The Absolute Best Bars in Seattle Right Now
From neighborhood dives to swanky cocktail lounges, this is where you should be drinking right now.
Creativity is cool again, and it's the star at Seattle's latest slate of bar openings, which include a science-fiction-inspired patio with a growling tiger fountain and a sweet little spot that takes the phrase "beer garden" extremely literally. Good drinks taste better when they come with a good story, whether fictional (like the tiger's origins) or real-life and heartwarming, like the opening of a Black-owned brewery's new flagship spot in the heart of the Central District. These spots join old favorites, like Inside Passage, which has long wooed customers with whimsical cocktails, and the Cozy Nut, where the taxidermy could probably tell a few tales, on our list of where you should be drinking right now in Seattle.
Métier Brewing Company Cherry Street Tap Room
Rodney Hines built one of the region's only Black-owned beer companies in Woodinville, and now he brings it home to the heart of the Central District, which happens to be where Hines himself lives. The crisp Trail Blazer Pale Ale and award-winning Black Stripe Coconut Porter flow from the brewery's new flagship location at 27th and Cherry—joining the flourish of Seattle's best businesses returning Black ownership to the historically red-lined neighborhood, including The Jerk Shack, Communion, and Cafe Avole. The taproom has partnered with another Black-owned biz, Umami Kushi, for food, presenting visitors with the uniquely excellent combo of beignets and beer.
The team behind Fremont's most fascinating bars (see Stampede Cocktail Club, below) brought another incredible creation to life in June. Carnelian Bay is a bar-within-a-bar—or a bar-outside-a-bar, really—that turned the patio of Dreamland into a science-fiction-inspired immersive bar. The "luxury resort on a subtropical moon," per its Instagram features a riot of color, from the nebula mural behind the bar to the glowing lights coming from the mouth of the giant stone tiger-head fountain (it growls). Drinks from the beautifully illustrated menu include the "Vibehunter" and "Shadows of the Temple," while food goes in a more typical tiki direction, with their version of loco moco and honey walnut torpedo shrimp.
The concept of this "secret" beer garden and "speakeasy" tasting room in Fremont makes it sound more complicated than the simple, stunning, surreptitious spot that it is. A beer tasting room (hence the "ale" in the name) that also sells plants is about as dreamy an idea as possible, and the location—behind a small shop, down a set of stairs, with a tiny sign marking the door—only adds to its allure. But the real draw is great drinks: unique beers, ciders, and meads, that expand beyond the usual West Coast IPA-heavy menus of Seattle bars. Look for bocks, saisons, and sour IPAs from folks like Kings and Daughters out of Oregon and Atwood Farm in Blaine.
The Cozy Nut
Like the best local haunts, everything here is good, but nothing is nice. The prices are low enough for regular visits, the people and place quirky enough to always ensure an interesting night, and it has something on offer for every type of customer. The tall booths for cozy conversation, big tables in front, secluded patio in back, and long bar are punctuated with taxidermy dioramas, while the cocktails are far stronger and better than anywhere else charging similarly affordable prices. Beers include domestic standards but lean surprising and European. The wine selection is more ordinary, but the ciders stay well stocked, and the food—despite the lack of a real kitchen—is an impressively curreated array of snacks like local smoked salmon and a cured meat stick platter.
It has all the liquors and all the awards, and after a long closure followed by a few months of takeout only, this world-famous decade-old cocktail bar reopened in August. That means you can again order their version of the soyer au Champagne from 1896—but updated with Cap'n Crunch ice cream—as well as their own modern creations, like Snow White's bong, which comes in an apple-like glass with apple brandy and caramel smoke.
Phocific Standard Time
Yenvy and Quynh Pham's parents opened Seattle's first pho shop in 1982, and now the second generation of Phở Bắc does some equally impressive trailblazing of their own with this modern Vietnamese speakeasy tucked among the plants above their latest location. P.S.T. stands for Phởcific Standard Time, pronounced like "Psst—you gotta come over here and check out this Vietnamese coffee cocktail with aquavit and chartreuse egg yolk custard." Other drinks include traditional Vietnamese flavors such as artichoke tea, pickled leeks, and even phở broth.
With a prime spot in the heart of the Pike/Pine corridor, DNA from some of the neighborhood's best bars (co-owner Kate Opatz is also a partner in Montana and Nacho Borracho), and outdoor tables that feel like holding court among friends on a Paris sidewalk, this bar could serve Two-Buck Chuck and Hungry-Man Dinners and still attract a crowd. But instead it serves drinks like frojolais, a slushy of gamay wine, raspberry, Campari, and lemon; orange wines from Crete, and chambongs—think beer bong full of bubbles. The food, from chef David Gurewitz, cherry picks the soul-warming parts of his own Eastern European heritage with contemporary bar snack style to make lavash quesadillas, sardine toasts, and a dumpling happy hour.
Trade Winds Tavern
Replacing No Anchor, the highly acclaimed beer bar from the same owners, this spot tones down the formality in favor of a casual neighborhood feel with a lightly ironic retro vibe. Marrying the fun of neighboring Navy Strength with more straightforward cocktails and the same commitment to good food as No Anchor, it offers prickly pear frozen margaritas in plastic novelty cups and Amaro Meletti on tap. Orange wine, draft craft beer, and cans of White Claw share the menu, along with a smash patty burger, cheesesteak wontons, and an oyster po boy.
In The Heart
Tucked inside the Lika Love boutique, owner Malika Siddiq runs a speakeasy bar (enter through the alley) inspired by her hometown of New Orleans. In the Heart employs the excellent sense of style that originally took her out of the restaurant industry and into fashion—rich colors and soft seating meet shiny gold furniture and sparkling chandeliers to give a swanky but welcoming feel. Snack on Creole-seasoned popcorn or seafood dip or get a hearty portion of mac n cheese or jambalaya as you sip on NOLA’s classic drinks: Ramos gin fizz, milk punch, French 75, Sazerac, and Vieaux Carre.
Step out of Seattle and into Marseille at this old world-style wine bar featuring a carefully curated selection of French wines by the glass and the bottle. While serious about wine—and a great place to taste your way into serious knowledge about it—people come as much for the smart, unpretentious service and spreads of charcuterie, cheese, and beloved steak tartare as they do the drinks.
A fun bar within a bar, patrons enter this Northwest “tropical immersion” bar through Rumba and walk into a fantastical room with an octopus overhead (its name is Kiki). The creative drinks from Rumba’s excellent bar staff all arrive in wild glasswear—the I Believe comes in a camera lens, the four boys in a crockpot, the Ambazombie on an Amazon box, and the Mohai-Tai in a Rainier can. The food menu leans more toward its tropical roots, as does the tropical classics section of the menu, but the Seattle-centric nods to history and culture spin this unique bar into its own category.
This "low-lit, gilded refuge" north of Denny Park serves up creative Caribbean-inspired cocktails and Latin American snacks in a space with whimsical character inside and out: think pool party and slip-n-slide, plus individual "living rooms" where small groups can try the Pisco Punch with Gifford Pineapple Liquor & "sparkles," or their line of bottled carbonated cocktails.
Stampede Cocktail Club
This whimsical drinks destination in an old house on 36th is run by a Reno native who spent years working in some of Seattle's best bars, and is designed to attract industry folks with its stylish and colorful (yet cozy) interior, sprawling patio, and a focus on killer cocktails with great names like the Mezcal-based How to Kill a Friend and the Desert Poetry made with tequila, passionfruit, and pineapple—each with creative stories woven around them. In addition to cocktails and such, they also serve dumplings and Jell-O shots, a surprising and intriguing pairing.
Beveridge Place Pub
Sprawling rooms filled with games, televisions, and cozy corners combined with a seemingly infinite number of taps make this beer bar one of our favorites. Comfortable and gently worn, much like the couches scattered around the space, the homey setting and tavern license (that’s no hard alcohol, just beer and wine) means that you can bring in your own food (and your dog).
Mutsuko Soma gained fame for her subtle soba noodles at Kamonegi, but at her next-door bar, there’s no such understatement: This is a place for guests to explore sake and for Soma to experiment. The small bar carries dozens of varieties of sake and servers are always up to walk rookies or experts through the offerings and help you find one (or four) to try—and guide you through the wildly creative menu, recently returned from its pandemic hiatus. Look for snacks like duck fat Chex mix and sake kasu marinated cheese, plus “light dinners” such as Spam and chicken liver mousse with ramen furikake and an okonomiyaki dog.
While everyone was waiting... and waiting... to see what former Zig Zag bartender Erik Hakkinen would do with the old Lusty Lady spot he went ahead and opened an elegant addition to Belltown cocktail row. The drinks lean French, but ultimately this is a bartender’s bar, and thus includes agave spirits, rums, and Japanese whisky, along with the brandies, cognacs, and gins. Food, like the decor, is effortlessly simple but sophisticated -- tinned seafood, charcuterie, and snacks -- with a playful note, like the “Horns of Plenty:” caviar served with creme fraiche and Bugles. That said the menu is currently limited as they reopen.
Life On Mars
When beloved local radio DJ John Richards announced he would open a vegan bar featuring music on vinyl, Seattleites were torn: As much as everyone loves John in the Morning, it sounded like a magnet for the kind of aloof judgement reputed to come from folks who insist their ears need analog. With thousands of records to grab from the shelves and an intriguing cocktail menu that features bold flavors (and descriptions like “cool Icelandic menthol joy”), nobody needed to worry. Community comes first here, followed by a touchingly pure love for great music.
Linda’s is the platonic ideal of a Northwest bar, with good music, a vaguely woodsy vibe (provided in part by a taxidermied buffalo head above the bar), and plenty of Rainier tall boys. With more than two decades under its belt, this bar has laid out the welcome mat for Seattle’s most famous celebrities -- it is supposedly the last place Kurt Cobain was seen alive -- and its newest citizens alike, all without fanfare. Just a drink and a dark corner from which to watch the world go by. Also, their bathrooms are really nice. Just kidding, but the Cobain thing is true.
It’s just like your home, only you don't have to do the cleaning, someone's in the kitchen whipping-up a variety of sandwiches and charcuterie, and suddenly, the living room shelves are lined with bottles of excellent wine. Seriously, this converted house brings all the comforts of home (with a lovely patio to boot) together with a well-curated wine bar. Taste through what’s open, have a glass and relax, or pay a small corkage to open any of the bottles in the store.
Chuck's Hop Shop
Once a place to pick up cigarettes and malt liquor, this old corner store has undergone a slow but complete transformation into one of Seattle's leading beer bars (and spawned a second location in the Central District). Inside, 49 taps spill over with brews of all styles -- though the focus is on IPAs -- and they still sell a few snacks held over from the shop's previous incarnation, while outside you'll find a small patio and a rotating selection of Seattle's most popular food trucks.
Knee High Stocking Co.
When it opened a decade ago, on what was then an out-of-the-way block on Olive Way, KHSC was at the cutting edge of a speakeasy resurgence. But now it trailblazes again, rolling out its expanded Filipino-inspired menu when the bar itself added a subterranean space with rich wallpaper and a crystal chandelier. This effort has more than doubled the room. One thing that hasn't changed: There's still almost no way to tell there's a bar there from the street.
The Pine Box
One of the best beer bars in America (seriously, it’s good), the PB is located in a stunning old funeral home with a vaulted ceiling and tons of dark polished wood. It also takes an appropriately worshipful approach to the 30+ brews on tap, some of which they even pour through a flavor-infusing filter, giving them a... killer flavor. Thank you, thank you.
Bathtub Gin & Co.
It's easier to find than ever thanks to the new outdoor seating area near it's still largely unmarked entrance off an alleyway, but the secret's been out on this speakeasy-style bar for more than a decade. It makes some of the best cocktails in the city (like the bourbon/fig & maple syrup/lemon juice Death Star), all in a tiny, two-level space with a tin ceiling, and, surprise, an actual bathtub in the middle of the floor.
Herb & Bitter Public House
We once named it Seattle’s best cocktail bar, thanks to a smart and mature drink menu centered around Italian amari (aperitifs, digestifs, and fernets, etc.) and one of the most beautiful bars in the city. It’s in a spectacular space, with a dark tin ceiling, a beautiful chandelier, and an oversized patio with a retractable roof that might be one of Seattle's best outdoor drinking spots.
Nominated for a 2020 James Beard award, and named the Best New American Bar in 2018, this funky drinking establishment from the people behind Rob Roy and the new next-door Trade Winds Tavern, calls itself a Tropical Cocktail Bar. But really, the beachy feel comes with cocktail inspiration from all over the world—like the Japanese-inspired Space Crush, or the incredibly strong 1934 Zombie (limit two per guest).
This irreverent, moody cocktail spot a block or so from Broadway somehow manages to be seriously good without taking anything seriously. The drink menu is packed with boozy slushies, boilermakers, "trashcans", and other ironic booze options, while the food menu is highlighted by witty and often vegan versions of bar classics, like the "Fried Tendy Basket," and "No-Beef French Dip.” Oh, and if that's not enough, they pack the schedule with pop-ups and events, from quiz night with wings to drag brunch with breakfast poutine.
Bradley Foster is a former Thrillist editor.