University District views, vinyl, ’90s-era R&B, and outdoorsy themes are still impressive indoors. The menu isn’t particularly groundbreaking, but it checks the Pacific Northwest boxes: oysters on the half shell, clam chowder, smoked salmon delivered in a tin with toast, an upgraded wagyu hot dog with heaps of dungeness crab on toasted brioche. Hot drinks like mulled red wine and grasshoppers (gin, creme de menthe, allspice dram, marshmallows) jive with the Graduate Hotel's top-floor bar and its log cabin aesthetic: mountain paintings, vintage snowshoes, and big leather chairs.
The speakeasy-style bar specializes in scads of pre-Prohibition and Prohibition-era drinks and a stuffed Monte Cristo of sliced pork shoulder with maple and smoked olive oil, cooked sous vide for seven hours. It’s hardly a secret, but there’s an upstairs room called Needle and Thread, where if you make the right call from the phone by the entrance, you might nab an open bar stool for a quaint experience.
Local barman Jamie Boudreau had long planned to open his own place, and when Canon arrived, the reality somehow exceeded the ridiculously high expectations. Since then, he’s only burnished its reputation with an ever-growing catalog of rare and vintage spirits, and cocktails whose playful delivery systems (miniature bathtubs, faux IV bags) belie their clever flavors. Canon’s interior is all dark wood and glowing bottles, the equivalent of a hug from a loved one.
As the weather gets colder, you’ll have to beat back the hordes to snag a table in this folksy, raw-timbered Leschi favorite (from the owners of Purple and Barrio), but once you do you’ll encounter a menu of crowdpleasers—whether that menu’s for breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner. Pastries at brunch, grain bowls by evening, globally tweaked dishes like tuna poke—almost every dish has a fan club. Mind you, reach-wise it’s about as highbrow as dinner at Mom’s—but the welcome’s just as sweet and warm.
Through an alleyway entrance off Bell Street awaits Branchwater, a low-lit lounge with dark wood everything and cushy armchairs. Inside the tucked-away bar—sibling to street-facing Pintxo—comfort comes in many forms, particularly bourbon. Take the Mighty Jack, a balancing act of bonded bourbon and apple brandy whose sweetness is tempered by a nice hit of amaro, as crisp as the weather.
The speakeasy trend has had its moment, and yet cocktail aficionados still do well to duck into the alley behind Second Avenue. These days the smallest of signs out front helps guide the way. Bring a jacket, as patrons might experience a wait. There, a boiler room turned bilevel hideout serves cocktails wrought with care and a hot toddy approaching local legend status.
Adjacent to the hotel lobby, this inviting bar has a full cocktail bar, lounge, and–the piece de resistance–a fireplace. And what pairs well with a fire's glow and cocktails? Monthly concerts from Seattleites that are free and open to the public. But be warned: space is limited.