• HOURS: 5-7pm daily
• PRICES: $2 off bar menu; drink specials $5.
It wasn’t until my third visit to The Coppergate that I got it. The Viking-boat-as-bar bothered me at first—the vessel bifurcates the room, so that if you sit at a starboard table, you see nearly nothing of what’s going on port side, and vice-versa. I found that distracting.
So the third time I went, I climbed aboard a stool at the bar-ship, where I had a suitable view of the entire space: the bar itself, at once silly and beautiful, the mounted shadow boxes full of well-placed curios, and the dusky candlelit ambience where my fellow patrons looked bleak and mysterious, like sullen carnies in an Ingmar Bergman film. When I returned a fourth time I was back at a table, but having experienced life aboard the good ship Aquavit, I relaxed—if pirates were taking over on the other side of the bar, I figured, let their mutiny rage. So long as the waitress kept the Big Cucumber cocktails coming.
There are pictures of naked ladies all over the Coppergate. In fact, the lounge recently unveiled a back room themed around female genitalia. You didn’t know? Sorry to ruin the surprise.
Here’s another surprise: The food is good. If you grew up in Ballard, pickled herring and fish cakes likely need little introduction. For the rest of us, some coaxing may be in order: Well known for its beautiful blonds and uncompromising filmmakers, Northern Europe is not so much a dinner destination. With the Coppergate as its ambassador, that could change. I love especially the French fries (HH $4; regularly $6). They come sprinkled with dill and accompanied by a ramekin of curried ketchup, and they are perfectly fried—dark, crunchy, with just the right amount of juicy greasiness. On one trip I paired them with the mussels in an aquavit-laced tomato sauce (HH $7), and was happy I had. On another visit I ordered Swedish meatballs—ignoring a frightening flashback from the cafeteria at Ikea. They turned out to be delightfully aromatic and came served atop a cloud of celeriac-potato puree garnished with lardons and a lingonberry preserve. I didn’t lick the plate, but it was close there for a second.
There is an aquavit sampling menu, I once saw the bartender steer an aquavit newbie away from the Krogstad—made in Portland—but it’s lovely, especially chased with a bitter hit of Carlsburg. Cocktailwise, the Big Cucumber (HH $5; regularly $7) is a mellow crowd-pleaser. Made from Aalborg aquavit, lemon, sugar, and cucumber, it offers up hits of fennel alongside the cucumber, and there’s not a hint of heat from the alcohol.
For an aperitif, you can’t go wrong with a simple, elegant Kir Jarl (pronounced “yarl”)—a puddle of cherry herring diluted deliciously with sparkling wine. I tend to feel disappointed when a wine-based drink arrives in a stemless glass, but I’ve found myself doting on the Jarl’s teardrop-shaped flute. That’s just the way it is at the Coppergate, you learn to adapt. And then you fall in love.
FALL IN LOVE WITH ALL OF SEATTLE’S BEST HAPPY HOURS HERE.
And don’t miss Happy Hour Outings, in which arts editor Laura Dannen pairs the weekly happy hour with a can’t-miss cultural event.