People just acting naturally at the Mountaineering Club. Photograph by Chona Kasinger.
The rooftop bar is a relatively new notion in Seattle, an unreservedly happy byproduct of a decade of intensive civic growth (not to mention lots of recently arrived hotels). Some spots are all string lights and selfies, sporting 360-degree views of our particularly view-worthy landscape. Others lean into the leafy charm of being just one story above the sidewalk. And they’re all primed for summer.
The cocktail program is so good, you’d want to hang out here even if it were hidden away in the basement. Instead the Mountaineering Club occupies the 16th floor of the Graduate hotel, a rare rooftop perched in the U District, offering Space Needle and mountain views in equal measure, plus some new covered structures so you don’t have to forgo the expansive terrace on rainy days. Meanwhile, the indoor space offers plenty of its own leather-and-plaid charm.
From the sidewalk on Fifth Avenue, you’d never guess the Motif hotel harbors a sprawling and playful outdoor space. But on the fifth floor, a broad terrace offers fire tables, various clusters of seating, and the general sense of floating in the middle of our urban center. The food and drink menu leans into easy crowd-pleasers—nachos, salmon, a tiramisu martini—and big groups jockey for the most photogenic seating. Depending on the season, this space might shift into tent mode, or even a curling rink, but summer brings maximal patio seating (and some refreshed lounge furniture).
South Lake Union
To take the elevator 14 floors up to Mbar’s indoor/outdoor rooftop is to enter a world populated with glamorous selfies, Vegas lighting, and a menu that counters the party time vibes with truly thoughtful food. Owners Racha and Wassef Haroun (also behind Mamnoon) center their Middle Eastern roots in a menu of mezze and muhammara and the occasional kibbeh scotch egg. The scenery dazzles, even before the artful cocktails kick in.
While it technically is on a rooftop, this brewery set into a small hillside near the busy crossroads of 15th and Nickerson is decidedly street level, with a small parking lot outside its entrance. It’s still a damn fine place to drink an IPA, with a series of patios both covered and otherwise. That tiny elevation boost delivers views of industrial Ballard just across the ship canal.
Seattle’s pre-pandemic hotel boom gave us some atmospheric new watering holes, including this underrated spot 16 floors above Second Avenue in the Charter Hotel. The 21-plus lounge is a little deco, a little midcentury, with a deep register of cocktails (including a highball machine) served in delicate stemware. Sectional seating and a fire table occupy the petite L-shaped covered patio, with glimpses of Elliott Bay glowing in between First Avenue high-rises. The food menu looks hotel-basic but delivers three levels above what you’d expect. No wonder reservations for tables go fast, especially on sunny days.
Downtown/Pike Place Market
Did a tiny piece of LA somehow materialize atop the Thompson hotel? The people are beautiful, the reservation policy rigid. The cocktail list shows range, but summery drinks—like moscow mules—bloom on the outdoor couches no matter the weather. The view, however, couldn’t happen anywhere else. It’s a rare rooftop vista that gives you a bird’s-eye of Pike Place Market, not to mention every possible angle of Elliott Bay splendor.
Mezcaleria Oaxaca’s second-story hangout on Pine has its own name, Patio Cielo, and plenty of room in both the covered bar area and open-air terrace filled with umbrella tables and even a proper taco truck, albeit a stationary one. When the longtime restaurant embraced a more multi-concept mercado, the margarita-and-taco cantina vibes moved up here to capitalize on the views and preserve the formal dining atmosphere downstairs. And absolutely nobody is mad about it.
This penthouse steak-meets-sushi restaurant 31 floors above downtown Bellevue is mostly an indoor space, but tucks three patios alongside its dramatic dining rooms. Each one seats about 24 people, to take in either mountains or the Seattle skyline. The Rainier-facing lounge has its own menu, but the others serve Ascend’s full lineup in all its lavish wagyu-and-crudo glory. Cocktails, of course, flow liberally in all three spots.
Just one story above Pike/Pine’s busy streets, this wedge of a patio with an industrial-style pergola offers sun shades by day, heaters by night, and an endlessly charming backdrop of lush green plants and old brick buildings. Even better it all comes with chef Tamara Murphy’s brunch and dinner menu, a confident combo of Northwest ingredients and flourishes from Spain and well beyond. In cooler months, a temporary covering keeps alfresco meals happening all year long.
A few years back, Eric and Sophie Banh gave their elegant Vietnamese restaurant a vacation alter ego upstairs. A canopy of trees ensures the umbrella-shaded tables (and occasional Adirondack lounge) feel secluded from the street below. Monsoon upped its street-level patio game during the pandemic, but its rooftop remains the town’s most charming destination for vermicelli bowls and drunken chicken. The food aside, Jon Christiansen’s cocktail menu is a destination unto itself—especially when he amps up the frozen drinks come summertime.