Last Friday, the Nordstrom in Bellevue Square opened a bar. An actual cocktail bar called Habitant, possessing shelves of booze bottles, an army of jiggers, and a neatly compartmented tray of cucumber, mint, and rosemary garnishes awaiting deployment.
And on Saturday after braving a slew of Bellevue errands (one of which may have involved stroller shopping) some adult environs sounded pretty damn good. Plus I was interested in how Nordstrom’s famous customer service would translate to that most sacrosanct figure of hospitality—the bartender.
Habitant is on the second floor, between the escalators and the mall entrance. Nordstrom cafes have plied shoppers with lunch, snacks, and coffee for years, but the Puget Sound Business Journal says this is a test to see if an actual bar might fly at other Nordstrom locations.
The 36 seats were packed on a Saturday afternoon, and patrons seemed evenly split between iced teas and lemonade or actual cocktails. But just about everyone was snacking on a cheese or charcuterie plate, tomato-and-mozzarella-topped toasts, or crispy baby potatoes with bacon aioli from the snacky food menu (plates run about $10). A fair amount of bubbles were flowing, too, and one has to assume patrons toss around the word champers with some frequency.
I spied some locals on the back bar, like Oola, Fremont Mischief, and Dry Fly, plus Oregon neighbors like Aviation and Rogue spirits. The black T-shirted bartenders are fresh-faced, attentive in the extreme, and hustle around efficiently. The gent helping us was cheeky enough to try to coax me into adding a shot to my strawberry lemonade order, yet savvy enough to rebound to a hearty congratulations when I told him I’m on a nine-month alcohol hiatus. Pretty much everyone behind the bar was a guaranteed mom charmer.
My husband’s Nor'easter, a bourbony take on the Moscow Mule, was made with Maker's and Rachel’s Ginger Beer, arrived in a copper mug (which we did not steal...as far as anyone knows) and possessed all the balance and bright flavor you’d expect from a proper mule. So far ladyriffic drinks like the basil-cucumber cooler and a blueberry lavender martini are the big sellers.You play to your audience, right? But I’d go back and try the Smoke and Heat, made with mezcal and jalapeno syrup, or a classic like the Billionaire or a grapefruited Brown Derby.
Make no mistake about it—you are drinking at Nordstrom. The lights are bright, and you have an unobstructed view of the latest in fall outerwear. There are no Edison bulbs. The two TVs flanking the bar play a loop of runway shows from Helmut Lang, Marc Jacobs, and their ilk. Let’s see if the abandoned husbands sure to roost here on weekends can successfully lobby for some sports interludes.
Vessel it's not, but a drink here means good base spirits, fresh fruit juices and purees, and some solid craftsmanship. Habitant opens every day at 11:30.