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Originally published Thursday, February 26, 2009 at 12:00 AM

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Great shops and stops on West Seattle's California Avenue

An up-close look at a lively block of West Seattle.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Long before the opening of Spring Hill Restaurant and Bar along California Avenue Southwest sent a mass of foodies out west, this drag in West Seattle always had a vibrant scene: croissants, beer, sushi and niche stores catering to hobbyists (model trains, card making and coin collecting).

A weekend farmer's market draws people to this area, too.

This week we take a close look at one of those blocks: California Avenue Southwest between Southwest Alaska Street and Southwest Edmunds Street.

1. ArtsWest Gallery, 4711 California Ave S.W. An underappreciated art gallery and 149-seat theater, one of the area's finest community theaters. Art gallery is always free.

2. Husky Deli and Catering, 4721 California Ave S.W.

A trivia fact: The deli was named after an ice cream. The owners survived through the Depression due to the popularity of "The Huskys" ice-cream cone, similar to a Nutty Buddy. So in honor, the owners renamed their Edgewood Farm Store with the "Husky" name.

3. Mashiko Sushi, 4725 California Ave. S.W. Many know this sushi joint more from its Web address: sushiwhore.com. There's a live webcam of its sushi bar. But this house of tasty sushi didn't become popular with gimmicks, though you gotta check out the women's bathroom, which features one of those popular Japanese toilets, where the seat heats up and you can make — no joke — warm water squirt up your derrière.

4. Bakery Nouveau, 4737 California Ave S.W. Easily one of Seattle's best bakeries, especially for baguettes and croissants. Recent addition: deep-dish pizza. The one must-do on this block: Grab a croissant or two. That alone will entice you back to this block again and again.

5. Rubato Records, 4710 California Ave. S.W. The store also sells used VHS tapes, loads of them. The deal is buy three, get one free. Am I the only one who thinks the owner will still have a tough time unloading these babies?

6. Elliott Bay Brewery & Pub, 4720 California Ave. S.W. I didn't believe it so I had to see it. And yes, it's true. Certified organic beer, and decent, too. The first organic brewery in King County, with Happy Hour every day from 3-6 p.m. and 10 p.m. to closing.

7. Ama Ama Oyster Bar & Grill, 4752 California Ave. S.W. I know, I know, everyone who repeats titles uses some variation on this slogan: So nice, they named it twice. Ama Ama features Chef Jared Wentworth who picked up his culinary chops from nationally acclaimed chefs David Burke, Charlie Trotter and David Bouley.

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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