What was once known as Catholic Hill (due to a large Roman Catholic population), and then transformed into Seattle’s premiere gay neighborhood in the early 1960s, is undeniably the Seattle's current coolest 'hood. It’s home to the city’s musicians and artists, counterculture mavens, and (for better or worse) flocks of yuppies attracted to the neighborhood’s unique spirit -- especially the dozens of bars, restaurants, music venues, and theaters that dot its landscape.
If you’re visiting Capitol Hill for the first time, it can be overwhelming. But this guide will help. Use it as a starting point, and then go get lost in the alleyways of this magical place.
Where to eat
332 15th Ave E
No, you weren’t just transported to a rustic and remote hunter’s lodge somewhere in the mountains of Washington. But you might as well have been. This upscale pub, decorated with taxidermy and sturdy wood tables, is home to one of Seattle’s best brunch menus. The brioche French toast is fluffy and golden, and the smoked brisket sandwich is flavorful and gargantuan. Top it off with a pitcher of orange, pomegranate, or grapefruit mimosas, and then ask which way to the ski slope.
219 Broadway E
This not-so-secret-but-still-kind-of-secret hole in the wall serves up the absolute BEST tacos in Seattle. And don’t let any other taco place tell you otherwise, especially if they have anything on the menu with “artisanal cheeses” or kale. Tacos Chukis is a no nonsense taco stand that uses fresh ingredients to make classic Tijuana-style street tacos. It’s also nestled upstairs in an alley building. If you want street cred, this place has it.
617 Broadway E
Local -- and wild and foraged -- ingredients are the stars of Chef Nathan Lockwood’s specially crafted tasting menu. A sommelier is always on hand to guide you through your dining adventure, and not-so-unreasonable prices make Altura something most anyone on the hill can experience at least once. Or, you know, as many times as you want.
Many restaurants claim to have the best burger in Seattle. Most of them are don't. But this eatery isn’t one of them. 8oz uses local and organic ingredients to make more than a few “damn good burgers,” as some might say. Keep it traditional with The Classic or get crazy with some pork belly kimchi.
Where to drink
So you’ve filled your belly, but now you’re parched. Your first stop should be to a brand new brewery in the heart of Capitol Hill: Optimism. There’s a lot to be optimistic about at this massive brewery, including a series of locally made rotating brews and the food trucks that pull right up inside to serve delicious eats. Patrons are also encouraged to bring in their own food from nearby restaurants. What’s not to love?
1506 E Olive Way
Montana is the dive bar that you just keep going back to. With a nifty little outdoor patio and one of the best Moscow Mule’s in town, this no-fuss spot is a perfect place for cocktails after work with coworkers or even a casual date. It’s also next to Tortas Condesa, which serves one of the best Mexican sandwiches in town.
607 Summit Ave E
If craft cocktails are your thing, then Sun Liquor is also your thing. The bar is intimate and extremely popular, making snagging a seat sometimes a hard thing to do... but it's not difficult to see why. The cocktails are tailored with Sun Liquor Distillery liquors and fresh, in-house juices and syrups. Spirits are made right next door, giving a glimpse into the intricate process behind making top-notch alcohol for top-notch cocktails
1221 E Madison St
Pony, one of the most popular gay bars in the 'hood, is housed in a 1930s vintage gas station and has a large outdoor patio for fun in the sun (or winter). Half funky dive bar, half dance club -- the disco ball is always turning at this Capitol Hill staple.
Where to play
What happens when a 1928 automotive garage gets transformed into a 40,000sqft bar and recreation space in the heart of Capitol Hill? You get one of the coolest neighborhood hangout spots in the city. With 20 bowling lanes, 25 pool tables, six bars, and three private rooms, Garage is your one-stop shop for entertainment on a night exploring the Hill.
Volunteer Park (address and info)
1247 15th Ave E
Capitol Hill might be known for its trendy bars and restaurants, but there’s also plenty of beautiful green space. The 48-acre Volunteer Park is perfect for picnics, a jog, or just enjoying the sun on a beautiful Seattle summer. The park is also home to the Seattle Asian Art Museum and the Volunteer Park Conservatory.
1118 E Pike St
Brunch and drag queens may seem like they wouldn't go together in the same sentence. But you couldn’t be more wrong. Mimosas With Momma, a variety show and live musical experience, plays every Sunday at Unicorn on Capitol Hill. Join others as you sip on delicious mimosas, help yourself to a brunch buffet, and enjoy the musical stylings of Seattle’s “Mama Tits” and company.
1351 E Olive Way
This cool bi-level cafe on Capitol Hill is stocked with over 30 old-school arcade games that will make a fun night for anyone who wanders in. If pinball is the name of your game, there are plenty of machines here (and beer) to keep the party going until the wee hours of the morning.
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Cody Permenter is a freelance writer for Thrillist, and his research for this article was mighty tasty. Follow him on Twitter.
1. Smith332 15th Ave E, Seattle
2. Tacos Chukis219 Broadway E, Seattle
3. Altura Restaurant617 Broadway E, Seattle
4. 8oz Burger & Co.1401 Broadway, Seattle
5. Optimism Brewing Company1158 Broadway, Seattle
6. Montana1506 E Olive Way, Seattle
7. Sun Liquor607 Summit Ave E, Seattle
8. Pony1221 E Madison St, Seattle
9. Garage Billiards1130 Broadway, Seattle
10. Unicorn1118 East Pike St, Seattle
11. John John's Game Room1351 E Olive Way, Seattle
Dig into rustic pub fare, craft cocktails, and an "uncommon" beer selection at Smith in Seattle. This Capitol Hill area fave run by the proprietors of other Emerald City hotspots Linda's, King's Hardware, and Oddfellows Cafe, is known for their dependable menu of elevated and seasonal New American dinner and brunch selections. The warm and welcoming woodsy, lodge like interior provides the perfect setting for hearty and unique farmhouse style dishes and drinks.
Though Taco Chukis baby burritos might be mini-er than the rest of the burritos on this list, it doesn’t mean they’re any less tasty. This Capitol Hill treasure is cheap and super central-- right off Broadway. It's a no-frills spot offering delicious Mexican street food fare at an affordable price. You can’t go wrong at this place-- and its prices, you can go ahead and try one of everything!
Altura Restaurant is an Italian spot with a weekly-changing menu meant to capitalize on the freshest ingredients sourced from organic, independent farms around the Northwest. An insane list of regional wine from Italy, plus a plethora of dishes (featuring handmade pasta,)are also sure to impress. The cozy, romantic vibe of Altura makes it a perfect Capitol Hill spot for date night or an intimate gathering with friends.
8oz Burger & Co. emphasizes local and sustainable ingredients more than the average burger chain -- the house-blended patties are made from grass-fed beef that’s sourced from cattle farms in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, and the brioche buns are baked daily at a nearby bakery. That said, you can’t go wrong with the signature 8oz Burger, a fanciful combination of arugula, balsamic onions, bacon, cheddar, and truffle aioli. There’s also the option to build your own burger that, when tailored to your personal tastes, can be as sophisticated (aged gruyere, fig jam, prosciutto) or basic (white American cheese) as you like.
This is one of our favorite new breweries in Seattle. Optimism Brewing's massive digs are sure to be any Seattle beer lover's new home away from home. Get cozy in their rustic, industrial-chic digs and nuzzle up to a freshly poured draft-- they've got all the types of ales and lagers you're looking for, served in a congenial and friendly atmosphere. This establishment is no-tipping and cash only, so be prepared to come with some green in hand.
Opened by a 'tana-born industry vet (La Bete, Matt's in the Market, etc.) and the lady-preneur behind Rachel's Ginger Beer, this 40-seater's serving better-than-usual suds and a few classical 'tails in a charmingly awkward space that used to house the Buck's, now transformed thanks to stained wood and highway signs (some bullet-riddled!) into the kind of intentionally dive-y space where you're encouraged to carve your name into the tables.
Sun Liquor's a Capitol Hill distillery & bar that also serves New American dinner and brunch dishes (options include a Tilamook cheddar "Tiki" burger with grilled pineapple and buttermilk biscuits and gravy). This spot makes top notch cocktails (duh), the likes of which include riffs on the classics like French 75's (Sun's Oslo 75 features Aquavit and sloe gin) plus original creations, all of which are picture perfect to sip in SL's plush, speakeasy style establishment.
What was once a 1930s' era gas station is now a hip and rollicking gay bar in Seattle's Capitol Hill. Pony, an Emerald City LBGT standby, is a raucous dive bar and party spot. A retractable roof (!!), outdoor patio and fire pit keep the good times rolling all year long; an energetic, diverse playlist of hip hop, new wave, pop, and funk gets the patrons dancing and coming back for more. Drinks are cheap and the vibe is lively.
Get your game on at this Capitol Hill billiards 'n bowling hotspot. With 20 lanes of play, 25 pool tables, and six bars (!!!), Garage is a massive entertainment center perfect for a variety of occasions. Bonus points for their seven day a week happy hour specials which don't just only apply to drinks-- you can get game time for more than half off from 10pm to 2am daily. The on site restaurant features classic American grub and share plates.
Supposedly, the folks at Unicorn will deep-fry anything. Test that theory at this ridiculously high-concept French-circus-styled drinkery with vividly striped walls and zebra patterned/faux-period furniture. Ever wanted a drag queen to serve you breakfast? Lucky for you, Unicorn's also well known for their Sunday brunch specials, Mimosas with Momma, a weekly variety show and brunch buffet.
John John's is an old bi-level café that the owners have stocked with vintage arcade games and covered with '80s-era decor. Game options include the classic themed pinballs and, for the more nostalgic gamers, a ton of 16-bit games like Street Fighter and Pac-Man. But not everything here is designed for the kid in you, oh no: they've got premium malt liquor, tall boys, and enough beer to make you wanna waste your spare change at an arcade... oh, wait.