Has anyone else noticed—Seattle’s having a great bar moment right now. The reasons are often prosaic. Bars require less staff, and fewer supplies that are probably on backorder…and are three times more expensive than they used to be. But the result can be tremendously fun. These (relatively) new watering holes offer escapist decor, slushy drinks, a sympathetic ear—or just a perfect glass of Champagne.
Looking for our list of best new restaurants? We got you.
One West Seattle establishment—Ma’ono’s Mark Fuller—took over another: the Treasure Island–themed bar that opened in 1950, replete with faux ship’s hull and assorted pirate kitsch. After a serious clean-up, the Benbow’s still novel, but not grimy. Fuller added a game room and chuggable, fruity cocktails. The DJ crowd kicks in at night…good thing this place is open (and dark and moody) nearly all day.
The Kala archipelago is located on the planet Blish. It’s also on the patio at Dreamland. The bar turned its outdoor space into an alternate sci-fi universe, where man-eating plants peek out from grottos, drinks come inside menacing ceramic cobras, and the menu doubles as a graphic novel (warning: some ingredients listed are pretend). The tropical drinks are so fun, you might reconsider your stance on edible glitter.
The food: rustic comfort, with a dash of escapism. The cocktails: bonkers good. A plush, high-back banquette lets you perch in style, the better to survey the impressive bottle lineup on the back bar. Owner Brian Smith first established this “way better than what you were expecting” formula at Baker’s in Ballard. Now he’s transported it to a neighborhood that could really use a good hang.
You can almost hear phonograph music echoing off the glossy black walls of Curt Waller and Brooke St. Sauver’s “champagne tavern,” asway with vintage elegance. Low-intimidation tutorials uncork new interest in grower Champagne and other sparkling wine from Germany to Tasmania. The list includes a rotating wild card—rarities you won’t otherwise find by the glass. The brunch menu is surprisingly robust.
The Queen Anne’s Revenge cocktail arrives looking like a haunted Coke, garnished with lime and a flower. Inside, squid ink, mezcal, and pineapple flavors acquire a briny shine. At long last, chef Eric Donnelly has fired up the small bar tagged onto the end of his FlintCreek Cattle Co. restaurant in Greenwood. Back here the vibe is “1960s Palm Springs by night.” The name is French, the food is a souvenir of a vacation Donnelly spent roving the tapas bars of San Sebastian. A wood-fired oven does heavy lifting on a short menu that still swims with possibilities. It’s a departure from Donnelly’s restaurants—FlintCreek and the seafood-focused RockCreek—but displays the same easy confidence.
The ingenuity of Yenvy Pham never ends. When she and sister Quynh opened a new Pho Bac on the edge of downtown, she turned an awkward mezzanine into a semi-hidden nighttime treehouse party fueled by Viet cocktails. Pandan, artichoke tea, Vietnamese coffee, and Jameson washed in pho fat reorient classic drinks; the bar snacks reflect the food savvy over at Ph Bc.
Glittery green vinyl booths sparkle against dark plank walls; old Showbox posters and vintage Olympia beer swag hearken back to the romantic grit of a bygone Seattle. Renee Erickson’s new bar near the Spheres may be an outlier in her oyster-verse, but it’s a reliable—and sleek—“tots and a beer” rec room. Bonus points for that golden disco ball of a restroom.