One day, someone will ask you where you go out, and you’ll just stare into space for a second or two and then say, “I don’t.” This might happen when you’re 23 or it might happen when you’re 63. If it happened already, this guide’s for you.
Below you’ll find two lists of options. One has a bunch of relatively calm bars that you’ll still feel cool drinking in, and the other has some places where people who don’t need this guide already know they’re supposed to go. They’re all some of our favorite bars in Seattle, so feel free to also print this out and use it as a checklist of great places to drink.
CALMER BARS WHERE NO ONE WILL SPILL A DRINK ON YOU
Suite 410 is the best bar in Seattle that not a lot of people know about. That might be because of the bar’s extremely undesirable Downtown location, but don’t let that dissuade you from popping in for exceptional cocktails with things like genever (kind of like a malty-tasting gin), pineapple rum, and creme de cacao. They’re all better than the watery sazeracs you mix up from your bar cart at home.
Left Bank is a natural wine bar that doesn’t feel too different from drinking in a cozy basement, so it’s ideal for actively hibernating although you’ll have to leave your apartment to get here. Split a bottle of something funky while listening to vinyl records and eating double cheeseburgers from Loretta’s across the street. You might even be sad when it comes time to go home.
The last time we went to Über Tavern on a Friday night, we were the only ones in there, and the bartender told us to be quiet because he was hungover. If that sounds like paradise, welcome to your new favorite beer bar. There’s a big rotating tap selection, an indoor fire pit, and a fridge behind the bar if you want to choose a six-pack to split with your friends.
Normally, if you want a bong full of alcohol, you’re probably looking to have a wild night. But La Dive, a chill wine bar on Capitol Hill, feels like the opposite scenario. It’s rarely packed, full of booths and high-tops, and has a drink menu that involves Beaujolais slushies spiked with Campari, Chambongs, and $10 filled-to-the-brim glasses of wine known as the “long day.” Come here for a drink if this sounds like your speed, and eat some toasts and spicy potato dumplings while you’re at it.
Union Saloon can get packed, but it’s not rowdy by any means, so pull it out of your back pocket if you’re with people that like a bar where there’s a little action. This corner spot in Wallingford is a wonderful place for catching up with friends in a big booth while snacking on homemade togarashi potato chips with caramelized onion dip and crispy beer-battered orange cauliflower. As for what you should be drinking, start with “Michelle’s Sidecar,” which is a refreshing, citrusy gin drink with black pepper bitters in a coupe glass.
Just looking at people walking down Pike on a Saturday night is exhausting. Actually going out on Capitol Hill on a Saturday night can be even more exhausting. If you’re actively looking for places that won’t make you immediately turn around and go home, Quinn’s is always a great standby. You can consistently get a table at night, so it works for an 11pm hang with friends powered by terrific Old Fashioneds and fish and chips. Watching the party crowd outside while calmly nursing a glass of Champagne from their solid wine list is one of the most anxiety-reducing activities on the hill.
BUSIER PLACES FOR WHEN YOU REALLY WANT TO GO OUT
Boots of beer, brats, bocce courts, and college seniors who just turned 21 - that’s Rhein Haus in a nutshell. It’s a very large German beer hall that’s calm by day and an absolute party at night. We’re still not sure if single-serving liters of pilsner and heavy bocce balls are a safe combination, but this place is a ton of fun, especially in the summer when the back patio opens up and they start serving frozen rosé. Plus, getting some delicious pretzels the size of your head is a nice tradeoff for having to wait in a long line for the bathroom.
When you want a lively bar filled mostly with people over the age of 21, check out Good Bar. It’s in a space that used to be a bank, vault door and all, and the drinks are creative enough to restore your faith in “going out.” Like an absinthe cocktail with matcha, cream, and mint as well as one with rye, strawberry liqueur, graham crackers, and a red wine float. The food’s excellent too - get the ploughman’s lunch (cheeses and meats), bread with beer-infused butter, or a ridiculously good sloppy joe with roasted onion aioli.
The second the sun comes out, people instantly swarm to Fremont Brewing Company. You should be one of those people. Whether it’s on Saturday at noon or on a Tuesday at 5pm, good weather (and excellent beer) make this the best place in the city to drink pints, eat an endless supply of free mini pretzels, and be surrounded by happy citizens and the smell of fresh hops. Spread out at a big picnic table, order some takeout from nearby RoRo BBQ, and know that your decision to go out was a fantastic one.
Capitol Cider is an ideal weekend bar for everyone. The basement area always has a lively crowd, but instead of being rowdy, people sit by fireplaces, play Cards Against Humanity, and engage in friendly hand-shuffleboard competitions. Not to mention they have a massive selection of tasty alcoholic apple juice that ranges from hopped pear to mead. If you get hungry, the fried cheese curds with apple butter are always greasy, but that never stops us from ordering them every single time.
Percy’s is consistently one of the busiest bars in Ballard, and it’s one of our favorite places to grab an interesting cocktail featuring liquors infused with things like herbs, cacao nibs, and tea leaves. There’s also a huge community table and a patio with practically an entire garden that’s a great place to sip your drink. We especially like that you can get table service here - nobody wants to deal with elbowing to the front of the bar just to order a mason jar full of fries.
The Red Bull vodkas are working, and you’ve now become a version of yourself who “just wants to dance!” Take this new person to Chop Suey. It’s a music venue and bar on Capitol Hill that hosts a bunch of themed DJ sets, like their “Dance Yourself Clean” series, a relatively civilized indie music dance party that happens every Saturday. Yes, you’ll be covered in sweat and fake fog while lasers bounce around the room. But it’s never so chaotic that you’ll lose your friends in the crowd, and you can still sing along to “Mr. Brightside” as loud as you want.