Eastern cafe seattle itcrel

Eastern Cafe

Image: Sarah Flotard

Kaname Izakaya

Back in his Zig Zag days, destination drinkers crowded around Murray Stenson to sample the wares of Seattle’s most storied bartender. No sooner did he land at a new gig—Canon, E. Smith, Queen City Grill—than fans would appear with camera phones raised. These days, on Tuesday through Thursday nights, you can find the master in jeans and a T-shirt at Kaname Izakaya, quietly serving nine or so patrons at the modest setup as bowls of steaming udon noodles float around the dining room floor. It’s too bright inside, the booze is limited (Stenson is pushing for more rum and tequila), but Kaname presents a unique opportunity to witness the other half of Murray’s legend: He’s a genius host. Sit down at the bar, order a cocktail, and he’s already memorized your name. He dances between conversations and drink orders, tying strings around a story on one end of the bar to weave it back over to you for a punch line and a second drink. Wait a little too long for a dish to arrive, and a thimble of plum-flavored shochu appears as if by magic. Eyeball the row of Japanese whiskey on the top shelf, and without a word Murray might stand on a neon tub of powdered detergent and grab one down for a little sample and history. Before it’s time to call it a night, everyone is a new best friend. Murray shakes your hand, and you tell him, “See you next week,” but it’s not soon enough. kaname-izakaya.com

Fort St. George

The Fort calls itself a “different type of sports bar,” which is a massive understatement. The space is carpeted, on top of a travel agency, and accessible only by spiral staircase in the atrium of an office complex. Cocktails often arrive in pint glasses filled to the brim. And the food menu features “drunk cooking” classics like ketchup-flavored fried rice, assorted sausage, and spaghetti with mayo. But it’s these little quirks that make the Fort’s amalgam of Japanese cooking and American eating invaluable to the neighborhood. fortstgeorgeseattle.com

Eastern Cafe

While not a bar exactly, the Chinatown coffee shop offers an adult beverage selection—six taps, rotating bottles of beer and cider, and a quartet of wines by the glass—that stands up to many proper bars in town. But not many bars in town boast a loft space perfect for afternoons with a book, and certainly not the menu of sweet and savory crepes. In a more trafficked neighborhood Eastern Cafe would be packed morning to night with students fighting over table space to set up shop with a laptop and artists doodling in notebooks. Here, it’s the perfect neighborhood hideout. 510 Maynard Ave S, 206-623-1776

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Eastern Cafe

Image: Sarah Flotard 

Bush Garden

The heavy wood doors and bamboo facade hide a karaoke temple. Seven days a week, the evening witching hour calls all would-be pop stars—an indiscriminate crew who made the trek from other neighborhoods and regulars holding court in the back tables. Servers dance up and down the dining floor as forests of empty beer bottles and small Japanese plates from the adjacent restaurant clatter in this windowless safe zone for letting the diva flag fly. bushgarden.net

Purple Dot Cafe

Purple Dot is the International District’s adult cafeteria—a minimally decorated restaurant with just enough beer and wine, plus an expansive menu that covers the immediacy and confusion of late-night hunger pangs. Bar crawlers from surrounding neighborhoods and hoarse fans from nearby CenturyLink stadium float in at weird hours to down plates of Chinese staples like crispy lemon chicken and barbecue pork fried rice, or maybe just a corned beef sandwich with a plate of fries. purpledotseattle.com

J&M Cafe and Merchants Cafe

Ghosts of Old Seattle

Founded in 1889 and 1890, respectively, J&M and Merchants stand like two stubborn old men dug in among the bustle. All of Pioneer Square looks old. That’s sort of its thing. But the bricks of these two cafes look older. Inside J&M the atmosphere changes, a more humid climate beneath a century of tobacco smoke and fryer oil soaked into the ceiling. Merchants’ history leans decidedly more sinister, tied to the mysteries of Seattle’s underground. The walls seem designed to block out any memory of sun, while the downstairs saloon feels suited to a seance. The place is of course haunted, so they say. These days Pioneer Square’s history fights with the new reality of Seattle as a sports town. Tides of fans ebb and flow in the old bars on game days, effectively turning them into pregames. But even filled with loud fans in Mariners jerseys, it’s easy to imagine Merchants and J&M brimming with the people who built this city. jandmcafe.com, merchantscafeandsaloon.com

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