Call it shelter fantasy, or hearth envy, but there is just something so romantic about racing the elements to find respite under the nearest roof. It's easy cliche in books and movies and, yes, my idle bus ride imagination: You're miles from home, near blind and frozen, there are probably tired horses involved in some capacity, but there at the turn in the road, warm light and...is that music? And so you enter into a room full of people getting their collective party on because it's a nightmare outside. What were you doing out there anyway? Have a seat by the fire, you maniac. Drink four mugs of this.
But this is Seattle. The most we can hope for with regard to blizzards and such is the rare flurry of gentle snow that inconveniences work commutes and blows up Instagram feeds. Yet during these very occasional snow days, or sometimes just after a stretch of the normal wet-and-gray, I find myself planning a trek to Sully's Snowgoose Saloon.
Despite it being located off the main drag in Phinney Ridge, Sully's is pretty much a 1:1 replica of whatever wintry shelter you can dream up. From the outside, the cottage windows and Swiss Alp-y roof want to be dressed in frost and snow. If there were a horse stable next door no one would bat an eye. But the crucial detail is the traditional hanging pub sign, which, like similar bars throughout the city (particularly Stumbling Monk) denotes a place to warm your bones.
Upon entrance—it's important here to imagine yourself kicking snow from your boots, oh weary traveler—the decor is rustic apres-ski. Less REI and more "I carved this sled from the tree outside my family's home." To the right, two wood bars run parallel, the main bar where you sit and order food and drink (you'll find the usual pub grub of pizza, burgers, and beer; all you really need to order is a stout) and a standing bar along the windows, with a few tall tables in between. To the left a stretch of booths and the the all-important fireplace.
And this is where Sully's is most successful as shelter from the storm: it invites congregation. Certain bars might feel crowded too early in the night, so you're shouting across tables when you should be exchanging lazy stories. Others have the opposite problem, where unless it's Sunday football the cavernous floor feels perpetually at last call. By 9 o'clock on a Saturday night, Sully's seems comfortably at capacity, with pockets spread evenly along the the bar and standing tables, huddled into booths, and surrounding the fire. It is the difference between cozy and cramped, individual conversation tucked into the warm murmur of people waiting things out and want for nothing.
The cold months cometh. So next time you prefer a fire to the space heater, or if the rain is practically begging you to stop in for a beer on your evening commute into or out of the city, follow the light off Phinney Avenue.