It’s hard to explain the charm of Rachel’s Ginger Beer to outsiders (It’s just ginger beer? And it’s not even alcoholic?) but one trip to its lively storefronts—in Pike Place Market, University Village, and Capitol Hill’s 12th Avenue Arts Building—and they understand. Seattle’s fanatically beloved homegrown ginger beer is available in cocktails, in soft serve floats, and just plain by glass or growler. The 12th Ave and U Village locations have superb food counters run by local chefs Monica Dimas and Mark Fuller, respectively.
Much of the lore surrounding the cocktail bar on the Pike Hillclimb surrounds two events: Barman Murray Stenson rediscovering the Last Word, an unlikely green drink created by a vaudeville singer in Detroit in the 1920s, that helped vault our city into the national craft cocktail renaissance, and Stenson winning Best Bartender in America at the annual Tales of the Cocktail industry confab. Stenson has moved on, but Zig Zag is every bit a cocktail destination in the post-Murray era, thanks to a cadre of bartenders who bring levity to the very serious business of knowing how you like your drink.
Prone to film noir fantasies? Head down Post Alley to the basement bar of the Alibi Room, where you can almost hear the hard-boiled voice-over narrating your every move. This candlelit, brick-walled boite has a sexy, mysterious feel seldom found so far off Sunset and Vine. This bar is not wheelchair accessible.
Matt’s in the Market’s sibling tavern shares a Pike Place Market upstairs address and a talent for delicate seasonal salads, but chefs Tyler Palagi and Charlie Garrison gleefully veer into animal parts, like fried nuggets of beef lip terrine with house dijonaise for dipping or a porchetta sandwich overloaded with pulled pig cheeks, smoked cheddar, and a softly fried egg. The bar is overseen by the talented Sara Rosales, but also by the butt of a 14-foot decorative whiskey barrel, bearing seven taps for barrel-aged manhattans, negronis, and other rotating libations.
Owner Bryan Jarr turned a storage closet beneath Pike Place Market into an approximation of watering holes in San Sebastián or Galicia or Lisbon, and the most welcoming of neighborhood bars in the thick of the tourist zone. In proper Iberian style—and fitting for the owner’s surname—snacks are mainly cured meat or seafood preserved in jars, like a rich rillette of smoked black cod. Cocktails are sunny and the white-walled space is about as charming as they come.
One of the stalwarts of Seattle’s craft brewing community serves solid pub fare (don’t miss the pretzel) in a rambling space that wraps around brewery operations. On tap: a mix of Pike’s classic brews, like the Scotch-style Kilt Lifter and XXXXX Stout, and less-common pours, from small-batch IPAs to Belgian-style tripels. Don’t let the beer focus fool you: This place is very kid friendly.
This Pike Place Market taproom dispenses a rotating cast of accessible beers—stouts, saisons, CDA, brown ale, and yes always an IPA. In June 2017, Old Stove trades its cozy quarters on First Ave for a sprawling space in the new MarketFront wing, complete with ample patio and stunning water views.