Matt Dillon’s Chophouse Row wine bar and bottle shop highlight produce fresh from his own farm: perhaps line-caught cured halibut on kelp with wild plum and shishito pepper, perhaps grilled trout with clay-pot rice, spicy radish, and shiitakes. And even the food is really just in service to the wine, curated with intelligence to be a solo act in a glass or the centerpiece of a meal. Mostly this wood-hewn enclosure of angles and air is an uncommonly fine place to be, delivering the world’s most sophisticated permutation of cozy.
After two and a half years as a bottle shop, Revolution Wine reinvented itself as The Belmont, leaning into its wine and cocktail lounge persona. Now, leather chesterfield couches in warm brown tones are plush platforms upon which folks can—and should—sit and imbibe wines by the glass or housemade cocktails. Food-wise it’s all about small plates: rotating tapas dishes, such as Tuscan meatballs, deviled eggs and stuffed mushrooms, European cheese and charcuterie. Wines remain global, hailing from Oregon, Washington, France, Italy, and Spain.
Bottlehouse is the sort of place every neighborhood could benefit from. It’s a cozy neighborhood hangout, a one-stop shop with a curated selection of wines and bottled ciders to go, and a destination worth traveling to for ciders, wines, and sherry-based cocktails paired with rustic charcuterie and cheese plates. Keep an eye on their calendar for events featuring local wineries, cheesemakers, and shellfish purveyors throughout the year.
In an Eastside town distinguished primarily for its high-end dining (Cafe Juanita) and its low (Spud Fish and Chips), Brix Wine Cafe lands somewhere in the middle with the force of an answered prayer. Brix delivers portobello Napoleon, baby back ribs, grilled ancho-chili skirt steaks, and terrific fontina-glazed hanger steak sandwiches that folks crave and would pay much more dearly for than they are asked to do here. And though the headliner may be wine—well-chosen, available in flights, and starring some great Washington state selections—the food plays more than just a supporting role. It’s all to be enjoyed in a curvaceous blond room lined with windows in the Juanita Village development.
The name refers to a person who tends to a wine cellar, though this sliver of a wine bar injects Parisian charm into a former dry cleaner storefront. Beneath the mood-altering gleam of two massive chandeliers, longtime local barman David Butler helps Franco-curious wine drinkers navigate his chalkboard list of 30-odd reds and whites. Every bottle hails from France and most glasses go for less than $10.
In passing a tire factory, a trip to this South Park destination might not bring to mind the cobblestone streets of Paris's own left bank. But tuck into the microstudio-size wine bar-slash-shop and gaze upon the old world, naturally produced French bottles lining the walls and suddenly the name makes sense. That wall, plus a tiny bar with lots of records and a nook with padded seats, all come together to create genuinely charming digs. Wines are affordable—bottles generally run $10 to $25—and are accompanied by tasting notes and a Spotify playlist. And while you can talk low-intervention gamay at Left Bank, you can also grab a $3 Rainier or a $5 house red—you know, like the neighborhood bar it is.
Here’s everything you need to know about this sliver of a spot that gives equal attention to Washington beer and wine: You can buy a drink for someone who isn’t there at the time, and it gets noted on a board by the bar. People who drink here know one another well enough to make this system work, without devolving into dirty fake names or juvenile jokes. The kitchen, little more than a corner in the candlelit bar, puts out a surprisingly broad menu: tacos, banh mi, wedge salad, and fingerling potato poutine.
A legit hit of Paris in the Central District, L’Oursin glows with pendant lights and Parisian signs, in an unfussy room whose populated bar and open kitchen crook an alluring finger from the street. Chef and co-owner J. J. Proville grew up mostly in France and knows its subtleties, in dishes like a fathomless bouillabaisse with Northwest shellfish under a pastry crust or a tartine of house-smoked bacon with greens on charred brioche. Northwest seafood is his thing; natural wines a close second. Reds, whites, rosés, digestifs—even skin-contact wine, or "orange wine" in layman's terms—come with tasting notes unlike anything you've ever seen, all part of wine director Kathryn Olson's mission to break down wine's tendency toward snobbery. That might mean a "slobber knocker" rosé or a red "with notes of umeboshi and 180 gram vinyl," but all are quirky and made with little human interference.
A good conversation bar is a rare and wonderful thing, especially on Belltown’s Second Ave. But one of the neighborhood’s newest wine and cocktail haunts, Mr. Darcy’s, is just that. In keeping with it’s Jane Austen moniker, a genteel literary mood gently infuses the space: gold-lettering on the windows, a decorative (presumably) phonograph and piano, an antique clock, lots of woodwork, a shelf of books. There are seven house cocktails and another six faintly obscure classics like the Champ Elyees. All run $12 each and hew to current craft conventions. The wines—a chalkboard listing five white and five reds, each $9–$13 a glass ($7 at happy hour from 5–7 every day)—rotate frequently and roam the globe: Spain, Morocco, France, Washington, Hungary, Uruguay.
Unfussy and urbane, Poco brings a bit of raw charm to the ever-more-stylish Pike/Pine neighborhood. Upstairs is comfy and intimate—great for a date—while the L-shaped bar downstairs hosts a new conversation at every turn. New to the wine world? The laid-back staff is happy to help find the perfect palate pleaser.
Think of Portalis as a tranquil wine cellar for grown-ups sheathed in warm vintage brick and laden with well-chosen vintages, for sale by the bottle or the glass to quaff at the bar or at a table up front. The place purveys simple noshes, from an elegant little cheese-and-fig ensemble to a bracing garbanzo bean-and-English pea salad frisky with herbs or an onion-and-anchovy pissaladière—the special when the spotlight region was Provence—thoughtfully matched with a gentle Gigondas rosé. These pairings are masterminded by proprietors who may know a lot more about wine than you do but wouldn’t dream of acting like it.
There’s nothing else like it downtown: no other place casual enough for dropping in, festive enough for an occasion, visible enough to remain on the radar, and proffering a vast menu of populist comfort foods rigorously embellished by mayo and melted cheese. We’re talking pastas, sandwiches (a very nice breaded shrimp and pickled fennel number), salads, and pizza; evenings, there’s a grandma’s kitchen full of comforting mains. And wine, rivers of it, is offered in flights or 80–plus by–the–glass selections, with cheeses or with nosh trios you assemble yourself. Nothing rises above the culinarily predictable, but sitting in the soaring glass–skinned chamber centrally anchored by a massive tower of wine, amid the clattering urban jumble of shoppers and theatergoers and business folk at Fourth and University—you feel you’ve located the beating heart of downtown. The more rustic Woodinville original and the more suburban Kirkland and Bellevue branches cater to families and gambolers at a more relaxed pace.
A retro standalone building on Fremont Avenue starts each day with impeccable coffee and aspirationally approachable bowls of porridge with kimchi, avocado, and a runny egg, or lentils and greens with garlic toast. Tartines dominate later in the day, as lingering patrons turn their attention from macchiato to natural wine—the area by the door doubles as a bottle shop of sorts. Everything about this place makes you want to linger, but Vif closes by 7pm most nights (and has a “no laptop” policy on weekend). Thursday and Friday evenings stretch on a little longer (until 9pm) for "Bar Vif."
Editor's Note: This article was updated April 2 at 1pm to reflect new hours at Vif.