The Seattle Speakeasy Power Rankings  guide image

SEAGuide

The Seattle Speakeasy Power Rankings

Because drinking "in secret" still has its thrills.

Back in the 1920s, speakeasies illegally sold and served alcohol during Prohibition. Now, they’re code for secret bars you can use to prove to friends that you’re cool. And whether or not the speakeasies here in town pay homage to the rich history of the early 20th century or just exist simply because Seattleites like to drink in dark spaces, it doesn't matter—we’re still going to look for them. Here are the speakeasies of Seattle, ranked.

THE SPOTS

Needle & Thread

If speakeasies were part of the Olympics, Needle & Thread would win a gold medal. To get in, you have to make a reservation online, enter through sister bar Tavern Law, and pick up a vintage phone in the back corner. After you do that, someone will unlock a door that leads to a rickety staircase, and finally, up to an antique parlor. There’s no menu, but trust the expert bartenders to make you something with the ingredients of your choice. We’ve had everything here from a spritz made with a type of bitter pomegranate aperitif and raspberries to a classic daiquiri with banana and cinnamon bitters.


While everyone at Phở Bắc’s newest Downtown location is slurping phở under stark fluorescent lighting, there’s a hidden bar upstairs called Phởcific Standard Time where you should head post-soup. We love every last one of these drinks, like the Dua Dừa which features rum, absinthe, coconut milk, lime, and basil seed—and is intensely refreshing. And then there’s one of the best cocktails in Seattle: the Cà Phê Tini, an iced coffee martini that tastes like what the Nesquik Rabbit would order after a long day of advertising chocolate milk to children. While the cocktails are PST’s clear highlight, it would be a shame to come here and not also grab some cheesy caramelized crab and prawn dip.


The only thing that gives this psychedelic Capitol Hill spot away is the line outside that starts to assemble after 8pm on any given Saturday night. Otherwise, this nondescript door along Pike would probably go unnoticed. There’s a lot to notice inside—chain curtains that may or may not smack you in the face on the way in, a room that buzzes with conversations, excellent tropical drinks, and rorschach shadows that project from a mosaic-tiled disco ball. Between all of that and their cheeseburger bao, Foreign National is one of our favorite places for an exciting night out.

By day, Dreamland is a diner where you can eat rigatoni alla vodka and french toast in the same meal. But by night, hang a left past the host stand and you'll find a covered patio bar known as Carnelian Bay—a.k.a. Dreamland's alter-ego. The whimsical space-galaxy-jungle-grotto surroundings make the outdoor dining room feel like a hazy movie mashup of Jurassic ParkAlien, and Xanadu in the best way possible. There are $99 large-batch margaritas served in disco balls alongside salty pucker powder-rimmed glasses, Jell-O shots that taste like jam from the jar, and some of the best bar snacks in the city—like vegetarian chicken strip baskets, pimento cheese slathered on fried saltines, and a gooey cheeseburger that can do no wrong.


Bonjour Vietnam is an otherwise-sleepy Vietnamese restaurant with a secret. Straight back through the dining area, there's what appears to be a typical supply room, filled with booster seats, coolers, cleaning supplies, and lockers. (Hint: the lockers have a doorknob inside.) Through the rigged locker door, you’ll enter a bar that looks like Josephine Baker went to HomeGoods, complete with crystal chandeliers, velvet stools, and bottles of liquor lined up inside locked cabinets. We're fans of the tangy jungle punch with a side of cajun wings (courtesy of Bonjour Vietnam), and if it happens to be a Sunday or Monday at 8pm, there’s an added bonus of live jazz. 


This underwater-themed cocktail bar from the same folks behind Walrus & The Carpenter is located underneath the multimillion-dollar rainforest attraction otherwise known as the Amazon Spheres. This tourist trap is worth it if only to experience the small menu of bar snacks, like the $25 hot dog topped with salmon caviar. But you should drink here, too—Deep Dive has a serious cocktail menu that’s longer than an emotional bridesmaid's wedding speech. Want an Oaxacan Old Fashioned with green pepper tequila and chocolate-orange bitters? They’ve got it. Fernet with a cola-cinnamon reduction and balsamic vinegar? You’ve come to the right glass ball. The only catch is that walk-in wait times can last multiple hours, so make a reservation in advance. 

The only proof that Ruby exists is the huge text painted on a black wall in Greenwood where a computer repair shop used to be. And no offense to anyone with a busted Nintendo Switch—but grabbing a drink at this Victorian wallpaper-slathered speakeasy is the better deal. It’s a perfect spot to talk with a bartender about everything and nothing over cava-topped gin, and momentarily pretend that you’re not across from a Fred Meyer. Ruby’s short lineup of $13 signature cocktails features things like jungle birds with Plantation Pineapple subbed in for the fruit juice in question, a rum and fernet drink cooled by coconut, and a choose-your-own-negroni adventure where the base spirit, color, and preparation are up to you.


There’s a good chance you’ve passed by this unmarked door after one too many picklebacks at Montana. At this Filipino restaurant, unlike many speakeasies that just have cocktails and a few small snacks (if you’re lucky), Knee High Stocking said, “not on our watch.” Alongside their cocktail menu, they serve excellent dishes like lumpia, chicken adobo garlic-rice plates, and even a plant-based sisig. Just note that the space is tiny, and you can’t get in without a reservation. Plus, they’re strict with seating times—don’t expect to enter even a minute early.


The Doctor's Office has a vibe that couldn't be more different than the chaotic swirling nightlife of Capitol Hill happening just outside on Olive Way. This bar is intimate and quiet, and you’ll receive a glass of complimentary Champagne. Make an "appointment" and order a vodka martini that comes with a beaker of olive juice meant to personally customize how dirty you like it. Or, leave your drink order totally up to the bartenders—it'll probably be the only time you’ll ever get prescribed gin.


Located at the bottom of Temple Billiards, The Pharmacy is a basement that we want to hang out in. It looks like somebody ransacked a garage sale in the late 1970s to furnish this place with sofas, coffee tables, and mismatched decorative pillows, but somehow it all works. The cocktail menu is massive and involves things like tiki drinks and many different riffs on a French 75—and the bartenders will happily make you something custom on the spot.


We’re not sure whether The Backdoor is a prohibition-era speakeasy that’s making fun of itself or just a bar that’s making fun of speakeasies, but it’s a solid place to drink in Fremont regardless. There are a ton of vintage chandeliers, bookcases stacked with liquor bottles, and a bar crowned with a very fancy naked angel/Statue of Liberty hybrid. The long list of classic and not-classic cocktails is excellent, and you can also put your faith in the bartender to mix you something customized.


Don’t come to this underwater-themed spot inside Rumba expecting groundbreaking drinks. Instead, come for a good time and tropical novelty in the form of shipwrecked odds and ends, glowing turquoise lanterns, and enough fishing nets to recreate an episode of Deadliest Catch. You’ll sit under giant replica tentacles sprouting from the ceiling and sip cocktails in gimmicky vessels—like a rum-spiked ube drink served in a miniature rice cooker, or a fruity cachaça situation placed in what appears to be an Amazon Prime box. And while the cocktails here most likely keep local dry ice companies in business, they all taste like watered-down stuff from an all-inclusive resort.


Hidden behind a “bookcase” in the lobby of the Fairmont Olympic Hotel is Founders Club. Though it's not a total secret—there’s a host standing in front of the entrance with a tablet, and hotel guests have now witnessed a wall swing open at least 10 times in the past five minutes. The inside is straight out of Mad Men, with red velvet sofas, ornate lampshades, and more leather surfaces than a supervillain’s lair. While it feels like a cigarette-smoking Jon Hamm could appear at any second, this place is really just filled with loud first dates, bachelorette parties, and couples who booked solely for an edgy engagement photoshoot with their $54 Manhattans. Use this place sparingly for a pre-theater drink, or to impress any out-of-towner who has a deep love for fancy whiskey.


Despite the fact that you may wait an hour to get into Bathtub Gin & Co, the drinks aren’t very good. You can find much better cocktails at other Belltown neighborhood spots like Roquette and Navy Strength. But we can’t argue that this secret bar checks some boxes. It has an alleyway entrance complete with a fancy little wooden door. It has bookcases, tea candles, and more exposed brick than the infamous third house from The Three Little Pigs. If you’re into speakeasies, we can recommend one visit just to check out the dusty basement shelves and some coupe drinks absolutely trashed with Chartreuse.

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photo credit: Nate Watters

The Seattle Speakeasy Power Rankings  guide image