The Virginia Inn definitely makes a pretty penny off the tourists, but sitting at the bar with an out-of-towner giddy from a day of sightseeing is a good reminder of why we’re lucky to live here.

The decadent small plates at Spur take center stage, but don’t forget to drink: Cocktails are an art form here; bartenders carve ice and mix exotic liquors with flair.

Finding Bathtub Gin is a bit tricky—it’s in the alley across from Spur, marked with a small brass plaque—but enough people must know the secret, because the place is packed. The drinks (emphasis on gin, naturally) are strong, and the conversation tends to be smart (think arguing about the economy rather than about the hottest person at the bar), but good luck finding a place to sit.

Pintxo, the Spanish tapas bar that took over Txori, isn’t a particularly memorable place unless you knew the restaurant that preceded it, but its sangria is fresh and tasty, and sometimes that’s all you need.

And now for something completely different. Shorty’s is the kind of hipster dive bar that looks like it’s straight from the set of an indie movie. The place is decorated like a dirty carnival ride, the guy next to you probably has more tattoos than you have hairs on your head, and there is a whole roomful of pinball machines.

Replace Shorty’s carnival decor and pinball with tiki heads and shuffleboard and you’ve got the Lava Lounge. Same alternative crowd, same cheap beer, same fun night.

Any place with a giant sparkly chandelier has to be cool, right? Rendezvous attracts an artsy crowd—maybe because it’s attached to a tiny theater—that is decidedly more laid-back than the Shorty’s/Lava Lounge crew. Phew.

The best thing at Rob Roy (except for the meticulously crafted drinks, of course) are the bowls of free goldfish crackers. Popping a childhood snack while drinking booze in the dark, sumptuous, leather-lined space will make you feel like a kid who got into mom’s makeup drawer—sophisticated, but slightly naughty.

NEXT: Downtown

This article appeared in the March 2011 issue of Seattle Met Magazine.

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