A sign painted outside of Roxy’s Diner points, with an actual white gloved hand, along the broad side of the charcoal building to an unassuming door near the back corner, where a restaurant might usually keep Dumpsters. It reads “The Backdoor.” If it weren’t for the signage, there would be no reason to think anything waited on the other side of that door except a kitchen, maybe extra storage. Certainly not the staircase descending into an uproarious ballroom mash-up of Gatsby vibes, mobster secrecy, and a little Roman excess for good measure. The Backdoor has some of that hippy druid Fremont magic at work. The interior seems too big for the building that holds it, with plenty of king’s tables and tiny booths to start a party or escape from one. Giant faces painted along both walls are locked in a moment of joyous frenzy—like the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve—but look just slightly off kilter. Is that Humphrey Bogart or someone’s uncle? The bar itself, arranged as a shrine to the winged statue centerpiece, and stocked like a Prohibition hideout, can produce the most deep-cut cocktail requests. Crowded on the weekend with only a halo of patrons around the bar on weeknights, the Backdoor just might be a figment of Fremont’s collective imagination. backdooratroxys.com
Pacific Inn Pub
Though an inn in name only, and hardly larger than a garage, the PI welcomes dock hands and Burke-Gilman joggers alike. The Stone Way stalwart waits outside the northern docks of Lake Union like a lighthouse, promising cheap beer, a few games of pool, a deck enveloped in sun for those magical, reaffirming Seattle summer afternoons, and of course the Famous Fish-and-Chips—one of the best in town. Nights out often end at the PI for no other reason than its reliability; it’s a safe harbor in any storm. 3501 Stone Way N, 206-547-2967
The Barrel Thief
Enter into a whiskey den that looks, lo and behold, like a den full of whiskey (and scotch, and wine, and lots of it). In place of books, noble bottles line the walls—the leather-bound library of spirits. But don’t be intimidated by the exhaustive menu. That’s what the librarian bartenders are for. Say the word peat and maybe a price range, and suddenly they pull from the bottles and from oak barrels to produce flights of brown by way of Kentucky, the Scottish Highlands, and Japan. bthief.com
Get deep enough into the 64 taps, gobble down a bier cioppino and Belgian stew, and the dome window on top of Fremont’s most lofty beer hall might start to look like the eye of some legendary sea creature, carrying in its stomach a horde of victorious weekend warriors to a land of eternal pints. There’s a lot to choose from at Brouwer’s, an early proponent of beer nerddom on this side of Lake Union. Its warehouse of taps and bottles include a vast selection of Washington brewers, but really there’s just one choice: another round.
George and Dragon Pub
There’s Sunday NFL game day. Then there’s waking up at eight on a Saturday morning to catch a European football match. For intercontinental camaraderie, plant a flag at this traditional English pub. The front porch of the George and Dragon remains prime real estate for the marquee soccer contest, with overflow spectators sometimes watching the fray from the other side of the fence. Throw Irish whiskies down the hatch before your body knows what’s happening, then shout at televisions for 90 minutes with all walks of Seattle life, sporting team scarves and suddenly apparent national allegiances.