These Shops and Restaurants Are Out of Sight—Literally
Radiator Whiskey ● ●
Matt’s in the Market’s second-story home in Pike Place Market is absurdly quaint, but calling one of the town’s best-loved restaurants “hidden” would be a stretch. So let’s turn to its sibling bar across the hall, with its roster of barrel-aged cocktails and rebelliously meaty menu of cornflake-crusted chicken livers and lamb-neck sloppy joes.
Party Hat ●
As the name implies, this Pioneer Square collaborative space doesn’t so much put on art exhibits as it throws art parties. Tucked away in the obliquely named TK Artist Lofts, Party Hat’s monthly soirees showcase work from emerging local creators every First Thursday Art Walk.
Horizon Books ●
The born-again (and again) bookstore on 10th has been a Capitol Hill fixture for nearly 50 years, albeit a subterranean one since 2008. Luckily print is not dead after all—but it is tucked away, down a ramp, wedged between a tattoo parlor and yoga studio. 206-696-4099
Eight Bells Winery ●
Few people would expect to find a well-regarded winery in this residential part of town, much less in a narrow alleyway off busy Roosevelt Way. On Saturdays, the tasting room opens its doors and pours its standout 8 Clones Syrah.
The Tin Table ● ●
Upstairs in the Oddfellows Building, a dining room drenched in exposed-brick charm serves approachable dishes like braised short ribs or cauliflower tempura (though it’s hard to pass up the truffle shoestring fries). Plenty of customers come from the Century Ballroom next door, but neighbors know it’s a reliable spot for a cocktail or flight of sparkling rosé.
Seattle’s Pedestrian Tunnels ●
A few underground passageways make it easier to traverse certain parts of downtown, minus rain, slow walkers, or interminable crosswalk waits. The concourse from Rainier Tower to Union Square accesses the Hilton, the Washington Athletic Club, and the 5th Avenue Theatre, and doubles as a gallery of historic photos of early Seattle. The long hall that connects Columbia Center with Seattle’s Municipal Tower and the 800 Fifth Avenue skyscraper has all the charm of an airport concourse, but it’s way kinder on the feet than the steeply angled sidewalks outside. Enter at 1301 Fifth Ave or Fifth Ave & Columbia St
Swan Dive ●
Pore over hidden, vintage gems inside this hidden, vintage gem: a tiny underground emporium of bygone goods that dwells below the Clementines boutique in Pioneer Square. Descend the stairs into the surprisingly bright room filled with brass home decor, throwback womenswear, and other collectibles gathered by owner Ali Brownrigg.
Derby ● ●
Industrial SoDo seems an unlikely place for Ethan Stowell to plant a restaurant. But inside the Shop, a club for classic car fans, the prolific restaurateur runs a gastropub that’s open to the public. Orders of burrata or fried oysters come with a view of the luxe vehicles in the members’ garage.
The Sovereign ● ●
Despite its swank art nouveau stylings—tile, pressed-tin-esque ceiling, twining wallpaper—this subterranean bar at First and Washington has one of the neighborhood’s best happy hours, from festive highballs to $2 orders of deviled eggs. (The Sovereign is kin to Forge Lounge, another out-of-the-way downtown haunt.)
The eclectic Belltown boutique takes “local sourcing” to new depths, literally. Down a spiral staircase that leads you underneath the shop itself is where the handcrafted magic happens. Seven Seattle designers make bespoke goods in this studio—half of Sassafras’s clothing and bags come from this space.
The Factory ●
On the one pleasantly underused block that remains along the Pike/Pine corridor, behind an unmarked blue door, and upstairs in the Pound Arts Building, a little gem of a gallery hides among artist studios. The Factory’s casually boozy receptions for its rotating exhibits are a must-visit during every Capitol Hill Art Walk.
Fort St. George ● ●
It may look like an office from the outside, but those people huddled around tables are wetting whistles, not tapping keyboards. This unfussy Chinatown–International District bar, located above a travel agency, offers large bottles of Japanese beer, long pours, and a food menu with some inventive fusions: ketchup-flavored fried rice, anyone?
Swift Industries ●
Above Marshawn Lynch’s Beast Mode storefront in Pioneer Square, up a narrow flight of stairs, is the coolest bike bag shop in the city. Bright blues, Pacific Northwest greens, and pops of pink adorn all sorts of handlebar baskets and saddlebags that dapple the light-filled showroom overlooking First Ave.
Chapel Performance Space ●
Wander up to the fourth floor of the stately Good Shepherd Center in Wallingford and find yourself, suddenly, in a cathedral of sorts. Rich wood columns under proud arches and a lofty ceiling make for a magical venue to fill with music. Chapel hosts many such performances, including the adventurous Wayward Music Series.
With an alleyway entrance off Bell Street, this bourbon-drenched bar certainly seems like a destination for secret meetings and mysterious rendezvous. But don’t let the postern passage fool you. Inside await cushioned leather chairs, dark wood booths, various Southern-style bites, and masterfully made cocktails.
Black Lodge ●
Just like the red curtain–clad alternate reality in Twin Peaks that inspired its name, the Black Lodge is mysterious and beguiling. The secretive all-ages space inside what looks like a condemned South Lake Union building regularly hosts concerts, readings, and performance art. But don’t go blabbing about it everywhere, okay?
Smith Tower Observatory Bar ● ●
As the oldest skyscraper in the city, this 38-story edifice in Pioneer Square isn’t exactly hush-hush. But the cafe and bar on the 35th floor slings Prohibition era–inspired drinks (alongside the same watery view) and still manages a clandestine vibe.
Forge Lounge ●
Boat commuters definitely know this bar on the pedestrian overpass that conveys you from First Ave to the ferry terminal. But even the landlocked drinker can appreciate a mellow slip of a room, just this side of divey, that slings anything from Fireball and Dr. Pepper to matcha mules.
Volunteer Park Water Tower Observation Deck ●
It’s 107 steps to the top of this 1906 brick cylinder, the highest point on Capitol Hill, and a little-known (and free) destination for city views. The steel reservoir inside is now empty, but a small exhibit documents how the famed Olmsted Brothers landscape architecture firm shaped Seattle’s parks.
Sun May ●
It doesn’t get much more elusive than this variety shop in Chinatown–International District, snugly tucked away in Canton Alley. Also, it’s open just two days a week. But behind a bright-red door await vintage menus, Chinese lanterns and umbrellas, and antiques, from robots to cash registers to Coke bottles. 206-624-1467
E. Smith Mercantile ●
This Pioneer Square haunt is a brick-walled twofer: In the front is a charming general store straight out of the Pinterest board of your homesteading dreams; in the back resides a tipple- and tincture-filled cocktail bar that recently remodeled, doubling its capacity for back-bar booze guzzling.
Barnacle ● ●
Renee Erickson’s aperitivo bar is hidden in the back of Ballard’s Kolstrand Building, but also obscured by the buzz that surrounds its next-door sibling restaurant, the Walrus and the Carpenter. Think fewer two-hour waits and more amaro cocktails—plus plates of octopus terrine and jamón serrano.
Sea Wolf Bakers ●
It’s easy to miss the restrained signage on Stone Way that assures fans of superior sourdough and even better croissants that they’ve come to the right place. The spartan bakery’s pastry rack evolves throughout the day; if you’re lucky, the croissant-based cinnamon rolls might make an appearance.
Flatstick Pub ● ●
An entire miniature golf course, complete with replica Space Needle, is submerged beneath Pioneer Square’s historic Furuya Building. Come for the duffleboard—aka Putt-Putt meets shuffleboard—stay for the menu of queso and thoughtful tacos by Manu Alfau, not to mention 36 local taps.
SAM Gallery ● ●
Brush past Seattle Art Museum Shop’s tote bags to enter a space where art appreciation turns into acquisition. If the paintings by local artists are too steep for your wallet, museum members can rent or rent-to-buy from the gallery.
Umma’s Lunch Box ●
Descend those mysterious steps outside the 5th Avenue Theatre and find a buffet of homey, vegetarian-friendly Korean food. Fill a black plastic takeout box with bibimbap, steamed vegetables, and even Spam musubi; diners unfamiliar with japchae or unsure of the heat levels of the housemade hot sauce can consult the exceedingly friendly staff.
Chophouse Row ● ● ● ●
Mews: a delightfully British term for the storefronts secreted from street view at the redeveloped Chophouse Studios. Wander in and find delicate fine jewelry at Honed, Matt Dillon’s Bar Ferdinand restaurant, chef Sun Hong's new By Tae hand roll counter, and Kurt Farm Shop’s ice cream in flavors like tomato jam or salted plum. Not to mention a picturesque hidden courtyard and secret back entrance to Cupcake Royale. The complex even has its own Wednesday-night farmers market.
The Mamnoon family’s stylish den of clean eating is tucked amidst Amazon’s Doppler buildings, just past the hordes of people en route to Evergreen’s and Potbelly’s. Here, sunflower seed butter dresses up a kale salad, and hearty bowls of lentils or fava beans fuel afternoon productivity. So does the cardamom- and date-laced Turkish iced coffee.
Le Petit Cochon ● ●
One of the town’s best, totally underheralded restaurants lurks on the second floor of a Fremont office building. Make your way past the tenant mailboxes and be transported to chef Derek Ronspies’s irreverent meat den, where dishes have names like Phat Ass Pork Chop and every plate is equal parts decadent and delicate. LPC is fancy enough to rock amuse-bouches and a $95 six-course tasting menu, but also an easy spot for a cocktail and a pork tartare (yes, as in raw pork) with nuoc cham that’s brisk like ceviche.
These Stores Are Not What They Seem
A few local boutiques have names that are decidedly misleading. To save you the embarrassment of showing up at a children’s store in search of sex toys, we decode a few such establishments.
Baby and Company
You'd think: Cute onesies, bibs, novelty teether toys.
In reality: An upscale purveyor of ultramod fashion for (credit-)card-carrying adults and host of an annual sale of secondhand designer wear.
You'd think: Your one-stop shop for saucy negligees and erotic swings.
In reality: An adorable haven of conscientious baby and kids’ goods, where the toys are decidedly not adult.
Sway and Cake
You'd think: Groovy boutique patisserie.
In reality: A recently resurrected clothing store hawking designer hoodies and cashmere beanies.
You'd think: Bird food. Birdhouses. Actual living birds.
In reality: Puffy jackets, sleeping bags, and down suits you could wear on Mount Everest, stuffed with feathers responsibly sourced from our birdy buddies.
Editor's Note: This article was updated January 21, 2019 to reflect several closures, including that By Tae took over the space formerly home to Petite Galette in Chophouse Row.