Going out to dinner is great, but going out to dinner is also a commitment. And sometimes you’re just not ready for commitment. For instance, on a first date, or when you’ve been guilted into meeting your mom’s friend’s nephew for an informational interview about “getting into tech.” In situations like these, you need a place that’s perfect for drinks and a light bite - so if things go well, there’s food to sustain you, but if they get awkward, you don’t need to wait two hours for the check. Here are the best spots in Seattle for drinks and snacks.
We’re not saying that this guide is a competition, but if we had to crown a drinks-and-a-light-bite winner, it would be this spot. The small plates and cocktails here are excellent, and in general, Frank’s feels like it could easily become “your place.” Some tables have their own personal sofas instead of chairs, making them perfect for dates that involve sharing chips with feta dip, lobster rolls, and wedge salads. If you’re really starving, go for the fried chicken.
The drinks-and-a-light-bite situation at Gold Bar is very strong. This little bar has delicious Latin American snacks - like chips and avocado mash with cotija cheese and fried chicken bites aptly named “gold nugs.” These nugs are so good, we’d condone you grabbing the entire board they’re served on, and eating it all in a dark closet alone. The cocktails are excellent, too, but we are really here for the margaritas and any of the rotating alcoholic slushies.
Both the lively interior and the outdoor patio of Tamari Bar are nice spaces for hanging out, eating Japanese small plates, and drinking cocktails like the signature lemon sour topped with lemon ice. Food-wise, we like the torched sushi, spicy noodles, and poutine with nori and parmesan. If you’d prefer something interactive, you can also cook your own meat on an extremely hot rock.
Tapas Lab is a Spanish-Asian wine bar where graduated cylinders double as beer glasses - and are luckily as far as they go with the “lab” theme. You pay at the counter here, so grab a glass of cava and/or some delicious snacks (like chorizo-stuffed meatballs and bulgogi pinchos), and let friends come and go as the evening progresses.
New Luck Toy is on this list for three reasons. First, the cocktails here (frozen, on-tap, or otherwise) are great. Second, you can order tasty Chinese dishes like shrimp and pork dumplings, spare ribs, and a version of General Tso’s chicken to remember. Third, you can play skee-ball or sing karaoke.
Of course you’re going to be tempted to get oysters at an oyster bar, but the burger at Bar Melusine delivers in a way that fresh shellfish can’t compete with. It has perfectly-seared beef, caramelized onion, and aioli on a squishy seeded bun. It’s small enough to be categorized in the “snack” category, so that it goes nicely with some fries and one of their cocktails. Going for a glass of wine and a crab cake is also a very good option.
Bar pizza can be a bit of a gamble. Case in point: Hotel Hotel. West Seattle Brewing Company. Stout. We could go on, but we won’t. Dino’s is a dark, casino-like place where you should be drinking - and also a place where you should be eating crispy-crusted Sicilian pies topped with salami and bacon and other things that do a good job soaking up negronis on tap.
Sometimes it’s a sh*tshow trying to get a table at a late-night pizzeria on a busy weekend night. If you’re feeling anxious about that, but still want good pizza, take your group to Supreme - where you can roll in with six and probably get a booth without a problem. Then, drink rounds of alcoholic slushies of the root beer and creamsicle variety, and eat some New York-style pies or just multiple orders of the scallion garlic knots with alfredo sauce.
We don’t like Stampede Cocktail Club just because they have a mounted T-Rex head and ornate chandeliers that glow neon purple. We also like it because they serve excellent cocktails alongside steamed dumplings that come from Little Ting’s in Greenwood. Go for the dim sum while sipping something like a fresh blueberry mule.
This Pioneer Square bar was once a bank (it still has the original vault door and everything). It feels like a grown-up place to meet someone for a drink, maybe because of the visible reminders that money is a thing you need to worry about. Get some cocktails and share the Ploughman’s Lunch plate, a.k.a. meat and cheese and assorted other snacks on a board. Other menu highlights include the baguette with beer butter, roasted potatoes with potato salad aioli, and (if things are going well and you feel like staying for dinner) the Sloppy Joe.
When you want to consume champagne, cheese, meat, and bread like you’re on vacation in Paris, Le Caviste is the place to go. It’s a small, sleek spot with wine crates everywhere, a chalkboard menu written entirely in French, and charcuterie planks sure to impress your drinking companion(s).
Another classy spot for an aperitif and some snacks - this time, of the Italian variety. You’re here for spicy roasted hazelnuts, charcuterie, bruschetta, meatballs with garlic bread, or one of the rotating pasta dishes (the portions are pretty small, so they still feel light). Bonus: during Happy Hour, martinis and Campari spritzes are $6 each.
A nice place to hang out with some cocktails before you go home and trade your work clothes for sweatpants. Plates here range from Korean fried chicken bites to spicy cauliflower and cheesy Dungeness crab dip with flatbread, and there are so many options that you can mix and match different snacks every time you visit.
If you thought your only options in Pike Place market were chowder and samples of dried chocolate pasta, we have good news for you: this underground Korean gastropub exists. The way to do this place is to order a bunch of sliders (order both the bulgogi and spicy pork), drink a lychee-lime rickey or two, and just be thankful you made it out of Pike Place alive.
Last time you had a girls’ night, you went somewhere with drinks but no food, and spent the whole night distractedly thinking about pizza. This time, suggest Single Shot. The big marble bar is beautiful, and not only is there food - but the food is really good. Get some margherita flatbreads or a few of the seasonally rotating small plates, like salads and roasted vegetables, and everyone will be happy.
Dead Line is a great choice if you want something that feels low-key but still looks impressive. It’s a dark spot with a very tall bar, big booths, and pretty chandeliers. The Latin snacks on the menu here are great, but the real beauty of Dead Line is that from 4-6pm, the bar bites (mixed nuts, fries, and mini arepas) are free with a cocktail. Drinks and free light bites are hard to beat.
Yes, this is a hotel bar, but we promise, it’s actually good. It feels kind of like a mix between a speakeasy and a castle, with its low light, velvet booths, and excessively regal portraits of people like Bill Gates and Kelsey Grammer in the lobby. It’s a good spot to bring a date for some blackberry-cinnamon gin cocktails, along with parmesan truffle fries, sage sausage scotch olives, and spicy chips with a yogurt dip.
A lot of the places on this list specialize in cocktails, but at No Anchor, it’s more about the beer. There’s a large, rotating selection of things you won’t find at a typical pub, like a smoked saison or a sour, barrel-aged fruit beer. Pair them with excellent small plates like Old Bay fried chickpeas, raw radishes with an addicting parmesan custard dip, and seafood rolls on homemade pretzel buns.
Part bar and part wine store, Upper Bar Ferdinand is one of Seattle’s more versatile drinking spots. Since it’s within Chophouse Row, the location is convenient but still somewhat removed from the Pike/Pine crowds, and it’s not too hard to get a table for two or a spot at the bar. Order anything and everything, from little salads to homemade cured meats and wood-fired pizzas. Pair it all with some excellent wine, of course.
Chances are, you’ve stumbled inside Barnacle, The Walrus And The Carpenter’s sister bar, to pass the time while waiting for a table next door. But we endorse treating this as a destination in itself, especially if you like drinks made with amaro, cured jamon shaved right in front of you, or both.
A drinks-and-light-bite session at Bottlehouse feels like a visit with a friend, mainly because this place is in a residential-looking house. But it differs from (most) real houses in that there’s a cheesemonger to select food pairings for you as you swirl your wine glass pretending to know about terroir. There’s a great patio, too, so keep this in mind for summer meetups.
Soi is your Capitol Hill secret weapon when you want some great cocktails and just a little bit to eat, in part because it’s very easy to get in here without a reservation. Expect small plates and “drinking food” like noodles, chili fish sauce chicken wings, spicy curry prawns, and pork-lemongrass meatballs. After a few rounds of beer slushies or cocktails with things like mango vodka, almond liqueur, and coconut cream, call it a night or hit up some other Pike/Pine bars in the area.
When you have your whole team with you for some after-work cocktails and snacks, you need a place with reliable availability. You need Bar Vacilando. This place won’t be hard to get into, and has more than two dozen shareable small plates, ranging from grilled tuna tacos with cilantro cream to green bean fries with jalapeño aioli and slow-braised pork with crispy rice. Don’t forget a few rounds of herb-infused cocktails (we like the Honey Badger, a sparkling drink with gin, honey, lemon, and lavender bitters).
Foreign National has a great lineup of tropical cocktails, but it’s about more than just the drinks here: the Asian fusion bar food is worth a trip. Bring a friend or date who won’t mind feeling like they’re in an alternate dimension/secret agent parody movie (the dramatic interior has touches like a disco ball and a distinct lack of windows). It can get cramped in here at peak times, but a couple of sparkling hibiscus/rooibos vodka Expat punches and cheeseburger bao with special sauce will help you get over that.
We like Manolin best for a full dinner, but it works equally well for snacking. Sit at the big U-shaped bar with a tropical rum cocktail, some ceviche, and a pile of lime-squeezed salt-and-pepper plantain chips. It’s ideal for a coworker happy hour or even a first date, and if you’re still hungry, order the black rice with squid and chorizo.
2120 has a big bar, great small plates, and large-format punch bowls topped with edible flowers. It’s on the ground floor of an Amazon office building, so if you work there, you can’t beat it for post-work stress relief. At Happy Hour, there are snacks like mini pork belly tostadas, fries with homemade ketchup, and fresh oysters - but if you don’t make it in time for that, other things like hibiscus-braised beets, charcuterie, fish cakes, and even the bread basket with homemade honey butter will still make you happy.
If you’re looking for a pub to snack at, this is it. There’s a good wine selection and some solid cocktails, and you can now make reservations. Expect a lively atmosphere perfect for impressing out-of-towners or just catching up with that random friend you haven’t seen in months over some foie gras-topped fries, bone marrow toast, and/or a great warm pretzel with Welsh rarebit (a.k.a. liquid cheese).
Thanks to the addition of frozen watermelon, The Belmont has some very good frosé during the warmer months. What you do with that information is up to you. What we would do is come with our friends, hang out on the sectional sofa, maybe play a board game, order some cured meats, cheeses, and a baguette, and plan our eventual drinks-and-light-bite-fueled world domination. But that’s just us.