It takes tremendous commitment to ambience—not to mention faith in humanity—to light a bar table with full-on Beauty and the Beast–style candelabras, especially when the people seated at that table are brandishing lemony, herbal cocktails. Drinks named for figures in French music and cinema are ordered off a menu ringed with saucy drawings of nudes. Songwriter Serge Gainsbourg drank hard, chased beauties, and busted sexual taboos in 1960s France, which makes him a dynamite namesake for a bar even though this one’s mellow crowd is unlikely to do anything even mildly shocking (if they do, however, it’ll happen in the bar’s back room, done up to look like a dream sequence in Twin Peaks). They’re here for the absinthe, served with a proper water drip, and duck confit and dimpled metal dishes where escargot and heady chopped garlic swim in melted butter.
Greenwood, in its own tree-lined way, is a little subversive. It comes off as a quiet, family neighborhood, but the watering holes lining Greenwood Ave—newcomers like Teacher’s Lounge, longtimers like Naked City and the Baranof—promise nights of cheap beer, music, cocktails, and soul-baring discourse fueled by wine. Serge would approve. gainsbourglounge.com
The Grizzled Wizard
The enormous gray-and-white painted wizard, eyes glowing, hands outstretched, guards the entrance, warning anyone averse to the cash-only policy or the idea of a shot off the Jäger machine that they shall not pass. Griz Wiz regulars will likely pull you into conversation, but only after you’ve sat a few rounds on one of the bar stools, maybe downed a stiff cocktail or a beer that’s nicer than that old wizard would have you guess. grizzledwizard.com
Conversation is fueled by pints from hard-to-find breweries, or small one-offs from big names. That happens when a bar has been supporting local brewers since long before it was a civic obligation. Another beer, a burger, more easy conversation. Suddenly the sun went down an hour ago. Latona doesn’t wear its beer cred on its sleeve, but surely the first place in town to put Manny’s on draft back in 2003 deserves some sort of plaque. 3pubs.com
The Cozy Nut Tavern
It’s okay…the bar wants you to giggle a little bit at the name. And at the log-studded decor, complete with woodland dioramas of squirrels and turtles posed with beer bottles. It’s like drinking in an early-era Disney princess film; the stuffed fox looks ready to come to life and start mixing your blackberry old-fashioned. 123 N 85th St, 206-784-2240