Hidden Gems

Basements and Balconies for a Hot Seattle Summer

Escape the heat in the coolish underground, or revel in the breeze from an upstairs deck.

By Rachel Breiwick July 26, 2013

Given your druthers, how do you prefer to cool off? A chilled underground retreat, or a sun drenched balcony with a view? Courtesy of Gene X Hwang and The Pink Door.

It looks like it's going to be another sunny, balmy weekend in the Emerald City. Here are our picks for beat-the-heat retreats that will have you out, having fun, and maintaining your inner cool.


Capitol Cider
The pub food is somehow all gluten free, the cider selection is as vast as it is varied, and the refreshingly cool basement below has shuffleboard and a full bar. You’ll feel properly English swigging cider and playing board games in the dim Capitol Hill cellar. Bonus: The fish and chips are battered naturally in cider and rice flour.

The basement level of Bathtub Gin. Via Bathtub Gin & Co.

Bathtub Gin and Co
It’s just an alleyway door in between 1st and 2nd in Belltown, but you would do wise to enter the split-level, windowless speakeasy—specifically the downstairs living room. Visit the website ahead of time to reserve The Library—a cool, candlelit room with sofa couches, shelves of books, and table service. The occupancy caps at 39, so you’ll never feel too crowded.

College Inn Pub 
The basement of College Inn Pub is more than just a university bar—though the bar can accommodate hordes—it’s perfect at any age for enjoying a crisp (and affordable) beer in a cool underground place. Expect inexpensive hearty pub food, and trivia nights hosted by the Burke Museum. College Inn has old-world pub charm with pool tables (which are free on Sundays), darts, regularly rotating taps, and a different drink special for every day of the week—which makes Saturdays $4 whiskey night.

The Narwhal Room
Beneath the notoriously fun Unicorn is a basement hideaway with pinball machines, circus-centric reclaimed items, and a menu that serves vegetarian narwhal balls until 1 am. Initially intended to be a dance floor, The Narwhal Room opened as the sister haunt to Unicorn last summer, but you’ll find that the cool and dark interior makes the basement feel lounge-y, especially during happy hour. Don’t neglect the naughty surprises to be discovered at the drop-claw game.  

The holy trinity of beer, cats, and pinball. Via Add a Ball.

Add a Ball
In the alley between 36th and 35th, you’ll find  pinball machines, arcade games, cheap beers on tap, and some serious love for feline friends. It’s the sister game house to John John’s Game Room on Capitol Hill, except this one is located underneath the Piece of Mind parking lot (perfect for Add a Ball’s annual pot-inspired 420 Pinball tournaments). But be forewarned: Add a Ball is cash only.




The Pink Door

Seattle’s prettiest little Italian restaurant also has one of the best upper decks in town. Inside it’s all cabaret and trapeze swings (the entertainment is always free and live), but outside it’s 36 tables overlooking Elliot Bay, and you’d do well to reserve a table online in advance. On days when the sun is out, the deck opens at 4.

Summer drinks with a view at Madison Park Conservatory's balcony. Via Madison Park Conservatory.

Madison Park Conservatory
Looking eastward over Lake Washington, Madison Park Conservatory’s upstairs balcony is perfect for summer evenings over wine and conversation. The atmosphere is cozy and romantic, and it’s hard to say whether the cocktails or the kitchen steals the show—think deviled eggs with Dungeness crab, and steak tartare with bone marrow tater tots. 

The Capitol Club
Capitol Club prides itself on its Mediterranean fusion fare, but the best part of the Capitol Hill bar is the upstairs, furnished like an Eastern caravan with embellished pillows and walls of twinkling candles. (We still can't understand why this place isn't packed.) Sip sangrias on the balcony patio overlooking E Pine for people watching and the $5 price tag for happy hour (which is everyday 5-8).

Copacabana Café
Follow the stairs up to Copacabana on the main Pike Place stretch for Bolivian inspired menu items and the most premium people watching around. You won’t find game-changing cocktails here, but there are few things better than an umbrella overhead and a casual drink on hot summer days downtown. And the views of Elliott Bay and the Olympics are stunning.

The Upstairs
It's not quite a balcony but The Upstairs, a lofty second-story space, almost qualifies. Chandeliers, eclectic paintings, and a feeling of exclusivity comes with the drink order at this bar above Pintxo. To get in on what is functionally an air-conditioned living room with a full bar, send a Facebook message to “Amanda” and reserve a private nook and comfortable seating.


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