Updated: March 14, 2017
The 9 Best Bars in Seattle
Along 1st and 2nd Avenues in downtown Seattle lies the extensive pocket of bars, clubs, shops, and restaurants known as Belltown. The area has undergone some gentrification from its wilder, seedier days in the 1990s, but there is still plenty of fun to be had. Start at Blanchard and 2nd, and head north toward Bell Street to get a sense of the possibilities. Consider a drink at The Upstairs, situated above Pinxto, a dependably delicious tapas bar. A small menu is available (culled from the offerings at Pinxto), but the craft cocktails, comfy couches, and ‘20s-style décor are the real draws. Of the many dinner options, the more popular include the pizza-and-booze Mecca known as Rocco’s, which looks tiny from the outside but opens up into a grand, metal-and-brick-lined space, and the sleek Wakefield Bar, offering the city’s most underrated fried chicken. Queen City Grill, meanwhile, has held down the busy corner of Blanchard and 1st for decades, serving delicious seafood entrees and grand cocktails in a long, narrow room lined with well-worn oak booths.
Tired of boozing and eating? See live music at The Crocodile Café, one of Seattle’s classic music venues (once owned by REM’s Peter Buck), or try The Rendezvous, which contains both an underground performance space/bar called the Grotto, as well as the tiny, but satisfyingly comfortable Jewelbox Theater. More refined fare is at Tula’s Restaurant and Jazz Club, offering everything from Bebop to Bossa Nova every day of the week. Check out live theater at Theater Schmeater (known colloquially as The Schmee), which runs productions through a petite, but very functional space, or see what’s happening at the unpredictable 2312 Gallery, where you might find an art opening, a live performance, or nothing at all. And don’t forget to wander; these are just a few possibilities among many, and the neighborhood is in constant churn. See what grabs you.
Best Bars and Nightlife in Belltown
The Upstairs • Reviews • 2209 2nd Avenue
Pinxto • Reviews • 2209 2nd Avenue
Rocco’s • Reviews • 2228 2nd Avenue
Wakefield Bar • Reviews • 2318 2nd Avenue
Queen City Grill • Reviews • 2201 1st Avenue
The Crocodile Cafe • The Crocodile Cafe • 2200 2nd Avenue
The Rendezvous • Reviews • 2322 2nd Avenue
Tula’s • Reviews • 2214 2nd Avenue
Theater Schmeater • Reviews • 2125 3rd Avenue
2312 Gallery • Reviews • 2312 2nd Avenue
Capitol Hill Nightlife
Seattle is booming, and nowhere is the effect more pronounced than on Capitol Hill, located just east/uphill/across the freeway from downtown. People have been coming here to enjoy art, counterculture, and general debauchery for decades, but the infusion of new blood has revved up the scene that much more (and prompted gentrification concerns as well). The center point for all this energy is the corner of 10th and Pike. On most nights, and definitely on weekends, you will find droves of people hopping bars, heading into restaurants, or queuing for plays, movies, or live music. It’s also Seattle’s epicenter of gay culture, and so events like the Pride parade are especially lively.
For dinner, Quinn’s is right at the heart of things, serving up meaty, high-end gastropub fare; think Scotch Egg and Roasted Bone Marrow. Looking for something lighter? Try the succulent chunks of sashimi at Momiji or stroll a block over to Bar Melusine for bubbles and oysters. Check out the playlist at Neumos , arguably the epicenter of Seattle’s live music scene (there’s also a small club beneath Neumos called Barboza, which often books more adventurous acts). Or find a true bar-vibe at The Pine Box. Up on 12th Ave, you’ll find the Northwest Film Forum, screening independent and foreign films that otherwise might only play in New York or LA. Care to see some live theater? The Annex features eclectic, unpredictable, and often exceptional work, mostly from local artists. Or hit The Garage on Broadway for pool and bowling in a trendy 1920’s setting.
Whatever you do, be sure to go for a stroll. The people watching is exceptional, and you may stumble into all manner of interactions with passers-by and street vendors, or just standing in line for a hot dog (for the full Seattle experience, try a “Seattle dog,” which usually involves cream cheese. It’s better than it sounds).
Parking is notoriously difficult (and you might not want your car anyway), and there’s no need to drive: the new light rail from Westlake Mall drops you within a few blocks of the area, or you can cab/Uber here quite cheaply from downtown. It’s a 20 minute walk from most downtown hotels to 10th and Pike. A pleasant walk but mainly uphill.
Best Bars and Nightlife in Capitol Hill
Quinn’s • Reviews • 1001 E. Pike Street
Momiji • Reviews • 1522 12th Avenue
Bar Melusine • Reviews • 1060 E. Union Street
Neumos • Reviews • 925 E. Pike Street
Barboza • Reviews • 925 E. Pike Street
The Pine Box • Reviews • 1600 Melrose Ave
Northwest Film Forum • Reviews • 1515 12th Avenue
Annex Theatre • Reviews • 1100 E. Pike Street
The Garage • Reviews • 1130 Broadway
Looking to get out of the city core? The booming neighborhood of Ballard is a great choice. The main strip, Ballard Avenue (between Market Street and 17th Ave), is home to dozens of bars and live venues, some of the city’s best restaurants, and an array of old school Seattleites and young hipster newcomers, all mingling along dimly-lit, tree-lined sidewalks. Ballard Ave itself runs through a mishmash of narrow avenues, with a public square toward the northernmost portion where it meets with Market Street. Walking its length can take 15 minutes or all night, depending on how often you stop to drink, eat, or listen to a band.
Your best plan is to start at the south end from 17th Ave NW, and work your way up to Market Street (where you’ll find even more bars, shops, and restaurants). On the first block, you’ll be able to enjoy the work of one of the city’s best and most well-known restauranteurs, Renee Erickson. Erickson has won a coveted James Beard award and The Walrus and the Carpenter is a great restaurant . Situated at the back of a beautifully reclaimed and updated brick building, the place offers fresh shellfish year-round (oysters are a must-have), in a bright, welcoming setting. It’s quite popular, so put your name down and find a nearby watering hole to wait for a table. Some good choices include a glass of cheap, tasty wine (and maybe a slice to tide you over) at Ballard Pizza Company , or a beer at the divey but delightful Bad Albert’s; you may even score a stool at Barnacle, a sliver of a bar positioned right behind Walrus and Carpenter.
Keep moving up Ballard Ave and you’ll find options galore; a scotch at Macleod’s? A Guinness at The Lock & Keel? Live music at The Sunset or Tractor Tavern? Be sure to poke your head into at least a half-dozen places and discover what works for your mood. If you still have energy once you wind up at the corner of Ballard Ave and Market St, continue around the corner to Hazlewood , a gothic-tinged hole in the wall known for its eponymous featured cocktail.
(How to get there: You have a few public transport options – the 40 bus will take you from downtown to Leary Ave NW, a block up from Ballard Ave, but it’s a rather slow bus. The D line is known as the “Rapid Ride,” and while that might be a little generous, it will get you to Ballard faster, but not as close to Ballard Ave as the 40. Get off at the corner of Market Street and 15th Ave NW, walk up the street to 17th, turn right, and follow it all the way to the main drag. Don’t want to mess with it? A cab/Uber is about $10 to $15 from downtown.)
Best Bars and Nightlife in Ballard
The Walrus and the Carpenter • Reviews • 4743 Ballard Avenue NW
Ballard Pizza Company • Reviews • 5107 Ballard Avenue NW
Bad Albert’s • Reviews • 5100 Ballard Avenue NW
Barnacle • Reviews • 4743 Ballard Avenue NW
MacLeod’s • Reviews • 5200 Ballard Avenue NW
The Lock and Keel Tavern • Reviews • 5144 Ballard Avenue NW
The Sunset • Reviews • 5433 Ballard Avenue NW
Tractor Tavern • Reviews • 5213 Ballard Avenue NW
Hazlewood • Reviews • 2311 NW Market Street
Pike Place Market/Downtown Nightlife
Bustling and chaotic during the day, Pike Place Market is much easier to navigate at night, and full of surprising, enjoyable options. Hungry? Your many choices include top-notch French cuisine and wine at Café Campagne; tequila and shredded rabbit tacos at El Borracho; and bourbons from the barrel at Radiator Whiskey, where you—or several of you—can dine on a smoked pig’s head (though it must be ordered in advance). Entertainment? The Can Can Kitchen & Cabaret has burlesque shows and a gorgeous, cavern-like cocktail bar available 5 nights a week (Wednesday through Sunday); Unexpected Productions features comedy and improv; while The Showbox offers a rotation of electronic artists and live music in one of the city’s most attractive venues. You can even take the Market Ghost Tour (launching from Ghost Alley Espresso) and learn about the sometimes dark history of a public market that’s been in operation for well over a century. While you explore, enjoy views of Puget Sound and Alki Point from the top of Virginia Street, or take in the colors of Seattle’s Great Wheel from Victor Steinbrueck Park at the Market’s north end. All that said, my favorite bar in Pike Place Market is the Alibi Room (hidden down an alleyway by gum wall, great vibe and almost no tourists).
One note: The area around between 1st and 3rd on Pine, while mostly safe, has its fair share of colorful characters. Exercise good judgement while heading to the Market proper.
Best Bars and Nightlife near Pike Place Market
Alibi Room • Reviews • 85 Post Alley
Café Campagne • Reviews • 1600 Post Alley
El Borracho • Reviews • 1521 1st Avenue
Radiator Whiskey • Reviews • 94 Pike Street, upstairs
The Can Can Kitchen & Cabaret • Reviews • 94 Pike Street, downstairs
Unexpected Productions • Reviews • 1428 Post Alley
The Showbox • Reviews • 1426 1st Avenue
Market Ghost Tour • Reviews • 1499 Post Alley
Ghost Alley Espresso • Reviews • 1499 Post Alley
Lower Queen Anne Nightlife
In the shadow of the Space Needle and just north of downtown at the base of Queen Anne hill lies a small group of trendy but low-key options for eating and drinking, all within a few blocks. Plant yourself along Queen Anne Ave and Mercer Street (easily accessible by the D line Rapid Ride bus or a short cab/uber ride from downtown) and start exploring. Consider leading off with Toulouse Petit, featuring high-end, but affordable, creole food and an extensive happy hour menu, along with a lively bar scene. Or try some pizza; Pagliacci, a local favorite (there are a number of locations around town) is right up the street, as is the more upscale The Masonry, offering wood-fired pizzas and open-air seating.
For entertainment, you can take in a movie at SIFF Cinema Uptown, catch a play at the Seattle Repertory Theatre, or indulge in some karaoke, offered nightly at the delightfully divey Ozzie’s. For a more relaxed vibe, try the elegantly shady Tin Lizzie Lounge at the historic MarQueen Hotel, or walk toward the hill a few blocks to The Sitting Room, a low-lit wine bistro that seems transported from a Parisian alleyway. Need to walk off some of those calories? Make your way straight up the hill to Kerry Park. It’s a bit of a commitment (six very steep blocks), but once there, you’ll be treated to a quintessential Seattle view straight out of “Frasier,” with the Needle front and center.
Best Bars and Nightlife in Lower Queen Anne
Toulouse Petit • Reviews • 601 Queen Anne Avenue
Pagliacci • Reviews • 550 Queen Anne Avenue N.
The Masonry • Reviews • 20 Roy Street
SIFF Cinema Uptown • Reviews • 551 Queen Anne Avenue N.
Seattle Repertory Theatre • Reviews • 155 Mercer Street
Ozzie’s • Reviews • 105 W. Mercer Street
The Tin Lizzie Lounge • Reviews • 600 Queen Anne Avenue
The Sitting Room • Reviews • 108 W. Roy Street
Kerry Park • Reviews • 211 W. Highland Drive
Pioneer Square Nightlife
Like Pike Place Market, another area that radically changes character from day to night is picturesque Pioneer Square. From 9 to 5, it’s a popular spot for tech startups and sandwich shops, full of worker bees and tourists. But after dark, a mix of old grime and new glitz offers a window into the sharp divisions that characterize modern day Seattle. Seek out a craft cocktail at one of the recent additions to the (very walkable) neighborhood: Damn The Weather is a fine place to start, upscale and sleek, set in a handsome sliver of a room. You can also try E. Smith Mercantile (208 1st Ave S), an eclectic shop of local, handmade goods, with a hidden, very small—and very excellent—bar in the back. If you get to the Square early enough, there may be some art galleries still open; though some artists have been forced to flee the area due to rising rents, this is still ground zero for exhibits in the city. One of the best is Stonington Gallery, featuring distinctive Northwest-derived pieces (art lovers should try coming to the Square on the first Thursday of the month for the Art Walk, where dozens of galleries, lofts, and normally private residences open their doors to the public).
After cocktails and art-appreciation, consider checking out the bill at Comedy Underground, the city’s best comedy club. Many all-time greats have performed here and the booking agents are discerning, so your chance of getting a good laugh (or ten) is high.
Finally, duck into some of the grittier spots. Ever since Henry Yesler picked this location for his lumber mill in 1852, Pioneer Square has been a home for dives, dumps, hazy parlors and shady backrooms, and some ghosts of that disreputability remain. Try the Central Saloon and the J&M Café, both historic saloons with stiff drinks, sticky floors, and loads of character. Or just wander the vicinity and see what you stumble onto. Just be aware: while the area has been cleaned up over the decades (and particularly in recent years), there’s still a high concentration of lost souls, so if you’re feeling adventurous, keep your guard up and consider going out in a group (or just make some new friends).
Best Bars and Nightlife in Pioneer Square
Damn the Weather • Reviews • 116 1st Avenue S.
E. Smith Mercantile • Reviews • 208 1st Avenue S.
Stonington Gallery • Reviews • 125 S. Jackson Street
Al Boccalino • Reviews • 1 Yesler Way
Comedy Underground • Reviews • 109 S. Washington Street
Central Saloon • Reviews • 207 1st Avenue S.
J&M Café • Reviews • 201 1st Avenue S.
Going out to a movie might not seem that exciting, but Seattle is very much a movie town, and a few centrally-located theaters are destinations in their own right, offering drinks and/or extended food menus directly from your seat. The elegant, brick-walled Central Cinema is known for offbeat revivals and showings of films that are meant to be participatory (some are shown in what they call “hecklevision”), while featuring pizza, cocktails, and other snackables. Big Picture (21+), is perfect for a date night; stairs descend into a room with plush couches in corner spaces, on which you can comfortably lounge before taking in a flick (with a martini in hand, of course). And serious cinephiles must get over to the Cinerama, a state-of-the-art, single-house theater featuring first-run blockbusters and all the cinematic technology owner Paul Allen’s money could buy, along with local beers and wine. Other options for mixing movies and adult beverages include the SIFF Cinema Uptown Theater in Lower Queen Anne and Northwest Film Forum on Capitol Hill, both of which cater to lovers of independent and foreign film.
Best Movie Theaters in Seattle
Central Cinema • Reviews • 1411 21st Avenue (Central District)
Big Picture • Reviews • 2505 1st Avenue (Downtown)
Cinerama • Reviews • 2100 4th Avenue (Belltown)
SIFF Cinema Uptown • Reviews • 551 Queen Anne Avenue N. (Lower Queen Anne)
Northwest Film Forum • Reviews • 1515 12th Avenue (Capitol Hill)
Seattle Bars – Where To Go Out
The Best Bar in Seattle
- Russell’s is my favorite bar in Seattle. A relaxed neighborhood hangout with a great mix of beer, wine, cocktails, and food (pork sliders are can’t miss). Located on up and coming Stone Way on the border of Fremont and Wallingford.
Downtown Seattle Bars
- Purple Wine Bar and Cafe
Downtown’s best bet for all-purpose dining. Serving well-executed American standards amidst modern elegance and a veritable skyscraper of wine. Make a reservation for your date night, business dinner, out of town guests, or quick pre-theater nosh. Drop in for lunch. The wine tower isn’t just for show: if it’s fermented grapes in a bottle, they probably have it – ask for a recommendation if you’re not up to grappling with the 100 page wine list. Plenty of nibbles and large plates – even a kid’s menu (complete with milk and soda flights) for your well-mannered offspring. At upwards of $15 per entrée and no happy hour (lunch is slightly cheaper), the main caveat is price, though the noise-sensitive may also find the din to reach distracting decibels. All in all, though, there’s no watering hole more utilitarian in the heart of Seattle.
Website • Reviews • 1225 4th Avenue
- Radiator Whiskey
Good things come in brown packages. This place is heaven on earth for meat and barrel-aged booze enthusiasts. If you didn’t make a dinner reservation, pop in for happy hour (4-6 pm) at the bar. Their specialty is recruiting fans of alternative meat cuts (the smoked pig head is a scrumptiously singular experience – you’ve gotta order it several days in advance, and get free whiskey if you eat the eyeball), but vegetarians oughtn’t lament the lone grilled goat cheese & soup option – it will be the best you’ve ever tasted. The entire menu is designed to pair perfectly with their vast whiskey and bourbon selection; try a flight to discover your favorite. Even dessert gets the boozy treatment here – warm chocolate chip cookies or maple pecan pie with bourbon ice cream. Wear layers: even in winter, the small room gets stuffy. They have beer and wine too, but you’d be crazy to order it.
Website • Reviews • 94 Pike street
- Club Contour
Goths, Metal Heads, Bollywood enthusiasts, and Bargain-hunting barflies live for Contour’s epic $6 and under small plates. Cobble together a veritable feast from their diverse “bites” menu – the layout keeps dancers and diners separate. Happy Hour runs 3-8 pm. $4.50 wells ($8 doubles), $4 wine, $3-6 draughts. Located in historic Pioneer Square with five DJ nights per week: Drum and Bass Sundays, Glam, Punk, and Metal Tuesdays, NuDisco Wednesdays, Goth/Industrial Thursdays, and weekend multi-media 80s video and Bollywood parties. Late arrivals pay little to no cover, and the merriment frequently continues after hours (2-7 am) with non-alcoholic drink specials and plenty of Red Bull. Expect fierce competition for the patio seats in warm weather. Nearby Restaurants: Metropolitan Grill (high end occasion dining, 1 block east). Bookstore Bar and Café (solid, mid-priced New American, 2 blocks north). Kraken Congee (outstanding Korean comfort food, 3 blocks south).
Website • Reviews • 807 1st Avenue
- The Diller Room
A sophisticated cocktail bar disguised as a dive. Seattle boasts numerous speakeasy-style bars, but only The Diller Room has the history to back it up: the owners painstakingly preserved the vintage elegance of the former hotel lobby (a luxury dwelling for prospectors during the gold rush). Now a swanky lounge, it features intimate, high-backed booths. The bar area, once a Chinese Laundry front for a basement gin joint, is adorned with original wallpaper and neon sign, exposed brick, and a salvaged chandelier. Old Man Diller’s portrait watches over the handcrafted bar, while humble mixologists create your unforgettable prohibition-era riffs; their ace-in-the-hole is the Dillericious (muddled lemons, cucumber, blueberry infused vodka). Generous happy hour discounts from 2-7 pm daily.
Website • Reviews • 1224 1st Avenue
This Coney Island tribute bar is the Valhalla of Pinball and hot dogs. Even notorious curmudgeon, Anthony Bourdain, likes it. Relax in vinyl booths with an adult slushee, or chow on a topping-laden hot (or veggie) dog and a basket of squeezy cheese nachos – level up on both with a scoop of chili. Knock around in Pinball Cove on sixteen machines amidst black light sea creatures. Atari arcade favorites like Galaga, Centipede, and Ms. Pac-Man lurk up front. A change machine keeps you in quarters. The red and white striped awning keeps you dry on the sidewalk patio, where they maintain a relaxed smoking policy. Nearby Restaurants: Terrific pizza next door at Rocco’s, delectable Italian tapas at List, and excellent New American grub at Local 360, 1 block west.
Website • Reviews • 2222 2nd Avenue
Capitol Hill Bars
Think of it as a whiskey pilgrimage. The place is lousy with the stuff; nearly two full walls are more or less entirely covered in whiskey bottles from floor to ceiling, 3500 labels in all. Canon claims it’s the largest spirit collection in the western hemisphere, and has made numerous national—and international—“best bars” lists for good reason. Try the Campfire in Georgia, grandly served on a domed platter. The smokiness of mescal is accented with actual smoke, infused into the drink and released when the lid is lifted. Or the D.C Crack, which pairs High West rye with an herb-based Hungarian plum liqueur. If possible, get a seat at the bar; you’ll be able to watch the mixologists in action, and sitting a little higher gives you a bird’s eye view of the gorgeous space, a mix of brick, chandeliers, and inviting corner tables. The food here is quite tasty as well – although there are better options nearby. So get a small plate to nosh on and spend your calories (and money…this level of craft doesn’t come cheap) on what brought you here in the first place.
Website • Reviews • 928 12th Avenue
At Witness, food and drink are a religion. The only commandment is “Treat yo’self”. The church theme is ubiquitous, from reclaimed pew seats to menu diction. Service is unobtrusively friendly and genuinely enthusiastic. Gregg, the owner, preaches soul fulfillment through indulgent sustenance. That means chicken and waffles with bourbon syrup, poutine with bacon gravy, and beignets any time of day. Choose from their inspired, wholly original, house cocktails, or give in to a higher power with Divine Intervention, the bartender’s alcoholic jam session. Menu masterpieces, like the Elvis Sandwich (bacon, peanut butter, banana), and a seasonal fritter, along with select “libations”, are $6 at happy hour (4-6 pm daily). Bring a group so you can try everything. The devout can worship with their bellies on Saturday night and return the next morning for brunch, where the grapefruit-tinged Resurrection will deliver on its name.
Website • Reviews • 410 Broadway Avenue E.
- Knee High Stocking Company
All the thrill of a prohibition-era speakeasy without the indiscretion. Send them a text to reserve a table and receive the secret password, then look for the brass plaque and ring the bell. Through parted black curtains, enter a bygone era where the ambiance is classy and fun, the light is flatteringly low, and everyone maintains a respectful level of inebriation. Don’t be fooled by the fancy words (or “vibe” guidelines) on the menu, or the chandelier – there’s no pretention here. Among the prohibition favs: the Bees Knees, the Mint Julep, and the Absinthe Pacifique. Or try something new – the cocktail menu is mostly seasonal, and the bartenders live to create custom cocktails. The food theme is delectability – transcendent tots and tilapia tacos magically compliment every drink. The baked goat cheese is (literally) ablaze, and you’ll want to keep the salted caramel popcorn coming. Most drinks are priced $10-15, but they don’t skimp on the booze. Prepare to be constantly blown away by the presentation (but keep the flash off for your Instagram pics).
Website • Reviews • 1356 E. Olive Way
- Rock Box
If you still think karaoke is lame, you haven’t been to Rock Box. No more long waits to sing to indifferent strangers – rent a private room and cherry pick your audience, or rent the solo room if you want a little privacy. Use their tablet to wade through the vast, eclectic song selection (musical theater deep cuts, Japanese pop, crowd favorites), and queue up your pick without interrupting your friends’ jams. Advanced reservations recommended for weekend evenings. $7/person per hour or $4 at happy hour (times vary, see website). Dodge the rental fee by popping in for a quick tune at the bar. Small plates and charcuterie are available from 4pm on, and happy hour is everything if you plan to eat or drink. Nearby restaurants: Rancho Bravo (outstanding Mexican, kitty corner), Hot Mama’s Pizza (2 blocks down Pine).
Website • Reviews • 1603 Nagle Place
Two bars for the price of one, both of which invoke a “peyote carnival fever dream”. Come with an iron stomach and be ready to party. Upstairs, Unicorn is all about the décor, best described as “a carousel barfed and became furniture”. For dinner, order one of 7 corn dogs (with ingredients like Sriracha cream cheese and poutine), and pair it with a supernaturally themed cocktail like the Southern Sasquatch. Have a deep fried Nutella sandwich or funnel cake for dessert. Venture downstairs to Narwhal for pinball, and order a round of strawberry flavored Sparkle Pony shots to keep that buzz going – this place is tough to handle sober. Happy hour specials (2-6:30 pm) include the house lager and well booze ($4), as well as Unicorn (fried pork) and Narwhal (fried mashed potato) Balls. Truffle butter popcorn ($2.50) if you’re classy. Come back in the morning for a breakfast corndog and an extra spicy Unicorn Bloody Mary. Any time is Unicorn Time.
Website • Unicorn Reviews • Narwhal Reviews • 1118 E. Pike Street
The fresh squeezed juice cocktails and magnificent sandwiches are legend at HoneyHole, where Bacchanalian multi-taskers get drunk and nurse their hangover simultaneously. Lose yourself in a hot or cold pile of delicious toppings housed inside structurally sound bread (GF available). Share a beefy double feature with a friend in the Dude (flank, tomato relish) and the Gooch (tri-tip, au jus). The Corleone, made with Oregon-raised cured pastrami, is an offer you shouldn’t refuse. Vegetarians will agonize over five hot sandwiches, featuring Field Roast and house-made faux meats. Two happy hours daily (5-7 pm, 11 pm-1 am) involve $4 wells and pints. Cocktails like the Basilito, Vanilla Drop, or the New Old Fashioned are more than worth the paltry full price ($5.50-7). A couple of big tables for groups fill up quickly. Come early and often.
Website • Reviews • 703 E. Pike Street
- Sun Liquor Lounge
Sun Liquor stood at the forefront of the craft cocktail renaissance, and their boozy marvels cannot be oversold. They use their own liquors and bitters, fresh juice, and floral garnishes to create drinkable artwork. Their three-cocktail tasting menu assists those agonizing over the selection. Service can be sluggish, but you can’t rush brilliance, and part of the experience is watching them make your drink. (They love an excuse to bring out the blowtorch.) The loyal clientele come for soft light and a subliminal soundtrack conducive to savoring beverages while catching up with friends or wooing a date. Happy hour is 5-7 pm daily. Burgers and sandwiches served in baskets til late on weekends, and seasonal waffles at brunch til 3 pm. Nearby restaurants: Single Shot (revelatory farm-to-table, next door). Café Barjot (fun New American tasting menu, around the corner.)
Website • Reviews • 607 Summit Avenue E.
It doesn’t get much gayer than Pony. As the sign says, “If you aren’t a queer or an admirer, don’t enter”. If you fit the bill, make fast friends in the tiny, phallus-adorned interior, or catch some air on the patio in any weather, thanks to the retractable awning and fire pit. The sunsets aren’t bad either. Whatever it takes to get your bootie shaking, there’s a DJ for that 5-6 nights a week. First Wednesdays are girl groups and soul, last Wednesdays are goth and syth-pop. Sundays, get down to the “best and worst” classic disco. Come in for glam psychedelic on third Thursdays, or make your own music at Tuesday karaoke. Wednesdays mean all day happy hour. Come as you are; leave spent and happy. Nearby restaurants: Skillet Diner (glazed pork wings, 2 blocks east), Café Presse (superior charcuterie, one block west), Unicorn (an array of corn dogs, 2 blocks north).
Website • Reviews • 1221 E. Madison Street
- Linda’s Tavern
If Linda Derschang didn’t originate the cowboy hipster tavern, she certainly perfected it. Well worn and effortlessly cool, Linda’s remains frozen in 1994 – it’s famous for being a Sub Pop clubhouse and the last bar Kurt Cobain visited. At Linda’s, great music is integral to the bar experience – the CD jukebox remains stocked with CDs from local indie, punk, and hip hop artists, past and present; successful and obscure. Big game taxidermy and arcane cowboy murals preside over the pool games. Prices are untouched by inflation, especially at happy hour (7-9 pm nightly): $3 wells, $7.50 local microbrew pitchers and a $3 trio of sliders. Burgers, nachos, and weekend brunch till 3 pm for under $10. Arrive early to sit on the patio and order the Bullrider (chicken fried steak), which usually sells out. Eggs Benedict, Huevos Rancheros and the basic breakfast (eggs, toast, perfectly crispy hashbrowns) for $4.95 also hit the spot. Smiling servers are in short supply, but it’s all part of your authentic Seattle bar experience.
Website • Reviews • 707 E. Pine Street
Other Seattle Neighborhoods
- Lo-Fi Performance Gallery
THE place for unpretentious, ceaseless dancing to niche retro genres. Meat Market shoppers look elsewhere. The big draw is Emerald City Soul Club, spinning 60s and 70s soul rarities on second Saturdays. Nostalgic 90s pop on third Saturdays. Obscure funk on first Fridays. Intimate live music fills in the week. Two dance floors and two bars provide enough room to boogie with abandon. It gets packed on weekends, but folks are happy to give each other space, and are tolerant of collisions. Sit a spell in the cozy lounge, play some Street Fighter, or admire the trippy murals inside and out. Instigate or participate in a dance-off, and commemorate your night in the photo booth. The cover is a reasonable $7-10. No food and expensive drinks, so prefunk is recommended. Park on Eastlake or in the lot behind the building. Nearby restaurants: Feierabend (scrumptious German pretzels and sausages, 2 blocks west). Lunchbox Laboratory (decadent burgers and shakes, 4 blocks away). Osteria Rigoletto (decent Italian, 3 blocks west).
Website • Reviews • 429 Eastlake Avenue E. (South Lake Union)
- Hula Hula
Known for flaming bowls of booze, nightly karaoke, and more tiki per square inch than the Big Island, Hula Hula is perfect for beginning or ending your pub-crawl. If you want to sing, arrive right at 9, especially on weekends. Regulars bring their A-game, utilizing the pro sound and lighting. New arrivals get priority if they sign in via computer (paper slips tend to disappear). Drinks in various unnatural colors are designed for maximum intoxication. Drunkenness (or Hawaiian heritage) is prerequisite for enjoying food like Spam mac & cheese, musubi, and Kahlua pork. Genre deviations like pizza and the hummus plate also available. Or make a meal out the myriad fruit garnishing oversized tropical standards (Pina Coladas, Blue Hawaiians, Mai Tais, Navy Grog). Gargantuan Zombies and Flaming Volcanos come with 18-inch straws, a sharing requirement, and a two-drink limit. $4 off tiki drinks and $5 snacks during happy hour (4-6 pm, daily). Stick to weekdays if crowds turn you off, or rent the whole joint for $75/hour (up to 300 guests). Nearby restaurants: Plaza Garibaldi (solid Mexican, 1 block north on 1st Ave). Boat Street Kitchen (scrumptious French-inspired fine dining), and Waterfront Deli (terrific chicken katsu curry), 2 blocks west off Denny.
Website • Reviews • 106 1st Avenue N. (Lower Queen Anne)
- Monkey Loft
Experience the best facets of an underground rave at an incorporated club in the SODO neighborhood. You simply can’t find a scene like this in city center. Friendly staff, hospitable patrons, cheap covers, and a breathtaking rooftop deck set Monkey Loft a cut above the rest. It’s worth the 12-minute drive from downtown to experience progressive, up-and-coming, and sometimes surprise headliners of EDM. They spin Drum and Bass on first Fridays, but otherwise shun routine. Hit up their Facebook to hear about upcoming parties. Energy drinks (or what have you) are a must, because Monkey Loft literally parties till sunrise – then they serve bloodies and mimosas and keep the tables turning. Saturday parties frequently go till 10 am. Despite the youthful schedule, the crowd skews older (mid-late thirties), but they embrace all night owls over 21. The occasional unsavory element is ostracized or ousted before they can harsh everyone’s mellow. Plentiful free street parking. Nearby Restaurants: By’s (solid burgers across the tracks). Sodo Deli (juicy meatloaf sandwich, 2 blocks south). Blue Water Taco Grill (breakfast taco after party); Maison Tavern (excellent sliders and flat breads), just south on the same block.
Website • Reviews • 2915 1st Avenue S. (SODO)
In club terms, Re-Bar is a dinosaur: it’s ancient, but fierce. Twenty-five years later, it’s a little worse-for-wear, but the dilapidation only adds character to a place that was larger-than-life out of the gate. The history is palpable. It’s where Nirvana celebrated the release of “Nevermind”. It’s where drag genius Dina Martina continues to perform her Christmas show. Dan Savage met his husband in the bathroom. Future superstars are currently busting their chops on that stage. It’s the least self-conscious, most welcoming club/theater scene in the city. All walks of life converge to party their faces off. Club nights have morphed over the years. Current offerings include house music on Sundays, 80’s New Wave third Saturdays, and Elemental West Coast Bass on fourth Fridays. KEXP hosts an indie night first Fridays. Sing along with your favorite movie musicals at Cineoke. Occasional fringe theatre runs include hilarious reenactments of classic films from Brown Derby. Whatever your identity or preferred pronoun, there’s an event to suit you. You won’t get a craft cocktail here, but the cash-only bar stocks all the basics to keep you socially lubricated. Nearby restaurants: Saley’s Classic (gooey crepes, 5 blocks south west. A slew of goodies just up the hill including La Cocina Oaxaquena (superior Mexican), Ristorante Machiavelli (indulgent Italian), Taylor Shelfish Farms (upscale seafood), and Li’l Woody’s burgers.
Website • Reviews • 1114 Howell Street (Denny Triangle)
- Georgetown Liquor Company
It’s not hard to overlook the generically-monikered Georgetown Liquor Company, but this vegetarian dive bar in bohemian Georgetown is a diamond in the rough. There’s liquor, of course, served up in a derelict punk haunt. Get the Clockwork Orange Martini or the Cucu-racha-kazi (cucumber and UV Sriracha vodkas and muddled lime). Their downplayed menu items astound even staunch carnivores. The protein alternative, Field Roast, lends itself to their remarkable sandwiches. The Picard (French dip with Field Roast), and the Darth Rueben are rightfully popular choices. The Chicken Caesar is a meal in its own right. Real cheese is prevalent along with numerous vegan options. Weekend brunch adds biscuits and gravy, chicken fried steak, and vegan “Eggs” Benedict, plus a build-your-own-Bloody Mary Bar. All meals and cocktails hover around $10. Plenty of low-priced draughts. Weekdays, happy hour offers $3 wells, $8 fancy cocktails, and $1 off draughts 4-7 pm. Thursday trivia for cash and prizes. Occasional live music. Free use of old school Nintendo systems is the icing on the cake.
Website • Reviews • 5501 Airport Way S. (SODO)