Hosting a birthday celebration can be stressful, especially if it’s in your apartment. You’re stuck shaking cocktails, refilling the bowl of pita chips, and worrying about getting noise complaints from the neighbors while your friends ask if you can turn the music up. You’re supposed to enjoy your birthday. Or at least quickly get it over with. Here’s an idea: go to a bar instead.
Whether you want some casual daytime beers with your entire social circle, a few rounds of brightly-colored drinks in close proximity to arcade games, or fancy, apothecary-style cocktails with a small group of your very closest friends, we have the bar for every scenario.
We can help with your birthday eating, too - check out the best Seattle restaurants for birthdays here.
You’re not surprised to see Unicorn on this list. Start stocking up on hangover-cure supplies now, then make plans for a night of arcade games fueled by sugary cocktails with ingredients like bubblegum vodka, blue raspberry vodka, watermelon liqueur, and Sprite (that’s the Americorn). The best part of a birthday here is forcing the birthday person - in this case, you - to wear the “the hat,” a.k.a. a bedazzled baseball helmet with a two-foot-long horn hot-glued to it.
For something just as fun with minimal rowdiness, check out New Luck Toy in West Seattle. The dark, quirky space is full of paper lanterns and golden cat ornaments, and there’s a pinball machine, a private karaoke room that looks like a woodland sprite’s grotto, and skee-ball. The cocktails are excellent across the board, whether you go for a frozen prickly pear margarita or an on-tap mai tai. And if you’re hungry after belting out some “Total Eclipse Of The Heart,” know that the Chinese food - like General Tso’s chicken, shrimp and pork fat dumplings, and salt-and-pepper spare ribs - is f*cking delicious.
A birthday at The Octopus Bar is like the adult version of that pirate-themed party you had in second grade. But instead of corny plates from Party City, mylar balloons in the shape of eye patches and peg legs, and a parrot cake that says, “Ay, it’s me matey’s birthday,” there’s a big wooden bar, a bunch of hanging ropes and fishnets, and lots of alcohol - specifically cocktails. When it’s cold, hole up around a big table with whisky mules, and during the warmer months, take advantage of the deck-like patio with a round of Octopus Bubblys (vodka, blackberry liqueur, and champagne) garnished with Swedish Fish. Food-wise, the pizzas and anything made with their homemade spicy queso are exactly what you want while drinking.
Skee-ball, very strong well cocktails, big round booths, and paintings of people with rabbit heads instead of human ones. Sounds like the recipe for a good time on your birthday, right? That’s because it is. The Rabbit Hole is a great spot to add as a coordinate on a Belltown birthday bar crawl - partly for the cost-effective drinks, and partly because whether or not you’re going to play skee-ball should never be a real question.
You’re the first to admit that your 10th birthday party at Medieval Times was a little awkward. Here’s your chance to redeem yourself - go to Brouwer’s, which has all the surroundings of a castle (like the stone walls and the gargoyle), but none of the jousting or having to eat a half-chicken with your bare hands. Go for whiskey or something from the extensive beer list, and no matter what, make sure to order the Belgian french fries along with some bourbon dragon sauce for dipping.
You want a “chill” birthday celebration, but that doesn’t mean you don’t want to do drinks. Get some quality day drinking done at our favorite patio spot, Fremont Brewing. The beers are always stellar, and we especially like the infusions like beet gose and lemon thyme peppercorn ale. Focus on securing a picnic table inside or out with your friends (and their dogs), and pair your beers with some RoRo BBQ or Frelard Pizza to-go. Bonus points if you bring in the lemon blueberry cake from Simply Desserts.
We don’t need a reason to drink liter-sized boots of German beer all day, but when there’s a real excuse, like your most recent lap around the sun, it just tastes that much better. Rhein Haus is the biergarten your college self would have been obsessed with, and there are plenty of reasons to make it your birthday HQ: massive tables, a patio for the warmer months, solid bar snacks (like chicken schnitzel sliders, homemade pretzels the size of your head, beer cheese, and mini brat rolls), and a bocce court where you can ruin the friendships you’ve worked so hard to make. We’ll just mention the beer by the liter again, for good measure. Prost.
A biergarten experience that’s not quite as fratty. You still get the long wooden tables, great draft beer, and homemade pretzels with liquid cheese - but you avoid the partytime scene and the grueling line for the bathroom. Anything on tap is going to be good, but we especially like the homemade Weisses with raspberry syrup. Add some fries or spaetzle mac and cheese, and the night will be headed in the right direction.
You’ve come a long way from that 7th birthday bowling party when Joey blew out your candles (rude). We’re not saying for sure that that won’t happen during a birthday party at Garage, but this time, maybe you’re mature enough to say something to him about it. Reserve a lane in advance (or play a round of pool in the adjoining billiards room), drink Lebowski-inspired hazelnut White Russian cocktails (we also like the house margaritas), and don’t skip the garlic fries drizzled with lemon aioli. Just keep Joey away from the cake.
Sometimes, a birthday is less about seeing how many Rainiers you can shotgun in 60 seconds (but if it’s more than eight, we’re impressed) and more about slowly enjoying an expertly-crafted cocktail with a few people who really mean something to you. Canon is the answer when you want a low-key celebration in an upscale environment. Make an online reservation for up to four, grab a meat and cheese board, and then all that’s left to do is soak in the floor-to-ceiling shelves of classy liquor while sipping on highly creative drinks (order anything - you’ll be happy) served in vessels like lightbulbs and soup cans.
The name of this place is enough to suggest that this year is going to be awesome - so gather your friends at one of Optimism’s communal tables and toast with some simple-but-great homemade ales and saisons while the mountain range of steel beer-making tanks acts as your backdrop. Even if you have a group of 25 people, it’s really easy to reserve a table for free online (if you have more, you can still reserve, but there’s a beverage minimum). Order in Sicilian pizza from Dino’s Tomato Pie, sandwiches from Other Coast, or stir-fry from Manao. If after all that, you’re still seeing your glass as half-empty, you need another beer.
If hanging out around some taxidermy while playing skee-ball and drinking alcoholic slushies in flavors like mango lemonade doesn’t sound like an extremely fun birthday to you, move on to the next place on this list. If it does, know that you can do all those things at King’s Hardware, one of our favorite classic Ballard bars. And if it’s nice out, you’re going to want to hit the back patio.
As far as casual speakeasies are concerned, The Backdoor is the best. We love it because you won’t feel like everyone has to dress up, but the environment is still on the nicer side of things - we’re talking about the vintage crystal chandeliers, bookcases full of classy liquor, big booths, and fancy angel statue above the bar. Put your faith in the bartender to make you a custom drink, because you only turn a year older once… a year.
Normally we wouldn’t send you to Rachel’s for your birthday drinking, but the Capitol Hill location is an exception. The space is very attractive (with a ton of plants and a colorful mural), the doors open up during the summer, and there’s plenty of seating and long tables. No matter what, go heavy on the spiked pink guava slushies or build your own mule with any of their homemade ginger beers in flavors like blood orange, mango matè, and cucumber tarragon. The second best part of this place is the fact that friends who aren’t drinking can still have something non-alcoholic that isn’t cranberry juice. The best part? Getting french fries from the adjoining Sunset Fried Chicken window.
It’s not a birthday party if you’re not in a tiki bar drinking rum-based zombie cocktails so strong there’s a limit of two per person. You can do that at Navy Strength, and if you’re not looking to actually turn into the undead, the tamer tropical cocktails (like kiwi banana sours and planter’s punch) are still great. Otherwise, party on. The brightly-colored space feels like a good spot for a celebration, and little snacks like pinch buns and ceviche go well with the drinks.
This year, you want something a little more exciting than a crowded dive, but you’re not looking to strap on those shoes that make you look like a tightrope walker and go clubbing, either. Black Bottle is a great middle-ground kind of bar where you should probably wear something nice, but if the group text didn’t reach Thomas (OK, maybe you just forgot about Thomas) and he shows up in jeans and sneakers, that’s acceptable, too. Once you’re in, grab a huge table, order a couple rounds of cocktails (we like the guava palomas), and get some small plates for sharing.
You’d be doing yourself a disservice not to stop at Reuben’s if you have a Ballard beer crawl planned for your big day. They serve some of our favorite pints in the city, and the sheer number of options is impressive. Choose from one of the 24 beers on tap, from the salty-sour gose to the raspberry Weiss to the oatmeal stout. You can order food in if you’re hungry, too.
Foreign National is tiny inside, but you might have some luck and get a seat - it’s your birthday, after all. Pop in with a smaller group of friends and ask for the huge table on the left under the disco ball. It’s a psychedelic spot with golden tchotchkes, dark furniture, excellent cocktails, and Asian-fusion bar snacks. Whatever you do, get a few of the amazing cheeseburger bao and some hibiscus expat punches all around. It’s your birthday, and you can get molten cheese and special sauce all over yourself if you want to. But maybe ask for extra napkins.
Go ahead and invite your friends to Captain Blacks, where you can sit on a Capitol Hill rooftop overlooking the city skyline, drink vodka-lemonades on tap, pass around seriously good baskets of fried chicken and waffles, and watch the sunset on your D.O.B. Yeah, we’ll hypothesize that nobody’s going to pass on that.