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 1/8): House Of ’Pagne, La Dive, Rupee Bar
In terms of sparkling wine offerings in Seattle, the options are limited - at most spots, you’ll usually find three or four types of bubbles, and you can bet that one of them is Ruffino Prosecco. Not at House Of ’Pagne, a bar in the warehouse district of SoDo. Here, in their small tasting room, you’re able to order 16 different sparkling wines by the glass, from Champagne to funky stuff made from grapes grown in Washington state. If you’re hungry, they have some potato chips and charcuterie to snack on as well.
We were initially sad when the Capitol Hill location of Other Coast Cafe, one of our favorite sandwich spots, closed. But then La Dive took its place, serving frozen Sancerre slushies and glass bongs full of Champagne (or Miller High Life), and now we don’t miss the sub shop too much anymore. This place specializes in natural wine, and there are also Eastern European small plates like delicious spicy potato pelmeni dumplings and toasts topped with sardines and pickled fennel or hummus and miso. It’s the perfect place for a night out on Capitol Hill to drink some interesting wine, have a snack, and catch up with friends.
In a neighborhood full of loud, crowded, casual bars that serve mostly burgers and wings, Rupee Bar is doing something different. It’s a tiny Sri Lankan cocktail spot that serves excellent small plates like tandoori cauliflower, black cod in yellow curry, and the panko-breaded mutton roll with a tomato sambol dipping sauce. While we’d come here for a full mix-and-match dinner, the cocktails are worth a trip themselves. All the drinks - like the Cinnamon Garden, a rum-based cocktail with roasted banana, passionfruit, and amaro - pair super well with anything on the menu.
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.
Life On Mars
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.