Hidden Gems Seattle: Aurora Avenue

Okay, we know what you are thinking. Aurora Ave? There aren't any gems there, just dirty motels and sketchy car dealerships. Well prepare to be proven wrong. Aurora is one of those misunderstood avenues, like Jack in Titanic. It might seem a little rough around the edges, but once you start to look a little harder you will see it's actually a sweet, kind avenue, with a lot to offer the world. It just needs you to be open to its flaws, which we will remind you, we all have. So we challenge you to channel your inner Rose and look past the occasional scantily-clad woman or grafitti-ed wall and see the hidden gems below! 

The spot for Caribbean food!

The spot for Caribbean food!


This brightly colored spot serves up authentic Caribbean cuisine and is being raved about by everyone who sets foot here. You can get sandwiches or plates (served with black beans and rice), and if you are doing it right, you'll sit outside in their beach-y feeling patio and pretend you are someplace tropical instead of Aurora Ave. It's hard to recommend something since everything we have tried is excellent, but you can't go wrong with the citrus braised pork (The Desi), which is a crowd favorite. 

Sky Nursery

We don't claim to have a green thumb, but if we were to invest in garden plants, we would go to Sky Nursery. This place is HUGE and every gardener's dream. Indoor and outdoor plants, gardening supplies and tools, fountains and art...you can find everything you need to turn your backyard into a garden oasis. You should probably grow tomatoes and bring us some.

Donuts galore and Aurora Donuts

Donuts galore and Aurora Donuts

Aurora Donuts

This tiny donut shop shares space with a Baskin Robbins (hey, feel free to do double duty, we won't judge!). It has all the standards and a large assortment of donut holes (even filled ones!). But our favorite is the kreme donut covered in powdered sugar and filled with either chocolate or vanilla. Yum.

El Camion

A taco truck in Home Depot's parking lot might seem like a risk, but El Camion has proven itself time and time again to be a go-to stop when you need a quick bite and want a taco. We are big fans of the veggie or fish tacos and don't forget to load up on the pickled veggies at the counter.

The French Dip at Grinders

The French Dip at Grinders

Grinders Hot Sands 

Sandwich mecca! It's really hard to choose one of their over-the-top, loaded, hot grinders, but you'll be thankful you did. If you have trouble choosing like us, we like to get the SauBall, which combines the meatball sandwich and the sausage grinder (genius). They also have wine, beer, and live music. What more do you need?

Woodland Pizza

Woodfired pizza and an extensive rotating beer list, makes this an excellent choice for a chill night out. We especially like to go on Monday nights when they have trivia (7pm - 9pm) and order the Italian Stallion pizza. If pizza isn't your thing (who are you?!?!), they also have small plates, a great selection of salads and sandwiches. We also recommend swinging by for breakfast to build your own burrito. 

Brightly colored Mendoza's Mercado

Brightly colored Mendoza's Mercado

Mendoza's Mexican Mercado

This tiny shop does double duty as both a small cafe and a Mexican grocery store. We like coming here for specialty ingredients like pre-marinaded carne asada and Jarritos soda. Don't forget to grab some of the homemade corn tortillas as they are essential for taking your tacos to the next level (oh yes, they are life changing).

Pop Pop Thai Street Food

Chances are you have driven right by this place and never noticed it. It sits in a strip mall/parking lot and doesn't gather much attention, but it's a secret gem that you must, must visit. This Thai street food is some of the best Thai we have ever eaten. We love the grilled chicken, which, we know, sounds extremely boring. Trust us. This dish is bursting with flavor and comes with an incredible tamarind dipping sauce. The braised pork leg, fried rice, and spicy holy basil are also excellent choices.

Than Brothers Pho

This shop only serves pho, and they do it well. The bowls are simple, but delicious and warming and made from a secret family recipe. It is our favorite bowl of pho in the city, and they also get our vote because you get a creme puff for dessert with every pho order.  


Burgermaster has been serving Seattlites burgers since 1952, which gives them instant Aurora street cred! We love the old school feeling of ordering from your car window and having your meal delivered car-side. Sure, they no longer come along on roller skates, but we respect it all the same. They also only serve local, grass-fed, antibiotic-free beef, which gives them a leg-up on those other fast-food burger joints. 

Central Market Grocery

Central Market Grocery

Central Market 

Is it weird to want to marry a grocery store? This place is the best of the best when it comes to getting your weekly haul. Central Market is a Town & Country Market, which is independent and locally owned and operated. It has the largest produce selection of any grocery store we have ever seen, an amazing deli for grabbing lunch, a huge selection of sustainable fish and meat, and a machine that grinds together peanuts and chocolate on the spot making the best toast spread and our favorite guilty pleasure. 

HT Market 

HT Market is another grocery store we love because it focuses on products from around the world. You can get all kinds of specialty goods from Japan, China, Vietnam, India, Thailand, Korea (to name of few) and all at extremely affordable prices. We like to go here for items you might not find elsewhere like the durian fruit, kaffir lime leaves and dumpling wrappers.


The crazy Aurora elephant

The crazy Aurora elephant

Aurora Rental's Elephant

A true roadside attraction right on Aurora. This elephant has been hanging out at Aurora Rentals's for many, many years, and has become somewhat of a landmark. Turns out, you can actually rent this elephant for 10k a day (40k a week...such a bargain!). The only catch is you have to replace it with another zoo type animal while you have the elephant rented. Giraffes or rhinos preferred. No biggie.

125th Street Grill 

Everyone needs a good diner in their life. You know, a place to go to for some "hair of the dog" and a greasy breakfast. We like this grill for their wide selection of omelettes and the pecan cakes for something sweet. They are also open for lunch and dinner, but we prefer going for breakfast and sitting in the lounge. They also have a banquet room just in case your book club meets early.

Interurban Trail Art

We love public art, and the silly sculptures along the Interurban trail near the Trader Joe's in Shoreline at 175th Street really spruce up this part of town. Our favorites are the snail and the horse! 

Fuzzy Buddy's Dog Daycare 

Your pooch needs some love while you are away at work and Fuzzy Buddy's is a great option if you live up north. Not only can your dog have an active social life during the work week ($30 drop-in rate), but they offer dog training classes as well.