Food & Drink

Your Guide to Seattle's Most 'Secret' Bars

Published On 07/30/2014 Published On 07/30/2014
Smith Tower
COURTESY OF SMITH TOWER

Hey. Hey you. Come here. We have this secret that we've been dying to get off of our chest. You know how Seattle has all these amazing happy hours? And a ton of phenomenal establishments to drink wine in? Well, we've also got a few secret bars that -- if you know the right people -- you can get into without a hitch. Lucky for you... we're those people.

Courtesy of Smith Tower

Smith Tower Temperance Café and Bar

Pioneer Square

Opened over the summer, and located 35 floors up on the recently renovated observation deck of the city's oldest skyscraper, this sedate roaring '20s-inspired spot has windows that stretch from the floor to its dark, richly detailed ceiling, and provide stunning views Seattle's skyline, and Elliott Bay. It also has a menu that pays respect to the Northwest via things like fresh Pacific Oysters, and a Beecher's grilled cheese sandwich -- as well as the Tower's Asian influence by offering a selection of Chinese dumplings, banh mi sandwiches, and more. Get there before 8PM -- that's when the last elevator heads up.

How to get in: The only way to get up to Temperance is by purchasing a Legends of Smith Tower ticket for $12 (or $10 with a WA state ID) that includes a self-guided tour through historical exhibits, films, and interactive stations. Get the ticket at Provisions General Store on the ground floor of Smith Tower.

Backdoor at Roxy's

Fremont

Posted-up in an old video store space behind the Center of the Universe's venerable Roxy's Diner, this is a classy, chandelier-laden, time capsule of a bar with Prohibition-inspired cocktails and a late-night menu (from 10-11pm, Sunday through Thursday) w/ oyster shooters for $2 and mugs of fries with aioli for $4.

How to get in: It was harder to find before they slapped a giant, honking mural plastered on the side of the building, but just pretend you don't see it and look for the door at the end of the dark parking lot.

Knee High Stocking Co

Knee High Stocking Co.

Capitol Hill

This tiny, basically signless cocktail spot located at the apex of the triangular building between Olive Way & Olive Place offers up a delicious and ever-rotating array of seasonal cocktails, along with small plates and entrees.

How to get in: Ring the doorbell and turn up the charm for whoever opens it up... or text a reservation to the maitre d', but good luck if you’ve got a big group on a weekend -- they can seldom seat more than a handful all together.

Needle & Thread

Capitol Hill

This bar is actually hidden (behind a door from a steel safe) inside one of Cap Hill's most exceptional cocktail bars, Tavern Law, and befitting its status as a genuine speakeasy, this 25-seat space boasts a bunch of Prohibition-style cocktails -- think egg whites and Scotch.

How to get in: Try your luck with the phone located next to the entrance inside Tavern Law... or phone ahead and make a reservation.

CHONA KASINGER/Thrillist

Bathtub Gin & Co.

Belltown

One of Seattle's original craft-cocktail spots, this miniature, hooch-inspired bar boasts a cozy downstairs area, an actual bathtub, and a can't-miss selection of retro-cocktails hidden in the basement of the Humphrey Apartments in Belltown.

How to get in: Slip into the dark alley and eyeball the walls for the nondescript door.

Aston Manor

SoDo

During the week, this tavern fronting the massive nightclub in back boasts craft cocktails, small plates, and a gastropub vibe... but it's hard to miss the massive elevated balcony overlooking the dance floor that, come the weekend, basically transforms the place into one big VIP area for the party below.

How to get in: On Fridays and Saturdays you should probably hit the website for a reservation, then slip on a collared shirt and dress shoes, and after a few drinks, slip through the bookshelf that hides a door into the actual club.

CHONA KASINGER/Thrillist

E. Smith Mercantile

Pioneer Square

This tiny 14-seat bar is hidden behind shelves stocked with gear and apothecary-style goods -- including bottles of homeopathic hangover recovery medicine, naturally -- and is serving herbal-, fruit-, and floral-inspired liquors married with classic cocktails that make for an eclectic take on good ol' fashioned imbibing. Try the Black Lemonade (vanilla black tea infused tequila, limoncello, lemon, and soda), or their Gold Rush made w/ rum, Cocchi, curry tincture & lemon.

How to get in: Slip in through the rustic haberdashery to the very back of the space.

The Upstairs

The Upstairs

Belltown

Located above the mainstay small-plate spot Pintxo, in what, years ago, was an actual secret bar (technically it was an "art gallery") called the McLeod Residence, this oddly welcoming spot boasts a dark all wood-bar in back -- where they serve even darker cocktails like the Corpse Reviver #2 and Diablo's Revenge --  and a brighter, more homey space overlooking Second Ave up front.  

How to get in: Climb a flight of stairs from Second Ave (there wasn't always a sign, but there is now), to the two room bar on the left. The owner's apartment is on the right.

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1. Smith Tower Temperance 506 2nd Ave, Seattle, WA 98104 (Pioneer Square)

You'll have to travel 35 floors up to the observation deck of the city's oldest skyscraper, Smith Tower, to get to this dignified, 1920s-inspired speakeasy with floor-to-ceiling windows and a dozen signature craft cocktails. Sweeping views of the Seattle skyline and Elliott Bay make for a stunning backdrop as you sip on drinks like The Fed's Favorite (Dry Fly gin, kumquat, grenadine, absinthe) and nosh on menu items that pay homage to the Northwest. There are Pacific oysters, a Beecher's grilled cheese sandwich, and, as a nod to the Tower's Asian influence, a lineup of Chinese dumplings and banh mi sandwiches. Tickets are required for access -- either to the 40-minute self-guided tour of the tower, or the "straight-up" option, which costs less and lets you get right down to business (drinking).

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2. The Back Door 462 N 36th St, Seattle, WA 98103

This chandelier-laden time capsule of a bar brings you some cheap eats off their late-night menu, which includes oyster shooters for $2, mugs of fries with aioli for $4 and more.

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3. Knee High Stocking Co. 1356 E Olive Way, Seattle, WA 98122 (Capitol Hill)

Knee High Stocking Co. is a speakeasy-style bar in Capitol Hill serving up classic, early 20th century cocktails.

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4. The Needle and Thread 1406 12th Ave, Seattle, WA 98122

This Capitol Hill semi-secret spot is a posh, menuless boozy 25-seat space that specializes in Prohibition-era cocktails -- in other words there'll be drinks made with egg whites and scotch.

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5. Bathtub Gin & Co. 2205 2nd Ave, Seattle, WA 98121 (Belltown)

A swanky and Prohibition-inspired drinking lounge, Bathtub Gin & Co.'s a must-visit, that is if you can find it. Nestled into a Belltown alley way, this pint-sized cocktail haven serves creative twists on the classics, custom cocktails, and an internationally inflected selection of gin by the glass.

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6. Aston Manor Social Club and Maison Tavern 2946 1st Ave S, Seattle, WA 98134

This massive nightclub and adjacent password-only speakeasy were inspired by an imaginary playboy descended from the "king of Seattle bootleggers".

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7. E. Smith Mercantile Back Bar 208 1st Ave S, Seattle, WA 98104 (Pioneer Square)

Shop till you drop at this boutique apothecary and mercantile, and then be sure to hit the Back Bar. Tucked away inside the shop (hence the name), Back Bar offers serious libations and intimacy in a 14-seater cocktail lounge. Order from a selection of craft cocktails made with rare and unusual liquors and refined small plates.

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8. The Upstairs 2209 2nd Ave, Seattle, WA 98121 (Belltown)

From the crew behind crowd-pleasing tapas bar Pinxto, this lounge-y local favorite in Belltown serves classic American cocktails and many unconventional variations in a speakeasy-like locale. An extensive bourbon selection's the main draw here, but The Upstairs offers nearly every kind of spirit to whet your whistle, including a well-curated menu of beer and wine.

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