Seattle by the Bars

Seattle’s Tiny Bars

Six favorites among the local little guys.

April 18, 2011

Sambar is small.

There are a lot of lists floating around the internet, but sometimes one just catches your fancy. If you haven’t yet, check out Budget Travel’s slideshow of the 10 Smallest Bars in the World.

This got me thinking about our own small bars here in Seattle. So below I gathered some of my favorites. They may not match the Budget Travel list for wee-ness, but they’re all pretty fun places to hang out…if you can get a seat.

1. Sambar: A teensy Ballard bar with very wonderful drinks and fussy-delicious French food from Le Gourmand next door. At the risk of sounding like a cornball, this bar is a total neighborhood treasure.

2. Vermillion: A little nook—hidden at the back of an 11th Ave art gallery—that manages to feel at once hip and friendly, like the time you made your older sister drag you along to her friend’s parents-out-of-town kegger just to see what actually happened in high school but then everyone ended up being super nice to you and bringing you beers and stuff and then your poor eighth-grade pals (who had stayed home that night watching Pulp Fiction again because, like, did you even think about inviting them?) had to spend the next two weeks listening to you talk about how epic it was.

3. The White Horse Trading Co: Tiny, covered in Brit bric-a-brac, frequented by local characters who bring more than the requisite eccentricity and flavor, the White Horse endeavors to mimic an English pub but ends up feeling like a bar on another planet.

4. Hazlewood: You must arrive early to secure a seat upstairs, but if you can manage it, this is one of the best places in Ballard to settle in for a chat and some crazy drink involving prosecco, crème de cassis, and squid ink.

5. Joe Bar: Wait, is Joe Bar even that small? I’m not sure. But it doesn’t get praised nearly enough, that’s for certain. There’s something to be said for a place that just gets it right and then doesn’t try too hard to do anything else.

6. The Dray: A fine little wood-lined beer bar in Ballard frequented by friendly neighborhood revelers garbed out in “Fremont fashion”: puffy vests, Sounders scarves, Dansko clogs, Timbuk2 messenger bags… What’s great about The Dray is that its owners are not afraid to nerd out on the on-tap offerings, but understand that unfamiliar beers need to be accompanied by educated, friendly staff willing to explain what they taste like.

So. What did I miss?

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