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Thursday, September 9, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Kirkland: A little old, a lot new on a mile-long walk

Northwest Weekend editor

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The walk: This isn't the Eastside I grew up in, I thought, as I shuffled around downtown Kirkland, not far from where my mother raised a beef cow in the back yard in the early 1950s, or where I took my wife-to-be on a first date at the well-neoned (now long-gone) Flame steakhouse.

Somehow, in the meantime, it seems that Carmel has oozed up from California.

Posh boutiques, galleries and toney restaurants reflect in the gleaming doors of bumper-to-bumper Lexi — the plural of Lexus — on Lake Street, where every smiling jogger carries a Blackberry.

On a recent visit, that impression of tasteful well-offness wasn't diminished by the first few stands encountered at Kirkland's Wednesday Market: "Full Circle Farm, Certified Organic Produce (www.fullcirclefarm.com)."

"Les Fromages by D'anne Marie."

"Pilchuck Lavender Farm."

But then came "Classic Kettle Corn," where a man in a welder's mask and wielding a giant paddle toiled over a vat billowing oily smoke that obliterated the aroma of next-door's fresh-picked apples from the Skagit Valley.

So Kirkland does still dwell in the real world. Its downtown is an interesting — and pleasant — place to walk.

Start at the Wednesday Market on Park Lane between Main and Third streets (11 a.m.-6 p.m. every Wednesday through Oct. 13). Pick up some fresh squash for dinner, or take home a fuzzy, orange Teddy Bear sunflower grown in Monroe or a bag of sunset-red pears trucked over from Eastern Washington.

"I had two of those pears for dinner last night with blue castello soft cheese and a bottle of chardonnay," white-haired pear vendor Bill Davidson of Lynnwood told me, savoring the memory. "That's all I had for dinner!"

I took some pears home.

From the market, wander west on Park Lane along the tree-shaded block beyond Main Street where planters overflow with herbs, purple petunias, variegated holly, coleus and ivy.

At Park and Main, shoppers might want to poke into Champagne Taste, a purely Kirkland-style consignment shop, where for a couple hundred bucks they can pick up a previously-enjoyed sequined evening gown.

Window-shopping westward to Lake Street, you'll soon find evidence of Kirkland's Bronze Age: Seemingly every sidewalk has a bronze sculpture, or a fountain, or both. In this block, watch for a bronze deer (Bambi does the 'burbs); a bronze mother comforting a bronze daughter on a park bench; and a bronze heron called "Blue Horizon" by artist Michael Holmes ("represented by Howard/Mandville Gallery" says the placard on the sculpture — which, incidentally, sits in front of Howard/Mandville Gallery).

Cross Lake Street and zig right, then left at Central Way. (Sculpture alert: Bronze bunnies the size of small bison nuzzle among the impatiens here in front of Triple J Cafe, a good coffee stop. Across the street: A sculpted coyote sits atop a cow. It's art.)

A bit of Kirkland's more proletarian past is preserved next to the Triple J in the faded brown awning of the now-defunct "Wiener Window," whose old menu states: "Regular or sausage is your only choice."

Continue west on Central, past sidewalk gardens of hostas, hydrangeas and ferns.

At Central Way and Market Street, cast your eyes at the Doric columns of Heritage Hall, a former Christian Science Church built in 1922, now being preserved as a public meeting hall and resource center for the Kirkland Heritage Society.

Cross Market, turn left and meander through Marina Park. Benches and picnic tables offer boat watching. Take the kids' picture with Kirkland's most famous sculpture, "Puddle Jumpers," six running bronze children atop the park's grassy knoll.

A crescent walk leads around a pebbly beach (clean public restrooms here). Wave at condo residents on their over-the-water decks by the public marina, find the historical placard with photos of early 1900s ferries that served this waterfront, then follow Kirkland Avenue up to Lake Street and back to your starting point, for a 1-mile walk.

Secret tip: If you can't live poshly, you can be a poseur. From the western sidewalk at Central and Market, look for 115 W. Lake Ave., some very-high-end lakefront condos with a view worth insider-trading for. At each end of the property, blue signs show a walking person, marking an obscure public pathway (open 10 a.m. to dusk) that skirts each side of the complex and emerges on the shoreline smack dab in the middle of those million-dollar views. Pause, Gatsbylike, to watch big yachts come and go like hummingbirds to a feeder. (And please respect residents' right to peace and privacy.)

Lunch or snack stop: Tiny, informal Slip Cafe, 80 Kirkland Ave., offers a shady picket-fenced patio with a marina view, a menu of toothsome burgers for $5.75-$8.95, and cold beer. 425-739-0033. Access: This walk follows city sidewalks, most with curb cuts.

Parking/bus: Free two-hour on-street parking, or free four-hour parking in the municipal garage beneath the Kirkland Library at Third Street and Kirkland Avenue, just a few steps from the farmers market. Or take Metro Route 255 (from downtown Seattle), Sound Transit's Route 540, or any of numerous Eastside bus routes serving the Kirkland Transit Center at Third Street and Park Lane.

Brian J. Cantwell: 206-748-5724 or bcantwell@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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