Belltown Brewing seems a little dressed up in the lingering daylight hours of springtime. With its black bar drawn like eyeliner across white walls and matching charcoal booths accompanied by dark wood accents, the interior imbues the feeling of waking up in last night's cocktail attire—specifically, the lingering fancy digs of Bell and Whete, which shuttered earlier this year and reopened as a presumably more accessible brewpub.
Ah, okay. There's the queue of polished chrome tanks of fermenting barley where tables used to be. There's the chalkboard tap list, the game on TV, a flight of taster-size glasses filled with a color gradient of brews from pale yellow to amber to black coffee. This is, in fact, a brewpub.
Halfway through a pint of the Belltown Lager—which is actually very refreshing and will almost certainly be followed by an encore—and something uncanny still hangs in the air, like when a local diner opens in what clearly used to be a Pizza Hut. Where am I?
One function of a brewpub is to be unfussy—a comfortable and functioning delivery device for the house brews with comfortable and functioning food. But there goes a wood slab adorned with smoked salmon on a pillow of mascarpone. Later, a tower of mozzarella and green heirloom tomatoes drizzled in what can only be a handmade vinaigrette.
Then, during the home stretch of the 4 to 6pm happy hour, I start to get it. With half the original dining floor replaced by a brewing area, the space fills up quick. And that's a good thing for this specific space to do. Much of the initial preciousness came from the sanctimonious quiet of a bar just about to pop off. Now things are loud. Those plush booths—a little elegant when empty—suddenly host a whole mess of people laughing and putting a few back, a server darting beside them carrying what now looks like a really tasty burger. There's a crowd gathering at the door too.
Finally the fries arrive, thick-cut, golden brown as ale, and legitimately excellent. It's amazing what a good order of fries can do to a table. In the summer, when it's warm enough to roll up the bar's south-facing windows, when it becomes a breezy inside outside party, a saison and those fries will be a regular thing.
Belltown Brewing does straddle, at times uncomfortably, the line between neighborhood brewpub and refined gastropub. But because that neighborhood is Belltown, itself situated between residential abode and glittery urban hub, the former Bell and Whete should fit right in.