The History of Four Loko
The bar you wish was on your block
This is the quintessential neighborhood bar, complete with good cocktails, local beer on tap, and taxidermy animal dioramas. Big tables for groups, little booths for snuggling in, and cocktail prices still in the single digits make this the requisite place for shutting out the weather, work stress, and basically entire outside world while snacking on spiced corn nuts. Also, per a small sign taped up at the back, you can buy farm-fresh duck and chicken eggs for tomorrow’s hangover omelet.
Every beer drinker’s dream living room
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).
The spices of Sri Lanka in cocktail form
The veteran crew behind Fremont’s Manolin took inspiration from their time in Sri Lanka as they put together this tiny Ballard spice. The dark wood and pink and blue paint on the walls are as rich as the short, precise cocktail menu. Ghee comes in gin form in the curry leaf gimlet, and brushed onto the pillowy naan, and other drinks include turmeric, saffron, and tamarind date chutney. You’ll want to tell all your friends about the crispy tender Kerala fried chicken, but just don’t bring them: there’s no room for groups bigger than four here.
A playful sake bar from a star chef
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 diners 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 to land on one (or four) that fit. Whichever you pick, it will go well with the house-made fermentations and the BBQ eel sandwich.
A regulars bar for anyone
With a remarkable lack of pretention, Russell’s runs a uniquely narrow path, teetering just on the everyday side of trendiness. Somehow, it makes the small space work as the kind of place you want to check out all the time. The taps are interesting, the cocktails affordable, and the staff genuinely friendly -- which gives the whole bar a level of interaction seen few other places in a notoriously frosty Seattle. It’s the type of place you can come for a weeknight post-work drink, a Saturday night out, and/or a spot to watch the game on a Sunday morning.
A smart, snappy, and suave addition to Seattle’s cocktail row
Seattle’s cocktail scenesters spent a year waiting to see what former Zig Zag bartender Erik Hakkinen would do with the old Lusty Lady spot. And while they continued waiting, Hakkinen snuck in with an elegant addition to Belltown. 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 décor, is effortlessly simple but sophisticated -- tinned seafood, charcuterie, and snacks -- with a playful note, like the “Horns of Plenty:” caviar served with crème fraîche and Bugles.
Vegan and vinyl… and not as intolerably hipster as it sounds
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.
Small, sweet, and so very full of natural wines
The aesthetic of this tiny wine bar and bottle shop is trés Instagram, but the atmosphere is less about Millennial pink and more about sharing a good glass with friends. Devoted to natural wines, it’s small enough that even if you’re not up for an in-depth conversation about skin-contact, you’re likely to learn at least a little bit if you listen in as you sip a flight to figure out just what you like. It’s minimalist -- no food and no frills -- but for anyone in search of interesting wines (and/or a good wine-themed selfie backdrop) this place is brimming with options.
South Lake Union
A stunningly swank speakeasy under the Spheres
Like most of South Lake Union, Renee Erickson’s speakeasy-style bar feels oddly un-Seattle: a fancy, highly stylized spot in a casual town. But Erickson’s restaurants, starting with Walrus and the Carpenter, already changed the game, so it’s no surprise she’s doing the same with bars. And for the people who slip through the side door of Amazon’s giant glass gardens, an overstuffed leather curio case awaits. The lengthy cocktail list includes intricate and innovative options that occasionally climb over the $20 mark, but include such ingredients as Cinnamon Toast Crunch coconut cream, so you’ll get your money’s worth. On the food side, though, it shows a hint of true Seattle: an ode to the cream cheese-covered classic Seattle dog.
The Seattle craft cocktail bar
The awards bestowed on this bar range from “World’s Best Cocktail Menu,” to "One of the Most Beautiful Bars in Seattle", and “Best Bathrooms in Seattle,” but the truth is, it's hard to come up with something here that doesn’t deserve an award. The spirit list is one of the longest in the world and the captain’s list holds some rare and old treasures, while the cocktail menu is innovative and filled with creative new ways to build a drink. Sadly, the secret patio isn’t open in the cooler months, but the darkness brings about a seasonal favorite here: the truffle Old Fashioned.
A refined island escape in Pike/Pine
A Caribbean vacation in bar form, this rum-driven spot brings everything an island vacation needs, like turquoise décor, tropical cocktails, and plantain chips. You’ll have to trade away the sunshine, but in return, your cocktail will be better than anything ever served poolside -- with or without the tiny umbrella.
The Town's quintessential dive bar
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.
A wine bar you'll never want to leave
It’s just like your home, only the maid came, the cook’s here, and suddenly, the living room shelves are lined with wine bottles. 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.
Authentic dive with the fourth-best burger in America
A few years ago it would have felt dangerous talk about Loretta’s out loud: Any minute, it could have been invaded by tech bros/tourists and the perfectly dingy, laid-back vibe of the place would have been gone forever. Well, we don't have to worry about that anymore, because first Josh Henderson of Westward, etc. brought the Vice cameras by for a Chef's Night Out, and then we went and told the world that this out of the way bar makes one of the country's best burgers. Oops. But luckily the place hasn't really changed, and the burger definitely hasn't, so you'd better start figuring out where South Park is already.
Your favorite brewer's favorite bar
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.
Secretive speakeasy... now with more space
When it opened almost 10 years ago, on what was then an out-of-the-way block on Olive, KHSC was at the cutting edge of a speakeasy resurgence. But now, in an effort to keep up with the times, it has expanded its Filipino-inspired menu and expanded the bar itself by adding a slightly misshapen subterranean space with rich wallpaper and a crystal chandelier. This effort has more than doubled the space and made it so you don't have to text ahead to get a seat anymore. One the thing that hasn't changed: there's still almost no way to tell there's a bar there from the street.
Fun beer and fine dining at the same time
Owned by the same couple behind Seattle's legendary Rob Roy, and the brand new -- almost equally great -- Navy Strength next door, No Anchor gets the nod because... well, because we couldn't exactly put all three on the list. And because NA's combination of "weird beer + rad food" make it an almost perfect expression of Seattle right now. Creative, casual, and upwardly mobile, but with just the right amount of fun.
The best beer bar in a city that's full of them
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.
An intimate, and influential, Prohibition-era cocktail bar
Though it can still be a little hard to find thanks to its largely unmarked entrance off an alleyway, 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.
A stunning bar with some equally stunning drinks
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.