cookie cut outs of each other, but some of the neighborhoods seem like they were done as a huge development where you just got to pick your color and landscape patterns. Because the area is away for it all, families can flourish here because the city crime and hostility doesn’t bleed over into the area.

However, being so secluded does have its disadvantages because you have to drive a fairly long distance to find decent restaurants and shopping outlets. A few restaurants are in the area, but they tend to be more convention food than a great sit down restaurant aimed at families and people wanting a nice night out.
Recommended for
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 3/5
  • Safe & Sound 3/5
  • Clean & Green 3/5
  • Peace & Quiet 2/5
  • Eating Out 4/5
  • Nightlife 3/5
  • Parks & Recreation 3/5
  • Shopping Options 2/5
  • Gym & Fitness 3/5
  • Internet Access 4/5
  • Lack of Traffic 2/5
  • Parking 3/5
  • Cost of Living 2/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 4/5
  • Public Transport 3/5
  • Medical Facilities 2/5
  • Schools 3/5
  • Childcare 3/5
2yrs+

"The Portage Bay Triangle"

Defining the boundaries of this neighborhood might be one of the easiest aspects of this review. It forms a triangle, bordered by Interstate 5, Highway 520, a sliver of Eastlake Avenue, and Portage Bay (no surprises there).

Similar in feel to Eastlake, but larger around the waist. Fuhrman Avenue and to some degree, Harvard Avenue provide arterial movement through the vicinity.

The title of this review encompasses a lot of truth about the area. For the most part, this section of Seattle can easily go unnoticed and be seen as a "filler" between the interstate and highway. The Bermuda Triangle, the inspiration of my title, doesn't completely play into the review. I don't want anyone to go away thinking all will be lost here. However, there does seem to be a bit of a "disappearance" of business activity. There is not much in the way of dining and shopping. Though, what does exist is eye-catching.

Beginning in the north, Romio's occupies the top corner with its famous reputation. It can be argued whether this lies in Eastlake or in Portage Bay. Regardless, the architecture of this place is worth mentioning a second time. Even if you don't dine here, at least stop and absorb the creative juices that erected this structure. Moving south on Eastlake will bring about Kristos, a very cool bistro-like pub. They have a great variety ranging from hamburgers to filet-mignon. A venue to enjoy when off work and to meet friends on the weekends.

Another place to order food, though not exclusively a restaurant, is the Queen City Yacht Club in the southeast corner. They have a cafe with food items. Obviously, this establishment offers excursions around the area for a cost. Several outings, for example, are planned between now and Halloween. It's not quite the same caliber as the yacht club next door in Montlake, however.

One place not widely known about is The Film School on Boyer Avenue. It features a well-known faculty, including actor Tom Skerritt. Others, like Robert Redford, serve on the advisory board. Here, students absorb the intricacies of cinematic storytelling. Beware, the next film you watch could have been written by one of these grads. They even have a Summer film camp for kids, introducing them early to the art.

Being near the vicinity of the University of Washington drives a healthy student population. Who wouldn't live here with such a short commute, including biker friendly roads and a bike lane on the bridge. A couple of weeks ago I rode, along with thousands of others, across the bridge and down Fuhrman Avenue at 5 am heading toward Portland (In which I arrived around 15 hours later).

Besides a small square of land-based residential living, a couple of churches have set up camp here, along with some counseling services.

If being on land is not a priority, a large houseboat population skirts the water's edge. This is helpful in boosting the neighborhood's population. Generous boat traffic through the bay and canal can be entertaining on those delightful Summer days. The addition of this aqua community raises the desirability of the area for some.

Being hugged by the interstate and 520 have its advantages, like their very own on-ramp to I-5 North off of Harvard Ave. Also, included is quick exiting from 520 directly onto Harvard. Only a couple of access points exist to cross into Eastlake, mainly in the south and north.

Having hard and fast boundaries isn't all that bad, especially when you can jump in your motorboat or yacht and take Lake Union towards downtown. On the other hand, on a student's budget, it would mean paddling a canoe to class across the canal. Whatever your situation, Portage Bay is a delightful community for any resident seeking quality Seattle living.
Pros
  • Close to major university
  • Waterfront
  • Good Interstate and highway access
Cons
  • Limited shopping and other amenities
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Singles
  • Retirees
  • Students
  • Trendy & Stylish

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