In order to help you figure out which new restaurants are worth going to, we created The Hit List, our guide to recently-opened spots that are actually worth your time and money. We actually get off our asses and scope these places out - just because a place is new, doesn’t mean it’s necessarily good.
And now, we’re doing the same for bars. From hidden speakeasies to bars with really good alcoholic slushies, check out the Bar Hit List below.
New to the Bar Hit List (as of 9/10): Associated Vintners, Roquette
Located at the bottom of a South Lake Union office building in the middle of Amazon territory is Associated Vintners, a cozy tasting room that features a bunch of wineries from the Pacific Northwest (Browne Family, Sawtooth, House Wine, and more). What they’re pouring changes every season, but right now it’s all canned wines. Order one of their tasting options, none of which are over $15, and you’ll get a two-ounce pour of six different wines. Plus, you can buy some $8 cans to take home (each can is a half bottle), and they open at 11am. The people that work in the neighborhood are lucky to have a place close by where the wine is this good and affordable.
Roquette isn’t divey and grungy like a lot of other Belltown bars. It’s a dark, romantic space where you can bring a date, drink an expertly-shaken mai tai, and admire the palm tree wallpaper. Or, you can show up alone and brood over a Manhattan. All of the restaurants and bars in the neighborhood tend to cater to a rowdy Happy Hour-crowd, so come here for a delicious cocktail when you want to hang out with other quiet people.
Capitol Hill has so many bars, it can be hard to choose where to go. Rose Temple is a good bet for the times when you’re not sure what kind of night you want. If you’re just looking to come in and chill with a beer and some jojos, post up at the bar. But if you want to have a full night out, show up with a ton of friends, pile into a booth, and get a round of their negroni trashcan cocktails. And regardless of what kind of night you’re having, consider ordering their brisket fried rice or a mapo tofu sandwich - they’re both excellent.
When No Anchor opened in Belltown, it quickly became one of the best beer bars in the city. Then the same team opened Navy Strength around the corner, and it became one of the best cocktail bars in the city. They completed the trifecta by opening Vinnie’s, a natural wine bar that also specializes in seafood. Their wine list changes often, but there’s a ton of great options and the staff is extremely knowledgeable. Use it for a serious first-date spot that you can guarantee won’t turn into a fraternity party at Happy Hour.
Located in a heavily air-conditioned basement in Pioneer Square, Underbelly is a great place to drink interesting orange wine, listen to reggae and ska music, watch wildlife documentaries on a projector, and eat a really good hot dog on a baguette topped with melted raclette cheese. If you work in the area, you’d be smart to forgo your usual Happy Hour spots and come here instead.
This tiny sake bar in Fremont has a diverse and wonderful lineup of rice-wine flights, as well as a full binder of information if you want to brush up on your sake knowledge. We can’t say enough about the bar snacks, though, like little egg salad sandwiches topped with roe and onigiri rice balls topped with salmon and a ridiculous jalapeño-cheddar-bagel miso sauce. We wouldn’t expect any less from the same team behind Kamonegi, an outstanding Japanese soba restaurant (and Hannyatou’s next-door neighbor). Stop in if you’re waiting for a dinner table, but don’t be surprised if you fill up on egg salad.
If you’ve ever thought “I wonder what a bar would look like filled with thousands and thousands of records,” see for yourself at Life On Mars. It’s a Capitol Hill corner spot with a wall full of vinyl, plant-based bar food, and cocktails that range from a pineapple rum tiki drink topped with chickpea foam to a vermouth spritz with raspberry syrup and cacao nibs. If you’re trying to impress someone from out of town but you can’t get into Canon or Foreign National, this is a solid backup plan.
Baker’s is a nice neighborhood bar in Sunset Hill where you should go if you want to impress a date. They have a cozy L-shaped marble counter and a friendly staff considering how busy it gets. You might have to cram in a random corner or listen to the conversations of six different people around you, but coming here makes for an exciting night out. We’re big fans of The Ultimate Ninja cocktail, which has tequila, lemon, blackberry, sage, and ginger beer.
If you tell someone you’re going to The Mountaineering Club without any context, they’ll think you have a mysterious outdoorsy side, and might ask you to borrow a camping stove in the near future. Joke’s on them, you’re really just into drinking good cocktails. The Mountaineering Club is a rooftop bar on top of the Graduate Hotel in the University District. The space is designed as if Smokey The Bear himself picked up a West Elm catalogue and opened a bar that happens to have very good views of the eastside of the city. The camping theme extends into the drinks - our favorites are the Banana Pancakes and the Orange Snack. If you must eat here, get the bacon sandwich and skip the $18 hot dog. Believe it or not, there’s a way better $18 hot dog in this town, and it happens to be in this guide, too.
The last time you ate mac and cheese while drinking something warm from a rooster mug, you were staying home from school in 3rd grade (and by that, we mean you faked a fever to watch The Price Is Right). Now you can do those things in public at Bad Bishop, a cocktail bar on the border of Pioneer Square and Downtown. This place has Victorian wallpaper, a rickety old piano, and board games, which collectively should occupy you and your date’s time for at least one hot toddy. Take advantage of the quiet atmosphere to debate whether Plinko or Punch A Bunch is better - which should last about 15 seconds because the answer is Plinko.
Judging from the taps behind the bar, it’s clear that Footprint used to be a growler store. Now, these taps are all full of wine, and it’s the perfect lowkey weeknight place to hang out if you’re genuinely interested in viticulture (we’re not just saying that because they have a trivia game about grapes). Needless to say, this is not the place to tell the bartender that you usually drink Franzia blush and are wondering if the pink wine from Provence is similar.
One-on-one scenarios require a specific kind of bar. Whether it’s a romantic date night with several glasses of wine or awkward cocktails with your digital nomad cousin who’s in town to “reconnect” (crash on your couch for a week), Dandylion is the bar you need. There’s just something comforting about sitting with another person at a bar that looks like a hunk of tree. A lot of bars in Seattle feel like small-town spots, but being surrounded by other people’s conversations in a nice space makes you feel like you’re truly in a big city. The tapas menu is hit or miss, but you can’t go wrong with the charcuterie or lemon ice cream with olive oil and salt.
You might think you’re in the wrong place when you enter Dynasty Room. The front room is entirely empty, (aside from a cardboard wolf and a busted-up display case) and the sign of the restaurant that was there before it is still up. Maybe you’ll even see a tumbleweed blow by. But once you round the corner, you’ll be hit by a sound wave of happy people drinking cocktails and eating spicy popcorn chicken. If you just had an awesome dinner with friends in the International District and don’t feel like going home to water your fern, extend the good time by having a few rounds here.
If you want to trick someone into thinking that you’re cooler than you are, take them to Dottie’s Double Wide. Behind a janky trailer door in White Center, this place is like a weird ’70s mod trailer park garage sale with twinkly string lights and portraits of naked women. Between the De La Soul vinyls and the horchata white Russians, we could spend hours blending into the crowd here, which is always fun but not too rowdy. Plus, the snacks are like what would happen if a combination KFC/Taco Bell were run by Culinary Institute grads who smoke a ton of weed. Get the fried chicken tacos and a basket of curly fries.
Before Stampede Cocktail Club came to be, the space was a nautical-themed bar, and before that, it was a Thai restaurant with tasty satay. And of the three, we feel most at home at Stampede, drinking fresh blueberry mules and reading the hilarious drink menu as if it were the Sunday paper. The whole space is in a little converted two-room house where one area looks like the set of The Great Gatsby and the other is covered in floral wallpaper with a taxidermy T-Rex head.
We like to imagine that when Black Cat came to be, someone took a squeaky-clean space, declared, “I’m gonna make this a real dive,” threw in some black paint and a Big Buck Hunter machine, and then hoped for crowds of people wearing flannels and jeans that look like they were chewed up by dogs. The result is a cool spot where you could bring your entire group of friends to sit in a big booth and drink mint julep slushies. And despite the fact that it’s smack in the middle of the insanity that is Belltown’s bar scene, it’s never too crowded here. So, you’ll be able to hear what everyone is saying, and you hopefully won’t touch any wads of used gum under the table. Be advised that the drinks here are strong, as in, mistakenly-leave-your-laptop-bag and-credit-card-behind strong.
Going beer-tasting in Ballard is all fun and games until you get sick of drinking the same ones over and over again, spinning in a vortex of Reubens, Stoup, Peddler, and Populuxe. (Or, until somebody falls off the Cycle Saloon.) Trailbend Taproom is a welcome change of pace because it’s still in the Ballard brewery district, but has beer available from everywhere from Bellingham to Belgium. We’ll admit that vulture-stalking for a large picnic table here gets frustrating, especially since this is the U.S. capital of passive-aggressive attitudes. But once you’re in, it’s a fun place to drink interesting things like blueberry ale, aperol cocktails, and spiked coldbrew. We don’t recommend coming to Trailbend starving, but if you do, the pizzas are good enough - especially the margherita.
Unless you’re lost or going to Gold Bar, it’s unlikely that you’d end up on this stretch of 9th Ave. Gold Bar is a chill cocktail spot with some sofas, a golden disco ball, and that’s pretty much it, so don’t bring anyone here to impress on looks alone. But we wouldn’t really mind hanging out here blindfolded, because the Latin snacks and cocktails (from the house margarita to the daily slushie) are that good. Cross your fingers for watermelon frose, and then uncross them to eat some pork mojo tacos and “gold nugs,” AKA popcorn chicken.
The world needs more bars like Beer Star. OK, the world needs more beer in general, but you get the idea. Beer Star is a glorious place in White Center that has lots of niche beers inside of a big fridge that you can pick out yourself, plus over three dozen varieties on tap imported from all over the place. While it’s always exploding with the ambient noise of delighted people gulping down fermented wheat, it’s never too difficult to claim a big table for your afternoon drinking HQ. You can bring outside food, but there’s also a little mini-market of cheese, charcuterie, crackers, nuts, and jams that will pair perfectly with that triple-hopped hibiscus lemon zest gose you’ve been hunting for forever.
When Clever Bottle closed forever, we were bummed, because it was a truly great neighborhood bar. And with that sort of saltiness comes the expectation that its successor would be good, or else. Mr. Darcy’s is more than good. It’s terrific, with eight r’s. It’s a nice and quiet place to escape most other humans in Belltown. We’ve even witnessed someone outside turn to their date and say, “Oh yeah, this place looks nice and quiet,” before heading in. The space is filled with books, an antique piano, and a variety of seating situations that make it pretty versatile for going out with parents, a date, or even your boss. The drinks are incredible, particularly the “Love” cocktail with passionfruit, gin, sour cherry, tea, lemon, and whipped aquafaba (basically vegan egg white foam made from chickpea water) on top.