A bowl of gumbo from Island Soul Rum Bar & Soul Shack. (Photo: Island Soul Rum Bar & Soul Shack)

Intentionalist: Enjoy the Final Days of Summer on the Patios at These Local Restaurants

by Kristina Rivera

Intentionalist is built on one simple idea: where we spend our money matters. We make it easy to find, learn about, and support small businesses and the diverse people behind them through everyday decisions about where we eat, drink, and shop. #SpendLikeItMatters

Fall is around the corner and we can’t be the only ones in denial. 

Chilly September mornings have started and pumpkin spice everything has begun to emerge from its yearly hibernation, but we’re not ready to let go of summer just yet. 

The first day of fall isn’t until Sept. 22, so we’re taking every moment until then to enjoy summer’s final days before the inevitable cold settles in. And what better way to enjoy the sun than by enjoying a meal outside?

For people like us who want to enjoy the warm weather while it lasts, here are three Seattle restaurants with patios where you can savor the last bit of summer:

Theo Martin, the owner of Columbia City’s Island Soul Rum Bar & Soul Shack. (Photo: Intentionalist)
Theo Martin, the owner of Columbia City’s Island Soul Rum Bar & Soul Shack. (Photo: Intentionalist)

Island Soul Rum Bar & Soul Shack

Island Soul Rum Bar & Soul Shack in Columbia City is a labor of love for owner Theo Martin. Theo and his family have been in the restaurant business and serving their community for decades. His dad originally opened Cuslita’s Caribbean Cafe in the Central District in the ‘70s, which Theo took over after his dad passed away. He changed the restaurant’s name to Island Soul Rum Bar & Soul Shack and moved it to Columbia City over 15 years ago. Now, Theo’s son is helping run Island Soul and keep the family tradition alive. The Island Soul menu highlights a fusion of native Caribbean foods and traditional soul food from the Louisiana Bayou based on recipes Theo’s father used at his restaurant.

Island Soul’s patio is a sought-after space for gathering with family and friends. Their cozy outdoor seating areae has four picnic tables that seat six people (or eight if you’re willing to squeeze). While you’re out there, make sure to order Theo’s favorite dishes — the slow-cooked oxtail stew, sweet plantains, rice and beans, and a side of coconut cornbread. Combine them all together, and you’re in for the perfect bite.

“If you’re looking to have food that sticks to your soul, you’d come in. If you’re looking for great ambiance, great people, great service, and bottom line amazing food, you would come in … I was raised [by] a father who was 50 years older than me. The way you respect your elders and you honor and work for your community is by being a part of it. And that’s what I feel about this restaurant. If somebody wants to come and be a part of the community, they need to come to our restaurant.”

— Theo Martin

Plates of food from Meskel Ethiopian Restaurant enjoyed on the restaurant’s patio. (Photo: Meskel Ethiopian)
Plates of food from Meskel Ethiopian Restaurant enjoyed on the restaurant’s patio. (Photo: Meskel Ethiopian)

Meskel Ethiopian Restaurant

Belaynesh “Bebe” Chera didn’t know how to speak English or how to cook when she immigrated to the U.S. from Ethiopia in 1995. Fast forward to today, and Bebe’s restaurant, Meskel Ethiopian Restaurant, has been featured in CNN Travel, Seattle Met, and Seattle Eater as one of the best restaurants for Ethiopian food in the city. 

After coming to Seattle, Bebe lived with her husband’s family and longed to have a space of her own. She rented an 800-square-foot house on 12th Avenue and East Cherry Street using all the money she had and called family back home to teach her step by step how to cook their Ethiopian recipes. In one month, she cleaned up the house, furnished it with tables and chairs, and opened the doors to Meskel, which has been a neighborhood staple ever since. In 2003, she relocated the restaurant to a house on 26th Avenue and East Cherry Street and renovated it to be the homey, cozy space she runs with her family today.

Bebe’s daughter, Sarendum Alemu, has been helping her mom at Meskel her whole life, from helping her make injera in the kitchen at 5 years old to waitressing when she was in high school and college. Sarendum highly recommends the Zilzil Tibbs (or the barbecue special), which consists of berbere-spiced steak cooked with cabernet on a hot plate until it’s charred on the outside but juicy on the inside. Meskel Ethiopian has a spacious wrap-around, split-level patio that overlooks 26th and Cherry, so you can get city or neighborhood street views while enjoying your tibbs.

“It’s funny watching my mom because there’s not a person in Seattle she doesn’t know. She’ll greet everyone, it doesn’t matter who it is. And they all love her. I can’t go anywhere without her knowing people because she really takes time to get to know every single customer and neighbor. I don’t think the restaurant would be as successful if my mom wasn’t there because she’ll take time and sit down with every single table … Our neighbors aren’t just neighbors, they’re truly part of our family.”

— Sarendum Alemu

Teresa Nguyen, co-owner of Ba Bar standing outside her restaurant. (Photo: Intentionalist)

Ba Bar

Ba Bar owners Teresa Nguyen and her husband, Eric Banh, offer an elevated and creative take on Vietnamese street food as well as incredible cocktails. Situated on the cusp of Capitol Hill and the Central District, Teresa and Eric opened Ba Bar in 2011 and have since expanded to locations in South Lake Union and University Village. Teresa grew up watching her mom hustle as an entrepreneur to find ways to make money after the fall of Saigon in Vietnam. Her hard work and entrepreneurial spirit inspired Teresa to one day open her own small business. Teresa said she loves the vibrant and diverse community surrounding Ba Bar and they’ve worked hard throughout the pandemic to give back, including giving free and discounted meals to healthcare and hospitality workers.

Some of Teresa’s favorite items on the Ba Bar menu are the Phở Tái Oxtail and Mì Vịt Tiềm (which features Maple Leaf Farms duck confit). Ba Bar’s Capitol Hill location has a heated patio adorned with string lights and foliage-covered partitions, which hits the perfect balance of privacy and people-watching while enjoying your meal.

“Being in Seattle and escaping from Vietnam to America where you have so much freedom is a huge risk. Eric kept saying, ‘It’s in our DNA that we’re big risk takers and we want to try something new. We want to be creative, we want to bring our passion and share it with other people.’ Growing up in Vietnam, my mom was a big entrepreneur — she would try all kinds of stuff. After the fall of Saigon, it was very tough, if you know about Vietnam history. I saw my mom being an entrepreneur from selling rice to selling wood to having a small business of a lumber company. So, I’ve always thought that someday I would be an entrepreneur, having a small business like my mom.”

— Teresa Nguyen 

Kristina Rivera is the marketing and communications coordinator at Intentionalist. She graduated from Western Washington University with a degree in journalism and public relations and has worked with organizations ranging from local nonprofits to global PR firms.

📸 Featured Image: A bowl of gumbo from Island Soul Rum Bar & Soul Shack. (Photo: Island Soul Rum Bar & Soul Shack)

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